From Divorce, a Fractured Beauty

SEPT. 24, 2015 – By Lara Bazelon – NYTimes.com

Happy families are not all alike.

Picture this one. A mother and father sit on a beach on the Fourth of July with their two children, a boy, 6, and a girl, 4.

The parents are just on the other side of 40, still relatively young, still relatively attractive. Their children are beautiful: hazel-eyed, tawny and sparkling with precocious intelligence. They revel in the simple joys of sand and saltwater, wading into ocean waves that roll up in green cylinders before melting into white froth.

The scene I am describing is not fiction, and neither is it a single spark culled from an ash heap. Over the course of the five-day vacation, many similar scenes unspool in varying forms but with unvarying equanimity. The family hums along smoothly, splashing in the community pool, eating scrambled eggs and cheering as the fuzzy television shows the United States women’s soccer team winning the World Cup.

There are no harsh words, no frosty silences, no recriminations. When the mother and father are alone with each other, there is quiet conversation about work and school and camp, about what to make for dinner. There is even, occasionally, shared laughter.

The mother and father do not fight over the laundry. They do not fight over money. They do not fight over their marriage. There is no laundry or money or marriage to fight over. Not anymore.

Until this Fourth of July family vacation, the mother and father had not slept under the same roof in 18 months. The ink on their no-contest judgment of marital dissolution still felt fresh to them.

But they decided to take their two small children on a vacation together, to a beach house on an isolated stretch of bluffs in Northern California, and it is a happy one.

This is my story. I am the mother. It’s the story of my family.

I grew up in a loving but undeniably hard-charging and overachieving environment, a world of moral absolutes: good/bad, success/failure, right/wrong. The worst thing you could do in my house was lie; the second worst was quit. Losing was acceptable (sort of). But quitting? Never.

Read full article – NYtimes.com

The Divorce Surge Is Over, but the Myth Lives On

Cumulative share of marriages ending in divorce

source: NewYorkTimes.com

Divorce rates increased in the 1970s and 1980s, but in the last 20 years they have dropped.

marriage-graph
When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” this year, ABC News said it was the latest example of the out-of-control divorce rate, “50 percent and climbing.”

When Fox News anchors were recently lamenting high poverty levels, one of them blamed the fact that “the divorce rate is going up.”

And when Bravo introduced its divorce reality show, “Untying the Knot,” this summer, an executive at the network called it “a way to look at a situation that 50 percent of married couples unfortunately end up in.”

But here is the thing: It is no longer true that the divorce rate is rising, or that half of all marriages end in divorce. It has not been for some time. Even though social scientists have tried to debunk those myths, somehow the conventional wisdom has held.

Despite hand-wringing about the institution of marriage, marriages in this country are stronger today than they have been in a long time. The divorce rate peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s and has been declining for the three decades since.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist (who also contributes to The Upshot). There are many reasons for the drop in divorce, including later marriages, birth control and the rise of so-called love marriages. These same forces have helped reduce the divorce rate in parts of Europe, too. Much of the trend has to do with changing gender roles — whom the feminist revolution helped and whom it left behind.

“Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women,” said William Doherty, a marriage therapist and professor of family social science at University of Minnesota, “so when you’re talking about changes in divorce rates, in many ways you’re talking about changes in women’s expectations.”

The marriage trends aren’t entirely happy ones. They also happen to be a force behind rising economic and social inequality, because the decline in divorce is concentrated among people with college degrees. For the less educated, divorce rates are closer to those of the peak divorce years.

Of college-educated people who married in the early 2000s, only about 11 percent divorced by their seventh anniversary, the last year for which data is available. Among people without college degrees, 17 percent were divorced, according to Mr. Wolfers.

Working-class families often have more traditional notions about male breadwinners than do the college-educated — yet economic changes have left many of the men in these families struggling to find work. As a result, many wait to achieve a level of stability that never comes and thus never marry, while others split up during tough economic times.

“As the middle of our labor market has eroded, the ability of high school-educated Americans to build a firm economic foundation for a marriage has been greatly reduced,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist and author of “Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America.” “Better-educated Americans have found a new marriage model in which both spouses work and they build a strong economic foundation for their marriage.”

Some of the decline in divorce clearly stems from the fact that fewer people are getting married — and some of the biggest declines in marriage have come among groups at risk of divorce. But it also seems to be the case that marriages have gotten more stable, as people are marrying later.

Ultimately, a long view is likely to show that the rapid rise in divorce during the 1970s and early 1980s was an anomaly. It occurred at the same time as a new feminist movement, which caused social and economic upheaval. Today, society has adapted, and the divorce rate has declined again.

In the 1950s and 1960s, marriage was about a breadwinner husband and a homemaker wife, who both needed the other’s contributions to the household but didn’t necessarily spend much time together. In the 1970s, all that changed.

Read the full article: NewYorkTimes.com

Divorce mediator wants to help Hill

source: politico.com

By PATRICK GAVIN

divorce-mediator-pamphlet-congress-courtesy

Strange solutions have been proposed before to get members of Congress to get along , but this time, a divorce mediator thinks she could help.

Carol Bailey has handled family disputes for decades in her work as a lawyer at Seattle’s Integrative Family Law, and she’s applying her vocation to ease Washington’s gridlock. In her pamphlet, “Easing Congressional Gridlock: A Divorce Mediator’s Guide for the union that can’t dissolve,” Bailey applies reconciliation principles to politicians.

“Because I spend my days helping couples communicate to solve real life problems, I can’t avoid seeing the hallmarks of a dysfunctional marriage in the current Congress: tiresome bickering while neglecting the needs of the family,” Bailey writes. “Let’s not fall back into this pattern.”

She organizes her advice into 10 categories, which include, “Know your purpose and don’t get distracted,” “Discipline yourself to avoid negative accusations,” “Generate a desire to listen and hear. You don’t learn anything new when you are talking” and “Resist the culture of negativity and lead through inspiring others.”

Read the full article: politico.com

T. Boone Pickens on how to save millions on your divorce

Dallas_PickensBooneT 304by Bill Hethcock – Staff Writer- Dallas Business Journal

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens is clearly a man who knows a good deal when he sees one.

That’s why he used a collaborative divorce approach in his recent parting of ways from his fourth wife, Madeleine.

Pickens told a room full of lawyers about his experience Friday during a lunchtime panel in Dallas.

The State Bar of Texas didn’t let me into the room for his talk, saying it was a paid, private event, but I was able to grab a couple of comments from Pickens on the way out of the Hotel Palomar.

The collaborative approach saves both money and emotional wear and tear on families, the energy tycoon told me.

“Collaborative law keeps everything on a high level, and everybody cooperating,” Pickens said.

I asked him how much the collaborative approach saved him?

“Money?” he deadpanned. “About $100 million.”

He cracked a smile and revised his answer to “several million.”

Pickens is such a believer in the process that he gave the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas $100,000.

Pickens, who’s fond of saying “the first billion is the hardest,” said his second divorce was the toughest. He didn’t use the collaborative approach on that one.

Any chance he’ll marry again, I asked, feeling a bit funny about raising the question.

“No plans,” Pickens said as he walked out of the hotel, “but don’t rule it out.”

Read the full article here > bizjournals.com

Group Offers Alternative Divorce Process

BY JULIE LEVIN – SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD
[dcs_p]After 26 years of marriage, Dale Leblang’s marriage was coming to an end. The Boca Raton man and his wife wanted to find a way to end their union as quickly and civilly as possible. Acting on a recommendation from a friend, they turned to a process known as collaborative divorce and they had their divorce agreement just six weeks later.

“Even though divorce is a very stressful situation, by doing it this way, it could be done much quicker, much cheaper and with much less stress,” Leblang said.

Though the collaborative process has been around for some time in Europe, Australia, Canada and parts of the United States, it is just now gaining a following in Florida, thanks in part to the Collaborative Family Lawyers of South Florida.

Created 10 years ago and incorporated in 2001, Collaborative Family Lawyers is a network of 40 Broward County lawyers plus 40 financial and mental health professionals trained in collaboration as an alternative to traditional litigation. All negotiations are done outside of the courtroom.

“It is very private and confidential,” said attorney Enid Ponn, one of the founding members, who is with the law firm Miller & Ponn in Weston.

Without traditional and often messy litigation, the collaborative process is a fraction of the usual cost.

Each side must come to the table, ready and willing to work out an agreement. They must each be represented by their own attorney, Ponn said.

Psychologists and CPAs are brought in to help work out financial and child care issues to avoid a trip to court. Depending on the complexity of a divorce, an agreement can sometimes be reached after only one to two meetings. If an agreement can’t be reached, the lawyers involved must withdraw.

For more information, visit www.collaborativefamilylawfl.com

Now That You Have Decided to Get Divorced, Choose the Collaborative Process

By Enid Ponn

Breaking up a family is extremely sad. Add to that the devastating nature of the divorce process itself, and the result is a traumatic and destructive event. Unfortunately, in litigation, the “event” can take a year or two to conclude.

During this time, your life is not your own. You attend depositions, hearings, conferences, mediations, appointments to prepare for trial and and the trial itself. Time away from work and the loss of productivity is just one of the costs paid by those involved in divorce litigation. The negative impact on the children is often irreparable. Conflict resulting from heightened family discord, not the divorce itself that has the potential to cause emotional distress.

If the prospect of litigation does not attract you, but your marriage is irretrievably broken, there is some good news. You can partake in an alternate process to acquire your divorce called collaborative divorce or the collaborative process.

Spouses still have their own attorneys, but rather than each paying a pit bull lawyer to spar in court, the couple and attorneys agree to work together every step of the way to create a specially customized plan for each family. Collaborative attorneys are specially trained in this process and sign written Participation Agreement which states that if the case does not settle, they will not litigate the case, but will withdraw as counsel. Their only focus and motivation is to resolve the issues out of court in this non-adversarial, streamlined process which is based on open and constructive communication, not confrontation. If they cannot settle the case, they are out of a job.

Recently, collaborative divorce attorney are working with a financial professional and a mental health professional as part of an interdisciplinary team, all of whom have been trained in the collaborative process. Issues are resolved through a series of meetings: the process is client-driven: the couple makes their own decisions about their assets and about their children. No decisions are imposed upon them by a judge. A successful collaborative case spare children the anguish of parents who fight forever.

Celebrities such as Robin Williams and Roy Disney have chosen the collaborative process to get their divorces. With collaborative divorce, there is no need to step into a court room until the final paperwork is filed, providing the couples with a degree of privacy and confidentiality not possible in litigation.

Mediation was once thought to be merely an experiment that would not last and is now a permanent part of our legal system. Collaborative family law is destined to be the way of handling divorces in the future. In the last decade the collaborative process was introduced to Florida and we now see that it is finally taking off. After all, who would not choose an alternative that is healthier for everyone, less time consuming and less expensive?

Cameron Crowe, Nancy Wilson Divorcing

Director Cameron Crowe and his wife, Nancy Wilson, filed divorce papers this week in Los Angeles. Wilson, a member of the rock band Heart since 1974, technically filed the divorce petition (available at TMZ.com) but it appears to be a collaborative divorce in which both parties have worked together to settle all related matters prior to filing in court.

Wilson, a singer and songwriter from the rock band Heart, filed divorce papers Thursday in L.A. County Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences. She lists June 15, 2008, as the date of their separation.

Crowe and Wilson first met in 1982. That same year, she made a brief appearance in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a film written by Crowe. (Crowe went on to write and direct movies like Say Anything, Singles, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous.) They married on July 23, 1986.

The couple have 10-year-old twin boys, William and Curtis. Crowe and Wilson have apparently agreed to joint physical and legal custody of the children. It also appears that they have agreed that Crowe will pay Wilson spousal support.

California’s Family Code, Section 2013 provides:

(a) If a written agreement is entered into by the parties, the parties may utilize a collaborative law process to resolve any matter governed by this code over which the court is granted jurisdiction.

(b) “Collaborative law process” means the process in which the parties and any professionals engaged by the parties to assist them agree in writing to use their best efforts and to make a good faith attempt to resolve disputes related to the family law matters as referenced in subdivision (a) on an agreed basis without resorting to adversary judicial intervention.

Our guess is that Wilson and Crowe, quite admirably and maturely, were able to spend the time since their separation discussing and mediating how best to handle the custody of their children and division of their substantial marital assets.

Almost all of Crowe’s film successes came after the couple was married – thus, making the proceeds of those efforts community property. Heart had tremendous success in the late ’70s, prior to the marriage. It is unknown though how the proceeds of early Heart hits compare to those that came in the late ’80s (during the marriage). Heart has continued to record and tour until today (they actually just released a new album which debuted at #10 on the Billboard album chart). Wilson also wrote and scored for the soundtracks to several of Crowe’s films.

All of that is to say that division of the couple’s marital assets could not have been a simple process. Kudos to them for engaging in the collaborative process and keeping it away from trial and out of the tabloids.

Library Topics: divorce, collaborative divorce, custody, spousal support, distribution of assets, marital property, community property, California family law

Article source: myfamilylaw.com

Is There A ‘Minimally-Invasive’ Divorce?

Article from Huffington Post

Over the last 25 years, Americans have been on the cutting edge of advancements in disciplines such as medicine. 25 years ago, a back surgery required long hospital stays, metal plates, and months of recovery. Today, surgeons deliver “minimally-invasive” procedures that have folks in and out faster than a TSA security pat-down. So why do we still languish in the stone age when it comes to the law? More particularly, why do so many people still use rely on flint knives and bear skins when getting a divorce? The court system simply was never designed to resolve the increasingly complex dynamics of family conflict.

Even in bitter divorces, husbands and wives usually want to do the right thing. They just disagree about what the “right thing” is. But our judicial system, by its very nature, creates only two types of participants: winners and losers. That type of system usually serves the public interest well in matters of criminal acts and contract disputes. However, when dealing with the disintegration of a family unit, both participants have already lost before they ever step into the courtroom: Two people who once loved each other enough to get married in the first place have failed in their marriage. Their children are in turmoil, and their finances are strained, if not in complete ruin. And thanks in large measure to the law’s “one-court-fits-all” approach to divorce, the spouses often feel compelled to hire professional gladiators to annihilate the other person. Whether they actually wind up trying the case to a judge or jury, or settle on the courthouse steps, no one is spared the emotional or financial devastation of the experience.

Thankfully, today there is a minimally-invasive procedure that is revolutionizing the way couples dissolve their marriages. Collaborative Law is the 21st Century’s cutting-edge alternative method of resolving such disputes without the use of a judge, jury or even a courtroom. This unique approach allows the participants and their respective attorneys to meet privately and work through and resolve every detail of a divorce or family dispute quickly,cost-effectively and in a dignified manner.

The Collaborative Law model transcends traditional notions of mediation and actually represents a complete paradigm shift away from litigation. The threat of the courtroom is effectively eliminated at the very beginning, for the participants and their attorney sign a written contract, called a “Participation Agreement,” which serves both as a rule book governing the conduct of the participants and also as a commitment to keep the case out of the courtroom. Just imagine — lawyers that cannot go to court! And if either party later reneges on the agreement, the “damages” clause of the agreement requires that both attorneys withdraw from the case. While this might seem a strange notion, the contractual threat of kicking the lawyers off the case actually serves as the Super Glue that keeps the case moving forward collaboratively–even when the going gets tough.

The best evidence for the collaborative model’s success comes from those who have actually gone through it. Stuart Webb wrote in his book, The Collaborative Way to Divorce, that most couples who go through the Collaborative method instead of litigation come through the process satisfied with the results. Why? The answer is so simple that it masks the brilliance of the model: (i) Couples retain greater control over the outcome; (ii) the process is generally less expensive than going to court; and (iii) it better insulates the children from the collateral damage caused by divorce.

The results are coming in across the nation and even beyond our shores. People facing divorce are choosing Collaborative Law in increasing numbers and most have very positive things to say about the experience. Better still, most participants rarely need to file a subsequent enforcement action, since participants are usually more apt to follow rules that they themselves have created.

Collaborative Law isn’t a fit for every case. It’s not well-suited for cases involving substance abuse, domestic violence, or mental illness. Some also suggest that the Collaborative Law model cannot adequately deal with a party who is willing to lie or conceal matters of substance. On the other hand, as Pauline Tesler notes in her book, Collaborative Divorce, “Litigation doesn’t make a liar honest, cure an addict, or make an immature spouse grow up.”

Ultimately, the question divorcing couples must answer is this: Do you want a minimally-invasive divorce using the most advanced tools and procedures available today? Or, would you prefer to stick with the stone knives and bear skins?