JUST THE FACTS MA’AM

By | Alienation, Child Abuse, Co-Parenting, Custody and Conservatorship, Divorce, Trial Issues

It’s a given – as parents we want what is best for our child.  I’m a parent, and I believe I am the ONLY person who knows what my kids needs and what is best for them (we won’t talk about the fact that my “children” are 28 and 24 – that’s a completely different topic.)

I’m Right and You’re Wrong

When parents can’t agree because they each have different beliefs about what is right and best for their child, the Judge makes decisions for them and for the child.   Ironically, at that point, both parents lose complete control of the situation because a third party (the Judge) is going to make decisions regarding their child.

So, how does a judge, who has never met you, your spouse, or your child decide what is best?  What does a judge look at when making rulings about conservatorship, possession, and support?   (Let me assure you that most, if not all, of the Judges I know are thoughtful, concerned, well-intentioned, knowledgeable, and extremely smart.   Although I may disagree with a ruling, in my experience each Judge makes decisions after listening closely to the evidence and carefully considering what is best for the child.)

Facts vs. Beliefs/Feelings

You are not going to like this, but there is a difference between feelings/beliefs and facts.   Fact – your child failed English.  Feeling – mother is to blame for the child failing English.  When you say you are “right” and he is “wrong” – you are expressing your feeling and not a fact.   I know this is horribly distasteful, but the distinction is important.

Feeling Becomes a Fact

Each case is different, but part of your lawyer’s job is to help you convince the Judge that your feelings are fact and that you know what is best for your child.  You do so by introducing evidence which supports your feeling.

The “fact” is your child failed English.  You “feel” it is Mom’s fault the child failed English.   To prove your feeling is a fact, you introduce the following hypothetical evidence:

  • English is the child’s first class of the day
  • Child was late to school many times and sometimes entirely missed the first class of the day
  • Mother took the child to school each day
  • Mother did not respond to the teacher’s numerous emails about the child not turning in work and falling asleep in class.
  • Mother allows the child to set his own bedtime and does not check on the child to see that he is asleep

Gold Standard – Best Interest of the Child

The best interest of the child is the guiding principal behind and the standard for making decisions regarding a child.  After hearing the evidence and observing the witnesses, the Judge makes decisions which best provide for and foster the child’s happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development under the facts of that particular case.  In Texas, generally, it is in the child’s best interest to have a good relationship with and frequent contact with both parents.

Evidence of Best Interest

The Court looks at many factors in deciding what is in the child’s best interest.    In my opinion the following absolutely is not an exhaustive list, but does contain some of the evidence a Court may consider in making decisions about the best interest of the child:

  • Emotional, educational, medical, physical, and basic needs of the child – which parent is better able to identify, understand and meet those needs (which are different and change depending upon the age of the child)
  • Stability – which parent has been the primary caretaker of the child. Courts want the children to be affected as minimally as possible by divorce.
  • Safety – is domestic abuse present? Does either parent use alcohol to excess or drugs while in possession of the child?   Does either parent allow the child to be in the presence of a registered sex offender or a person who uses drugs?  Does either parent operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated while the child is passenger in the vehicle?
  • Mental and physical health of the parent – Does either parent have mental or physical health issue which affects his ability to care for the child?
  • Emotional Ties – What is the relationship between the child and each of her parents? Why does the child not want to spend time with her father?
  • Alienating Tactics – does one parent talk about the litigation with the child? Does one parent share details of an affair which led to the breakup of the marital relationship?   Does one parent say derogatory things about the other parent to the child?   Does one parent hide the child from the other parent?
  • Child’s Wishes – what does the child want? This factor is extremely dicey and should be approached with great caution and finesse.  When the child is asked about his or her desires, the child is placed in the middle and is required to choose between parents.   Moreover, although children are very smart, they do not understand adult situations and are not able to comprehend what is in their best interest.   The age and maturity of the child are huge components of this factor.

Cost of Being Right

In closing, the general consensus is that usually a child’s best interests are best served when parents are able to work together and make joint decisions for the child.   This is not because Judges are not capable, but because in a trial each parent’s goal is to prove “I am right, and you are wrong.”  To prove he or she is right, each parent is going to sling a lot of mud at the other, which will increase the animosity, anger, and hostility between them. Parents spend years resolving these emotions, which invariably trickle down to your child, and your child will most likely suffer as a result. With this in mind, I encourage you to think carefully before you back yourself into the righteous corner, put on your gloves, and come out swinging.

 

 

 

TEMPORARY ORDERS – BUT I WANT MY DIVORCE NOW!

By | Child Support, Co-Parenting, Custody and Conservatorship, Divorce, Marital Property Division, Trial Issues

We have all heard the expression that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”   Well unfortunately, that adage holds true for your divorce or lawsuit pertaining to your child.

In Texas, a divorce cannot be granted until at least the 60th day after the Petition for Divorce was filed.  (Do not expect that your divorce is going to be final on the 60th day because that almost never happens.)

The time span between the date of the filing of the Petition for Divorce and the date the Final Decree of Divorce is signed can range from a few months to a few years.  Often parties to the lawsuit are unable to agree about how life will look during this in-between-time.   So, the Texas Family Code allows parties to request a hearing on temporary orders and gives the Court the authority to grant temporary orders.   Temporary orders generally address issues related to children and property and can also enjoin parties from doing certain things.

Each spouse has an obligation to support the other spouse for so long as the parties are married.   With that in mind, we often see provisions in temporary orders that do not carry forward into a Final Decree of Divorce.

Temporary Orders is a big topic which encompasses a lot of information.   For that reason, I am going  to talk about various issues  in separate blogs and videos.  This particular blog/video provides general information which lays the framework for the following blogs and videos.

Temporary Orders for Issues Relating to Children:

The issues related to children which can be addressed by temporary orders include, but are not limited to:

  • Conservatorship
  • Possession
  • Child Support
  • Medical Support
  • Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem or Amicus Attorney for the child
  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Appointment of various experts, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, educational diagnosticians
  • Child Custody Evaluation
  • Social Studies

Temporary Orders for Issues Related to Property:

The issues related to property which can be addressed by temporary orders include, but are not limited to:

  • Temporary award of marital residence
  • Temporary award of personal property
    • Cars
    • Personal items
    • Bank Accounts
    • Livestock
  • Temporary award of management of businesses
  • Temporary payment of debts
    • Mortgage
    • Car Payment
    • Living expenses
    • Insurance
    • Credit Cards and other unsecured debt
    • Temporary Spousal Support

Injunctions

The Court can also issue Injunctions.  An injunction is an order which prohibits a person from doing a certain act. During a divorce, the purpose of the standard injunctions is to maintain the status quo and to preserve the community estate by prohibit parties from hiding and squandering assets.    Injunctions can also protect children and parties from harassing behavior.

Before I go to court for a hearing on temporary orders, I need information from my client to properly prepare and also to use as evidence at the hearing, which I will talk about in my next video.

Remember that good results take time and patience is a virtue.

Lessons Learned from ‘The’ Brad Pit from his Custody War with ‘The’ Angelina

By | Alienation, Child Abuse, Divorce, Domestic Violence, False Allegation, Trial Issues, Uncategorized, Unsolicited Opinions

Brad Pitt’s strategy in getting his kids back is what I call the coiled approach. A snake’s coil is the perfect combination of defense and offence. The retreat to a coil prepares its body for an attack and the coil provides the force to strike. Don’t ask if I regularly call my clients snakes. That’s beside the point.

In 2016, at the outset of the divorce litigation, Angelina accused Brad of being dangerous in an effort to reduce his access to their six children. Brad could have responded that he is no more dangerous than the drinking, pot smoking, partier he was when Angelina stole him from Jennifer Anniston. They could have argued for days in court about what constitutes emotional abuse of a child. That knee jerk response would be a point well taken but ultimately a swing-and-a-miss, accomplishing nothing except to frame Brad as a defensive and argumentative father.

Instead, Brad coiled up and got sober. He went to therapy and confessed his weaknesses to Rolling Stone and People among other publications. Who doesn’t want a father who is willing to take a look at the man in the mirror? Ew, probably should not cite anything Michael Jackson. (gag)

Two years after filing for divorce, and with Brad sober and well coiled, Angelina became increasingly more difficult. Her demands became petty, drowning out any normal concerns that may still exist. She reportedly will not allow Brad access to the kids via phone or without a therapist present. For real? Brad was cleared of all allegations. What’s with the irrational demands?  No wonder he drank so much. It wasn’t until the Court threatened to award Brad custody of the 6 kids, that she pulled herself together to comply with the Court’s orders.

Having overcome the initial allegations without being defensive, Brad now controls the stage when it’s time for the final act. Angelina is now on the defensive just as their three years’ divorce is closing. Brad gets to have the last word as the curtains close. Well played Mr. Pitt.

 

Mistakes people-pleasers make when divorcing a narcissist, from a divorce lawyer

By | Co-Parenting, Community Property, Custody and Conservatorship, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Just and Right, Marital Property Division, Separate Property, Trial Issues, Unsolicited Opinions, Wellness

So common is it that a potential new client tells me that they are married to a narcissist, that I actually have a specific knowing smile in response and I swear to myself I should create a YouTube channel about divorce and narcissists. I’d make a fortune even if I only charged $5 a viewing.

Note: I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist and I have zero training to be preaching about personality disorders. Everything I know, I’ve learned on the job. Take it with a grain of salt.

Did Tom Cruise really love Katy Holmes? Or, did he love how she looked when he was looking down on her from his stool in their wedding photos? He certainly made a fool of himself in the name of love but wasn’t it really more about the attention he got? Despite reports that Katy “won” their divorce (or at least did better than Nicole Kidman), I’d put money on Tom bragging that he was the one who outsmarted her and that the reason he has Suri most of the time is because “he let her.”

Divorcing one of these gems? Here are some common mistakes people-pleasers make divorcing narcissists. Drum roll please. . .

  1. Not filing first. Assuming you have made the moral decision to get divorced, be the first one to file for divorce. The person who files first gets to go first. That means that party gets their story out first at the hearing on temporary orders and at trial. It means that person’s lawyer will give the first impression of the case. The person who goes second or last has the hard job of disproving what has already been said or suggested and retelling the story in his or her own light. It’s a compromising position. Most likely the narcissist will have a “poor baby” approach, as in, “I really had no choice but to file, since he doesn’t bring me coffee anymore” and with this story line going first, it forces the people-pleaser to get defensive which drowns out the real story, that being that there was no room for another person (you) in the marriage to a narcissist.
  2. Be ready to fight the obvious. A people-pleaser would never sell a car to a friend for a premium price, but a narcissist would. A narcissist would never concede you broke up with her, but a people-pleaser would let you have the final word. Do not assume that just because you have always taken care of the kids or operated the business that your spouse will concede that you are primarily responsible for those items. This is especially important because you need establish the status quo to your judge. Be ready to defend the last two years of painful homework projects or to demonstrate you have prepared all the company’s tax returns and landed the biggest client.
  3. Trying to prove a point. Don’t. Even. Try. What does it matter if you have won every battle or even the war? It will make no difference to the narcissist, who is still clothed as an emperor. Narcissists will walk out of a courtroom having been ridiculed by a judge and want to celebrate with the local sommelier’s choice in wine with red meat. Therefore, don’t think if you could just “show her” or you could just get the “judge to tell him”, that it will be downhill from there. Nope. You married a narcissist, so don’t for a second think that all the granted motions in the world will humble him.
  4. Not carbo-loading. Here it is, here is your permission to go to a buffet in jeggings. A narcissist plans on his spouse complying with his plan for division of assets and custody arrangement. In the narcissist’s mind, the narcissist will simply prepare the decree and the spouse will sign it. Divorcing a narcissist will not be over and done in a couple of months unless you give him everything he wants including the things he demands at the last minute. Oh yes, to a narcissist, “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine”. Awarding all of the assets to the narcissist is just papering what is already true to a narcissist. Since you can’t make the narcissist understand that your inherited money is actually yours, you will have to set the case for trial and plan on going. It’s like a marathon: it takes a year to prepare for and complete and you are delirious at the finish line (if you make it). The only difference is you have a lot less money now, hate your lawyer (at least a little) and you may have kid issues to deal with. Like the jungle, the tired animals get eaten. So, carbo-load because this is going to take a while, you might as well enjoy it.
  5. Expecting mediation to work. Where a people-pleaser might get worn down by the long hours stuck in a room with a lawyer (gag), a narcissist is just getting started and is appreciating how all the professionals have their day tied up in what she will not agree to. Picture the scone-eating narcissist being asked if she would like creamer or milk in her tea while she contemplates whether or not she can live without his grandmother’s diamond watch. Go to mediation but have a plan and listen to your lawyer.
  6. Self-infliction. A narcissist is the blade a people-pleasure cuts himself with. The people-pleaser mistakes the narcissist’s joy as love. The joy was getting attention, not being with their “person.” The people-pleaser really loves the blade, and misses the blade even when the claws come out in court. Loving your spouse is not a bad thing. Love is an exhibit of our humanness, as beautiful as the body’s ability to heal itself or birth a baby. Deal with the love, loss, rejection and sadness without cutting yourself on the blade. Cut the nerve instead and cooperate with your spouse but don’t inflict new wounds on yourself. You will end up with the wounds and the narcissist will only feel better about herself because you “did it to yourself”.
  7. Be ready for Karpman’s triangle. According to Karpman, the cycle of dysfunctional relationships involves three roles: victim, persecutor and rescuer. Pay very close attention to the role you are playing in the drama cycle so you can learn what it is when the narcissist plays victim or rescuer. If your spouse said you would never see your kids again, get ready for him to play victim of the year when you are awarded primary of the kids. Offer him a compromise and get ready to be the victim when he takes advantage of your kindness.