TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND……

By | Unsolicited Opinions, Wellness

WARNING: This blog may be a bit long, but please read the whole thing slowly.

Effects of Sheltering in Place

My younger friends, who have children, have expressed they are very stressed and feel like failures. Lately, I been very critical of myself. I have repeatedly chastised myself for what I perceive to my gross inefficiency – it took me 3 weeks to reorganize my home office/yoga space – REALLY?.

Overnight, the world has shifted, but our expectations for ourselves and others have not budged. We still think we can and must do it all, which is not only ridiculous, but impossible.

Our responsibilities have shot through the roof, but each day is still only 24 hours long. Take a look at what is really happening in our lives as we shelter in place. All at once, without a break, while trapped in our homes we are:

1. Working from home
2. Caring for children
3. Educating our children
4. Spending way more time with our significant others
5. Cooking
6. Zooming
7. Spending more time cleaning because our houses are dirtier because we are home 24/7
8. Doing laundry
9. (Trying to find time to finish “Tiger King”)
10. Taking care of pets
11. WORRYING
12. Mowing the yard
13. WORRYING
14. Etc……..

Perfection is HOGWASH

Growing up, I was expected to be “perfect.” An A- on a report card was unacceptable; in fact, nothing was good enough. These expectations became deeply rooted in me and became a part of everything I did. As an adult, a well-intentioned friend once told me I was a juggler and I need to make sure none of the balls ever dropped. This advice fed my unending quest for perfection. Then, a tiny seed was planted by one of my mentors, Susan Paquet. Susan was an amazingly wonderful person and a highly respected attorney. She told me that sometimes you do not have to do an A+++++ job, it’s okay to perform at a B- or C level. WOW!!! What a concept.

As my life continued, perfection became more difficult to achieve, and my search for perfection left me very anxious, stressed out, and exhausted. Then, I found yoga (or maybe yoga found me.)* My yoga practice continues to be an experience through which I learn new and more effective life skills. All of which means, I am now calmer, happier, and more productive. Yoga may not be your answer, but my point is that if I can change, you can change.

Forming New Beliefs

Each of can make our lives easier now and post COVID19 by slowly changing what we believe. Based upon my personal experiences, recognizing and accepting the following truths will help us to shift:

1. We have created unrealistic and unattainable expectations for ourselves and others.

2. Because we are the ones who have created these ridiculous expectations, we have the power to replace them with more realistic and healthy goals.

3. With the idea that you will not accomplish everything on the list, each day, on an actual piece of paper, write out a to-do list. The list will help you prioritize and to feel confident you have not forgotten anything. Crossing out items on the list is rewarding.

4. We will never be perfect.

5. We all make mistakes all time, which is okay.

6. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn.

7. Feel grateful.

8. Stop judging and criticizing yourself and others.

9. Be gentle with yourself and others.

10. Recognize your accomplishments several times a day. For example – tell yourself “I made a great lunch for the family today.”

11. Things are not good or bad – they just are.

Importance of Quiet Minds

I am able to hear God when my mind is quiet. Needless to say, I have learned some awesome things during these times. For me, quieting my mind is like cleaning my house – I get rid of useless junk and make space to listen and to receive Divine information.
Our brains become clogged and stay on hyperdrive because we are busily trying to accomplish our unrealistic goals. We cannot focus, and we become stressed and inefficient, which leads to more stress. So, an important component of changing our beliefs is to quiet our minds.

Quieting our Minds

Meditation helps me to focus and to feel better. I encourage you to google “meditation” to learn the positive effects of meditation and different meditations you can try.

Breathing is another tool I use to quiet my mind. I know that throughout the day, when I become overwhelmed, I can calm my body and clear my mind by taking a few moments to 1) breathe slowly and deeply and 2) to focus on my breath.

The following are some suggestions for breathing which can be done anywhere at any time:

1. Slow and Deep Breathing

a. Close your eyes
b. Start by inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling an open mouth.
c. When you are breathing, concentrate on your breath – on the inhale picture your breath travelling up from your belly to your lungs and on the exhale picture your breath going down from your lungs to your belly.
d. On the inhale, your belly should expand and on the exhale your belly should contract.
e. A double exhale is very calming.

2. 4-7-8 Breath

a. Close your eyes
b. Inhale for 4 counts
c. Hold for 7 counts
d. Exhale for 8 counts
e. Repeat 8+ times

3. Alternate-nostril breathing.

a. See https://chopra.com/articles/nadi-shodhana-how-to-practice-alternate-nostril-breathing for instructions

Finally, please remember you cannot take care of other people unless you take care of yourself first.

* www.indrasgrace.com

Sharing Children in a Quarantine

By | Alienation, Child Abuse, Child Support, Co-Parenting, Custody and Conservatorship, Domestic Violence, Uncategorized, Unsolicited Opinions

I came across this article during one of my episodes of insomnia this week and it really brought home the need for this blog. “I just want this to be over soon. I can’t wait to hold my kids again” said a father with COVID-19 in a crowded hospital in the middle of Wuhan, China. I pictured how I might feel alone in a hospital, wondering if I was going to die and wishing I could see my children. The sinking feeling that touching your own child would expose them to life and death danger. Candidly, I already hesitate to hold them like I did pre-COVID-19.

As a family law attorney, I have seen mothers be forced to stop nursing their babies so that the fathers can have thirty days of summer possession. I have seen a father in congestive heart failure beg a judge to give him more time with his baby. I have listed to audio recordings of spouses physically assaulting one another over the whimpers of their children. I have seen children be returned to parents who have hurt them.

As we face the prospect of quarantine and lack of ventilators, I am going to see parents crippled with the thought of not seeing their children indefinitely, penniless to support their hungry children, and worse. I could see a child lose a parent in a matter of four days without warning or the last chance to be held in their arms. With the #flattenthecurve movement, none of this could happen. Here are my recommendations if it does:

  1. COVID-19 DOES NOT EXCUSE YOU FROM THE ORDER. Every effort has to be made to follow the court ordered schedule. If you are the family that follows orders and doesn’t agree on a weekly basis to how to share time, then you need to continue to follow the details. Surrender on time and at the right location. If your community is “locked” down, then you still need to try to meet that schedule. Adjust on the time and the location by agreement as needed, but wholeheartedly try to get there. If you do not comply with the order and have no documented history of meaningful attempts to return the children, then you better have one heck of a lawyer.
  2. HIGHER COURTS.  We have seen the great emergent work of the Texas Supreme Court and the collaborate effort of District Courts in distributing interpretations of never before seen issues. Last week we got orders that courts were going to consider the original calendar of the school before the COVID-19 cancellations. That quick move, ensured most kids were returned to the other parent before school was supposed to resume rather than permitting a parent to keep the child based upon the technicality that spring break had been “extended”. This could happen again as the crisis unfolds. Look for these before you draw any hard lines.
  3. YOU CAN ALWAYS ALWAYS AGREE. Always always, you can agree to something other than what your order says. Best practice to is to get it in writing – email is best. There are too many ways to misread a text.
  4. PROTECT THE CHILDREN. Children need to be in the safest environment possible. Do what you have to do to keep the children safe from this virus. There is some data that children are getting sick, so allow them to be in the best environment for that. That means houses are better than shared apartments, parents with the resources to actually attempt the home-school environment, parents who are less likely to be exposed to the front lines of the pandemic. If you are a first responder, and you feel compelled to keep a distance from your children, then do it. You will not be punished by the courts (or shouldn’t be) for that selfless decision.
  5. NOTICE. Parents should inform the other of any symptoms in their households immediately.
  6. ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION. There are so many options for parents now. There is facetime, marco polo, video games, apps, and so forth that allow kids and their parents to communicate. No rules during this crisis, do it as freely as possible.
  7. CHILD SUPPORT. This is a real thing. People are losing their jobs left and right and wild predictions are being made that unemployment will surge to 20%. If a parent who normally pays child support loses his or her job, he or she is entitled to a modification of his child support. The Courts are mostly closed but still, there is a way to put a pin in the arrears (total amount owed) by filing a modification action and asserting that the new calculation should be made retroactive to the date of the filing. Because unpaid child support can land a person in jail, its important to change the amount as soon as possible. Generally, the lowest child support can go is based upon minimum wage, therefore: $227 for one child, $284 for two children, $340 for three and so on. This does not include the ongoing obligation to insure the child and cover uninsured expenses.If you are left with nothing and you have primary conservatorship of a child, you have grounds to file an emergency motion. Emergency motions are currently being heard by the local courts. 
  8. SUPERVISED VISITATION. If you are currently visiting your child under terms of supervised possession, it could foreseeably be cancelled. Be ready for that. At this time, exchanges at the courthouse have been cancelled and as people become more sick, there will be fewer willing supervisors.
  9. CPS and VIOLENCE. We may see an uptick in reports of violence and child abuse. If CPS is backlogged, you are free to hire a private attorney and seek to have an emergency motion. Again, emergency matters are being considered by our fearless judges.
  10. MAKE UP TIME. Yes, there is such a thing as a motion for make up time and those hearings will be filling the courthouses to settle the score against parents who did not play fair during this crisis. Here is how you ask for it and how you set up the best case to get it.

Scenario 1: A parent is a first responder and feels it would be best not to expose his or her daughter to the virus during the height of the crisis.

Dear John/Jane Doe,

The Fire Department has asked me to work four 12 hour shifts over the next six days which could be the height of the crisis. As much as I would love to keep Sal during this time, I don’t think its in her best interest to be exposed to what I may bring home. Would you mind keeping her during my regularly scheduled time and if so, would you agree to allow me to take her 4 extra days as soon as the crisis is over?

Response: 

Ill keep Sal. But on the four extra days, it really depends. I have Sal signed up for a bunch of camps and she is really looking forward to it. We also planned to go to Florida but I’m not sure. It depends if my new spouse can get off of work. 

Now, in the above scenario, the other parent may gladly take the days off your hands but not firm up the other side of the deal. If this is a case, continue to put Sal’s interest first by avoiding her until you are cleared, then lawyer up and get those days back.

Scenario 2: A parent becomes symptomatic and fears the worst. That parent is stuck between getting their child sick, exposing their other family to it and ya know, their own mortality. But whose to say the other parent has a sterile residence ready to go?

Dear John/Jane Doe,

This morning I wasn’t feeling well and by lunch I was running a 101 degree fever. I haven’t been to China and I have no other symptoms. I just wanted to let you know. Sal has been good, she has completed two online courses and I’ve been sure to keep my distance.

Response:

Thank you for letting me know. Do you think you have COVID-19? I think Sal should stay with me until you are better but my mom is with us and she has COPD so I don’t know what is worse. Can you get tested?

In this scenario, you have to assume there won’t be any tests and neither one of these parents will know what to do. They will have to figure it out together. Sal may be carrying the virus and its not ridiculous to think she should stay with the symptomatic parent. This is a close call. Either way, a Court would freely grant make up time so do it on your own and get it in writing. Land the plane.

DM us on Facebook @DeckerPoole or Insta @deckerpoolepllc with other issues/concerns.

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.

 

Anxiety & Fear – Marcy Freeman, a Family Law Attorney, Teaches us How to Process Both in the Wake of COVID-19

By | Unsolicited Opinions

As I write this blog, fear is the prevailing emotion of our country, and most everyone I know is experiencing anxiety.   We are being bombarded with bad news about our health and our economy.   How are we supposed to live in these times of uncertainty, where are we going to buy toilet paper, what is going to happen to my retirement account?  BUT – if we take a minute to really think about our fear and anxiety rationally, we can move forward and feel a lot better.

Fear and anxiety are different.    According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) “Fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of future threat.”

We should remember fear is an emotion which alerts us to a “a real or perceived danger.”  Our fight, flight, or freeze response evolved as a survival mechanism and is an instantaneous physiological reaction in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.  Throughout history, fear has helped us to avoid danger and to stay alive.    So, some fear is good because it protects us while irrational fear is not good.   How do we determine whether fear is good or bad?

I say we stare fear in the face so that we can get a good look at it and assess the “perceived danger.” Our evaluation of the perceived danger educates us about that danger – is it real, how close is it, etc…      After I know the danger, I can make a plan and move forward.

Anxiety is an insidious little creature because it feeds on itself.  Anxiety is the result of the way that I deal with my fears about the future.   In my head, I create and replay “stories” about what might happen in the future in an attempt to make sense of things and to control what might happen.   The truth is that my stories don’t solve my problems because the stories are based upon something that may or may not happen in the future.   When I repeatedly replay the story, the story becomes a never ending loop of anxiety.

How can I stop the loop?   Fortunately, I can change my thought processes.  According to studies, meditation (an ancient practice which brings us back to the present moment) can help with feelings of anxiety, anger, and depression and can even change your brain! https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#50d655aa1465

The present moment is what life is all about.    I can only control what is happening right now.     If I am busy thinking about the future (or the past) I am going to miss what is happening right now – a beautiful smile, the sunset, a fragrant smell.    I am going to miss my life.   I am not going to allow Covid 19 prevent me from living in the present moment.   Life is too short!