As singers have been telling us for decades, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” Whether your situation is a “D-i-v-o-r-c-e” or “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” once you and your partner have children together, much of the legal process is going to be very similar. The Board of Editors and the authors have put together a collection of articles to assist you in navigating what can be a challenging time.
Mark Chinn simplifies the initial steps when considering a breakup in his article “What to Expect When Hiring a Family Lawyer.” He covers how to find a reputable family law lawyer, how to prepare for the initial consultation, what to expect as far as costs and billing, and how to keep costs down. He also offers what may be a comfort to some: contacting a lawyer for information about your options can help you decide whether you want to continue to work on your relationship or not. If you decide to move forward with your breakup, you’ll know you have a trusted advocate in your corner.
In “Working Hand in Hand with Your Lawyer,” Ryan R. Bauerle shares tried and true ways of achieving a successful attorney-client relationship, from open communication, honesty, and cooperation throughout the process.
In “The Breakup Is Going to Cost How Much?” Timothy D. Lees demystifies the legal process by breaking it down into four basic stages: initiating the process, gathering information and documents (discovery), negotiating a settlement or the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, and a formal trial for disputed issues not settled through ADR. He cautions parties that managing the cost of a trial can be difficult and offers cost-saving measures.
It is natural to turn to loved ones during a difficult time; but sharing the details of your legal proceeding with even the most well-intentioned family members, significant others, and friends can have serious consequences, including compromising attorney-client privilege, says Andrew Z. Soshnick in “No Copilot Needed: Keeping Third Parties at Bay during Your Breakup.” He also cautions against the temptation to turn to the internet for legal advice and encourages clients to instead trust their lawyer’s advice.
Kelly A. Scott discusses “The Rules of the Game.” Most states have automatic orders, or rules that apply once a family law proceeding has started. It is important to know the rules in your state because they are binding court orders and dictate what you and your spouse or partner cannot do while your case is ongoing. The types of actions automatic orders control may include crossing state lines with your children or selling or transferring financial assets without written agreement or court order. If you break these rules, you could be held in contempt of court or face monetary sanction or penalties. Again, you should always check with your attorney first if you have any doubt whether an action is allowed during your case.
“How to Turn Your Case into the Breakup from Hell” by Kathleen A. Hogan chronicles what not to do if you want to limit stress and cost in your family law proceeding. Examples of behaviors that exacerbate an already stressful situation include indulging in self-pity and exhausting your family and friends; ignoring deadlines; involving your children in disputes; playing games with co-parenting arrangements; introducing a new significant other to your children too early; and keeping secrets from your lawyer.
Electronically stored information (ESI) permeates our lives. It includes all information that is created, maintained, and/or stored using electronic means. This includes the obvious text messages, emails, and social media posts, but also the less obvious digital traces, such as metadata and GPS. In “Electronically Stored Information: Tips, Tricks, and Pitfalls,” Sarah E. Murray explains how to protect your ESI, why you need to consult with your attorney and possibly a technical expert to legally obtain ESI that could help your case, and what to do if your own ESI is used against you.
In his article, “Kids, Stress, and High-Conflict Breakups,” clinical psychologist Dr. Arnold T. Shienvold gives parents in the midst of a high-conflict proceeding the warning signs of toxic stress to look out for in their children, including depression, lowered self-esteem, academic trouble, and acting-out behavior, and ways parents can lower their own stress.
Dr. Philip M. Stahl and Rebecca M. Stahl let parents know what to expect during a custody evaluation, sometimes called a parenting evaluation, in their article, “Preparing Your Client for a Custody Evaluation.” They explain the role of the evaluator and how your lawyer will help you prepare, both emotionally and factually with the right documents. They also explain what happens after the evaluation, including any possible follow-up interviews.
Marching out of a settlement meeting proclaiming “we’ll see you in court” makes for good drama on the big screen but may not be a wise choice in real life. In “The Reality of Having Your Day in Court: Why Settlement May Be a Win,” Tammy Andrews dispels the myth of the hard-fought litigation victory perpetrated in large part by TV courtroom dramas. In reality, she notes, going to court is costly and stressful and may not end the way you think. She offers the more amicable solutions of mediation when appropriate or what the best family law lawyers end up advising in the overwhelming majority of cases: Settle, Settle, Settle.
Family law proceedings often require a daunting array of documents, including expense records, account statements, and more. Such proceedings also may involve numerous deadlines by which various steps are to have taken place. As the title implies, “An Ode to Organization: Tips for Getting Organized and Staying Organized during Your Breakup” by Maggie L. Anderson is a helpful guide to making this difficult time easier on yourself and your family. Tips include setting clear goals, not hesitating to see a therapist if you are distressed, and making sure your documents are in order. These small steps can make a big difference in not just surviving your family law proceeding but coming out the other side ready for a bright future.