10 Key Pieces of Divorce Advice

10 Key Pieces of Divorce Advice

Divorce can be an emotional, complex, trying time, where every well-meaning friend, family member, or stranger will weigh in with advice and best practices. So how do you decipher good information from bad?

Every day, my clients lean on me for guidance to achieve their matrimonial goals. During this time, I have cultivated ten key pieces of advice that have served me and my clients well as we traverse the world of divorce together.

  1. Disengage – There are a million reasons to fight with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, i.e. betrayal, lies, infidelity, broken hearts, and broken promises. Drop your weapons, disengage, and move on with your new life.
  2. Educate Yourself – The most important thing you can do, from the moment you think of divorce to the instant you have the Judgment of Divorce in hand, is to educate yourself so that your expectations are realistic. Any time you have a question about the process, speak to your lawyer. Having your attorney, financial planner, and therapist on speed dial is great, but no one will ever care more about your divorce than you will, so educate yourself on the process.
  3. Make Your Kids The Priority – The motto in my firm and in my life is “kids over ego.” Divorces are often an angry, upsetting, stressful time. Your children are not the source of these feelings, and it is your job to ensure that your children thrive, even if you are hurting right now.
  4. List Your Top 3-4 Desired Outcomes – Without a plan and key goals, you will be swept along the turbulent ride of your divorce instead of charting your own course. It is up to you what the outcome and particulars of your divorce will be, and you must take charge of this process.
  5. Get Your Financials ASAP – The best time to find, organize, and make copies of your financials will be at the beginning of your divorce, or earlier when you can still speak with your spouse. The more contentious a divorce becomes, the tougher it can be to retrieve all the documents you will need during the process.
  6. Hire Top-Notch Legal advice – Do the research and interview several attorneys. Ask for references. Do not hire an attorney just because your friend did or because they are low-cost. Hire an attorney that you trust to be your confidant, who brings experience and a record of success. And hire an attorney who will fight for you as hard as if it were her own divorce.
  7. Emotional Arguments Have No Place in Court – No matter how hurt, angry, or crushed your spouse has made you feel, the judge will not care about any of it unless it is legally relevant – and it usually is not. Keep emotions out of the courtroom and focus on the facts.
  8. Your Ex Will Be Your Children’s Parent Forever – Though you and your spouse will go your separate ways after the divorce, your ex will remain your child’s parent. There will be graduations, weddings, and even illnesses that bring you both together. The more amicable you keep your divorce now, the easier life events will be moving forward.
  9. Do not trash-talk your spouse in front of your children – Your spouse is your child’s parent, their blood. No matter how tempted you are to get your kids on your side by making your spouse out to be the bad guy, don’t do it. By putting down their other parent, you are putting down your children.
  10. Your new life awaits – One of my favorite maxims is that iron sharpens iron. It takes the hardest, toughest, most painful experiences in your life to enable the best learning and growing. Though the divorce process is hell at times, you will emerge better, stronger, and happier. You can take it from me, I’ve personally experienced “divorce hell,” and emerged better than ever.

If you or someone you know is considering or going through a divorce, I encourage you to reach out. Take the first step toward your ‘real’ happily ever after.

Let Me Be Your Brave –

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Mia Poppe, Esq.
Managing Partner

The 5 Stages of Divorce Mediation Every Spouse Should Know

The 5 Stages of Divorce Mediation Every Spouse Should Know

Divorce mediation is an alternative process to divorce litigation and is an important option to consider when a couple decides to divorce. Mediation is not for everyone. It is important to understand, many divorcing couples are not “good fits” for the mediation process. But, Mediation can save time, and money and alleviate some of the emotional and physical tolls of the divorce for you, your spouse, and your children.  

Your divorce mediation will likely proceed through 5 stages. Each stage is designed to move you closer to a successful agreement between you and your spouse, on custody, child support, equitable distribution, spousal support, and counsel/professional fees.

Stage #1: Laying the Foundation

In Stage 1 of mediation, your mediator will discuss what mediation is, what makes it successful, how participants are expected to behave, and the approach that will be taken to reach a fruitful resolution. Properly laying the foundation is all about setting proper expectations.

Your mediator will discuss the importance of a constructive and clear line of communication and identify the roles that each participant (including the mediator) will play in the process. 

Stage #2: Discovery 

In the discovery stage, your mediator will work to understand the relevant facts and financials of your case. Think of this stage as you and your spouse playing catch-up with the mediator on key aspects of your life. Your mediator will ask detailed questions about your financials, children, assets, taxes, insurance, etc. You may not know the answer to some of these questions, and that’s ok. For example, your mediator may want very specific information such as your life insurance policy number. You will most likely leave these discovery sessions with homework or a to-do list. 

The discovery stage is critical to the mediation process because these are the many variables that will be “in play” as you negotiate a resolution. To this end, you must share everything with your mediator. Leave no stone unturned. 

Most importantly, the discovery stage is not about “litigating” your or your spouse’s wants. That is for later in the mediation process. The discovery stage is simply about verifiable facts. 

Stage #3: Framing 

The framing stage lays the groundwork for the negotiations that come in Stage 4. Framing allows you and your spouse to identify and express your vision for what a successful divorce looks like. For example, what is your vision for the custody of your children? How should your debt be divided? In expressing your vision and goals, your mediator will identify areas of friction that will need to be addressed through negotiation. Conversely, you will also find where your and your spouse’s interests overlap. 

In this process, the focus is only on the expression of your goals and vision. Not those of your spouse. This is a safe space for you to express yourself. It is preferred to hold framing sessions jointly so that both spouses are on the same page and have proper expectations for negotiations. However, spouses may not always feel comfortable sharing their goals openly with each other. So, as a result, framing sessions can be held separately. 

Remember, the art of mediation is “compromise” so as you frame your interests, understand that you will not get everything you want. Make sure you have a clear priority of what interests matter most to you and which ones you can compromise on. 

Stage #4: Negotiation 

It’s important to approach negotiation with the mindset that you and your spouse are going to work together to solve a problem. You are not two opposing parties working against each other. Otherwise, you’d be litigating your case in divorce court. To that end, understand that you will have to compromise. Everyone will not get everything they want. 

Mediation fails at this stage if spouses do not approach it with the correct mentality. If the mentality changes to that of opposition, it’s the role of the mediator to quickly change the tone of the conversation. Expert mediators do this swiftly and with great tact. 

At the end of the negotiation, you and your spouse will have reached a verbal agreement on the core interests that were discussed. 

Stage #5: Settlement Agreement

Now, it’s time to put it in a binding agreement. This formalization of your mediation takes the form of a settlement agreement. If a mediation has been conducted successfully, most spouses sign the settlement agreement without undue delay.

Be sure to take your time to review your settlement agreement with your trusted advisers and your attorney. Once you’re ready, you can sign, knowing you’ve successfully mediated your divorce and saved your family time, money, and the emotional toll of litigation.

If you or someone you know is considering divorce or going through a divorce, we can help. Reach out to our offices today to schedule a consultation.

Let Me Be Your Brave!

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Mia Poppe, Esq.
Managing Partner

Legal Remedies for Parental Alienation – Part 2

Legal Remedies for Parental Alienation – Part 2

Any phase of the divorce process should be about your children. It’s always about the kids and nothing else is more important. Unfortunately, not all divorcing parents are amicable. Too frequently, the non-custodial parent attempts to hamper and frustrate the relationship between the other parent and their child. This willful act to undermine the other parent may rise to the level of what psychologists call ‘parental alienation’. In part two of this 2-part series, we discuss the potential legal action that may be taken if initial tactical steps do not work.

When Tactical Steps Are Not Working

Parental alienation is one of the hardest claims to prove in court. In our first blog, we provided three tactical steps to take to mitigate parental alienation:

  • Detachment from the alienating parent.
  • Validating your child’s feelings and reassuring them.
  • Working with a therapist and circle of support.

If you have exhausted every effort to mitigate parental alienation without success, it may be time to hire a qualified attorney experienced in divorce litigation and parental alienation. 

The Burden of Proof on YOU

You must understand that parental alienation is not always easy to prove and it’s not always clear-cut. If you have determined your next course of action is going to court, these critical steps must be taken.

  1. Hire a Litigation Attorney – note the recommendation is a litigation attorney versus a matrimonial attorney. A litigation attorney is experienced in bringing cases to trial if necessary. At The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC., we are highly experienced in court litigation. Contact us to schedule a consultation.
  2. Hire a Forensic Psychologist – a forensic psychologist specializes in civil, family, or criminal casework. They interact with attorneys, judges, victims of crime, and criminal offenders. A forensic psychologist will evaluate all parties, including your children, to determine if the claim of parental alienation has been substantiated.
  3. Show Factual Proof – If you are intent on moving forward, you will need a sophisticated marshaling of evidence to prove to the courts your claim of parental alienation. It is a move that requires strategic steps. A qualified litigation attorney can guide you with the documentation and evidence a court will require.

Should the case move forward in court, there are several possible legal decisions that may be taken by the courts. In any case, the courts will always decide in the best interest of the child(ren).

Legal Actions by The Court

Once parental alienation has been substantially proven and determined by the courts, the ruling judge may choose any of the following actions against the alienating parent.

Custody modification:  A petition may be filed to modify the custody or parenting time arrangement if there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the best interest of the child is no longer being served.

Supervised visitations: If the court determines that it is not safe for the child to be alone with the alienating parent, it may order supervised visitations.

Counseling: The court may order counseling for the child, the alienating parent, or both, to help repair the damaged relationship. The alienating parent may be required to take parenting classes.

Suspension of Child Support Payments: A motion may be filed requesting that child support payments be suspended due to the unreasonable frustration of visitation with the child.

Contempt of court: If the alienating parent continues to engage in alienating behavior despite court orders, they may be held in contempt of court and even face criminal charges if their actions are determined to be criminal in nature.

Ultimately, the court will always consider the best interests of the child as the main priority before making any decision. If we haven’t emphasized the importance of proof, let this be another reminder. You better be ready.

If you suspect you and your child are experiencing the harsh and unreasonable effects of parental alienation, I encourage you to act now.  Contact us to schedule an appointment with me or one of the other qualified attorneys at The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates.

Let Me Be Your Brave!

divorce lawyer_female divorce attorney

Mia Poppe, Esq.
Managing Partner

Parental Alienation: The Pendency of Divorce

Parental Alienation: The Pendency of Divorce

Is your child’s other parent using negative manipulation to turn your child’s relationship with you against you?  This type of behavior common during the pendency of a divorce action or in post-divorce situations is what is known as parental alienation. One of the most difficult theories to prove in a child custody proceeding, this two-part series shares the tactical and legal steps you can take if you are the target of parental alienation.

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is an event in which one parent actively weakens the relationship between the other parent and their child or children. At one end of the spectrum, is the parent who is the custodial or the primary parental figure in the child’s life. On the other end, is the parent who is not the primary figure, but is rather the seemingly powerful figure, who possibly holds all the money but definitely has the ability to invoke fear in the child.

One of the problems with parental alienation is you can only say it happened when the outcome is already there, such as your child rejecting your phone calls or refusing to visit. Typical manipulation of the alienating parent includes:

  • Bad-mouthing the other parent to the child.
  • Bad-mouthing the other parent to the community or other third parties.
  • Constantly telling the child how the divorce is hurting them, causing the child to feel judgmental or parental toward the alienated parent.

These purposeful and calculated attempts to estrange the child from the other parent are a form of emotional abuse of the child and may constitute parental alienation.

But know this, parental alienation is very hard to prove. It requires significant documentation, third-party evaluations, and showing the course of action that created the alienation. It is not in the best interest of any child to uproot them from the home they are settled in, so what can you do?

How to Counteract Parental Alienation

If you believe you are the subject of parental alienation, there are tactical steps you can take to mitigate the alienation. It is worth repeating that parental alienation is difficult to prove in our overburdened family and divorce courts. Prior to considering legal action, you must take every effort to counteract the alienation outside the courtroom.

Detachment: as counterintuitive as it sounds, parental alienation is mitigated when you detach from the emotional attack that’s being launched against you and your child. Some therapists call the withholding “narcissistic supply”. Narcissistic supply generally refers to the energy that certain manipulative people need to continue on with their course of the manipulation. They must achieve a payoff to succeed at their manipulation.

Validate and accept your child’s feelings: validate that the fear and confusion they feel are both real. After you validate their feelings, disarm their fear by reassuring your child absolutely everything will be okay. Give your child words of encouragement and voice your acceptance of your child’s feelings. Ignoring their feelings will only push them closer to the alienating parent.

Team up: work with a therapist and surround yourself with friends and family who strongly support you. And if a divorce is necessary, find a divorce attorney who is qualified to handle child custody and parental alienation.

Other Steps to Mitigate Parental Alienation

If, and only if, you have exhausted every effort, taken every avenue, and tried every tactic to mitigate parental alienation without success, it may be time to consider legal assistance. You must understand that the court will require concrete evidence of parental alienation before making any order.

In part two of the parental alienation series, we discuss the various legal steps that may be taken by the court depending on the situation. Ultimately, the court will always consider the best interests of the child as the main priority before making any decision.

Let Me Be Your BraveIf you or someone you know is going through parental alienation, I encourage you to act now. As an experienced attorney in divorce litigation and child custody, contact The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates to schedule an appointment today.

Let Me Be Your Brave!

divorce lawyer_female divorce attorney

Mia Poppe, Esq.
Managing Partner
Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC.

How to Manage Divorce During the Holidays

How to Manage Divorce During the Holidays

Navigating the complexities of divorce is a challenge even in amicable breakups. The holidays can compound stress and anxiety especially when children are involved. Create a season of joy with the intention to break away from the drama of divorce for the sake of your children and your own mental wellness.

Take Control of Your Actions

The holidays are not a time for fighting. Call your own internal truce and refuse to engage in any negativity with your ex. Abolish tit-for-tat. If your ex is not willing to take these steps, you can still choose to keep the peace. Simply do not go there.

Simply Smile at Aggressive Texts and Emails – You cannot control the behavior of your ex, but you can control how you respond. Stop. Breathe. Smile knowing that you are in control of yourself and that you have set your boundary and will not be enmeshed in nasty communications.

Radically Take Care of Yourself – Take on only what you believe you are able to manage and no more. Be prepared to say ‘no’ to invitations that exceed your bandwidth. Choose wisely for yourself to travel or to host. Implement and stick to self-care habits including a good night’s sleep, eating well, and exercise. Fortify your mind with walks, books, and quiet time. My two favorite books are the Bible and The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy.

Give Yourself a Gift – This season don’t forget that really important person in your life – YOU! Head to the salon for a new hairstyle, manicure, or pedicure. Take the day off to have lunch with a friend. On a budget? Snuggle up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate, or meet your friend in the park with a brown bag lunch. Do something special for yourself!

Don’t Do it Alone – The holidays are not a time for self-isolation. Avoid falling into that emotional black hole by surrounding yourself with a strong network be it family, friends, school, or church. Lean into a licensed counselor if you are having trouble coping, and do the same for your child.

Create Lasting Holiday Memories

Divorce is hard on children as they grapple with emotions of ‘why’. Focus on relevant celebrations that bring you and your children together.

Decorate the House – Pull out your favorite decorations and throw a festive party with your child. Create new traditions such as baking cookies, threading popcorn garland, or making gingerbread houses. Play holiday music and dance around the house. Ask your child for ideas and include them as part of the planning.

Be Flexible – Your child may want to spend time with the other parent and flexibility is key. Depending on your divorce agreement, you may trade off holidays or share each holiday. Encourage your child every step of the way and forgo any guilt trips. If you do not spend the actual holiday with them, schedule a ‘special celebration’ before or after.

Manage Your Emotions – Don’t give place to negative thoughts and negative self-talk. On purpose, think about good things. Think about the gratitude you have for your children. Think about the gratitude you have for your family and your friends that have become your family. If you need to cry and if you need to feel sorry for yourself, give yourself a time limit. For example, give yourself two weeks to grieve the loss of what was and then mentally move on. Understand it is okay to give yourself time to be hurt, to be angry, and to be disappointed. The emphasis is on time, setting a time and date.

Consider the Whys – Thoughtfully consider why you would badmouth your ex-spouse to your children, and their other parent. Ask yourself why you would engage in the Spanish Inquisition when your children return from your ex or soon-to-be ex-spouse. There is no good reason for interrogating your children after their visit with the other parent. Thoughtfully consider why you would send menacing emails or texts complaining about why the children were tired in the morning because your ex didn’t put them to bed on time. There is no good reason for launching criticism of your ex via email and text.

Keep it Simple – Guilt is the quickest way to get caught up in the more-is-more frenzy. Spouses may compete to see who can buy more gifts or more expensive gifts. Don’t let the materialism of the holidays cause you to forget what the season is about. Set reasonable expectations for gift-giving and focus on quality time with your child.

Children become adults and what stays with them are memories, not things. Use this holiday season to create new memories that carry you and your children forward. Divorce during the holidays does not have to mean that every holiday thereafter will be a time of sorry. You alone have the power to make the choice for how you will approach the holidays.

This season, we are here to support you through your divorce. If you are someone you know is going through a divorce, contact us today.

Let Me Be Your Brave!

divorce lawyer_female divorce attorney

Mia Poppe, Esq.
Managing Partner
Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC.