Archive for the ‘Family Law’ Category

Dividing Property in Divorce: What’s Separate & What’s Marital?

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sandraguzman nov2

In a divorce, dividing up property is much more complicated than figuring out who gets to keep the good china and who takes the comfy recliner. There are many factors to consider, including who purchased the property, when it was purchased, and whether the other spouse contributed to the upkeep of said property. Property in a divorce falls into two main categories: Separate and marital.

What is the difference between separate property and marital property?

Separate property is property that either was acquired prior to the marriage, after the date of separation, or property that is exempted from being considered jointly held, such as gifts or inheritances from family members. Spouses can have specific agreements that supersede this general rule, such as prenuptial agreements or written contracts stating that specific property acquired during the marriage remains the sole property of one spouse.

Marital property, on the other hand, is property acquired during the course of the marriage. Separate property can become, at least in part, marital property if marital funds or efforts were used to maintain or improve the property during the marriage. Examples of this would be income earned during the marriage used to improve a home bought prior to the marriage or a spouse’s bookkeeping skills used to grow a business founded prior to the marriage. The spouse who contributed to the value increase is entitled to a portion of that once-separate property upon the divorce. [1]

How is marital property distributed in Maryland?

Maryland is considered an equitable property state, as opposed to a community property state. What this means is that the court can divvy up all marital property and debt in equitable shares, based upon various factors, and isn’t required to divide everything exactly down the middle. Some factors the court may consider include:

  • What each spouse contributed to the marriage, financially and otherwise;
  • The economic circumstances of each spouse;
  • How and when specific assets were acquired; and
  • Whether there was any marital misconduct on the part of one or both spouses.

If one spouse takes on a larger share of the marital debts, for example, he or she may be awarded a larger share of the assets to offset the debt. Though it’s not possible to absolutely predict what a court would determine in dividing up property and debts during a divorce, consulting with a licensed, experienced family law attorney can give you an idea of what the division may look like. [2]

I want to protect my assets as much as possible in the event of a divorce. What should I do?

Do consider putting into place a premarital or prenuptial agreement prior to your marriage. This document can protect any assets you may own now that may come into question in the event of a divorce.

Do use only nonmarital property to purchase other property you want considered nonmarital. For example, if you wish to sell a nonmarital car to purchase a plot of land that you alone will maintain and control, do not utilize any marital funds to make or maintain this purchase.

Do keep accurate, complete records of all nonmarital property and funds, and how they are used. If you can show a paper trail of money used only for nonmarital purchases, it is less likely to be considered marital property upon divorce.

Don’t deposit any income earned during the marriage into a nonmarital bank account. Keep the two separate.

Don’t assume that all property owned before marriage is automatically considered nonmarital. If you purchased a home prior to the marriage, then used marital funds to make repairs or improvements, a portion of the home’s value can be considered marital and subject to division.

Don’t open a joint bank account with nonmarital funds. Even if you plan to keep accurate records as to what funds are marital and what are nonmarital, it’s better to just create separate accounts. [3]

Experienced Divorce Attorney in Rockville, Maryland

Have questions about what property may be considered separate and what’s marital? Or have other questions related to divorce, child custody, or family law? Contact the Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado for an appointment with an experienced, compassionate family law attorney.

[1] ”Separate and Community Property During Marriage: Who Owns What?” NOLO.com
[2] “Maryland Marital Property FAQs,” DivorceNet.
[3] “Managing Marital Property – Do’s and Don’ts,” FindLaw.

5 Tips for Navigating Holidays for Blended Families

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Sandra Guzman Nov 2017

The holidays are full of wonderful things – gifts, good food, carols, nights by the fire, and family time. But the desire to have that “perfect” holiday season can cause a great deal of stress for parents, especially those with blended families. Here are 5 things to remember when navigating a holiday season that’s full of step relatives, parenting time changes, and potential conflict:

Plan Ahead

You can’t possibly do everything you want to do in a holiday season, even under ideal household conditions. But planning becomes even more important when you have to navigate multiple households and changes of parenting time that may come smack-dab in the middle of a possible holiday celebration. Begin thinking about and discussing holiday plans with extended family members well in advance so you can make sure all important players will be present at planned celebrations. Communicate these plans to your children as early and often as possible, as knowing who they will be with when, and when and where holiday celebrations will take place, can help ease some of the stress and heightened emotions they may be feeling surrounding the split holiday. [1]

Leave Space for Emotions

The disappointment of having to let go of old family traditions can be upsetting for family members of any age. Take the time to listen to any worries that you children, spouse, parents, or other extended family members may have surrounding the holiday. Even if you can’t do anything about their concerns, simply being heard can help everyone have a more pleasant season. Your children may experience a great deal of conflicting emotions surrounding the holidays, even if they’re seasoned blended family veterans, as spending time with one parent means missing out on celebrations and time with the other parent. Allow your children the time to be sad or regretful. Reassure them that they will be missed when not around, and give them permission to enjoy any celebrations that may occur with their other parent. [2]

Develop New Traditions

It’s impossible to maintain every former holiday tradition as household circumstances change. Your family may have to give up attending that special holiday event that only happens on one day because everyone may not be together. Take a little time to grieve the events and traditions you can no longer uphold, then begin searching for new ones. When appropriate, get input from your children on things they would like to do during the holiday season. After a couple years attending the same event or taking part in the same activity as a family, it will become a new tradition which will be anticipated by everyone. [3]

Don’t Compete

Especially if your family is newly blended, the temptation to create the “perfect” holiday can be intense. Don’t get caught up in attempting to outdo the other parent with gifts, traditions, or anything else. Competing can only lead to more loyalty conflicts for your children, causing more emotional upheaval. If your co-parenting relationship with the other parent is settled enough, consider coordinating gift-giving between households, with each parent or family member choosing off a central wish list. When your children prepare to head to the other parent’s house for a holiday celebration, tell them to have fun and that you look forward to them returning. This will help them feel secure in their ability to enjoy time with the other parent and have a positive experience. [1]

Be Flexible

There’s no written law that says that families have to celebrate a holiday on a particular day. What’s most important during the holidays is everyone getting together to enjoy spending time together. If you are unable to get everyone together on Christmas Day, for example, due to schedules, celebrate on a different day. Your children will enjoy having the holiday season spread out a little longer, and not attempting to cram everything into a few days’ time will help relieve everyone’s stress. [2]

Though maneuvering through life as a blended family presents its own unique challenges at any time of the year, the holidays can be an especially difficult time for everyone involved. Keeping the most important things in mind – The ability to spend quality time together as a family and maintaining the well-being of your children – and avoiding some major possible pitfalls can help everyone have a happy, enjoyable holiday season.

[1] Sam Quick, “Celebrating the Holidays as a Blended Family.”
[2] Operation: PARENT, “Holidays as a Blended Family.”
[3] Today’s Parent, “5 tips for celebrating the holiday with a blended family.”

Easing Tension During Divorce: 5 Key Tips

sandra 2 (1)

In the midst of a divorce, even the easiest of conversations with your ex can be fraught with tension. The person who was once your closest ally has become a potential enemy, sometimes opposing your ideas just because. Every conversation doesn’t have to involve a huge emotional expenditure. Here are 5 key tips for helping to decrease stress during a divorce:

Keep Communications To Email or Text

Though communicating in person or over the phone is considered best, when in the midst of a contentious divorce it may be best to take a step back and use less personal forms of communication. Reserve use of the phone for emergency situations only. Writing an email or sending a text allows you to pause and rework your words so they convey what you need to communicate without inserting emotion. [1]

Having a written record of a conversation also is helpful if you and your former spouse are prone to misunderstanding one another. If there is a disagreement over what was said, showing copies of texts and emails can help clear up confusion.

Additionally, emails, texts, and instant messages are admissable as evidence in many states. Should there ever be a need to prove someone’s words in court, it is much easier with written text than notes taken during phone or in-person conversations.

Wait a Few Hours Before Responding

Even though most of us have phones close at hand at all times, we don’t have to be immediately reachable. If you receive an email or text from your ex and feel the anger, hurt or frustration bubbling up, put down the phone and walk away for a few hours. Unless it is an issue that demands your immediate attention, such as a last-minute scheduling change, it can wait. [2]

When you instantaneously respond to a barb, you are far more likely to respond emotionally instead of intellectually, which can escalate an already tense situation. If you step back and let yourself cool down for a while, something that may have seemed to be a big deal at first has faded away. Taking some time to avoid an emotional outburst allows you to maintain your calm and composure, an immensely helpful state of mind when your life feels chaotic.

Don’t Worry About What Others Think

In the midst of divorce, your emotions are heightened and it can be very easy to take things your ex says personally. Think about it this way – As much as you are confused and hurting, your ex is probably confused and hurting, too. When our lives are stressful, we tend to lash out more easily. [3]

If your ex, or anyone else in your life, criticizes you for doing or saying something you know is right, don’t take the criticism personally. Keep your children’s and your health, safety, and happiness in mind at all times, and ignore what others say.

Don’t Be Afraid To Disengage

If you feel a discussion is yielding nothing productive, or you are feeling emotionally drained or attacked, it is perfectly all right to politely halt the conversation and step away. An unproductive conversation can leave the parties feeling frustrated or annoyed, which can increase the likelihood of emotional outbursts. [1]

Simply say, “This conversation is unproductive, so I am going to take a step back and revisit this at a later time.” Then, put down your phone and go do something else. Ignore any texts or emails that may come through attempting to draw you back into the argument. Take a walk, clean your bathroom, or play with your children – Whatever you need to do to stay away from the notifications on your phone. If you feel up to it, come back to the conversation at a later time with a calmer head and some different perspective.

Take Care of Yourself

You cannot effectively communicate if you feel run-down and overly stressed. Taking some time for yourself isn’t a luxury – It’s a necessity. [3]

Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Take a little time at least once a week to do something purely for yourself. Get a manicure or massage, sit down with a cup of coffee and a good book, or just go for a quiet drive. Taking the time to pause will give you a little lift and allow you to tackle everything else that needs doing with a little more calm.

Maintaining your composure and cool when communicating with your ex may seem impossible. Setting some clear personal boundaries and taking time and space for yourself can help you from getting overwhelmed. Though it will be difficult, you can come through your divorce happier, calmer, and a more whole person than you were before.

[1] “4 Tips for Effective Communication During Divorce,” outofcourtsolutions.com.
[2] “Tips on Communicating With Your Spouse During a Divorce,” marriage.com.
[3] “Reduce the Stress of a Divorce,” Psych Central.

Easing Tension During Divorce: 5 Key Tips

sandra 2 (1)

In the midst of a divorce, even the easiest of conversations with your ex can be fraught with tension. The person who was once your closest ally has become a potential enemy, sometimes opposing your ideas just because. Every conversation doesn’t have to involve a huge emotional expenditure. Here are 5 key tips for helping to decrease stress during a divorce:

Keep Communications To Email or Text

Though communicating in person or over the phone is considered best, when in the midst of a contentious divorce it may be best to take a step back and use less personal forms of communication. Reserve use of the phone for emergency situations only. Writing an email or sending a text allows you to pause and rework your words so they convey what you need to communicate without inserting emotion. [1]

Having a written record of a conversation also is helpful if you and your former spouse are prone to misunderstanding one another. If there is a disagreement over what was said, showing copies of texts and emails can help clear up confusion.

Additionally, emails, texts, and instant messages are admissable as evidence in many states. Should there ever be a need to prove someone’s words in court, it is much easier with written text than notes taken during phone or in-person conversations.

Wait a Few Hours Before Responding

Even though most of us have phones close at hand at all times, we don’t have to be immediately reachable. If you receive an email or text from your ex and feel the anger, hurt or frustration bubbling up, put down the phone and walk away for a few hours. Unless it is an issue that demands your immediate attention, such as a last-minute scheduling change, it can wait. [2]

When you instantaneously respond to a barb, you are far more likely to respond emotionally instead of intellectually, which can escalate an already tense situation. If you step back and let yourself cool down for a while, something that may have seemed to be a big deal at first has faded away. Taking some time to avoid an emotional outburst allows you to maintain your calm and composure, an immensely helpful state of mind when your life feels chaotic.

Don’t Worry About What Others Think

In the midst of divorce, your emotions are heightened and it can be very easy to take things your ex says personally. Think about it this way – As much as you are confused and hurting, your ex is probably confused and hurting, too. When our lives are stressful, we tend to lash out more easily. [3]

If your ex, or anyone else in your life, criticizes you for doing or saying something you know is right, don’t take the criticism personally. Keep your children’s and your health, safety, and happiness in mind at all times, and ignore what others say.

Don’t Be Afraid To Disengage

If you feel a discussion is yielding nothing productive, or you are feeling emotionally drained or attacked, it is perfectly all right to politely halt the conversation and step away. An unproductive conversation can leave the parties feeling frustrated or annoyed, which can increase the likelihood of emotional outbursts. [1]

Simply say, “This conversation is unproductive, so I am going to take a step back and revisit this at a later time.” Then, put down your phone and go do something else. Ignore any texts or emails that may come through attempting to draw you back into the argument. Take a walk, clean your bathroom, or play with your children – Whatever you need to do to stay away from the notifications on your phone. If you feel up to it, come back to the conversation at a later time with a calmer head and some different perspective.

Take Care of Yourself

You cannot effectively communicate if you feel run-down and overly stressed. Taking some time for yourself isn’t a luxury – It’s a necessity. [3]

Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Take a little time at least once a week to do something purely for yourself. Get a manicure or massage, sit down with a cup of coffee and a good book, or just go for a quiet drive. Taking the time to pause will give you a little lift and allow you to tackle everything else that needs doing with a little more calm.

Maintaining your composure and cool when communicating with your ex may seem impossible. Setting some clear personal boundaries and taking time and space for yourself can help you from getting overwhelmed. Though it will be difficult, you can come through your divorce happier, calmer, and a more whole person than you were before.

[1] “4 Tips for Effective Communication During Divorce,” outofcourtsolutions.com.
[2] “Tips on Communicating With Your Spouse During a Divorce,” marriage.com.
[3] “Reduce the Stress of a Divorce,” Psych Central.

Marital vs. Non-Marital Debt: Who Owes What?

Sandra Guzman - Oct 2017

You and your spouse have come to the conclusion that it’s time to go your separate ways and file for divorce. You’ve figured out who gets the cars, the house, the furniture, even the blender someone bought you for your wedding. But when it comes to debts, how do you split those?

Debt Incurred Before Marriage

In Maryland, debts incurred prior to a marriage are not considered marital debt. Md. Code Ann., Family Law, §4-301. That means your spouse’s car payment, credit card debt, or student loans that were taken out prior to your marriage **will not** be your responsibility after your divorce. If the home in which you live was purchased by one or the other partner before you married, any mortgages or other liens on that house taken out before the marriage are also considered non-marital debts.

Debt Incurred During Marriage

Debts that were incurred during the marriage, however, are considered joint debts. Both parties can be held liable for the repayment of any debts – credit card, home loans, student debts, court-ordered judgments – incurred during this time period. [1] This even extends to credit cards taken out without your knowledge or charges racked up by one party, even after separation.

What does this mean for my credit?

A high debt to income ratio, especially if minimum payments are not regularly being made, can negatively impact your credit score. If you and your spouse agree to split debts, or for one of you to take on the entirety of a debt, and that person simply stops paying on the debt, it could spell financial disaster for the other person.

How can I pay off those debts?

If you and your spouse are facing a large amount of marital debt at the time of your separation, you do have a few options.

1. You can utilize marital bank accounts and assets to pay off the debts. While this is the ideal situation, it isn’t always a feasible one.

2. Divide up the shared debt equally between spouses and transfer it to individually held cards. This only works for credit card debt.

3. Draw up a signed agreement clearly stating which party is responsible for paying which debt. Unfortunately, creditors do not have to abide by these agreements and can ding the non-responsible party’s credit or continue hounding that person for payment.

4. You and your spouse can agree to split up the debts and assets in proportion to one another. For example, if one spouse agrees to take on all the credit card debt and be responsible for the payments, he or she can also be given the entirety of a bank or retirement account to help offset the debt.

What about debts incurred during the marriage of which I had no knowledge?

Unfortunately, incurring consumer debt is common following a separation. Securing housing, furniture, transportation, and other necessities for two households instead of one is incredibly expensive, especially if you have children. This can result in a large amount of money being spent during the separation period and prior to the finalization of the divorce. This is still considered marital debt. If you believe there has been substantial debt incurred without your consent or knowledge for which you may be liable, consult with an attorney about your options in this situation.

Divorce is never easy, but the added stress of any amount of debt that must be paid or s plit can increase tensions and leave you feeling worse than when you began the process. Contact the experienced staff at The Law Offices of Sandra Guzman-Salvado for guidance through any and all matters of divorce, custody, and family law.

[1] “Spouse’s Debts,” The People’s Law Library of Maryland, peoples-law.org.

The Monster in the Closet- Alcohol Dependent Spouses

Hiding WomanMarriages are often faced with many challenges. From figuring out how to manage money and how many children to have, to who is going to do the dishes, we have all experienced them. Some challenges may be obvious, but some may be so cleverly disguised or hidden. It is stated that nearly 17 million adults in the United States have alcohol-related problems. “Alcohol remains the number-one drug problem in the United States.” [1] With this kind of shocking statistic, it is not uncommon to see marriages affected and divorces finalized as a result. You may be wondering how to determine if you or your partner is falling victim to alcohol dependency: the ugly monster in the closet that no one wants around, but does not know how to get rid of. First take a moment to understand what it is and how it shows up in the life of those affected.

Alcohol Dependency Signs

It can be very hard to detect the presence of alcoholism in a marriage. Many times a spouse may not realize they have a problem. Alcohol dependency is a more serious kind of alcohol use disorder involving three or more of the following:

  1. Loss of control: drinking more or drinking for a longer period of time than intended.
  2. Tolerance: needing more alcohol to reach the desired effect.
  3. Not able to decrease the amounts consumed or stop altogether.
  4. Continued drinking despite knowing the problems it has caused or made worse.
  5. Spending large amounts of time drinking or recovering from it.
  6. Withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is not consumed. These include vomiting, dizziness, shaking, nausea, anxiety, seizures, hallucinations, tremors, insomnia and sweating.
  7. Missing or willing to give up social or recreational activities in order to drink.

Confronting a spouse who has alcohol dependency is a task that is not easy to do. As with most issues in life, change cannot be brought about without an acceptance of the problem. If your spouse refuses to accept their problem, you will have to prove their alcohol dependency in court. This is a major importance when children are involved and custody hearings begin. This can be easier to do with proof of any messages related to their drinking, pictures of empty beers, documentation and testimonials from friends and family members. Remember an alcohol dependent spouse will do what they can to deny or place blame on you, but with proper documentation in court, it will be easier to prove their dependency.

Although it may be hard to continue with the divorce when all you really want to see is your spouse get the help they need, it is important you and your children have a safe environment free from any alcohol abuse. Stay diligent and expose the monster for what it really is.

Sources:

[1] EMedicine Health, “Alcoholism.” http://www.emedicinehealth.com/alcoholism/article_em.htm


Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement. By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

Co-Parenting: There’s an App for That?

Co-Parenting AppsCommunicating with your ex-spouse during or after a divorce can cause a lot of hostility and unneeded frustration for you and your children. You may be wondering how you are going to parent your children together when just seeing your ex-spouse causes your heart to race and blood to boil. Thankfully we live in the 21st century and technology is more sophisticated than ever before. With many online resources for separated parents, co-parenting with your ex-spouse has never been easier.

The increased demand for technology that makes parenting with an ex easier has led to a development in a number of apps that assist with effective scheduling and planning for both parents and in some cases, everyone in the family. Many of these apps allow you to post schedules, record upcoming events, negotiate a change in visitation, post important topics, and post about expense and payment tracking in a neutral environment.  Even in instances where you may be tempted to reply to a scheduling request change from your ex in a hostile tone, certain apps warn you before sending a message to give you a chance to rethink your reply.

8 Apps for Co-Parenting

Below is a list of the top eight most useful co-parenting apps for separated parents who prefer to avoid phone conversations and face-to-face visits.

  • Our Family Wizard- Created by a divorced couple, this app provides visitation and child custody schedules, parenting plans, calendars, and other tools. Resources and links for counseling and other legal services also included.
  • Kidganizer- Create profiles for each child and add information regarding schedules, finances, and send alerts to remind family members of important events including doctor visits, parent teacher conferences, and more.
  • 2Houses– This app offers a calendar to organize custody and events, post information about doctor’s visits and school documents, post to photo albums, and record notes about food allergies and other important information in a journal. An expense module section allows for managing child related expenses.
  • Skedi- Great for all family members. This cloud based app syncs with your calendar and allows easy management of drop offs, pick-ups, and assigning certain tasks to other family members. Ideal for busy families on the go.
  • Cozi- The “Must-have app for the modern family.” [1] This program allows parents to post and share calendars, add to-do lists, chores, shopping lists, recurring events, forward events to family members, and set up alerts via text and email.
  • About One- Need to access paperwork quickly while on-the-go? This app acts as on online file for keeping heath information, receipts, instructions for caregivers, school reports, upcoming events, paperwork, and emergency contact information.
  • Custody Junction- Still in the middle of getting a divorce? Schedule current and future visitations for up to two years in advance. Reports can be customized regarding visitation, support payments, hours spent with the child and more. These reports can be shared with lawyers and court monitors.
  • My School Bucks- Manage your child’s school payments for lunches, field trips, after school activities, and more. View account balances and recent purchases and set up notifications for upcoming payments. When one parent may be low on cash, the other can contribute without sending checks to the school. This app also allows parents to see a child’s menu selections and get low balance alerts.

“Peaceful, consistent, and purposeful communication with your ex is essential to the success of co-parenting—even though it may seem absolutely impossible.” [2] These helpful co-parenting apps are a great way to begin the process of peaceful co-parenting. By focusing on your children and refraining from acting on your anger and pent-up feelings, you can help your children adjust to the difficult changes that divorce brings.

Sources

[1] Youthletic, “8 Apps That Help Organize Co-Parenting Schedules.” https://www.youthletic.com/articles/8-apps-that-help-organize-co-parenting-schedules/

[2] Help Guide, “Co-Parenting Tips for Divorced Parents.” http://www.helpguide.org/articles/family-divorce/co-parenting-tips-for-divorced-parents.htm (October 2016).


Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement. By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

It’s Their Way or the Highway: Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Parents fightingYou have heard it one too many times. You have dealt with their selfish comments, their inability to apologize and their abusive, harsh words. It makes parenting so much harder than it needs to be. When narcissism takes over, simple conversations can become unbearable and non-productive. Co-parenting with a narcissistic ex-spouse may be one of the most difficult things you have to go through, but you must rise above it. The first step to understanding how to co-parent with a narcissistic ex-spouse is to recognize the symptoms.

“Narcissism is the personality trait of egotism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness.” [1] A child with narcissistic parent, “…realizes early on that he exists to provide a reflection for the parent and to serve the parent, not the other way around.” [2] Everything they do must fit perfectly into the mold the parent originally intended for them. A narcissistic parent often times competes with the child and belittles them when their superiority feels threatened. The relationship becomes damaged and, often times, leaves the child feeling unloved. It is important that the child has at least one stable parent who continues to show love and selflessness to the child regardless of how the other parent behaves.

Symptoms of a Narcissistic Parent

These characteristics help to identify a person with a narcissistic personality:

  • Lacks empathy or care for others
  • Is often arrogant and portrays haughty behaviors
  • Demands constant admiration
  • Has an inflated sense of self-importance, often exaggerating their achievements
  • Provokes and baits you
  • Belittles others in an attempt to reassure their own self worth
  • Denial about painful circumstances or of their own narcissism
  • Intimidation of others with similar or more advanced talents or achievements
  • Sense of entitlement
  • Often times lies or over exaggerates to prove a point

How to Co-Parent with a Narcissistic Ex-Spouse

There is no winning with a narcissist, only coping. The most important thing to remember is that your child needs a stable role model to set a proper example.  Regardless of how your ex-spouse acts, you can control how you respond and deal with the conflict. Below are a few very important tips for co-parenting with a narcissist.

  • Limit contact and decrease emotional connection.
  • Get everything in writing. Promises not kept about paying child support and so on can be used in court to prove irresponsibility.
  • Avoid conflict and keep your conversation only about the children.
  • Keep firm boundaries. “Your boundaries will provide the consistency that you and your children need to be healthy.” [3]
  • Do what is best for your children regardless of the effects it has on your ex-spouse.
  • Make up for the narcissist’s neglect and give your child the reassurance and love they need.
  • Be a good role model for your child and also encourage their interests.
  • Try parallel parenting: “Parallel parenting allows both parents to make decisions regarding the children when the children are under their care.” [3]

Although challenges may never seem to stop, your child needs you to be the strong, stable parent.  They need encouragement, reassurance and support from at least one of their parents.  In doing so, they will not only succeed in life, but thrive. Remember that, when dealing with a narcissistic ex-spouse, it is important to refrain from retaliating as this can be used against you in court.  Adhering to these guidelines as much as possible, and putting agreements in writing, will make it easier for your attorney or lawyer to present your case to the judge.

 

Sources:

[1] Divorced Moms, “Is Your Child Being Emotionally Abused By Your Ex.” http://divorcedmoms.com/articles/coparenting-with-a-narcissist-what-to-do-when-your-children-are-being-emotionally-abused- (May 10, 2016).

[2] Psychology Today, “Narcissistic Parents’ Psychological Effect on Their Children.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-is-2020/201405/narcissistic-parents-psychological-effect-their-children (May 1, 2014).

[3] Love to Know, “Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.” https://family.lovetoknow.com/co-parenting-narcissist


Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement. By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

Custody Disputes Involving a Child with Autism

Custody Cases when child has autismWhen custody disputes involve an autistic child, additional factors and individual needs should be considered. It is important for all those involved to understand what autism is and what concerns may be important when litigating a case in court, discussing settlement, or representing a child with autism.

What is Autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a serious developmental disability impairing one’s ability to communicate and interact. According to The Centers for Disease Control, “ASD is a developmental disability that causes substantial impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. The thinking and learning abilities of people with ASDs can vary—from gifted to severely challenged.” [1]

Not all autistic children have the same symptoms or individualities. Autistic children often have personality traits such as little to no speech, speak in monotone, are introverted, avoid social interaction, are unable to verbally express themselves and sometimes have behavior disorders such as obsessive-compulsiveness or explosive temper tantrums.

With this array of behaviors, the family must consider what is best for the child. There is one component of Autism that seems to be a common thread in all the studies and research. Autistic children require structure and routine in their lives. Divorce and custody disputes disrupt an autistic child’s normalcy. What was once our house become two separate places: Mom’s house and Dad’s house. So the question is “Who will be the best caregiver to support an autistic child’s special emotional needs and which type of custody is best for this child?”

Here Are A Few Questions to Consider:

  • What was each parent’s role during the diagnosis phase of autism and how did each parent accept it?
  • Was each parent proactive with early intervention and therapy?
  • Which parent actively participated in the daily recommended interventions and what was their level of interaction?

Giving consideration to these questions helps determine the type of custody arrangement that will be best for the child.

Helpful Information to Gather at the Commencement of the Action:

It is important to know a lot of detail concerning the autistic child. Sometimes it is helpful to hire a medical professional to explain the terminology and concepts.
Information that is important to gather includes:

  • Names, addresses, phone numbers and credentials of all professionals with whom the child receives treatment
  • Medications given to the child, including the frequency and dosage
  • Therapies in which the child participates. This includes information about where the therapy is received and the name of the provider
  • The cost of each therapy or service

It is important to fully understand the information that has been gathered. It may be necessary to consult an expert in the field in order to feel comfortable arguing the merits of the case, settle the case, and/or properly represent the minor child. If all the information is not fully understood, representation of the minor child ultimately suffers as a result.

The Court’s Role in Autistic Custody Determination

For the courts to make the determination in a custody case, they consider a host of factors such as character and reputation, the primary caregiver, child’s preference and prior abandonment (or surrender) of custody. In special needs cases, the type of disability, its severity and how the disability affects the best interest of the child is a key factor that adds another dimension to the case. [2]

Sources:

[1] Autism Science Foundation, “What is Autism?” http://autismsciencefoundation.org/what-is-autism/ (2016)
[2] General Assembly of Maryland, “General Assembly.” GAM-Article. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmStatutesText.aspx?article=gfl§ion=9-107&ext=html&session=2015RS&tab=subject5
[3] Lawrence R. Jones and David L. Holmes, NJ Lawyer Magazine, “Autism and Divorce, Guidelines for Family Court Practice” http://poac.net/download/resources/Divorce.pdf, (February, 2009).
[4] Chantal Sicile-Kira, Psychology Today, “Divorce Cases Involving Children with Autism” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-autism-advocate/201505/divorce-cases-involving-children-autism, (May 31, 2015).
[5] C.A. Curie, Autism Key, Autism, “Divorce and Putting Children First” http://www.autismkey.com/autism-divorce-and-putting-children-first/ (March 13, 2011).
[6] The People’s Law Library of Maryland, “Child Custody in Maryland” http://www.peoples-law.org/child-custody-maryland (February 8, 2016).

Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement.  By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.

Mistakes Witnesses Make (And How To Avoid Them)

Family Law - Be a Good WitnessA great witness can be the difference between losing and winning a case. So can a harmful witness. So how can you make sure you are on the correct side of this line? Here are a few pointers I have developed over my many years working with witnesses.

Mistake #1: Lack of Preparation

It is tempting to think that since all you are doing is telling your story, preparation is not really necessary. There are several problems with this line of reasoning – primarily that the other side is doing just the opposite. Although you are telling your story, there are many ways that differences in phrasing, non-verbals, and even hesitations may conversely effect the words you are speaking. In addition to this being a completely new, and often times intimidating experience, keep in mind that there will be another side who has spent countless hours and days preparing for your interview and looking for the areas they might find weak. Even if you have done nothing wrong and are just there to relay your story, their goal will be to find your weaknesses. Daniel Small puts it plainly in his 2013 article for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly: “You’re walking into a strange environment with a great deal at stake, where everyone else is experienced, comfortable, and prepared. You can’t adequately prepare for this challenge without professional help, period.”[1]

The Solution: Prepare, prepare, prepare. This is what your legal team is here for. As veterans of the field, we know what to watch for and we can help you know how and when the important questions will come. With practice and repetition, your lawyer can help you clearly, confidently and accurately convey your meaning to the court.

Mistake #2 – Speaking Too Soon.

By the time your day in court arrives, you will have been over and over the matters of discussion to where they seem beaten to death or mundane. Keep in mind, this is usually going to be the courts first time hearing the details of the case. Answering hastily or anticipating a line of argument can greatly damage your credibility and/or the case. [2]

The Solution: Always wait a second or so before you answer. This gives you time to collect your thoughts and answer clearly. It also gives your attorney time to object if needed. Make sure you understand any question before you begin answering, and then answer the question fully but without going further into future potential questions.

Mistake #3 – Speaking Too Much or Volunteering Information.

As important as it is to answer your questions clearly and accurately, it is also important to stop when you are done. With all of the preparation you have done, you may know where a question is headed and volunteer too much information or information out of order.

The Solution: Answer each question as positively and definitely as possible, and then STOP. Your lawyer to take the questioning where it needs to go. Along this same topic, Stop speaking instantly when an attorney objects to a question or if the judge interrupts you. Wait for the judge to tell you to continue before answering any further.

Mistake #4 – Giving The Answer You Think The Questioner is Looking For Instead Of The Absolute Truth

This might seem like common sense, but sometime I can be tempting. For example, an attorney may ask you: “Have you talked to anybody about this case?” It might be tempting to say “no” but the judge will know that is probably not true as you have likely been approached by the prosecutor, police officers, federal law enforcement agents, etc. [3]

The Solution: Always tell the full and complete truth. Try not to guess at where a line of questioning is going to how to steer it in the right direct. That is the lawyer’s job. Your job is to clearly and accurately describe your own experience. In the case above, it would be better in this case to say clearly and precisely who you have spoken with (including friends or family members) There is nothing improper about this and it build your credibility as a witness.

Mistake #5 – Not Dressing The Part.

It may sound trivial, but the old concept that first impressions are everything is also true in the courtroom. Often witnesses are so worried, stressed, or busy that they neglect to pay attention to the impression they are making.

The Solution: Dress appropriately and professionally. Avoid clothing. Make-up or fragrance that could be distracting. You want to convey that you understand the importance of this proceeding and you take it seriously. [4]

We hope this primer on the common pitfalls with help you feel more prepared and confident about your upcoming day in court. Remember, we are here to help you navigate these strange waters. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your attorney or team as you prepare – that is part of what we are here for!


 

SOURCES

[1] Daniel I. Small, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, “Three Big Mistakes Witnesses Make” http://www.hklaw.com/files/Uploads/Documents/Articles/Small_MassLawyer_ThreeBigMistakes.pdf, (October 17, 2013).

[2] Clark Head, “How To Testify Effectively In Court” http://www.lawyerssacramento.org/How_To_Testify_in_Court.html

[3] The United States Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania, “Tips For Testifying In Court: Victim Witness”, http://www.justice.gov/usao-mdpa/victim-witness-assistance/tips-testifying-court, (April 22, 2015).

[4] Anthony Flores, “Taking the Terror out of Testifying: Tips for Nonattorneys who Testify in Child Welfare Proceedings”, http://courts.mi.gov/Administration/SCAO/OfficesPrograms/CWS/ChildWelfareServicesTraining/CWS%20Training%20Materials/4.11.12.CWS.WorkshopA1.Taking.the.Terror.out.of.Testifying.pdf, (April 2012).

 

Disclaimer:
We are pleased to communicate with you concerning your family matters. However, if you communicate with us through the web regarding a matter for which our firm does not already represent you, your communication may not be treated as privileged or confidential, and shall not be deemed to create an attorney/client relationship. Furthermore, you should not provide confidential information to anyone at our law firm in an e-mail inquiry or otherwise unless we have first entered into a representation agreement.  By continuing to our website you are deemed to have agreed to these terms and conditions.