Sunday, August 24, 2008


Winning is the subject of innumerable books, movies, lectures, motivational speakers, preachers and web sites. If you believe what you read, it seems that with just a little effort, or maybe with a big effort, you too can be a winner! I've had people ask how many cases I had "won". While winning has its place in sports, games, quiz shows, politics, gambling and many other endeavors, it should not be considered a goal in divorces or family law cases.

It's easy to see who wins an Olympic contest, a Jeopardy game, an election (usually), and most other contests, but how do you determine who wins a divorce? I guess it depends on what standard is used to measure success. Is it who has the greatest value of assets? Or who has primary custody? Is it the party who was able to drag out the divorce for 2 or 3 years? Or the party whose attorney fees and court costs got paid by the other party? Was it the party who managed to get 50% of the assets? Or the one who got 55% or 60% or 65%? What defines victory and defeat in a divorce or family law case?

Do you "win" a divorce if you destroy your spouse? Or if you manage to limit the time your children get to spend with their other parent? Do you have to clean out your spouse to claim a victory? Do you win if you got 40% of the overall assets, but got the single most important item you wanted?

What if you get part of what you wanted, but not all? What if each party gets some of what they wanted, but not everything? Do they both win or both lose? What if you and your ex-spouse end up sharing time and responsibilities with the kids? Who's the winner? Hint: maybe it's the kids!

The answer to all of the above questions: It depends on what you were after. Many times you win by sharing. You can also win by minimizing your losses. One thing you can expect in litigation in family law is that each side normally gets at least some of what they want. It almost never happens that a judge rules 100% in favor of one side -- it normally would be considered "an abuse of discretion" by the court and would probably not stand up on appeal. In other words, you should expect to only prevail on part of what you want.

Why it's hard to be a "Winner"

Americans are a very competitive people. We like to keep score and we usually want to feel like we came out ahead. Unfortunately, in family law matters, it is hard to come up with a clear cut win for several reasons.

  • Judges usually will try to give something to each side. They rarely make awards that 100% favor just one party.

  • What may be important for one person may be totally insignificant for the other party. How do you score that?

  • There are normally multiple issues, so each party will usually win some and lose some. Issues may have different levels of importance; it's rare that every issue would be equally important.

  • The facts and situations change over time in a divorce, so what may have seemed extremely important at the beginning may have no value later. If you "win" that issue, so what?

How to become a "Winner"

You may be reading this because you want to learn how to win in the family court system, you want to be a winner. Likewise, I want to have a winner with this post, so here's some ideas on how you can be a winner.

1. Take the time to create your own list of important high level goals. They might include such things as being able to have a good start on your retirement savings or being able to train for a new career once you are divorced. You might want to have an everyday presence in your children's lives. Or you might want to ensure that the children maintain close relationships with the extended families on both sides of the family.

2. Create new ways to accomplish your goals. Don't settle for standardized solutions or formulas. Brainstorm and come up with new ideas. Don't limit yourself to standard guidelines or practices.

3. Create opportunities for you spouse to achieve his or her goals or get what's important to them. If your spouse can feel like a winner, your life sure gets better. And you end up with a better settlement.

4. Take the high road and avoid fighting. From experience, you know how much fighting helps you accomplish your goals. You know how fighting helps you feel so much better. You know how it creates a stable, supportive and safe environment for the kids. Think before you react. Get professional help if needed, but stop fighting!

5. Keep the children away from any conflict between you and your spouse. The kids don't need to take sides. They don't need to experience the anger, frustration and pain you are feeling. They will come out a lot better if they are not caught in the middle.

6. Seek professional help throughout the process. You need to have an experienced attorney, but you may also benefit from using a CPA, a counselor, a financial planner or other professional. A therapist is often a valuable helper in dealing with situations that can be overwhelming. Getting help doesn't mean you're crazy.

7. When you seem to come to an impasse, back up and try a different approach. Don't take "no" as a final answer. There are always other solutions. Start from common ground and move from agreement to agreement. If progress stops, step back and reconsider your overall goals and needs and look for other solutions.

Don't be a Loser

The approach I have not suggested that still might work is for you to decide to spend your children's college funds on your lawyer. If you don't mind giving up your savings or financial security, you can have your attorney out work his or her opponent and wear out your (ex) spouse by creating multiple hearings, doing written discovery and depositions, getting psychological evaluations done and generally hiring multiple experts. Many lawyers don't mind doing that and some actively encourage it. You can decide whether that makes sense for you.

Setting Goals Makes You a Winner

While it's easy to keep score and see who the winner is in a baseball, football or basketball game, it's not so easy to determine a "winner" in a legal case. There are normally multiple issues in a court case and it's not realistic to think that one side will win all the issues. It's much more meaningful to spend some time at the outset and figure out what your goals, needs and interests are. Then figure out ways to achieve the goals and meet the needs and interests you have. Instead of getting into a competition with the other side, spend your time, energy and money focused on what's important to you. Then you'll get a meaningful result, which is winning.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Taking the High Road -- 9 Tips to Guide You

Divorce can be one of life's most stressful events, even in the best of circumstances. Some divorces are handled in a fairly civilized manner (Collaborative Law is a great way to accomplish that), but many divorces, unfortunately, are nasty, drawn-out and expensive procedures. If you or a loved one are about to go through a divorce, here are some tips to help minimize the difficulties of divorce.

1. Don't do things to just annoy your spouse. That's not to say you need to agree to everything your spouse wants. What this refers to is choosing not to antagonize your spouse by demanding the picture he or she has always loved, or by saying things you know will embarrass or humiliate your spouse, etc. Everyone knows buttons they can push -- Just Don't Do It! You may get some brief feeling of pleasure, but your spouse most likely will respond similarly, and maybe at a higher level. There's no real benefit to escalating the conflict.

2. Don't respond when your spouse does something just to annoy you. Take the advice that you may have given kids. Just ignore it and s/he will probably quit doing it. Going back and forth fighting with each other is childish and doesn't help you progress toward a final settlement. You may feel that you are entitled to respond in kind, but it really doesn't help you. To avoid the unpleasantness you sometimes (or often) experienced during your marriage, you have to be the adult and break the cycle of conflict.

3. Keep the children out of the middle. No messages sent. No using them as a pawn. Think long term here. The disputes are between two adult parents, not the kids, but the kids can be damaged by the adults' fighting. Do what you can to keep the kids out of the middle and you will have a happier family.

4. Don't waste money doing unnecessary things, fighting over insignificant things or arguing for things that you will clearly lose. Think about the costs of fighting. Financially, is it worthwhile to spend attorneys' time and your money fighting over inexpensive or easily replaced items? There are many issues in divorces and they aren't all created equal. Some are much more significant than the others. You should focus on the important ones.

5. Act mature even if no one else does. It's harder to fight with a person who doesn't fight back than with someone who seems to relish the contest of wills. Besides, your family, friends and children will recognize and reward your efforts in the long run. Be a model for adult behavior and help yourself in your recovery from the effects of divorce. Keep in mind higher goals for yourself and don't allow yourself to be sidetracked by someone trying to pick a fight. You will come out in better shape and save yourself time and money. You don't have to mimic or match someone else's bad behavior.

6. Don't just complain or whine, figure out constructive steps you can take to get a good result. Sometimes it is hard to figure out how to get out of the ditch. Problems can seem overwhelming and solutions unreachable. If that's the case, get help. Talk with a therapist, a life coach, a mentor, your attorney, a teacher or maybe some reasonable friends. (I added the "reasonable" qualification because sometimes friends aren't the most helpful.) Figure out some goals for yourself and take some action. Even a little step forward is progress. Doing nothing will get you going backwards, if you're not careful. Get some exercise and try to get healthier. That makes it easier to get started.

7. Pay attention to your lawyer more than you do your family and friends. Your friends can give you advice for free, but you get what you pay for. They don't really know all the facts of your case and don't know the law as well as your attorney does. They also don't have the working knowledge of the judge, the local court system and the other lawyer that an experienced attorney will have. Your friends may be well intentioned, but they often can really cause problems by providing bad advice and pushing the wrong actions. Attorneys aren't perfect, but they do generally have a better long-term perspective than friends do.

8. Figure out your goals -- what's really important to you -- and what you need to do to accomplish them. And then take action. When your life is in transition, it's a good idea to set a target, your goals, and plan how you can accomplish them. Think about it some and put your goals in writing. They don't have to be perfect -- you can revise them as you work on them. You may try one thing and then decide that something else is more appealing or important. What's important is to have a purpose and a plan, and then take action. Get help from trusted advisers, if you need to, but get started thinking about the future in specific, concrete ways. Stop just reacting to what's thrown at you. Start planning and initiating your own activities.

9. Don't limit yourself to just standardized solutions to problems. Open up your mind and be creative so that your needs can be met. Setting lofty goals is sometimes daunting, but use your imagination and come up with your own creative solutions. Don't limit yourself. Be open to trying out "ridiculous" ideas. Sometimes they work best and they can be fun.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Relocation Revisited

It's important to play by the rules, even the unwritten ones. For many judges, there are some basic rules that apply to relocation issues. Relocation, in the family law courts, is the situation where a parent with custody rights for a child decides to move from where the parent and child had been residing to another county or state. It becomes an issue when one parent wants to move the child away from the other parent.

If you are thinking about moving to another area, you should first examine the current court order. Most Texas orders involving custody of children have a residency restriction. A very common restriction is to limit the child's residence to the current county or any county contiguous (touching) that county. Some orders are even more limited, such as specifying a single county, a city or a school district, for example.

Some orders don't have a residence restriction, but don't assume you get a free pass. Even without the restriction, the other parent can object to the move and the court may block the more.

Most Texas court orders also require that parents keep each other informed of their (and the child's) current address, as well as place of employment and phone numbers. Most orders also provide that a parent must notify the other parent (and often the court) when a parent changes home address, work place or phone numbers. The orders usually require the notice to be provided at least 60 days before the change goes into effect, or if the party doesn't know that far in advance, the notice is usually required within 5 days of when the parent learned of the change.

All of that sounds pretty easy, but here's how problems occur.

1. Moving out of the permitted area without prior notice. That's a big No-No.
2. Moving when the other parent has an active and close relationship with the child.
3. Moving when the other parent is mad or controlling or otherwise wants to make your life miserable.

Rules to keep in Mind:

1. The judge has a lot of discretion in determining what's in the child's best interest.

2. The judge will not be overly concerned with a new romance, or even marriage, of a parent that could lead to relocating the child's residence.

3. The judge is mostly concerned with what's in the child's best interest.

4. If the non-custodial parent has had an active and good relationship with the child, the judge is not likely to permit the custodial parent to move the child somewhere distant because it would disrupt the child's relationship with the other parent. (Notice the focus on the child.)

5. If a custodial parent moves with the child outside the area permitted by the current court order and fails to give proper notice to the other parent, it is very likely that a judge will order the child returned to the original geographic area, especially if there has been a good parent-child relationship with the non-custodial parent.

6. If a custodial parent is required to move by his or her employer, the court might permit the move, or might not.

7. Sometimes a judge will give a custodial parent a choice of giving up custody of the child or moving back to an area in compliance with the court order.

8. Moving a long distance away will not decrease the possibility that the judge will order the return of the child. I have seen several parents ordered to move the child back to Texas from California.

What's a parent to do (if she/he wants to move) ?

1. Keep on good terms with the other parent. Be willing to compromise, be flexible and share time with the child with the other parent. Key: Start doing that from the beginning, long before there is ever a potential issue.

2. Keep good records on support, visitation and participation in various activities. You may need them later.

3. Comply with all the court orders for notice and anything else relating to the child. Be a good citizen.

4. Think of creative ways for the other parent to maintain close contact with the child after the proposed move. Think about a web cam, email and messaging, as well as any new ideas that come along. You can offer to set up regular times for phone calls or other communication means.

5. Do research in advance. Look on the Internet for ideas. Talk with child specialists. Read any books or articles you can find about long-distance parent-child relationships.

6. Try to avoid litigation. IMHO, Collaborative Law is the best approach to resolving such difficult issues in a responsible way, but you can only do that if both parties agree to bring in a Collaborative lawyer. In Tarrant County, you can also use Access Facilitation which is available at Tarrant County Family Court Services. You can also offer to work jointly with a child specialist. Mediation might also be helpful.

7. Your chances for successfully moving away are much greater if you can do it by agreement rather than by going to court.

8. Hire an experienced lawyer to help guide you as you work through the issues.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Managing Your Finances after Divorce

One of the best websites I have found on family law issues is, which is from North Carolina. While there are some differences in law between North Carolina and Texas, the web site is still an excellent all-around resource with current news and common sense information about family law topics, so I recommend it as a resource. Connected to the web site is a blog called "Kramer Vs". Most of you can figure out the clever name. A recent post there dealt with finances for people going through divorce. They reprinted an article that originally appeared at, which is another good resource. The post raised some important points about financial matters and I have taken their main points and added my comments below. You can see the original post at divorce360 here. The original post was titled: "Finances: Tips to Protect You and Your Assets after the Divorce is Final".

"Divorce is as much about starting a new life as it is about ending a relationship. One of the most important things you can and must do for yourself when starting new is to make good decisions about your finances. Whether or not you handled the finances in your marriage, now that the divorce is finalized the decisions are all yours to make. Here are some expert opinions about what to do and what not to do when it comes to your financial future.

1. Know what you have: “One of the most immediate things is to get a good handle on your assets, your income and your expenses,” says Craig Hyldahl, Financial Advisor with AXA Advisors and a Certified Divorce Financial Anaylst. “It’s easy to figure out income, what’s a little more difficult to figure out are expenses. You have to understand you’re not going to have the same lifestyle as prior to the divorce and things are going to keep changing. What may make sense today might change drastically over time, so keep meticulous track of your expenses.” In the process of your divorce, hopefully you began keeping photocopied records of all your bank statements, credit card accounts, tax returns and other financial information. It’s important to hold onto all these records and stay in the habit of keeping meticulous financial records so you know how much you spend, how much you owe and how much you make at any given time."

In most divorces with significant assets, we prepare a detailed, sworn inventory of the assets and liabilities of the two parties. You should come out of the divorce with good knowledge of your financial situation. It takes a lot of work by you (gathering information) and your attorney (organizing the information) to get the inventory, but it is a valuable document for the future.

2. Think about where you're going. "If your divorce was just finalized, you may want to get a jumpstart on your financial decisions, but this isn’t necessarily the best approach. 'Rushing is one of the worst things you can do,' says Hyldahl. 'Oftentimes rushing means making decisions one at a time, when actually you shouldn’t make isolated decisions when it comes to your finances. There are so many intertwined areas it makes more sense to take your time and then take action all at once.' Hyldahl also advises taking your time when hiring a financial advisor, since doing your finances is more personal than just numbers. 'You really need to trust your advisor, so interview several before making a decision to go with one.'"

It is important from the outset to assess your needs and goals. This is really emphasized in Collaborative divorces, but it's also true in litigated divorces as well. When you are proposing a property division plan, it helps to know what you need and to decide what you want to be able to do once the divorce is over.

3. Keep track of your credit rating. "Another important financial tip is to stay informed about your credit rating. 'Do a credit check both during and after your divorce to make sure there are no surprises,' says Barbara Shapiro, co-owner of HMS Financial and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. 'Also, be sure to change your beneficiaries, update your will and always keep your divorce decree close at hand as you will refer to it regularly over time (especially if you have kids).'"

Checking your credit records is helpful in discovering what credit cards and loans might be in your name which you are unaware of or which you have forgotten about. You can also look for mistakes. One's credit rating is becoming more and more important in many different ways.

4. Save something every month. "Co-author of 'On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance,' Manisha Thakor says anyone going through a divorce should remember that good personal finance does not have to be difficult. 'When you boil it all down, every single piece of personal finance advice falls into one of three buckets (1) save, (2) invest, (3) protect.' Try not to become overwhelmed. Remember to keep putting something into savings each month, try and invest 15 percent of your income in simple, stable funds and protect yourself with adequate insurance."

Actually, most people coming out of a divorce are not in position to be adding to savings right away. It is great if you're able to, but usually for a while, the parties are still learning to stretch a limited income over greater expenses. They are also sometimes dealing with debt and some refinancing. For those able to save, it is helpful to start a habit of regular saving, even if it is a smaller amount for a while.

5. Close all joint accounts. I didn't really agree with the original article's explanation of this point. I do agree that joint accounts should be closed, but that really should happen (by agreement or court order) during the divorce. The original article mentioned selling off some assets, but that should be done only if it does not violate a court order or legal responsibility; in other words, check with your lawyer before doing that. A prudent person would also check with a financial advisor to consider tax consequences of the sales.

6. Educate yourself about money. " Remember that managing your finances is an ongoing process. Another useful tip from Barbara Shapiro is to 'empower yourself by reading, taking classes and talking to your financial advisor, especially if you weren’t the one managing your finances before the divorce.' Craig Hyldahl agrees that there must be 'ongoing monitoring and constant contact between clients and financial advisors.' By keeping track of how your expenses, income and investments grow or change over time, you’ll be in a better position to make financial decisions."

This is good advice. There are lots of free resources on the Internet which can be helpful, but using a local financial professional will be a good investment.

7. Don't panic. "Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is don’t panic. 'You’re probably dealing with the largest lump sum you’re going to get along with the most stressful time in your life,' says Hyldahl, so avoid the tendency to feel overwhelmed. Take your time; make sure you have all the financial records you need; don’t hire a financial advisor until you’ve asked a lot of questions and established mutual goals and trust. Try not to spend more than you need to until you’ve got a firm financial plan in place."

The comment about a lump sum only applies in a limited number of cases. Whatever your situation, the advice to not panic is still important. Take your time. Take a deep breath. Think before you act. Get professional help. You need to come up with a comprehensive financial plan, but keep in mind that it will change over time, so be flexible.

"And finally, it’s important to remember you’re not alone. 'While it's natural to fear whether you'll be able to take care of yourself financially speaking, don't for a minute think you are alone in that concern,' writes Manisha Thakor. 'A whopping 70 percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and that cuts across income spectrums.' As you begin your new life, stay informed, positive and proactive when it comes to your finances and your situation will most likely continue to improve."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

How to Minimize Frustration in a Divorce

Divorce can be a very frustrating experience. Everyone has expectations about the process and has desires about the outcome. The parties to a divorce often feel isolated and feel like they have no control over what's happening. Well-meaning family and friends often get involved and do what they can to support the husband or wife. Unfortunately, some of their efforts may intensify feelings of frustration that a party may be feeling. A little more understanding of some of the circumstances of what's happening in a divorce may help avoid or at least minimize frustration for the parties to the divorce.

Everyone should recognize that they have some control over their own feelings, but can't control the feelings of others. Spouses get upset, friends and family members get upset and even the attorneys, judge and court personnel may get upset in a given case. A party going through a divorce has enough concerns taking care of himself or herself, without adding the responsibility of keeping everyone else happy. Here are some typical sources of frustration and some suggestions for what can be done to minimize the stress from them.
1. Your spouse. One of the biggest sources of complaints during a divorce is often your spouse. Go figure! If your spouse was already one who freely complained during your marriage, that will probably continue throughout the divorce. If (s)he was big into blaming, it will continue and may increase, and guess who the target of the blame will be. Probably not him or her. So, what can you do?
  • Tune out your spouse. Don't listen when (s)he is complaining or blaming. Walk away, hang up the phone and don't read messages if you reach the point where everything is negative and blaming. Avoid any discussions in person, and maybe in other forms as well, if the talks always seem to lead to arguments, blame, scapegoating -- negative attacks on you and others. You may be getting divorced, at least in part, for this very problem, so help yourself by staying out of the situation that drives you crazy.

  • Get counseling to learn coping skills or ways to avoid the situations. You don't have to be crazy to benefit from counseling. In fact, counselors can help you keep your sanity and not get upset by what's going on. You're probably dealing with a situation that you have never experienced before and most people don't just naturally have the ability to deal with the stress. Get some help!

  • Talk with your attorney about the frustrations and try to work out solutions to the issues complained of or have your attorney help you avoid the discussions. Sometimes understanding what's going on in your case can help reduce anxiety. Working out a plan with your attorney, based on your needs and interests, can also give you more comfort.
2. Your attorney. Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints clients have is a lack of communication with their attorney. Many attorneys stay very busy and sometimes they just are not available when a client wants/needs to talk with them. What can you do about that?
  • Have a good understanding with your attorney from the outset about what your communication needs are and what the attorney can do. Your attorney may know that (s)he will be unavailable at certain times because of other obligations. Since your problems, needs and concerns don't shut off on a schedule, have a "Plan B" worked out with the attorney so you can get help from his/her office. Find out your attorney's communication style and abilities in advance. Equally important, let your attorney know about your expectations and needs as well. Get to know the attorney's staff -- they can be very helpful and are usually much more available than the attorney.

  • Adjust your expectations. Yes, you are paying a lot of money for legal representation, but you are not the only client with needs and your attorney may try to maintain some sort of personal life outside of work. It's unrealistic to expect an attorney to be at your beck and call 24/7, but you should be able to find out what is realistic for your attorney. You should be able to get in contact with someone from the attorney's office with a minimal delay. Talking with a staff member is often the best solution.
3. The other attorney. Parties to a divorce often become very critical of the attorney representing their spouse. Sometimes the attorney is rude or inconsiderate. Sometimes the attorney is just doing his/her job. Most of the time, the attorney is acting appropriately for the other side. What can you do about this?
  • Adjust your attitude. The other attorney is acting on information provided by your spouse and is trying to help your spouse meet his/her goals and needs. It's not surprising that you wouldn't be happy about what the other attorney does or says. You need to expect the other attorney to act contrary to you interests. Don't take it personally.

  • Talk to your attorney about it if you think the other attorney is really out of line. Sometimes an attorney may go to far in advocating for a client, but most likely the attorney is acting properly. It's hard to accept that if some of the attorney's comments are critical of you or are in conflict with how you want things to go. Your attorney can help you understand the situation. Knowing to expect the unfavorable comments or strategies may help reduce your frustrations.
4. What others say. In every divorce there is a group of invisible, but vocal, advisers in the background. Sometimes they are out in the open. They try to help out by giving you advice and support. Their support sometimes takes the form of attacking your spouse, your spouse's family and friends, the attorneys and/or the court system. Some of the "others" may have had previous divorce experience or have some other specialized knowledge or experience that they want to share with you. The problem is that each case is different and the "others" will not know all the details of your case, so their advice may be inappropriate, even if well-intentioned. What should you do?
  • Talk to your attorney about what you are hearing. There may be some useful information, but let your attorney help you figure out what helps and what you should ignore. Don't get worked up about what you hear until you talk with your attorney. The advice you receive is often very wrong.

  • Tune out a lot of the chatter. Ultimately, you may have to just not pay attention to these well-meaning advisers. If they're giving you wrong information, you can appreciate their concern, but not follow their advice. Often such advice gets in the way of following through with the strategy your attorney had worked out.
5. The judge and the legal process. Sometimes it may seem like you are fighting the judge who seems to be on your spouse's side. Sometimes it seems like the whole legal system is messed up. In almost every case, it moves much slower than at least one party wants, and it sometimes moves much faster than one of the parties wants.
  • Recognize that the judge and other court personnel have rules and procedures they must follow. They also have responsibilities for many other parties who are involved in cases in the court system. You need to accept the fact that the judge probably won't agree with you on a lot of things and won't see everything from just your perspective. In the best of cases, you want the judge to understand your case and see both your and your spouse's points of view. You would prefer that the judge ultimately agree with you, but you must be realistic.

  • Don't assume certain outcomes or motives. Talk with your attorney about what to expect. Your attorney should be able to explain how the legal process works so that you can determine whether it is operating within normal bounds.
6. When it seems like everything is going in favor of your spouse. That is a common, but mistaken, feeling. It comes from focusing on all the issues that are decided in favor of your spouse and ignoring or discounting the issues decided in your favor. It often results from ignoring the big picture and focusing on just the negative and the small items. This feeling is often made worse by the invisible chorus in the background who may start complaining that everything is going in your spouse's favor. When you start to feel this way, what can you do?
  • Focus on the big picture. Think about the major issues. If you get awarded the majority of a retirement plan, but your spouse gets a large number of low-value items, don't start thinking everything is going your spouse's way. Keep things in perspective.

  • Talk to your attorney about your concerns. The attorney can remind you of your "victories" and help you be realistic. Ultimately, it comes down to whether you attain your highest level or most important goals. Don't let yourself get down just because your spouse is prevailing on some issues.

  • Be realistic in what you want. You will be unsuccessful if your requests are way out of line. A judge is unlikely, in most cases, to give most of the assets to one party and the debts to the other, unless there are special factors. A judge will normally establish standard visitation and child support for children, no matter how mad you may be (justified or not) at your spouse. You will surely be disappointed if you are unrealistic. Your attorney can help you develop appropriate requests and goals.
A common response you may have noticed is to discuss these concerns with your attorney. That is the single best thing you can do. If you don't raise the issue with your attorney, and don't take action to deal with the problems, you may become overwhelmed by frustration. Help yourself by recognizing the situation and getting help.

Friday, August 8, 2008

You Gotta Ask Yourself, "Do I Feel Lucky Today?"

Clint Eastwood, in his Dirty Harry movie, had the famous line about whether you feel lucky, ..."you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? " Luck is, of course, relative. What's lucky for you may have a bad effect for someone else. Many people believe that you make your own luck and that luck is a result of preparation and effort. It's also interesting how some people have the attitude that all they have is bad luck, while others expect to have good luck. The reality probably matches the expectation.

Today's date, besides being an interesting combination of numbers, 08-08-08, is considered a very lucky day in China. Is it an accident that the Olympics begins on a lucky day or was the Chinese Olympic Committee making their own luck? I guess we'll know the answer in about two weeks.

Evidently, many Chinese believe that they can also make their lives luckier by getting married on August 8, 2008. There was a extraordinary number of marriage ceremonies scheduled for today. Maybe we should have tried that in the U.S.

Actually, there are probably a lot of things that can be done to improve your chances of success in marriage. Good communication, respect and maturity go a long way to establishing and maintaining a good marital relationship. Willingness to work hard to maintain the relationship is essential.

Many things can come into the relationship to cause problems, though, so the parties must be willing to work out solutions. Sometimes issues come up which can't be satisfactorily resolved. In those cases, the best option may be divorce, but it should not be a quick decision to leave a marriage. Aside from the good aspects of marriage that are lost, the costs of divorce can be enormous emotionally, financially and physically.

It's fine to pick a "lucky day" to get married, but it takes more than luck to stay married. Any decision to end a marriage should be made carefully and after a great deal of consideration, and it's not unusual to have second thoughts. Unless there is an emergency or safety issue, I recommend that you take time to consider your options and think about whether there are other possibilities for saving the marriage.

To a large extent, I agree that you make your own luck and you can make or break your own marriage. If you work continuously to preserve and improve your marriage, you will have a better chance of success. Of course, it take two to make a marriage, so if your spouse isn't interested in staying married, you need to change course and get ready to move on.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

5 Smart Parenting Tips for the Back-to-School Season

Around the first of August, parents start to get excited about the upcoming school year, and we know why. Some kids actually look forward to starting back to school, usually not for the homework, but for the chance for social activities and to see their friends. Some people are happy all the time, but a much larger group gets more energized as we get closer to the start of school. Since Texas (and many other states) have pushed back the start date for school, there is now more time to get emotionally and otherwise prepared for school. To help parents and children fill their time before school starts, here are five smart parenting tips to try out now.

1. Take advantage of the tax-free weekend. Texas and several other states have set up a weekend (August 15-17 this year) where no sales tax is collected for clothing, shoes and school supplies, among other things. It can save a lot of money for parents because stores usually have a lot of sales then as well. Parents can really stretch their funds if they plan ahead and shop on the tax-free weekend.

2. Coordinate end of summer travel. There is actually more travel time in the summer since the legislature moved back the start date for public schools. Parents should work together to make sure the children get into all the camps and programs they want and there is still time for family vacations. In addition, this summer, with higher gasoline prices, many families have decided to have stay-at-home vacations where they do local sightseeing. That is uncharted territory for many families who are not really familiar with what their hometown offers. In Fort Worth, for example, we have several major museums, including the Amon Carter, Kimbell, Modern, Cowgirl, Sid Richardson and Civil War, along with many interesting smaller museums. The Fort Worth Cats provide inexpensive, but comfortable and fun, entertainment at LaGrave Field, and they've won three straight league championships. The Texas Rangers provide comfortable and fun entertainment in Arlington.

3. Communicate with the other parent. A simple statement, it is nevertheless really hard for many parents to do. Communication involves sending (speaking, writing, emailing, etc.) and receiving (listening) messages and understanding what was conveyed. Life can be a lot better when the parents are talking and listening with each other and coordinating plans instead of trying to put their children in the middle of a tug of war. Theoretically, it is not hard to tell the other parent about plans for summer activity or sports classes, school schedules, start of the school year activities, kids' work plans, car/transportation issues, and sports and other extra-curricular activities. The trick is to talk with each other (respectfully) before your knee starts jerking. The knee-jerk reaction is to either ignore or tune out the other parent while mentally revisiting past arguments. A lot of problems can be avoided when the parties just talk with each other on a regular basis and share what's going on with their child.

4. Cooperate on health issues. At this time of year, parents learn about, or remember, needing to get physicals, dental exams, shots and medicine for their kids. The month of August is often difficult for scheduling medical or dental appointments. Parents should work together to get the appointments made as early as possible and they should be flexible in scheduling their time with the children. Both parents should be willing to take the kids to doctor's appointments, etc. Neither parent should engage in "offensive scheduling" -- trying to schedule appointments to disrupt the other parent's plans or to create scheduling problems or deplete the other parent's time with the children. Parents should play fair and share the commitment to obtain whatever is needed to start the school year.

5. Leave a week's cushion just before school starts. Don't schedule much for the last week before school starts. There will always be last-minute issues that will require immediate and sustained attention. New requirements will be discovered and plans will change. Don't plan to take the kids out of town that last week. They need to be rested and adjusted to the schedule they will be following during the school year. It's a good idea to start to impose the bed time and wake-up schedule of the school year so that the kids get used to it.

If parents will try out these simple ideas, they will find the month of August to be more peaceful, fun and productive for themselves and the children.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Divorce and Family Law in Tarrant County, Texas Blog Honored

The Divorce and Family Law in Tarrant County, Texas Blog received an honor today when it was commended in a post in "Golden Practices", an outstanding blog written by Michelle Golden. Here is a link to the notice. It is a very nice recognition that is greatly appreciated. Golden Practices is a highly respected blog focusing on marketing for CPAs, lawyers and other service professionals. I enjoyed reading her work regularly even before she wrote about my blog. We sincerely appreciate her kind review which follows.

"How to Do a Good Professional Blog

I'm just so impressed with Texas. Texans are known for their big hearts, big ideas, and being a bit rebellious, so maybe it's no accident that some of the best professional service firm blogs come from the Lone Star State whose motto is "friendship."
Lawyers are still far ahead of accountants in using social media to promote themselves. Somewhere between 2000-3000 attorneys blog and, by contrast, fewer than 100 licensed accountants blog; only 51 seem to be practicing accountants sharing the type of content that would be of interest to clients.
All these blogs cover the gamut in their quality. Who's doing it really well?


Ultimately, a successful blog attracts attention that escalates the firm's value.
When content is worthy of notice by others, lots of things can happen; any or all of these things are measures of success.

The blog makes people want to hire the author.Content displays character, philosophy, integrity, values, humor, and/or personality, or just plain old wisdom. Bottom line: the blog differentiates the PEOPLE at the firm.

The blog provides thoughts, ideas and tools. Content shows that author(s) are, without a doubt, true experts, thought leaders, or simply well-informed and current in their topic areas. Bottom line: the blog differentiates the level of SPECIALIZATION of the people at the firm.

The blog attracts media or trade-related attention. Content that is insightful, creative, controversial, or just exceptional quality, positions the authors as experts. Bottom line: the blog is quote-worthy and authors are SOUGHT OUT to contribute their thought leadership in other ways such as speaking, articles, etc.


Instead of trying to describe the different ways to achieve these things with a blog, I'd rather just show you two fabulous examples of credibility-building, information-providing, darn good blogs, both of which happen to be authored by Texans!

Divorce and Family Law in Tarrant County, Texas

Dick Price's blog reflects personality and conveys his expertise. Just reading three or four posts and I'm sold. For instance, his content in "Divorce 'No-No's': Don't Drag Kids Into the Divorce" helps anyone be a better parent though it is geared to assist parents in going through divorce with greater integrity and focus (no small thing).

His tone and selection of his content, even when originally from other sources, helps me understand his approach in his legal practice. Dick's blog suggests what kind of a lawyer he is in a way that a brochure just can't do.

His peers appreciate his blog (lawyers are great referral sources to each other) and reference it liberally. And internet users in marital crisis can easily find him, begin benefiting from his advice right off, and can actually see his practice philosophy in action. Those in Texas are more inclined to call him than a random name in the phone book.

Healthcare blog by Reed Tinsley (CPA) of Houston, Texas

Still a top example of an effective CPA niche blog is Reed Tinsley's. His blog aggregates HC news and resources in the categories of Human Resources, Managed Care, Medicare, Personal Finance, Practice Management, Practice Mergers, Regulatory, Taxes and Misc.
His choice of content, much of it from outside sources, reflects that he's in touch with his reader's needs, really wants to help them, and is qualified to! It generates a good flow of business for him.
I don't think Reed misses a day (though posting daily is not requisite!). His blog has tremendous readership by a broad spectrum of people associated with the HC profession (referral sources!!). For good reason: it makes their lives easier by filtering and posting the most relevant stuff.
Reed is doing a great service to others by sharing through his blog. If you're a practitioner (law or accounting) serving the HC profession, you, too, would benefit from following Reed's blog! That says something, doesn't it?

Both of these Texans benefit from 24/7/365 marketing of the very best kind. It's as personal as you can get without actually meeting.

I hope these two examples inspire you (if you're a non-blogger) to consider how having a blog could help your convey who you are and how much you care about what you do.


When you are a professional who is blogging, you KNOW you're doing it right when your peers (even competitors) read and link to your blog! That is the ultimate praise.

August 04, 2008 in Professional Firm Blogs "