Monday, August 20, 2012

Divorce Over 50: Breaking Free

Divorce after a long-term marriage requires a lot of adjustments.   All the legal changes, living arrangements, family connections, financial uncertainty and a myriad of other issues can be overwhelming.  It all comes down to one word:  change.

Change can be very difficult for many people, especially at a time when they are looking for something to hold onto.  The reaction for some people is to slow down or shut down, to try to make the world move slower.  It's easier to understand things if they change slowly.

Some people will take slowing down to an extreme and will try to do nothing while they process what's going on and what they will need to do.  Sometimes, it's easier to hunker down and stay home in a quiet safe environment.  That can give people time to emotionally catch up with what's happening legally.

But, becoming immobilized can be dangerous over the long run.  If you find yourself in this situation, you cannot adequately take care of your own needs.  You can stay home and avoid people for a while, but soon, you will have to get on with your life. 

What if you get stuck in a rut and can't figure how to get out?  Here are some tips to help you break free of the physical and emotional paralysis that can easily overtake someone dealing with intense personal changes.

1.  Go outside.  Get some fresh air.  Take a walk.  Go to the mall.  Shop without spending money --just look.  Move around in public.  Don't be isolated.

2.  Exercise.  Join and use a gym.  Run, bike, climb or walk.  Getting exercise will have lots of benefits, from mental alertness to losing weight to meeting new people.

3.  Hang out at a coffee shop with a friend.  You can look around and take turns making up the life stories of the other people hanging out there.

4.  Go to a modern art gallery or museum.  Look for some art that you can understand or like.   If you already like modern art, go to a gallery or museum with some other type of art that you may not appreciate.  Have some fun with it.

5.  Go see a live play.  If you regularly go already, pick out a  theater that's a different type than what you usually attend.  Bonus points if you go with a friend and discuss the play afterwards.

6.  Go listen to a different genre of music.  Go hear classical music, if you don't usually listen to it, or go hear blues, country, reggae, bluegrass or something else you aren't familiar with.

7.  Fly somewhere on a whim.  Take a weekend trip on a "last-minute" special.  Go see a friend or a place you have been meaning to see.

8.  Help a friend with a problem.  You'll be amazed at how much that will help you.

9.  Try an activity from your youth.  Go dancing, swimming, boating, bowling or playing miniature golf, if you haven't done so for years.  You'll feel younger and act younger.

10.  Try an unusual restaurant.  Go to one that serves a different type of food than you are used to.  Expand your tastes.  Tell your waiter that it's your first time and you need some help and suggestions.

If you are a Baby Boomer exiting a long-term marriage, you need to expand your horizons.  You have a lot of choices and opportunities ahead of you.  To get a jump start, try some of these ideas.  Have some fun!

P.S.  If you have some suggestions, please send us a Comment (below).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Choosing an Attorney: Should You Get a 2nd Opinion?

If, after talking with a prospective attorney, you feel uncomfortable with the attorney, you should definitely go see another lawyer before you hire one to represent you in a family law matter.  

If you are considering using Collaborative Law to help resolve your family law issue, you need to have a trained Collaborative lawyer.  If you visit with an attorney who says he or she does Collaborative Law, and that attorney says you shouldn't use the process, you should get a second opinion.

You should start with the understanding that Collaborative Law won't work for everyone or in every case.  There may be legitimate reasons why it might be inappropriate, such as someone having serious emotional issues, one or both parties having unreasonable expectations or if one of the parties is untrustworthy, for example.

Sometimes, unfortunately, an attorney  may claim to do Collaborative work just to draw in business, and then the attorney talks the client out of using the process.  Trust your gut on this.  If something doesn't quite feel right, go talk to another Collaborative attorney and get his or her opinion about the suitability of your case for Collaborative.

Warning Sign:  There's a concern if the attorney tries to talk you out of using Collaborative Law, especially if  you and your spouse have investigated it and jointly decided to give it a try.  It's really suspicious if your spouse has already hired a Collaborative attorney.

What Can You Do?  Ask some questions.

1.  Ask if the attorney is a member of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and/or a local practice group.  An active Collaborative lawyer will probably be in at least two of the organizations.

2.  Ask if the attorney has attended at least a 2-day basic training.  If he or she hasn't, they aren't trained properly and probably aren't able to work in the process.

3.  If the attorney has been to a 2-day training, ask when he/she last attended a Collaborative training.  You want someone who stays current.

4.  Ask how many Collaborative Law cases the attorney has handled.  If none, one or two, you should talk with someone who is more experienced.

Caveat:  Don't assume that an attorney who wants to use Collaborative Law in a case, but who has very few Collaborative cases completed, would be unable to competently represent you.  That's not necessarily the case.  Enthusiasm, current knowledge and the cooperation of the other professionals in the case will likely lead to a good result anyway.

Bottom Line:  Check qualifications, go with your gut feeling.