Tuesday, July 31, 2007

About To File For Divorce? Two Things You Must Do Now
The next two steps should be taken only if you are certain the breakup is imminent. If you are about to ask your spouse to move, or if you are the one moving, withdraw half of all funds in all joint savings and checking accounts. These are the accounts that are in both of your names. The court may decide otherwise later, but for now, you are entitled to 50% of what’s in them. Take out your money. Leave the remainder for your spouse. While you may be legally entitled to withdraw all of the money in the joint accounts, you should consider what that would look like to the judge who decides your divorce case. If you withdraw only half, you will appear fair, even in the midst of turmoil. Make sure you keep the bank receipts from these transactions. You want to show that what you are taking is exactly half of what’s there on the date of the withdrawal.
Next you must cancel all joint credit cards. Also call and remove your spouse as an additional cardholder on any of your own credit cards. This action will of course alert your spouse that you are leaving, so it is best to do it immediately before leaving, or just before filing for divorce.
Are these extreme measures? Not if you have already decided to file for divorce. If your spouse decides on a split before you do, you may find yourself presented with a situation where all or most of these things have already been done. You may also find that the arrangements aren’t as fair as they should be. If you think your divorce will be amicable, answer this: Have you and your spouse talked about it quietly? Have you each hired an attorney, and selected a neutral mediator to help with the details? If this is not the case, and you have made your decision, and one person’s departure from the home is imminent, then you should take these actions now.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

How To Save Money On Divorce Attorney's Fees
You will be able to save yourself thousands of dollars in attorney's fees by helping your lawyer prepare your motions. Remember, the more work you do, the less you have to pay your lawyer. Current divorce attorney rates range form $240 to $500 an hour, and this is not unusual for a large metropolitan area. You pay for the expertise, but sometimes you wind up paying the same rate for things they pass off to their clerks. You have the information, and as you go forward you’ll have a better idea of what you want the law to do. If you do the research, write the motion, and then give it to your attorney to review and edit, you’ll save money and time. Also, you can often focus more clearly on each goal.
Some attorneys, as a matter of professional pride, professional paycheck or both, will not necessarily appreciate you taking it upon yourself to write the motions. Remember to consult with your attorney before deciding that it will be done this way. However, if you do it this way, after your divorce is final, if your ex falls behind on support payments, or you need to modify support or visitation, you will be able to write a motion on your own and not have to pay your attorney.

Friday, July 27, 2007

How To Use Private Investigation To Collect From A Deadbeat

Are you relying on a state agency to help collect past due child support?
Sometimes state agencies drag their feet, and other times they simply can’t get the money. An ex-spouse may find ways to work under the table, or may disappear completely. If you are owed back support, and your state’s child support enforcement agency is not pursuing your ex, and you cannot find out where he works or he is working off the books, then you need to take action.

A little detective work is in order. If you still know people who keep up with your ex, see if you can get one to tell you who he works for. Where is the job? Can you get pictures of him working? Private investigators cost money, but if you were to hire one, these would be the first questions: Where does he work? When does he work there? How much does he make? Hire the investigator for as limited a job as possible. Once the investigator finds out where the job is, you or a friend may be able to do the rest.

There are online “detective agencies” that claim they can give access to bank accounts, whereabouts, and other information. I have tried a few. The results weren’t great. Remember: You can do a lot of investigating on your own and save yourself money. Keep your ears open. Mutual friends and family members are great sources of information. People love to talk. Once they are talking freely they often slip up. As with any other part of this process, this is not something where you want to use your children. However, don’t close your ears to what children say. If you find out key information simply make sure you can explain how you got it in some other way. Often if you simply confirm what you know through others, this can serve as your source. You don’t want to involve your children in any more conflict than you have to, and you don’t want your ex blaming them for something they may not have intended to do.
Deadbeat parents learn many tricks. One is to hide assets by putting them in the name of a girlfriend, new spouse, or parent. That way there is no bank account. Wages (particularly off-the-books payments) go straight into this other person’s bank account. Property is in another name. Your ex may even move to another state. The traveling deadbeat is the hardest one to catch.

In any of these situations you will need hard evidence in the courtroom. Hiring a private investigator may become a necessity. There comes a point where unless you come upon a lucky lead, you will need the skills of a professional. As long as you pick the right detective, and know what you want, your money will be well spent. There are also private agencies that are devoted to support enforcement. These agencies work on a contingency fee, meaning they do not charge you unless they are successful at collecting your support. They do take a percentage of the support collected. Do your homework and be careful when selecting a service like this. Find people who have used them. Call or email these people, and ask them questions about their experience. These groups can be useful, but, as with any support agency, the more you understand about your needs and their services, the better they will do. If you go online and look up “Child Support Enforcement” on yahoo.com or google.com, you will find several agencies to choose from.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Guilty Single Mom Syndrome

Are you a single mom feeling overwhelmed and tired? Do you sometimes yell at your kids and lose your temper?

Being a parent is the most difficult job in the world. Having to do it alone is even harder. Single parents should feel proud of themselves for being able to do the job of two parents. Sometimes though we tend to be too hard on ourselves. We beat ourselves up for not living up to what we feel the perfect parent is.

If you want to be a better parent, you must start making some time for yourself. By pushing yourself to the limit, you are not helping your children. Do you want them to see you as a tired, overworked, resentful mother? If not, then you need to find some creative ways to take back some control of your life.

You can start by grabbing a few hours each week for yourself. You need to devote one evening a week . I know most single moms cannot afford a sitter, so you have to get creative and brainstorm some ideas. Can you trade babysitting time with another overworked, single mom? You take her kids one night a week and she does the same for you. This way you both get some precious free time to regain your sanity and recharge.

Think outside of the box and I am sure you can come up with a few solutions. You must make this time for yourself. Your sanity and the emotional health of your children depend on it.

Monday, July 23, 2007

How To Help Your Child Cope With Anger During Divorce

Like any children, children of divorce know how to push our buttons. They will wear us down and wear us out if we don’t watch ourselves. Also, without even trying, they learn the game of making parents compete. Avoid this. Don’t buy them something new just because your ex did. If possible discuss purchases of such things as computers, games, iPods, TVs, vehicles, and just about anything that you may think is questionable from the viewpoint of money or maturity. Don’t try to one-up your spouse, and don’t try to keep up either. Talk about what your kids should have. Don’t let your kids dictate this by playing on your desire to be as good a provider as your ex.

Deep down every child wants parents to be together and happy. The underlying anger at the fact that this cannot happen simmers deep within them and can explode at any time. They might pick fights with their siblings, talk back, get in fights at school, and let their grades drop. They do these things to get attention. The child’s world has changed and he doesn’t like it. That anger must surface in order for us to deal with it.

Recognize that your child is having problems; do all you can to help. Some children never express their hurt and anger. This follows them into adulthood, showing up in stress-related behaviors and illnesses. Talk to your kids. Let them know it is okay to feel bad, but things will get better. How you behave and carry on with your life will be the direct indicator of how well your kids behave. Show them your strength, and your ability to survive and thrive. Explain that all things, both good and bad, happen for a reason; it’s how we deal with them that counts.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How to Get Out of Credit Card Debt and Repair Your Credit Score After Divorce

Rebuilding your life financially is never easy. Count on spending a lot of time and effort on this, especially if you went into debt during the divorce process. There were times when I paid my attorneys with credit cards. When the dust of my divorce battles finally cleared I was mired in debt. It took me awhile to straighten out my finances, but ultimately I was able to regain my financial health.

Have you rung up huge debts on the plastic? No matter how bad it looks, there are ways out. You just have to find the one that’s most sensible and realistic for you. If you received an asset like the marital home, you could refinance it and then negotiate payoff settlements with your creditors. Usually credit card companies will only talk to you about this option after you have stopped paying your bill each month and it has gone into collection. If it’s clear that you can’t pay it all, most of them will settle for anywhere from 50% to 70% of the debt. But remember if you haven’t been able to make payments, a large amount of what is owed is interest and late fees. You can also call your credit companies and ask them if they have any “plans” for hardship cases. If you tell them your story, they will most likely offer you a plan with reduced monthly payments and a lowered interest rate. If you are in a position to pay your credit card bills, and your credit is still good, make sure you ask for a reduced interest rate. Take advantage of balance transfer offers for lower rates. But be careful to note when these rates will expire. Usually the interest will balloon back up. You will then need to transfer the balance again to a lower rate.

Your credit rating is the key to your financial health. Poor credit scores can raise your car and home insurance rates. I got socked with a $4,000 car insurance bill because my credit score had tanked, yet I had never been late on an insurance payment. When I wrote them explaining how my difficult divorce had lowered my credit rating, they reduced my premium. Without good credit you will pay much higher interest on refinancing your home, car loans, or any other loan. In some cases you may need a co-signer.

Divorce sent my credit score into the toilet, and at the time there was little I could do. Even when I started making regular payments and settling debts, the mark remained on my credit. Repairing broken credit takes time, but if you stick with a plan, paying everything on time, it will happen.

But what do you do in the meantime? Everyone needs a credit card for emergencies. If you do not have one the next option is a debit card. Also you might ask a close relative if they would mind making you an additional cardholder on one of their accounts. Assure them this card will be for emergencies only. Always pay for whatever you charge immediately. You can only ask this of someone you are very close to. It’s one of the biggest financial favors one can do for another: putting their credit on the line for you.

If you can do it, take out a secured loan from a bank. Here is an example of how it works; you put $1,000 in a one-year certificate of deposit with your bank. The bank then gives you a $1,000 loan for one year at 9% interest. If you make the payments each month, at the end of the year you can cash your CD in and earn some interest. Current interest rates for a CD are now about 5%. This improves your credit rating because the bank will report to the credit bureaus that you paid off the loan.

When you are starting to rebuild from a credit disaster you should get a current copy of your credit report and check it for errors. Make sure any debts that were ruled to be your ex-husband’s in your final divorce decree are off of your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report per year, and you can also get a free report if you have been denied a loan, line of credit, or other financial service. You can pay for the report at any time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The 9 Questions You Must Examine In Mediation

1. Custody.
Care of the children is your most important concern. If custody is shared, what are the terms? If it is not, what is the visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent? Don’t forget holidays and summer vacations.

2. Housing.
Who will retain the family home? Will the martial home be sold and equity split equally? Or will one party keep the house and buy the other out? (In my own divorce I kept the family home. I waived alimony payments in exchange for equity in my home. Alimony is taxable but the equity in your home is not, so keep this option in mind)

3. Alimony and child support.
How much will go to whom?

4. Tuition.
Who will pay for school tuition? Will he pay for private or public universities? Might issues regarding paying for tuition become an issue later? Don’t rely on oral promises, ”Of course I will pay for college!” is often said at mediation but not committed to writing. Unfortunately, in most jurisdictions, once a child is 18, there is nothing the Court can do to force a parent to pay for college.

5. Division of stocks, bonds and other investments.
What is the proper division/liquidation of stocks, bonds, bank accounts, and other holdings and investments? What about the 401K plans, retirement funds, and life insurance? How will this be divided? A minimum amount of life insurance should be a provision of every divorce settlement, without exception.

6. Marital debt.
Who borrowed what? Who charged what?

7. Determination of incomes.
Who made more money? Who contributed what, and what are the values of those contributions?

8. Wills.
Will you have wills drawn naming the children as the beneficiaries?

9. Health insurance.
How will health insurance be addressed?

If you are going into mediation, remember that every aspect of your financial life with your spouse has to be closely scrutinized. These will be weighed in terms of your lifestyle and your standards of living, both together and apart. You will need to itemize all household expenses, household contents, properties, bank accounts, retirement plans, vehicles, furniture, and other items of value. Make sure you take into account all childcare costs, including daycare, religious education, sports, and other after-school activities and lessons. Consider the cost of birthday parties attended, lunch money, school dues, clothing, and camp. If your children are young, adjust for expenses as they grow, and include those projections in your plan.

It’s best for you and your spouse to gather all of this information beforehand; doing this together can be useful. If you find yourselves disagreeing on something, set it aside. Agree to bring up all disputes only when you are with the mediator. If you can do this, then mediation might be the route for you. If you have problems with your spouse while gathering information, it may be a sign of bad times ahead.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

How Emails Can Hurt Your Divorce Case

Do you communicate with your soon to be ex by email? If so, here is something you should know. Many divorce lawyers will tell you that email can make or break a divorce case. Remember that it is easy in the heat of anger to send an email that you will regret. With a letter, you at least have to put it in an envelope and put a stamp on it. This gives you time to change your mind. With email, once the button is pushed, it’s gone, and you can’t get it back. Don’t send any emails containing threats, emotional diatribes, or profanity. If you need to use email to negotiate things such as child visitation, stick to the facts.

If your spouse makes an email mistake in your favor, don’t delete it! Save it, print a copy for your lawyer. It might be the most useful evidence you will ever get. Respond briefly that the accusation is not true, without seeming angry. In some courts, silence in the face of an outrageous accusation might be seen as evidence that the accusation is true.

The key is to remember that you must stop and think before emailing, calling or text messaging your spouse. You do not know if your ex is taping your phone conversations. If you find yourself fighting with your spouse by email or phone, then it may be time to consider ceasing all communications and sending all messages to your ex only through your attorney.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The #1 Secret To A Successful Divorce

So what is the most crucial secret you need to know to have a successful divorce?
It is the simplest secret, yet the most difficult one to master: Controlling your emotions!
I coach many women who just can’t seem to understand and follow this one piece of advice. Usually by the time they come to see me they have made quite a mess of things. I have coached women who have been divorced for years and still can’t control their emotions when it comes to their ex-husband!
Granted you are going through one of the most difficult times you will ever face in your life, and so you may feel angry, hurt, sad, and confused.
It will take immense stamina and self-control, but you must get—and keep—control over your emotions. Your ability to do so will affect everything from how you fare financially to how your children adjust.
Losing control and showing emotion is how you lose this war. Do not be fooled, divorce is a war. You need to prepare for battle and master the art of winning the divorce war.
How do you control your emotions when you feel like you just want to scream?
1. Do not speak to your soon-to-be ex-husband unless absolutely necessary. When you do engage in conversation, speak only about your children or other important issues. Control the temptation to tell him that he is an idiot or you hate him! When you feel that you want to say something derogatory, get off the phone or walk away. Remember self-control!

2. Resist the urge to spy on him, ask neighbors and friends about what he is doing, or grill the kids about his girlfriend. I have known women to make prank calls to their husbands, drive by their ex’s homes repeatedly, and do other crazy things that were used against them in a courtroom. One woman was actually sued because she wrote a nasty comment about her ex’s girlfriend on the Internet. She didn’t even refer to this woman by name, but the implication was enough for the judge to give her a guilty verdict and a fine.

3. Do not talk incessantly about your ex. You do need to talk to someone to let out your anger and rage, but limit your circle of listeners to a few good friends and family members. The clerk at the supermarket doesn’t need to know just what a bastard your ex-husband is! Anger is like a fire that needs fuel to grow. The more you talk negatively about your ex, the angrier you will become and thus increase the chance of losing your temper.

Overall, think about the outcome you desire. Do you want to have the judge presiding over your divorce respect you, or do you want to look like an angry, bitter wife who is out of control?
Most people lie in family court, which is why judges rely on their own impression of a couple to see if the husband or wife appears more credible. Your behavior outside of the courtroom is crucial. Out-of-control behavior will almost always wind up back in the courtroom and cost you dearly.
So see a therapist, meditate, do whatever it takes to gain self-control. This is imperative at every stage: when you are thinking about getting a divorce, during the process, or even if you are already divorced. Your ex-husband is not going to go away, unfortunately, so you will need to find a way to deal with him in a calm and dignified manner.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Three Potential Pitfalls To Watch Out For In Divorce Court

A court will usually assume that your ex-spouse’s income is that which he was earning after taxes prior to the divorce. But what if your ex was working off the books? What if he hardly paid any taxes? This is something you will have to deal with early in the divorce process, when the judge is determining support levels to be maintained during the actual settlement. If you have a spouse who is making a good living, but paying little or nothing in taxes, you must discuss this with your lawyer. It may be impossible to deal with this directly in court without shutting off your spouse’s income, or greatly reducing what he gets. In such a circumstance you may want to look into alternatives, such as large cash or property settlements, if they are possible.
If your spouse is still working, but is suddenly making much less at the moment of your divorce, make sure your lawyer knows this and, if necessary, points it out. At any point in the divorce, or post-decree proceedings, a judge will become suspicious of someone who was making a decent living prior to a divorce and is suddenly broke.
Another problem comes with “disability.” Many men develop disabilities the moment they see support payments ahead. Don’t stand for it. Again, unless they can bring in a doctor and prove their disability, this won’t fly in the courtroom.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

How To Survive Financially During A Divorce
What do you do if you have very little cash and are facing a divorce?First make a list of all of the available credit in your name. Check all of your credit cards for the credit limits and how much is owed. You may be surprised at how much open credit you actually have. During my own divorce I was shocked when I found a $10,000 open credit limit on a Visa card I had hardly used. That card put food on the table when my husband refused to pay spousal and child support. When the divorce is final you can liquidate assets and pay these debts, but for now credit is the lifeline of the cash-strapped spouse.

Whatever your situation, stay strong and in control. Might there be a relative or friend that you could borrow from until the divorce is over? If there are assets, such as equity in the marital home, you might be able to persuade an attorney to hold off on payment until the divorce is final. Lawyers recognize potential assets more readily than most creditors. Also, the court may award attorneys’ fees in some jurisdictions, in some cases, and if your attorney is willing to wait, that is more cash in your pocket. However, you should never plan on an award of fees from the court. Remember that ultimately, you may have to pay your lawyer, even if you believed the Court would make your spouse pay your attorneys’ fees.

Do not be shy when it comes to asking for help. Being in a tough situation is nothing to be ashamed of. You will be surprised at how people will go out of their way to help you when the chips are down. You just have to ask.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Secret To Letting Go After Divorce

One of the most difficult things to do after divorce is to let go and move on emotionally. This means letting go of all of the pain, anger and hurt your spouse has caused you. It sounds easier than it is. So just how to you let go of those negative feelings towards your ex?

You must remember: accept and forgive. It doesn’t mean you want to go back and live it over. It doesn’t mean you would keep the marriage together. It means you can move on with your own life, and live with the fact that your ex is doing the same thing.

Your ex-spouse’s life is meant to take a different path. If you have children then you will always be part of each other’s lives. But you will be able to detach and view your ex as the parent of your children instead of as your spouse. A new relationship will emerge. The roles are different. You choose how you are going to play this out. You can deal with your spouse either with kindness and understanding, having truly put the pain of divorce behind you, or you can harbor ill feelings and hang on to old hurts and feelings of betrayal. The choice is yours. Choose wisely. One road leads to peace and serenity and the other to anger, frustration, and pain.

This is your time of refection and soul-searching. There is light at the end of the tunnel. You will reach it. Right now you may not be able see past the hurt, anger, and pain. But trust me, life will become joyful and complete once again. You get to decide the life you want to have. Don’t turn bitter. It may be the easy path now, but later on it will be the hard road, and there won’t be any exits. How you see your divorce is the most essential choice you will make.

I now see my divorce for the many gifts it has brought to my life. Amidst the pain and sorrow, I learned some tremendous life lessons. Now I can bring these into my new life and create a more compelling future. Listen to your heart. Trust in the knowledge that you will survive this devastating loss. You will survive, and you will thrive again.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Getting Ready for Divorce Court

The process may vary depending upon what state you are in but it generally will go something like this: on your first court date you will be assigned a judge who will preside over your case. At this preliminary conference the judge will consult with both attorneys, and set deadlines for each stage of the divorce. At this conference the court will look at the information gathered by both sides, and the legal process of the divorce will begin. At this time the judge will probably set amounts of child and spousal support. These are the amounts your spouse is to pay from now until the divorce is final. This is often referred to as pendente lite (pronounced “pendentay leetay”) support, meaning “pending decision”. Although these amounts aren’t automatically those that you will receive once the divorce is final, they are crucial in their importance. Whatever the judge says now will set an informal precedent for what happens later. You want these amounts to be at or above your final goal.

Make sure that the court directs your spouse to send these payments to your local child support enforcement agency. They will forward the payments to you, and keep track of what is owed. Always go through this agency. Although they may be slow with enforcement, they have the ability to garnish your spouses’ wages and bank accounts and enforce bench warrants. If your spouse falls behind in payments you will be able to utilize this agency instead of having to pay your attorney to enforce support collection. Some states, however, will not permit this arrangement unless there is a history of non-payment, preferring to let the parties handle it themselves.

As in any court trial, divorce will have a discovery phase. In a divorce this is when each party is required to disclose proof of all finances. You will also have to answer the Interrogatories. This is a long questionnaire asking for detailed information about your finances and other marital issues. These will identify issues of disagreement that must be brought before the judge. Remember, the more problems you need the judge to fix, the more court dates you will have to attend and every time you go to court you pile up legal fees.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Using A Mediator To Settle Your Divorce

If you are going into mediation, remember that every aspect of your financial life with your spouse has to be closely scrutinized. These will be weighed in terms of your lifestyle and your standards of living, both together and apart. You will need to itemize all household expenses, household contents, properties, bank accounts, retirement plans, vehicles, furniture, and other items of value. Make sure you take into account all childcare costs, including daycare, religious education, sports, and other after-school activities and lessons. Consider the cost of birthday parties attended, lunch money, school dues, clothing, and camp. If your children are young, adjust for expenses as they grow, and include those projections in your plan.

It’s best for you and your spouse to gather all of this information beforehand; doing this together can be useful. If you find yourselves disagreeing on something, set it aside. Agree to bring up all disputes only when you are with the mediator. If you can do this, then mediation might be the route for you. If you have problems with your spouse while gathering information, it may be a sign of bad times ahead.

If you and your spouse can agree on a fair settlement and iron out the details of your divorce without bitterness you will be extremely fortunate. Your children will be spared any emotional trauma and you can co-parent them together. This is an ideal situation, and if you are lucky enough to have a cooperating spouse you will emerge from your divorce as unscathed as possible.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Healing the Wounds of Martial Abuse

How does one heal oneself or one’s children from the traumas of abuse? Physical wounds and scars are problematic enough, but much of the injury is done to the heart and mind. How can a victim become whole again?
The aftereffects of abuse can take many forms, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, which includes numbness, edginess, and reliving the event), insomnia, headaches, muscle aches, aggressiveness, delinquency and school problems (in children and teens), and withdrawal.

Encourage children and teens to talk about it. You don’t have to be pushy, but always let them know you are open to their problems. If problems arise with their teachers, neighbors, or other kids, try to use these as opportunities to get the child to talk.

Remember, many of the same things apply to adults. Depression and PTSD were first recognized as adult problems; however, we now know they have a role in children’s lives too. If you have successfully escaped from an abusive situation, and all the evidence tells you that you and your children are reasonably secure, watch out for signs of depression and PTSD. If you find yourself dwelling on what happened, or if you are often overtaken by feelings of fear, malaise, or pessimism, talk it out with someone you trust. Don’t be afraid to seek help. There are many counseling programs available through state and local agencies. Don’t feel as if you have to tough it out on your own. These problems are as real, and can be as debilitating, as any physical wounds. If a physical injury continued to bother you, would you hesitate to go for help? Injuries to the mind and spirit are the same.