Special Considerations: Grief During Divorce When You Have a Special Needs Child

Parents of special needs or medically complex children move through their life with a certain amount of grief always present.  Grief is the name of the process we are hard-wired to experience when we face loss or transition.  Parents are deeply connected to the hopes and dreams they have for their children often years before they have them.  Some say it is important for parents of special needs children to grieve the child they didn’t have, the child associated with their hopes and dreams.  I advise parents to also grieve for the parent they didn’t get to be.

Similar to the way parents have hopes and dreams for their children, married couples have hopes and dreams for their partnership.  When a marriage ends and the couple has a special needs or medically complex child the grief is compounded and can feel overwhelming. 

5 Ways to Manage Complex Grief During Divorce

There are a number of practical business matters that need to be addressed in a divorce, grief can complicate and delay this process if it is not acknowledged and dealt with.    Below are 5 ways to manage complex grief during a divorce.

  1. Talk about it! Shutting down your grief by working more, drinking more, spending more time on your phone etc. will not actually make the grief go away. 
  2. Reach out and Get out.  It is important not to be isolated during a divorce.  Many parents of special needs or medically complex children are already isolated from their community or family and are at risk of feeling even more alone when they go through a divorce. 
  3. Increase respite care.  Increase the time you already have or if someone wants to know what they can do to help, ask them to babysit.  You may have to train someone new on how to take care of your child’s special needs but it will be worth it - you will need time to find and prepare documents, attend meetings and process the loss and transition ahead.
  4. Increase self-care.  Unapologetically, without guilt or shame, do things that nurture and re-charge you.
  5. Find a therapist.  Complex and compounded grief may be too much for someone to handle on their own.  Be brave and find a therapist to help you through the process.

Your Divorce Process Matters

Collaborative divorces allow for flexibility and creativity that you are unlikely to find through the courts.  In a collaborative divorce you are not bound by standardized forms or one-size fits all protocols.   If you are raising a special needs child you already know that many people do not understand the additional time, energy and money you put into meeting your child’s needs.  If you have decided to move forward with a divorce you will need a team who understands the many complicated issues involved with ending your marriage while also preserving a safe and consistent environment for your child.

About the Author: Dena Tranen

Dena Tranen, LCSW is a trained collaborative law professional, licensed clinical social worker and former member of CFLA. She works as a mental health coach, therapist, and co-parenting specialist. To learn more about your Missouri divorce process options give her a call today.

Special Considerations: Getting a Divorce When You Have a Special Needs Child

Getting divorced when you are the parent of a special needs or medically complex child can seem like a daunting task that could put an unbearable amount of additional stress on an already stressed-out family system.  Many couples with a special needs child make the default decision to stay in an unhappy marriage because the unique issues they face seem impossible to manage on their own or in separate households.

Co-Parenting Complexity

For all parents, one of the scariest parts of a divorce is the co-parenting plan.  When parents of special needs or medically complex children get divorced there are additional issues that may arise in the process. Some of these issues may include:

Because of these and other unique circumstances associated with divorce when there is a special needs child it may be necessary to deviate from the standard parenting plan or child support formulas provided by the courts.  If this is the case, the collaborative divorce process is almost certainly the best route for the whole family. 

Consider a Flexible & Support Divorce Process

Collaborative divorces allow for flexibility and creativity that you are unlikely to find through the courts.  In a collaborative divorce you are not bound by standardized forms or one-size fits all protocols.   If you are raising a special needs child you already know that many people do not understand the additional time, energy and money you put into meeting your child’s needs.  If you have decided to move forward with a divorce you will need a team who understands the many complicated issues involved with ending your marriage while also preserving a safe and consistent environment for your child.

Dena Tranen, LCSW is a trained collaborative law professional, licensed clinical social worker and former member of CFLA. She works as a mental health coach, therapist, and co-parenting specialist. To learn more about your Missouri divorce process options give her a call today.

Property Division in Divorce: How to Figure Out Who Will Get All the “Stuff”

Even in relatively short, and certainly during longer marriages, couples acquire and accumulate property.  This property might include cars, real estate, furniture, artwork, and miscellaneous “stuff.” Some of the items (for example, kitchen dishes, utensils, and glassware) may not have a lot of value if one went to sell them but could cost a fair amount of money to replace. When divorce is on the horizon, people often wonder how all of it will be divided and they want to make sure they get their fair share.

If your divorce is litigated in court, property division can be very complicated and contentious.  All property must be (1) “characterized” or identified as marital or joint (with both parties having an interest), separate (belonging only to one party) or partly marital and partly separate, (2) valued, and (3) allocated (awarded) to one or both parties.   Each of these determinations can be both complex and time-consuming and, consequently, expensive.

Identification of property as marital or separate

To determine what property is marital the court will try to determine when it was acquired (if during the marriage, it’s probably marital), whether it was inherited by or gifted to one party and kept separate from the other party during the marriage (this is probably separate property), or whether it was brought by one party to the marriage and then shared with the other party (this might be part separate and part marital).  Property that is part separate and part marital might include retirement assets or real estate.

Valuation of property

Each item of property must also be assigned a value.  Some property can be valued using online resources (like Kelley Blue Book for cars) or even by the parties (an owner of real estate can estimate its value). More valuable property (for example, real estate, artwork or antique furniture) may need to be valued by a professional appraiser.  Arguments often erupt over property valuations because one party or his/her appraiser may arrive at a value wildly different than that arrived at by the other party or

His/her appraiser.  A “battle of the appraisers” at trial then ensues, leaving it to the judge to decide who is right. This is a very expensive scenario.

Division of property

In a litigated divorce, the judge will decide who gets what and in what proportions.  One party could be given a greater percentage of the property if there is marital misconduct, or if other circumstances are present which persuade the judge that an unequal division is “equitable” or fair. Judges often split the assets equally between the parties even when there is bad conduct by one party.

Complicated and a bit maddening, right?

Division of property in collaborative divorce – the story of the lemon

In collaborative divorce, making decisions about property is so much more civil. There is a story in collaborative circles about dividing an item of marital property: a lemon.  In a litigated divorce the judge is likely to order that the lemon be cut and one-half of it be awarded to each party. On the surface, this would seem to be fair.  When one considers, however, that one of the parties wanted the juice of the lemon to make lemonade and the other party wanted the zest of the lemon to make pie, the result no longer seems fair or equitable since the lemon is now unusable by both parties for their respective intended purposes.  This is why, in collaborative practice, the parties focus on the needs and interests of each.  Why do you want the lemon? Do you need all of it or will less than the whole meet your needs? Could you take the peach instead?

In the collaborative process the parties can together assign values.  If they can’t agree on value, they can together choose one or more appraiser(s) to assign value(s) and decide how they want to use those values.  Most important, the parties can, with the help of the collaborative team, decide who gets what and in what proportions:  one party might get more of one asset and less of another, or it will be a 50-50 split of all property, or that one party will stay in the house for a period of time and that it will then be sold, or any number of creative solutions that make sense for your family.

When you and your spouse focus on your respective needs and interests, as you will in the collaborative process with the help of your collaborative team, you can reach unique solutions that are individualized for your family.  As much as a judge may want or try to do that, he or she is unlikely to reach a result that is exactly right for your family. And you will have spent a lot of money in the process.

Choose collaborative divorce.

Deciding upon and transitioning property in divorce can be daunting.  Certain divorce processes support a better planned transition than others.  To learn about your Missouri divorce process options contact one of our experienced St. Louis Collaborative Law professionals today.

Cynthia Garnholz is a St. Louis family law attorney, collaborative law professional and trained mediator.  She is experienced with helping one or both spouses achieve settlement.  To learn more about your Missouri divorce options give her a call or visit her website.

Phone: 314-725-5430

Website:  http://GarnholzLaw.com

Collaborative Practice and the Economics of Divorce

Facing a divorce is a daunting, sometimes frightening prospect, and “How much will my divorce cost?” is perhaps the most consistent concern among those considering ending their marriages. As with so many other divorce-related issues, the answer is usually, “It depends.”

Aside from issues such as valuation, misconduct, hiding assets, addiction, and dissipation, all of which can add to the cost of a lawyer’s services, the process by which the divorce takes place can play a major role in increasing or decreasing the overall cost.

In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has a lawyer, and other professionals, including a financial specialist and mental health coach, are routinely included as part of the problem-solving team. A child specialist may also participate in the process. With all of those professionals involved, it may sound as if a collaborative divorce is unaffordable for many couples.

There are, however, good, solid reasons a collaborative divorce will likely save you money in the long run. Here are two:

The Right Professional for the Job:

Lawyers know the law and they know about negotiations. They are not, however, as well-versed in financial issues as a financial advisor or CPA. The financial professional assists not only in gathering the financial information but also in analyzing tax consequences, and suggesting ways of saving taxes. The mental health professional keeps the divorcing couple on task by helping them cope with the challenging emotions they are experiencing, and uses their knowledge of child development to help the parents create a workable parenting plan to serve the children’s best interests.

Creating a Positive Track Record Today for Success Tomorrow:

Because the traditional divorce process is based upon the civil courts model of one party opposing the other, divorcing spouses find themselves having both to attack their partner and defend themselves, often at the cost of upsetting and alienating their children. Then, when the divorce is complete, the warring parties have to figure out a way to engage in cooperative parenting. Having spent months or more staring at each other across battlements, they now have to figure out a way to sit together at parent-teacher conferences, cooperate around scheduling changes, and plan birthday parties together.

A collaborative divorce is conducted using interest-based negotiations, a system of coming up with solutions to difficult problems by taking into account what each person needs and wants, rather than by pointing accusing fingers. When spouses learn to listen to each other, a skill that is constantly reinforced in the collaborative process, they discover that, even though they no longer want to be intimate partners, they can learn to work together for their children’s benefit. Then, when changes need to be made to the parenting plan or to the support arrangements, they know that, having worked peacefully through their divorce, they can return to the bargaining table, rather than starting new battles, thereby saving both their financial and emotional resources.

When considering how you want to conduct your divorce, think not just about your immediate pain or anger but also consider what you want your future and that of your children to look like. Avoiding future conflict will bring peace to you and your family, and will save you thousands of dollars as you avoid court battles over enforcement and modification of your divorce judgment.

Navigating and transitioning the divorce process can be daunting.  Certain divorce processes support a better planned transition than others.  To learn about your Missouri divorce process options contact one of our experienced St. Louis Collaborative Law professionals today.

Alan Freed is a St. Louis family law attorney, collaborative law professional and trained mediator.  He is experienced with helping one or both spouses achieve settlement.  To learn more about your Missouri divorce options give him a call or visit his website.

Phone: 314-244-3653

Website: http://pcblawfirm.com

How To Tell Kids About the Divorce?

More goes into telling your kids about divorce than just having a one-time, prepackaged sit down and delivering the information.

The stage of development that your child is in will have a big impact on how you have the conversation about your divorce and what to expect next.

Children who are young, under 5, are very egocentric, which means everything is about them. They also have a limited ability to talk about their feelings and no capacity to understand the complexities of something like divorce.

When having the divorce talk with your young child keep it simple.

Focus on what is going to happen, like who will live where and who will be taking care of your child. Make certain they know their basic needs will be met. Put yourself in their shoes. What does a 4 year old worry about? Here is a simple question you may need to answer: “Where will I sleep, who will tuck me in?”

Expect to answer the same questions over and over as they move through this stage of development. Your child may even leave one parent’s home and go to the next with questions of, “when is mommy or daddy going to be home”? This is quite normal.

Children ages 6-11 have more understanding of their feelings but see things very black and white.

If your child is in this age group, they often place blame on one parent or the other, or may even feel that it is their fault that the divorce happened. A child of this age may think that he or she said or did something that finalized your decision to move out or that they gave you the go ahead to break up their family.

Having ongoing discussions with your child about the divorce to reiterate the important things they should know is normal and in good practice.

The experience of your divorce changes over times as they grow and have their own life experiences. When they are children it is important to let them know who will care for them and that they came from love even though you are no longer married. As they get older something that may be important for them to hear is that not all marriages end in divorce and your path isn’t theirs.

Teenagers understand a lot more as they are more abstract thinkers than their younger selves.

Keep note of how your teen behaved before the divorce compared to after. Teens are tricky because they are generally moody creatures, so it can be hard to tell if they are moody from hormones or moody from the stress of divorce. One thing is for certain, they are impacted and may play the blame game as well.

Adult information is adult information.

Every situation is unique and if you need a consult do so, but a rule of thumb is that your teen may seem mature enough to hear the nitty gritty details about how your spouse cheated or said this or that, but keep it to yourself. This information will not gain their alliance long term and WILL NOT serve them well.

Even though you are getting a divorce, do your best to at least stay united on the parental front.

The more parents can come together in the consistency of their message to the kids about the divorce the healthier the kids will be. The happier the family will be. Never try to get your child to take one side or the other because that will only tear them in two.

Collaborative divorce will offer you more of an opportunity to do this because it makes space for emotion and healing whereas litigation focuses on legality.

If you need more guidance on this subject, Collaborative Law or other issues that arise in divorce you can contact me or any professional on the collaborative website.

About the Author : Kristin Craren

Kristin is a former member of CFLA.

Collaborative Divorce Process: 6 Insights From a Collaborative Divorce Coach

Divorce is on your horizon and having experienced professionals in your corner will make the collaborative divorce process less time consuming and arduous.

If you are seeing a therapist, hopefully you are, your therapist should be one of those helpers getting you through the emotional obstacle course, as well as providing you logistical information.

Even after you decide on the Collaborative Approach to divorce, the idea of sitting in the same room with your soon to be ex is an unnerving thought.

Many clients find comfort in knowing exactly what that experience is going to be like. What can you expect from the professionals in the room? What are you allowed to say? What will that first session be like?

Everyone knows what litigation is like; get an attorney and start the fight, wait, e-mails, extensions…

Collaborative divorce is going to offer you the opportunity to sit in the same room with your spouse which is going to eliminate the grape vine scenario between your attorneys and yourselves. You will know what is going on every step of the way and all the professionals in the room will have the same goals as you which is to come to a timely agreement you are comfortable with.

There's room for your feelings and genuine thoughts in the collaborative divorce process in a way that isn't readily available to you in traditional divorce.

Many counseling clients ask, “Will I be able to say how angry I am or that he/she doesn’t seem to care about my wellbeing at all after 12 years of marriage?” The answer is, yes! These feelings and others are what drive the process or hinder it.  The collaborative divorce process is definitely the place to get it out.

You may be willing to enter into this process, but you are not excited about standing in the elevator with your spouse.

That is quite fine. Details like this are worked out at the very beginning of collaborative divorce process. The professionals guiding you will make sure that you understand what to expect of them, as well as jointly create expectations for how you will interact with each other.

It will get better.

So much support is offered with this style of divorce that you will heal much faster than you’d expect. As you have consistent team meetings it will become easier to meet with, and interact with, your soon to be ex.  All of this lays the groundwork for effective emotional healing and co-parenting if you have children.

Collaborative divorce supports a calmer, better planned transition than others.  To learn about your Missouri divorce process options contact one of our experienced St. Louis Collaborative Law professionals today.

About the Author : Kristin Craren

Kristin is a former member of CFLA.

Buying a House After Divorce

If not already, then at some point in the future you and your spouse will live separately.  Like many people, you may think about buying a house after divorce.  If this is your goal, then there are several things you will need to consider.  Protecting your finances will need to be a top priority.  The sooner you start planning the more prepared you will be to accomplish your goal.

Here are 4 Financial Tips to Buying a House After Divorce

Establish Your Income

It will be important to establish your own income.   For you, this may be easy or challenging.  Perhaps you're established in your career and currently earn income.  Or, perhaps you are receiving income from a pension, social security, dividends or interest.  Regardless of your situation, it will be important for you to establish your income because lenders consider income as part of your ability to repay a mortgage.  Sporadic income will reflect negatively on your ability to repay a mortgage.

Establish Your Cash Flow

The amount and frequency of your income will impact how much house you can afford.  It will also determine the funds available to pay your monthly expenses.  You will need to do an evaluation of the money available for housing expenses.  This is calculated as:

Income - Basic Expenses (before housing) = Money Available for Housing Expneses

You will then need to calculate the expenses associated with buying a house after divorce.  It might help to think of your expenses and how they fall into these categories:

Once you know your ongoing monthly housing expenses you will calculate how much money you have left after basic needs and housing expenses - this is called discretionary income:

Money Available for Housing - Ongoing Monthy Housing Expenses = Discretionary Income

Helpful Tip:  It can be challenging to think of all the potential expenses related to buying and owning a home.  Here are some things to keep in mind about one-time purchase expenses and ongoing monthly expenses:

One-time Expenses of Buying a House After Divorce:

Ongoing Expenses of Buying a House After Divorce

Establish Your Credit

You will want to establish your own credit as soon as possible.  This could take some time if you have little credit history or when your credit has been established jointly with your spouse.  While married, you may not have opened loans or charge cards in your name individually.  Most joint loans and credit cards are closed during the divorce process.  The closing of those accounts can negatively impact your credit.

If this happens, then it can be difficult for you to qualify for loans and charge cards in your name solely.  There are steps you can take to establish credit before, during and after divorce.

 Protecting Your Credit

Unless you are paying cash, your credit will be the most important factor in your ability to buy a house.  Therefore, it is very important to protect your credit before, during and after divorce.  The best approach is to be proactive.

Here are some steps you can take today to protect your credit:

Transitioning the divorce process while planning for your future is multifaceted and requires a multipronged approach.  Certain divorce processes support a calmer, better planned transition than others.  To learn about your Missouri divorce process options contact one of our experienced St. Louis Collaborative Law professionals today.

Nicole Davis is a trained collaborative law professional.  She is experienced with helping couples achieve a good financial settlement.  To learn more about divorce finances give her a call or visit her website.

Phone: 314-272-0727

Website: https://www.reliancefinancialadvisor.com

Missouri Divorce and Child Support

Parents naturally are most concerned about their children at the time of divorce. One of the most important issues to be decided is how and in what amounts the children will be financially provided for.

Missouri Form 14

The Missouri Supreme Court has developed a way of calculating the amounts needed for support of children: it is called the Form 14 and it is readily available on the internet. The Form 14 child support amount is based on the gross (before tax deductions) income of each parent, the number of children of the marriage and various adjustments to income, including (among others) the cost of work-related child care and health insurance for the children.

Calculating Missouri Child Support

The Form 14 seems deceptively simple. It might appear that all one needs to do is plug in the gross income of each party, along with some other expenses like day care, and then out comes a child support number. Calculating child support is not, however, as easy as it might first appear. For instance:

These and many other questions can cause distress and conflict when trying to come up with the “right” amount of Form 14 child support. Fighting this issue in court can turn into a bitter and expensive battle with your spouse.

Collaborative Divorce and Child Support

In the collaborative divorce process you and your spouse can look at your individual circumstances and come to creative solutions that meet the interests of each of you and, most importantly, your children. With the help of your collaborative attorneys, your coach, and your financial professional, you and your spouse can discuss what your actual expenses are for your children and then come to decisions about how you want to pay those expenses. Maybe you will decide that no child support money will flow from one parent to the other parent and that you and your spouse will each pay certain expenses or certain percentages of all of the expenses for your child. Or, maybe you will decide that it is right that one parent pay child support to the other and agree on the correct amount for your family. Or, you might conclude that an agreed upon support amount will be paid less than 12 months per year.

The options available to you in collaborative divorce for making decisions about what is best for financial support of your children are limitless. Using the collaborative divorce process to analyze financial support of your children allows you, with the support and help of your collaborative team, to take a deeper dive into thinking about what your children need and what you and your spouse will be able to afford after the divorce. Once you are armed with the facts, you and your spouse can make informed decisions about how best to provide for your children in your unique family situation.

Divorce and Disappointment

Unfortunately, we all face disappointment at some point.  It is a part of life.  How you choose to deal with disappointment is what often matters most.  You will face many feelings during a divorce and disappointment is a common feeling that many people face.

The Disappointment

When you focus on the negative parts of a disappointing situation, you cannot see the opportunities you have.  Being angry may cause you to take your feelings out on someone who does not deserve it.  Feeling sorry for yourself causes you to be too busy thinking about yourself.  It is tempting to strike out at the person or persons you identify as the cause of your disappointment.  Anger, self-pity, and revenge will only make matters worse.

Focusing on the Future

While life is full of disappointments, it is good to remember that life is also filled with opportunities.  To move past the disappointment in a positive way, first express your feelings appropriately.  Talk to a friend.  Write down, for yourself, what happened, perhaps in a letter.  Then, destroy the writing.  The writing is meant for you, and no one else.  Put your upset in perspective.  Few disappointments continue indefinitely.  Stop and think about all the things that are good in your life.

Implement Helpful Tactics

You might need to change your plans.  You might need to adjust your thinking.  You do not have to allow someone, or something, to control your future.  Remember, each of us is in charge of our own future, not someone or something else.  Recognizing the disappointment, focusing on the future and implementing helpful tactics will allow you to move forward in a positive way.

The collaborative divorce process often engages a divorce coach. A divorce coach is trained in the emotions of divorce.  To learn more about the collaborative divorce process or the skills of a divorce coach visit the St. Louis Collaborative Law Association's website for helpful resources and information.

About the Author : Gary Soule

Gary is an attorney and former member of CFLA.

Why Won't My Divorce Case Settle?

PROBLEM:  My divorce has been going on for months.  I want it over.  Why won’t my case settle?

Those involved in a family law litigation matter, are generally eager for their case to be “over” so that they can move on with life plans with some degree of certainty.  If your attorney has told you that very few cases go to trial before a judge, “settlement” becomes the primary focus of the litigation, yet at times can seem impossible to achieve.  Why?  The short answer is that there has been no agreement reached.  What are some of the impediments to reaching an agreement? This article addresses property issues, and not child support, spousal support (maintenance in Missouri) or child custody.

Addressing The Divorce Issues

Missing Information: Divorce Courts in Missouri are required to divide all property and debt, as well as set aside to the appropriate party any separate non-marital property. Without complete information on all the property and debt (do not forget frequent flyer miles and other awards points), there is no way to assess the options for the division of property and debt. Sometimes the information can be obtained easily.  Account statements and car titles are usually obtained easily.  When you need an appraisal of a home or a business interest valued, this information is more difficult to come by. If one party cooperates and the other doesn’t, it can take long months instead of a few weeks to obtain the necessary information in order to look at the options for the division of property and debt.

Disagreements on Values. Competing assessments as to what the worth of cars and homes can make a meeting of the minds on property settlement difficult.  This is often due to each party going online and determining what the cars are worth, or each party to a case paying several hundred dollars to have different appraisals as to the value of the marital residence.

Attorneys with different approaches. When the parties to a family law matter select their attorneys, they are usually not doing this together. They are each consulting with friends, family and colleagues or going online without checking in with each other.  Their selections are often personal and most often fail to take into consideration how their attorney views the work ahead.  Is the attorney going to acknowledge that there are paths to settlement than can circumvent some of the negative fallout of traditional litigation?  Is the attorney one who encourages open sharing of information or assists his or her client in making the other attorney and party get information the hard way with costly subpoenas, depositions and motions before the court?  The selection of attorneys can set the course for a good resolution without undue delay or protracted process ending with a less than satisfactory settlement for both parties—often because the fees to the attorneys took much of the martial assets.

Lack of a joint commitment to resolution. Too often, the parties have not made a firm commitment to each other to work toward a resolution that they both can live with.  Without this commitment early on, it is easy to spend time and energy disputing the other person’s point of view rather than working to find common ground.

SOLUTION:  Before you begin the divorce process, consider how best to commit to resolving the issues and following through on the commitment. This may mean that you and the other party may have to put aside some serious differences of opinion as to the how and why of the break up.  It may mean that you determine the process that you want to use BEFORE finding attorneys.  You may start with a mediator and then select attorneys to assist you in the mediation process. You may want to explore the option of the collaborative process, with its team of financial, mental health and legal professionals.  If you commit to an approach that is settlement rather than litigation-oriented, you may find you save money that enables you to move forward with less stress, as well as save your emotional energy for that next phase of your life.