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Let’s Talk Divorce: 4 Ways The Family Court Fails To Protect Women During High Conflict Divorce

Let’s Talk Divorce: 4 Ways The Family Court Fails To Protect Women During High Conflict Divorce



 

We hear a lot about how women are favored during divorce but, in my opinion, the opposite is true. No one can hold onto resentment and anger like a man and nothing proves that more than the outrageous behavior by some during a high conflict divorce.

A woman’s only recourse is the protections afforded her by the Family Court and, bless our hearts, there aren’t many protections there.

I know a woman who has been divorced for over 12 years and still has legal issues with her ex. He constantly files a petition or motion with the court. It can be for something as simple as extracurricular activities her children are involved with to not liking the therapist her children are seeing. He makes NO attempt to negotiate and settle issues with the mother of his children. There is no emailing back and forth over a certain situation. He goes straight to the courts.

A woman has no defense against such a man. She is vulnerable to such a man’s whims because the Family Court allows the nonsense to continue year after year.

She has NO protection!

4 Ways The Family Court Fails to Protect Women During High Conflict Divorce

1. Failure to Protect Against Defiant Exes

If a woman is divorced from a man who defies court orders, she has no recourse via the Family Court. She can file a contempt of court motion but that’s like pissing into the wind. She will spend money on an attorney only to get a new order and listen to a judge tell her ex to “get it done or else,” and the or else never happens. The problem with contempt of court is this, a new court order means nothing to a man with a history of defying court orders.

2. No Protection from Crushing Financial Expense of Divorce

Most women going through the divorce process are stay-at-home Moms or the lower income earner in the marriage. They start the divorce process in a one-down position because they don’t have access to the best attorneys and experts to advocate for them. The Family Court takes none of this into consideration during the process and there is an old saying that is true, “the one with the money wins in Family Court.”

3. No Protection for Victims of Domestic Abuse

Victims of domestic violence are especially vulnerable in the Family Court system. Their main concern is naturally protecting their children from a violent man and with the courts’ main focus on not separating a child from a parent, the domestic abuse victim has to have substantial evidence of abuse to protect their children via the court.

What professionals fail to realize is that women in abusive situations don’t call attention to their abuse. Doing so can only lead to more abuse. So, instead of going to the emergency room so they’ve have a record of injuries or filing police reports, they stay quiet out of fear of inviting more abuse upon themselves and their children.

If a woman doesn’t have substantial evidence of abuse and brings up accusations of abuse in court she can be viewed as making false allegations of abuse and attempting to alienate a father from his child. Women all over the country are losing custody rights to violent men due to the lack of protection abuse women received in the Family Court.

4. Failure to Protect Children from Harm

If you’re divorced from a bully hell-bent on using your child as a pawn to punish you, the “best interest” doctrine, flies right out the window. A Family Court judge will NOT hold a man harming his children emotionally, accountable. I think they believe that a bad father is worse than no father so, purposely put children in harm’s way so they can tell themselves “at least the child still has 2 parents.” And, as someone who raised her children alone, with no contact from their father, I can say that, that belief is straight up BS!

The post Let’s Talk Divorce: 4 Ways The Family Court Fails To Protect Women During High Conflict Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Parallel Co-Parenting in High Conflict Divorces

Parallel Co-Parenting in High Conflict Divorces

Parallel co-parenting developed as a way for parents — particularly those in high conflict divorces — to focus their energy on raising their child by disengaging from problematic communication with their ex-spouse

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Take the High Road for Thanksgiving After Divorce

Take the High Road for Thanksgiving After Divorce

For children caught in the crossfire of custody disputes, holidays can become a nightmare, not a time of joy. Parents owe it to their children to do the right thing. It starts with recognizing the importance of holidays in children’s lives.

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high conflict divorce and post traumatic stress

High Conflict Divorce and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

high conflict divorce and post traumatic stress

 

“Once you go through a high conflict divorce you are never the same,” said Dana in an interview I had with her a few months ago.

Dana divorced her husband in 1999. Her ex, Jim had been diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and he has made Dana and their children’s lives miserable for 20 years. Due to the long, drawn-out legal battle and Jim’s emotional abuse before and since the divorce Dana was recently diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is being treated as an inpatient and discussed what life has been like for her over the last few years.

High Conflict Divorce and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

“I feel as if I’ve been in the middle of a war zone for an extended period of time. I’ve lived with daily fear for years; there has been no relief because some sort of conflict with my ex was always lurking around the corner.” Dana says. I didn’t have time to process one event before I was dealing with another one.

When divorced from someone like my ex you don’t have time to stop, process your feelings, grieve and move on. You have to have your guard up at all times, be focused and ready for what is coming next and you learn quickly that there will be something coming.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a normal emotional and psychological reaction to trauma (a painful or shocking experience) that exists outside of someone’s normal life experiences.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health people who experience a traumatic event will react with shock, anger, nervousness, fear, or even guilt. For most people, these common reactions go away over time, but for someone experiencing PTSD, these feelings continue to escalate until the person has difficulty living a normal life. Someone with PTSD usually has symptoms for longer than a month and cannot function as well as they did before the traumatic event.

In Dana’s case, prolonged exposure to trauma didn’t give her the opportunity to heal from the divorce because the divorce was ongoing.

“It’s like I’m constantly in survival mode,” Dana, a resident of Nashville, Tennessee says. “I perceive a lot of things as a threat. My reaction is an immediate defense for survival. I’m hypervigilant and find it hard to enjoy life.

My reaction to an unexpected tap on the shoulder from behind is quite different from someone without PTSD. I jump, scream or run as if I’m under attack. It is hard to explain but everything feels like an attack on my safety or security. A car turned in front of me one day, there was plenty of room, no danger of the car hitting me but I froze. I was unable to drive ahead, could only sit and cry. I’ve lost myself and my ability to calm myself after even the smallest adrenalin rush.”

Symptoms of PTSD are often grouped into three main categories that include:

  • Reliving the Traumatic Experience – Survivors of trauma may experience nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event. This might be triggered by something that reminds the survivor of the event like the anniversary of the event or a similar location or even a language.
  • Avoidance – People may remove themselves from people or situations that are similar in some way to the traumatic event. Survivors may become detached from their loved ones and lose interest in their previous passions.
  • Increased Arousal – Those with PTSD may become more sensitive to their emotions or bodily sensations. They may have high anxiety levels, insomnia, trouble focusing, be hyper-vigilant (always on guard), among other symptoms.

“I’m constantly under some kind of pressure,” Dana says. “I’m not the same happy, loving person I once was. It feels like there’s a barrier wall in front of me and I can’t scale it.”

Recovering from PTSD is a process and differs for each survivor. The goal for PTSD treatment is to reduce the physical and emotional symptoms as well as improve the survivor’s ability to interact fully with their everyday life.

“First and foremost is some kind of personal conversation, talking or psychotherapeutic relationship,” Dr. Arthur S. Blank Jr., a Vietnam veteran and a renowned expert on PTSD says in a video for The Washington Post. “People need to be able to talk about whatever they have to talk about to someone who is an experienced listener.”

To supplement psychotherapy treatment for patients diagnosed with PTSD, sometimes doctors will prescribe medications like antidepressants as well as many other kinds of prescriptions that can help people along the road to recovery.

“I’ve been told by doctors that time will tell,” Dana says. “Medication does only so much. Each individual has a different reaction to what traumas they suffer.”

When asked if she had any advice for women going through a high conflict divorce, Dana offered this…

“Know when to give up the fight. I expected the legal system to protect me, to make sure my ex was punished when he defied court orders. I was proven wrong over and over again. My ex-husband left and took 87% of his income. Leaving me to raise three children on my own.

I worried about feeding them, clothing them and housing them. I worried about their emotional welfare and I worked long hours. On top of that, I was a victim to his ongoing legal abuse for years after the divorce was final.

At times I worked two jobs to make ends meet. My children and I were trying to live our lives, struggling to get by and at the same time my ex was reaching in from a distance to make it just that much harder. You can’t look to the legal system to protect you and the only way to win over someone who wants you to suffer is to give up the fight. Let it go, your health is more important.”

The post High Conflict Divorce and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Complexities of a High Net Worth Divorce

The Complexities of a High Net Worth Divorce

Complexities of a High Net Worth Divorce

 

[The following excerpt comes from Jacqueline Newman’s book “Soon-to-Be Ex: A Woman’s Guide to Her Perfect Divorce and Relaunch.”]

When it comes to money issues in divorce, the laws are drafted to target those with simple financial lives and make it cost efficient so they do not have to spend tons of money litigating in Court. However, a high-net-worth divorce can present many issues that differ from divorces involving fewer financial assets.

The greater concern for those with significant incomes is that there are less “rules” for courts to follow. Therefore, judges have a huge amount of discretion in deciding how to interpret these laws to apply to high-net-worth cases.

It is like squeezing a square peg into a round hole. While it may seem like a high-net-worth divorce could be easier to settle because it is apparent that no one is going to go hungry, you must also remember that when there is more to divide there is more to fight about!

Complexities of a High Net Worth Divorce

At The Mercy Of A Judge

An example of how high-net-worth cases do not fit into the current statutory paradigm is as follows. In New York, the statute that governs child support is currently only set to consider the parties’ combined parental income up to $143,000 when applying the stated formula.

If the combined parental income exceeds $143,000, then the court looks to numerous subjective factors to determine the appropriate amount of child support. When a client earns income in the millions, I feel that the statute is of little use to a court.

The obvious thought was that most people in the whole state of New York probably do not earn much more than $143,000 per year so the formula should be easy to apply to those with lower incomes and thus the needs to spend money on litigation is less.

However, for those who live on the upper east side of New York City, those income levels speak to their part-time nannies, so these statutes are of little use.

If I am advising clients who fall in these income levels on what his or her child support obligation may be, it is very challenging because a judge has a lot of latitude in going above the cap.

Once a judge determines that the $143,000 is not appropriate, then the court will look to the child’s “needs” to determine child support, and that is when the games begin. Does that child “need” to keep the fourth vacation home in Aruba? Does the child “need” a private yacht? Maybe yes—maybe no.

Of course, there are some cases that have been previously decided by other judges that deal with high-net-worth cases.

Here, there are a few guidelines to follow. The problem with attempting to apply case law is that most high-net-worth divorces settle out of court and even those that are litigated to reach a decision often do not involve publicly-broadcast terms. Therefore, there are inadequate amounts of legal guidance and precedent for clients to consult.

The biggest child support awards I have heard of are Eddie Murphy, who had to pay almost $60,000 per month for one child, Russell Simmons who allegedly paid $40,000 per month for two children, Sean P. Diddy Combs paid almost $42,000 per month for two children, billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault paid $46,000 per month in child support for one child, and Charlie Sheen originally paid $55,000 per month in child support to each of his wives (but has since had it lowered to $25,000 per month per wife).

Most of these cases were ultimately settled, so this is based on tabloid reporting but when it comes to real courtroom decisions when dealing with significant incomes and extraordinary lifestyles, judges can basically do whatever they want.

Complexity Of Assets

The other possible challenge for high-net-worth cases has to do with the complexity of the assets that are being divided. There are some people who have millions of dollars in cash sitting in a bank account (or filling a mattress)—but those are very rare.

Typically, those that fall in the high-net-worth space hold complex assets, whether it be brokerage accounts, private equity investments, real estate, or business interests.

There could be an entirely separate book written dealing with the variances that exist when valuing and dividing complex assets, which we discussed a little bit in Chapter Eleven on Asset Distribution.

The problem with many high-net-worth cases is that many of the assets are typically illiquid (except for those with the fluffy mattresses), so some assets cannot be split and therefore there are numerous valuations involved, which are also subjective, and involve creative methods of pay-outs. Many of these assets are embedded with capital gains or have other cost consequences if they were to be liquidated.

It is not a simple “you take half of the checking account and I will take the other half” situation.

The other issue that comes into play in high-net-worth cases has to do with the way that these complex assets are divided. Many states (like New York) are equitable states, not equal states.

This means that you are not looking at an automatic 50/50 split of assets. Even in some of the cases that claim to do an equal division of assets, there may be different ways of valuing certain assets that do not make the split as easy as cutting it down the middle.

For example, in New York, business interests are rarely divided equally even if the rest of the assets are. The level of asset division can be different based on the nature of the asset.

Even issues such as who pays for counsel fees can be different in high-net-worth cases. Typically, the monied-spouse would be responsible for the majority of the counsel fees. However, when the non-monied spouse is receiving $20 million in assets, a court may very well say that the spouse can afford to pay his or her own legal fees.

In many high-net-worth cases, you need to also consider outside factors beyond the income and assets to be divided. Many people who fall into the high-net-worth space have great concerns about information being leaked about their businesses and also may be in the public eye with an image to protect.

When dealing with celebrity clients, this becomes a huge factor in a divorce negotiation. It is even worse when you have one person who is a household name and the other who is not, but who obviously wants to be and is willing to use the details of the parties’ divorce to get there.

If you are representing CEOs of public companies, it is often imperative that the public not know that his or her marriage is in trouble, the combination of a gossip-hungry public and a juicy divorce could cause the stock to plummet. That is when you need to factor in confidentiality agreements and manage how the media is provided its information. And if you need to file a gag order – be ready.

The Right Attorney

The abovementioned factors are why it imperative that the attorney selected in a high-net-worth divorce has knowledge of operating within the high-net-worth space so that their experience allows them to predict how a judge may rule and what pitfalls they need to avoid.

You need someone who is fully familiar with the variations of complex financial assets, compensation packages, knows the appropriate valuations that need to be done and has creativity when dividing up illiquid assets.

On a positive note, high incomes matter very little when it comes to child custody. The law is the same whether you earn $10,000 per year or $10,000,000 per year. Custody standards remain as the “best interest of the child”, which we discuss more in Chapter 15.

This dictates that the court will consider the same factors regardless of income levels or assets when determining who shall be awarded custody of the children.

Before going to court in a high-net-worth divorce, I always ask my client, “How much do you like to gamble?” Remember, anytime you enter a courtroom you are gambling on the actions of a judge.

There is an inherent risk (albeit an educated risk if you have a savvy attorney) and the outcomes can be as unpredictable as rolling the dice in a game of craps. You may get a judge who does not believe that having the fourth home in Aruba is a necessity for your daughter in an effort to retain her lifestyle.

On the other hand, you may encounter a judge who feels that if this is what the child is used to having, then it should be continued. I remind clients that litigation is often a luxury few can afford because no matter how wealthy you may be, you do not want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars—sometimes even millions—on endless and uncertain litigation regarding your financial future.

The post The Complexities of a High Net Worth Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Why High Conflict Divorce Damages Children

Why High Conflict Divorce Damages Children

Excerpt from Children and Divorce “Children would rather be from a broken home than live in one.”  Dr. Phil According to statistics, two-thirds of children who reach the age of 18 can expect to live in a divorced home. Divorce causes children to lose something that is crucial to their development, “the family framework”. The […]

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