Plant Perennials In Your Divorce Garden

By Amanda S. Trigg, Esq.

Would you rather spend the rest of your life on a battlefield or in a garden?  Too many people buy into the vision of divorce as a fight, where strategy rises to the level of damaging gamesmanship.  The inevitable changes that divorce brings do not necessarily have to be destructive.  Focus on what you can create, instead of what you might risk, lose or destroy.  Families with complicated financial issues, like business ownership, complex estate or tax planning, multiple homes, and of course, any family with children, have enough at stake for it to make more sense to cultivate instead of abandoning your relationship with your spouse.  The word “stake” refers directly to land and planning for upward growth.   Think of your divorce as a garden.   Stake your claim and plan for progress.

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As any dedicated gardener will tell you, it’s hard work to get any results, let alone good results.  The same applies to your divorce. You will not have complete control over the growth of your plantings or those which come along unexpectedly, like weeds or greenery that you just were not expecting to see sprouting.  You will make tough choices about what goes where and what you might have to let go.  Once in a while, you might have to uproot something that you thought was in a good spot.   Sometimes, despite your best efforts, plants die.

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The best results come with advance planning and careful selection of what you put into your divorce. In figuring out what your family needs for its long term happiness, prioritizing instant gratification or short term solutions might not be the best idea.   It’s like planting annuals in a garden.   They look nice for a short period of time, and glamorize a garden with showy flowers and give you a sense of self-satisfaction after you spend a day getting your hands into the dirt.   By definition, though, they don’t last.   It’s a little harder to plant trees, bushes and perennials but consider the long-term rewards.  You may have to wait a while to see the results of planting perennial plants, trees and bushes, but your efforts will return in future years.   Similarly, think ahead and look for financial and custody arrangements that help you flourish for years.   You are going to have to get your hands dirty to get results and you might not like everything you find below the surface.  Enlist the help of experts who can help you, like financial planners, tax advisors, therapists and coaches. Knowledge and collective experience are powerful.   Take charge and dig in.

If you have questions about how to protect your family in the future, and see it grow in a way that you enjoy, call us at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC.

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Please follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaFamilyLaw. Photos via Flickr. 

Let’s Talk About… The Effects of Divorce on Children

By Christine C. Fitzgerald, Esq.

A good friend sent me a photograph of artwork by Morley that said “Let’s fall in love like both our parents aren’t divorced.”  In my mind, this saying stresses the important of protecting children from the conflict of divorce.  We know from years of research that children, who are subjected to parental conflict, are more likely to suffer emotionally.

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In the 1970s, Judith Wallerstein, PhD started a study on the effect of divorce on children.  Specifically, Dr. Wallerstein studied 131 children between the ages of 3 and 18 whose parents were divorcing. The study participants were from Northern California and had been referred by their attorneys and the courts. Dr. Wallerstein followed up with the children at the 18 month, 5 year and 10 year post-separation mark.   In 2004, at the 25 year mark, Dr. Wallerstein and Julia M. Lewis, PhD conducted a follow-up study on the 131 children. Drs. Wallerstein and Lewis used a comparison group of 44 adults from the same communities, but had grown up in intact families. Although Drs. Wallerstein and Dr. Lewis’s findings are often contested and discussed, the findings are remarkable. They found that “[o]ut of their experience of parental breakup, children of all ages reached a conclusion that terrified them: Personal relationships are unreliable, and even the closest family relationships cannot be expected to hold firm.” The study continues stating that children of divorce reported less play, less extracurricular activities, less involvement in enrichment programs and more responsibility during their childhood than the comparison group.  Even more remarkable, the children of divorce were more likely to act out during adolescence and a decrease in attendance by the children and support by the parents of the children’s post-secondary education.

With respect to adult relationships, only 60% of the women and 40% of the men had established stable relationships and approximately 40% had entered into parenthood. In the comparison group, 80% of the group had married by the end of the study compared to 60% of the children of divorce.  The rate of divorce in adulthood was 40% for the children of divorce and 9% for the adults in the comparison group.

Although it may seem that children of divorce will inevitably suffer emotionally from their parents’ divorce, American Psychological Association’s “An Overview of the Psychological Literature on the Effects of Divorce on Children” provides some key factors that parents show know such as that research shows that marital conflict rather than divorce has a greater negative effect on children. In essence, children that are subjected to less conflict pre-divorce, during the divorce and post-divorce are able to adjust better and are emotionally effected less.

Practically speaking, in order to avoid emotional tolls that divorce can have on your children, follow these simple rules:

  1. Children come first: Your children’s needs and best interest comes first. What does that mean?  This can mean many things.  You should establish flexibility with the parenting time schedule.  If the other parent has an important or special event is scheduled during your parenting time, offer that time to the other parent so that the children can enjoy the special event.  Always put your children’s emotional well-being over your personal opinions.  For example, if you think that your children are not active enough during the other parents’ parenting time, it may be better for you to stay silent and let go of your desire to comment to the children or to the other parent about their parenting.
  1. Communicate Peacefully: You and the other parent decided to have children together. You must learn to communicate amicably and peaceful even when you disagree.  If the other parent asks for additional parenting time and you cannot accommodate, instead of saying no, try to see if there is any way that you can accommodate the modification of parenting time.  If you both have competition events, try to see if the children can do both for part of the time.  Most importantly, do not let the children see you and the other parent argue.
  1. Do not put the children in the middle: Do not ask the children to convey information with the other parent for you. Do not make disparaging comments about the other parent. Do not blame the other parent. Do not interrogate your children about the other parent or their parenting time with the other parent.  It is important to remember that your children love both of you.

If you and your co-parent follow these simple rules, your children are more likely to be emotionally healthy.  If you are going through a divorce with children, please contact us at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC.  We can help you learn the tips to co-parent successfully!

Photo and illustration via the artist Morley and Wikimedia. Please follow Morley on Instagram at @official_morley and Christine on Twitter @cfitz0717.  

Pokemon Go Is Grounds For Divorce

By Amanda S. Trigg, Esq.

A friend’s Facebook status recently said: “Teaching the 8 year old about Pokémon Go is grounds for divorce, right?” As a divorce lawyer, was I supposed to “like” this? Answering it seemed out of the question. I have no idea whether, in the state where she lives, the unilateral decision to introduce a child to the maddening phenomenon of hunting and catching cyber creatures all day long, everywhere she goes, would be “extreme cruelty” or “irreconcilable differences” or any other legal reason for ending a marriage. It was an occupational hazard, though, to seriously consider what my answer would be. After turning it over in my head for a few days, I decided that the answer was definitely, “possibly, yes!”

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Before you ask, my teenager is playing Pokémon Go great enthusiasm and I admit that I will take a detour or make a special stop so he can catch them.  So this is not about whether I approve or disapprove of Pokémon Go (or whether I actually enjoying this regression to his early childhood love of Pikachu, which included a Pokémon themed birthday party). The underlying question is whether my friend should have been consulted by her husband before he decided to enlighten their child about the game.

We usually say that all major decisions involving a child’s wellbeing must be jointly decided if parents have joint legal custody. Until the 21st century, that meant medical decisions, educational plans, religious upbringing and other big-ticket items that would have long-term effects upon a child. Discipline could be within the scope and if so, permission should be as well. Pokémon Go raises questions of a child’s independence, if you let him go out hunting in your neighborhood on foot or on bike.   For some parents, that is unthinkable or unprecedented due to real concern about unsupervised children’s safety. Changing that standard should, in my opinion, be the subject of a conversation between the parents.

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Playing Pokémon Go requires use of a cell phone with Internet access and locator services. When to give a child access to portable technology definitely constitutes a major decision; just ask any divorced parent who has fought over when the kids get their own cell phones. Other parents struggle over what video games to let their children play based upon the manufacturer’s ratings. Pokémon Go is the perfect storm because it indicates a child’s presence on the Internet, including his/her location so that “nearby” game features are revealed. What could more obviously impact a child’s long-term well being in 2016?   Again, therefore, letting a child be out in cyberspace as a gamer should be discussed between parents.

Connecting the dots, I believe that a deliberate refusal to communicate about children can be part of a pattern of behavior, which could lead to the conclusion that the adults have irreconcilable differences, at least. For that reason, one parent’s decision to let a child play a game like Pokémon Go could, combined with other behavior, possibly be grounds for divorce. The friend who originally posted this, by the way, knows I am quoting her in this blog.

Now that I’ve settled this in my mind, I want to know whether a Pokémon, once caught, is marital property and whether once trained they have higher value for purposes of dividing that property in a divorce. But right now, it’s time to go hunt for Pokémon.

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Please follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaFamilyLaw. Photos via Flickr. 

Let’s Talk… Wearable Tech (And, Yes, Pokemon Go)

By Corrie E. Sirkin, Esq.

Where? Where is your phone? If you are like most people, you keep your phone on your person or near your person at virtually all times. You understand that your texts, who you call are tracked, pictures that you take, but what other data is out there?

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Wear? What do you wear? Do you have a wearable device such as the Apple Watch, Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, TomTom, Moov, Google glasses or numerous other devices? Wearable devices are specifically marketed for their ability to track information such as heart rate, body fat, blood pressure, elevation, sleep, skin temperature, motion, and GPS location.

People do not think of the evidence that their wearable and their phone produce. Despite the fact that we often do not think about the data that is constantly being transmitted, it can nonetheless be used in a court of law. Your phone may track your speed, the date, time, location trajectory or even encounters with other devices. Even in “airplane” mode. Moreover, every time you turn on Wi-Fi your phone sends out your unique address.

That is not the only way that data is available. Many cellular companies have other ways to track devices. Android has Device Manager and Apple has Find My iPhone, which allows people to track cell phones and computers.

There are myriad apps that can also be used to spy on your children or your spouse. Pokémon Go is the latest app craze that uses location, but also collects information from your Google docs, email and more. If you have the Google App on your phone, most likely you are transmitting your location history. Some of them of questionable legality depending on the ownership of the phone and other factors. Shopping malls and stores are using Wi-Fi to triangulate user’s locations and activity.

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This data can be used as evidence in a variety of settings. In matrimonial law, frequenting the same location where an alleged paramour lives or works may be used as evidence of an affair.   Strenuous activity at someone else’s home could be evidence of Wearable data showing strenuous. Patronizing a bank that isn’t on the disclosures can be evidence of hidden accounts or money. Do your Internet searches show criminal behavior or behavior that you wouldn’t want a custody evaluator to know about? Does your wearable show that your physical activity increased when you were at a certain location where an alleged paramour lives? Does your wearable show that you were engaging in physical activity that you alleged you were unable to because of an injury or workman’s compensation claim? Even if the evidence was not admissible, the information could be used to obtain a subpoena or hire a private investigator. Employers even incentivize employees to increase their activity for decreases in health care costs. Even a claim of being a victim of a crime could be undermined by data showing that you were not at that location, were awake when you claimed to be asleep or otherwise called into doubt one’s testimony.

These are not the only kinds of data transmitting devices. Additionally, for a growing few, people are having small Human RFID Microchip Injected into their persons. These chips allow people to access secure locations such as their car, office, bike or apartment. Others use their RFID to unlock their computers or to pull up a GIF on their phone. Some connect theirs to their credit card and use is as an internal Googlepay. However, the technology is currently limited to near-field communication (NFC).

The potential for this data to be used as evidence is almost limitless. Every attorney should consider the potential implications and the potential evidence in every case. How can you augment your procedures and information to explore and export its’ potential.

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Please follow Corrie on Twitter @CorrieSirkinEsq. All photos via Flickr. 

Let’s Talk About… Greeting Cards For Exes

By Corrie Sirkin, Esq.

A New Jersey divorced couple and parents of two sons, Ken and Wanda Bass, created a greeting card line for ex-spouses. Years after their divorce, the two parents realized that they needed to establish cooperation if not friendship for the benefit of their children. They recognized that there were few or no options for post-divorce greeting cards and eventually became partners in their business to create a “line of greeting cards for divorced couples who want to get back on the same page for their kids’ sake.”

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Their website provides cards for co-parenting exes to celebrate events such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Birthdays, Christmas, etc., as well as work on their co-parenting relationship and emotions surrounding the divorce or break-up. X-cards are currently available at retailers in New Jersey and New York as well as online through their website.

Our Corrie received no renumeration for this post, but you can follow her on Twitter: @CorrieSirkinEsq. Photo via Flickr. 

 

Let’s Talk About… Non-binary Gender

By Corrie E. Sirkin, Esq.

What is non-binary gender?

Non-binary is a term for people who don’t identify as just female or male. In this case, Jaime was assigned male gender at birth and began transitioning to a woman in 2013. Jaime stated that ultimately neither sex, male or female titles seemed fitting. Non-binary people may also reject gender specific pronouns preferring alternatively to use the terms: “they” and “their” or the more recent terms “ze” or “zir” as adopted by schools like Harvard University and the University of Vermont.

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On June 10, 2016, Oregon Circuit Court Judge Amy Holmes Hehn, Ordered that the “sex of Jaime Shupe is hereby changed from female to non-binary.” The Court found that the Shupe had “undergone surgical, hormonal, or other treatment appropriate for this person for the purpose of gender transition; that sexual reassignment has been completed.

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In Oregon, “A court * * * may order a legal change of sex and enter a judgment indicating the change of sex of a person if the court determines that the individual has undergone surgical, hormonal or other treatment appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition and that sexual reassignment has been completed.” (ORS 33.460). The law does not specifically limit gender identification to female or male.

Please follow our Corrie on Twitter @CorrieSirkinEsq. Photo hat-tip to Google Images and Wikipedia. 

Let’s Talk About… Johnny & Amber (and D.V.)

By Christine C. Fitzgerald, Esq.

In case you missed it, Amber Heard filed for divorce from Johnny Depp on May 23, 2016. On May 27, 2016, Ms. Heard was granted a temporary restraining order after accusing Mr. Depp of physical and emotionally abuse. It is being reported that the parties are to appear in Court on June 17, 2016 for the Judge to decide whether Mr. Depp committed acts of domestic violence.

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I am not sure if you have noticed, but our blog does not address celebrity divorces often. This post is no difference— it is not really about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: it is about domestic violence. In her request for protection, Ms. Heard alleges that Mr. Depp threw a cell phone at her and, according to the media, has photographic evidence of the bruising he caused to her face.

Reading about Ms. Heard’s evidence and testimony made me ponder about how domestic violence victims can better protect themselves legally. Although it is important to have support from friends and family, meet with domestic violence counselors, have a safety plan, and attend therapy, if needed, it is as important to know your legal rights and to know how to make your case better. Here are the top five legal tips for domestic violence victims:

  1. Retain an attorney: Ms. Heard and Mr. Depp both have attorneys representing them. It is equally important that you have representation so that you can present your case to the Court accurately and thoroughly. If you cannot afford an attorney, you can contact legal services to inquire about whether you qualify for representation. It is not only important to retain your attorney, but you also need to be up front about what happened. Do not be embarrassed to admit wrongdoing on your part to your attorney. If you do not tell your attorney, your attorney can minimize the potential weakness.
  2. File as soon as possible: If your spouse or partner commits an act of domestic violence, it is important to file as soon as you can. The Court is more likely to conclude that is an immediate need for protection if you go soon after the act of domestic violence occurred. Bonus tip: make sure you are specific and detailed in your recitation of the act of domestic violence that caused you to file for protection.
  3. Detail any past history: Not every case has a past history of domestic violence. Some victims file for a restraining order as soon as the first incident of domestic violence occurs. However, there are also many victims do not. If you have been the victim of domestic violence repeatedly and there is a history of past abuse, making sure you include as much detail as you can in that section.
  4. Bring evidence. If you have any evidence of the domestic violence, such as a police report, photographs, recordings, medical documentation, etc. bring them with you and give a copy to your attorney.
  5. Stay off social media: Do not, I repeat, do not post anything about your case or the domestic violence you endured on social media while the domestic violence action is pending (and if you have a divorce or custody action pending, continue to stay off social media). In fact, if you can help it, stay off social media entirely until the domestic violence action is resolved.

If you or anyone you know is the victim of domestic violence, please contact us at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC.

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Link hat tips to New York and People. Please follow Christine on Twitter @cfitz0717. If you or someone you know needs assistance, please contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline

The Blog of the Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC Family Law Department

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