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Co-Parenting During the Holidays

December 2, 2013, by

Even for happily married and intact families, the holidays can be fraught with conflict and compromise. But for divorced or separated parents and for blended families - the potential for conflict is much greater. Negotiating co-parenting agreements and sharing time with kids is rarely easy, but this is a time of year when it can be most difficult to let go because of the tradition and ritual around the holidays.

But for the sake of the kids you have to share it. And here are tips to
 help your holiday season be filled with merriment - not resentment.

Make a plan

 If you don't already have a holiday schedule, and do it now, the earlier the better. You don't want to create anxiety for the kids about what they're going to be doing at Christmas. Sit down with your ex and a calendar to determine how you will share time. The plan can be fluid and can change, but a basic structure reduces miscommunication and sets expectations. Ideally, a vacation and holiday schedule will be part of a marital settlement agreement in a divorce. Think about the even year - odd year compromise. One parent gets first choice in even years and the other in odd years or simply switch the holiday time on an alternating year basis. For example, in even years one parent may have the children for Christmas Eve and morning, then take them to the other parent at noon. In odd years, the schedule would be reversed. It might also be worthwhile to review the kids Christmas presents together to avoid duplicate gifts and to ensure that similar amounts will be spent. For co-parents who live far away from each other it's not so easy. If you have to be without your kids for the entire holiday make sure you can call and talk to them.

Focus on the kids

. As a mediator who helps couples resolve parenting and custody issues, I sometimes have a photo of the kids on the table during a session and ask: "What do you think they would really enjoy? What would work for them?"

That can be as simple as letting the kids call mom on Christmas Eve or attend a special holiday event with Dad. For mom Penny Barton, the answer was more extreme. When she and her husband split up, their daughters, then aged 15 and 10, stayed behind in San Jose with their dad while Barton took a job in Los Angeles. Penny did homework with them every night over the phone and flew back to San Jose for six to eight days every month. 

Because Christmas was so important to the girls the parents agreed that for two weeks every Christmas, Penny would camp out in her ex-husband's basement - once with her boyfriend in tow. "I sort of took over and did Christmas the same way we did when we were married," said Barton. It wasn't easy being a guest in her former home, and her need to impose her way of doing things on her ex's household created tension. "But Christmas morning was child-centered, and we both enjoyed their joy so much, that how we felt about each other didn't much matter," says Barton. "We didn't want them to experience the tension kids who are pulled between two households feel."



And although children's preferences should always be an important consideration, it is also important not to give them too much input into co-parenting decisions. The burden of choice is problematic for kids because they know their choices will make one of the parents unhappy. And for most children, that is not a good place to be. Kids will often tell each parent whatever they believe he or she wants to hear. Kids need a predictable schedule that both parents seem happy with, even if that means putting on a brave face. Practice emotional restraint, maturity and leadership. The most important thing is to continue to be loving parents, and to keep the conflict away from the kids.



Create new traditions. 

Your holiday celebrations may change after divorce, but they can still be wonderful. Think together with your kids about how you want to celebrate the holidays. And though it will be painful, be prepared to let go of some of the activities you used to do. Don't make the kids feel bad that they missed out on something when they come home.

 And no matter how sad or angry you are, never badmouth your ex in front of the kids. Save that for a good friend, therapist or support group. 



Stay busy. 

If you're going to be on your own for the holidays, be prepared and plan for it. Maybe it would help to celebrate with other family and friends, or perhaps a quiet evening at home with a special meal. Or venture out and volunteer to help others, go on a trip or do something else special for yourself.

Stay hopeful. 

It is the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones. Make the commitment to take the time that's needed to heal and remember that healing is a process, so give yourself the time and space to find hope and healing.

And if you cannot agree on the holiday plan, consider a mediator. A mediator is like a referee or better yet, your kindergarden teacher: someone who will help you share and play nicely in the sandbox, or in this case the mediator's office.

As a mediator, it is important to practice what we preach and walk the talk. So, I invite my husband's ex-wife and her husband over for Christmas so that their kids can be with both of their parents. But sadly, this is not a viable solution with my own ex-husband, so we have to share the kids separately. Every family is different but with an open mind and an open heart and a willingness to try to understand each other, parents can create positive solutions.

For more information, visit us at www.lornajaynes.com

Divorce Your Spouse, But For the Sake of Your Children, Create or Preserve a Positive Co-Parenting Relationship

February 16, 2013, by

A judge from the state of Minnesota, Michael Haas, said the following in 2001.

"Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault.

No matter what you think of the other party - or whatever your family thinks of the other party- these children are one-half of each of you. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an "idiot" his father is, or what a "fool" his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of him is bad.

That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love. That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.
I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer."

Wise words from a judge, but the sad part is that by the time a judge makes comments of that nature, the damage has been done. Sadly, many parents do not understand long-term impacts their divorce has on children and they are so focused on themselves that only a very small percentage have constructive divorces such through mediation or Collaborative Divorce. The nature of the parents' relationship, pre and post-divorce, permanently impacts children.

See the work of Judith Wallerstein, a psychologist who triggered a national debate about the consequences of divorce by reporting that it hurt children more than previously thought. Much of the damage, however, can be mitigated by conscious parents who divorce with care and compassion.

A successful co-parenting arrangement depends on the child, the parents, and how the parents treat each other and their children. It matters whether the arrangements accurately reflect the needs and wishes of the child, but at the same time, the choices should not generally be left up to the children as that puts them in a very difficult place. It's a complex undertaking. What works for a child at one age may be harmful to the same child at another developmental stage. One size can never fit all children or families. Children who are required to traverse a battleground between warring parents show serious symptoms that affect their physical and mental health. The research findings on how seriously troubled these children are and how quickly their adjustment deteriorates are very powerful. The bottom line that our studies show is that the legal form of custody is not what matters in the child's welfare. Nor is there any study that shows the amount of time spent with a parent is relevant to psychological adjustment. 

Parents who spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight over the merits of joint or sole custody of their child are simply wasting their time and money. Litigation does not constructively address the emotions involved. Rather, it adds fuel to the fire. No model of custody or time-sharing determines how well children do after their parents' divorce. Joint custody can work very well or poorly for the child. The same is true of sole custody with visitation. What matters is the mental health of the parents, the quality of the parent-child relationships, the degree of anger versus cooperation between the parents, plus the age, temperament, and flexibility of the child.

Divorce education and appropriate dispute resolution such as Collaborative Divorce and mediation can help parents do less destructive things to their children during and after the divorce. With offices throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, California divorce lawyer Lorna Jaynes provides innovative legal tools to resolve many family law disputes without the bitterness and acrimony engendered by the adversarial process.

Best Divorce Strategies - Listen, Seek to understand, Focus on the future, Heal

September 9, 2012, by

Conflict in the context of divorce can be emotionally and financially debilitating. Family court judges commonly make decisions and orders based on how the law applies to what has already transpired between the parties, to the past. And this approach keeps the spouses in a conflict trap where they are focused on the past and the grievances, hurts and betrayals; rather than on the future, and how they can best solve the problems in order to move forward.

Collaborative Divorce and Mediation on the other hand, enable the parties to focus on what is important for them now and in the future. By focusing on problem solving and real listening, there tends to unfold an understanding that can help couples let go of the conflict and the past and move forward in a productive way, solve the problems and help heal the pain, grief, and anger.

A forward looking focus, however, doesn't preclude talking about the past because sometimes it is important, essential even, for spouses to be able to express and have heard by the other, their understandings of what went wrong with the relationship. This mutual expression of the hurt and anger, if entered into with an open heart and deep listening can be profoundly instructive and helpful to the process. This is especially important if there will be a continuing relationship, for example, co-parents.

Usually, perception of the conflict radically changes when one's feelings, experience, and understanding are recognized by the other as completely valid, even if not agreed with. A goal of the understanding approach is to find connections between those in dispute. While understanding does not in and of itself resolve the dispute, it provides a foundation for productive problem solving. And when people can start to see the humanity in each
other, solutions tend to arise naturally.

Ultimately, this 'understanding' approach offers a way to achieve positive and respectful post-divorce relationships and enduring and mutually beneficial solutions. Not to mention the benefit of avoiding the financial and emotional pain of litigation.

For more information, visit us at www.lornajaynes.com

Gray Divorce in California

August 17, 2012, by

Marian, 57, and her husband for nearly 30 years, John, had buried their differences over money, child-rearing and more. But when the last of their two children was finishing high school, the differences became too glaring to ignore. Increasingly, they had little to talk about, and when they did, it was an argument.

They stayed together all those years because of the kids, but now there was little left to hold them together. Marian realized that she was alone in the marriage and would be better off either really alone or with someone who shared her values and interests. When the pain of staying was greater than the fear of leaving, she made a decision and told John the marriage was over.

For this generation of empty-nesters, divorce is increasingly common. Among people ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has doubled over the past two decades, according to research by sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University, in their paper, "The Gray Divorce Revolution".
Though overall national divorce rates have declined since spiking in the 1980s, "gray divorce" has risen to its highest level ever, according to Prof. Brown. In 1990, only one in 10 people who got divorced was 50 or older; by 2009, the number was roughly one in four. More than 600,000 people ages 50 and older got divorced in 2009.

Moreover, a 2004 survey by the AARP found that women are initiating most of these divorces. Among divorces by people ages 40-69, it was women who sought the divorce 66% of the time. Infidelity is not a primary factor in gray divorces. The same AARP survey found that only 27% cited infidelity as one of their top three reasons for seeking a divorce. This is consistent with estimates of infidelity as a factor in divorce in the general population.
In 1990, 1 in 10 of all divorces were by people ages 50+. In 2009, 1 in 4 of all divorces were by people ages 50+.

As always, there is probably no easy explanation for the trend but it probably derives at least in part from the boomers' status as the first generation to enter into marriage with goals largely involving self-fulfillment. With 'empty nests' on the horizon and many more years of a healthy and productive life, they are increasingly deciding that they have fulfilled their parental duties and now want out of the marriage.

Boomers married with expectations quite different from those of prior generations. "In the 1970s, there was, for the first time, a focus on marriage needing to make individuals happy, rather than on how well each individual fulfilled their marital roles," says Prof. Brown, author of the gray marriage paper.

According to Professor Brown, over the past century there have been three "phases" of American views of marriage. First, there was the "institutional" phase, in the decades before World War II, when marriage was seen largely as an economic union.
This was followed in the 1950s and '60s by the "companionate" phase, where a successful marriage was defined by the degree to which each spouse fulfilled his or her role. Husbands were measured by their capability as providers and wives by their skills in homemaking and motherhood.

The "individualized" phase, began by boomers in the 1970's according to Professor Brown, with an emphasis on the satisfaction of personal needs. "Individualized marriage is more egocentric... before the 1970s, no one would have thought to separate out the self as being distinct from the roles of good wife and mother."

Many of those opting for gray divorce, face complications in our current bleak economic landscape. Although such divorces generally don't involve co-parenting and child support issues, only issues of property division and spousal support, and are therefore simpler in principle, there are still difficult decisions and choices to be made. And as always, these decisions and choices are best made by the couple themselves in a Collaborative or mediated divorce, with the assistance of professionals trained to help the couple work together to make the choices that will benefit both.

Visit us at www.lornajaynes.com

Same Gender Marriage: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - President Obama, North Carolina, and Politics

May 9, 2012, by

The people of North Carolina voted this week to amend their constitution to ban same-sex marriage. And the ban won with a surprisingly strong 61 to 39 percent, undermining North Carolina's image as a modern, progressive state. Very bad!

But, on a brighter note, the President of the United States, for the first time in history, declared his support for same-sex marriage. Better late than never, as this comes after years of waffling and talking about 'evolving views' on the subject. Still, something to celebrate.

The blogosphere is rife with speculation and second guessing - why did he do it, and what does it mean? How much is political, how much personal? Is this the result of pressure from gay marriage advocates and donors, Vice President Biden's recent statement that he is "comfortable" with gay marriage or something else?

Probably all of the above and more, and despite my many criticisms of President Obama's policies and positions, today I am proud of our president and the integrity and compassion he has shown in articulating his position and the rationale for it.

However, the president stressed that this is a personal position, and that he still supports the concept of states deciding the issue on their own. Yet, on Feb. 23, 2011, his administration, through a letter written by Attorney General Eric Holder, announced the administration's view that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional.

The letter analyzed how classifications based on sexual orientation should be assessed under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, stating that because of several factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. Under the equal protection clause, laws classifying people are subjected to one of three levels of scrutiny - rational basis, intermediate scrutiny like that applied to sex-based classifications, or strict scrutiny like that applied to race-based classifications.

With some level of heightened scrutiny applied to sexual orientation classifications, the decision that DOMA's definition of marriage was unconstitutional was quite clear. And that same level of scrutiny applied to sexual orientation classifications anywhere - at the federal, state and local, level, should similarly be deemed unconstitutional.

Therefore, Obama's current policy position is arguably (hopefully) more than mere personal opinion. If the administration were still defending DOMA and had taken no position on the level of scrutiny to be applied to sexual orientation classifications, then President Obama's statement could more easily be taken mean that he believes states have unfettered rights to legislate as they they wish on marriage.

But, that does not appear to be definitive. Rather, Obama's position is that (a) he personally supports same-sex marriage; (b) he believes as a policy matter that state, and not federal, law should define marriages, as it always has been in this country; and (b) he believes that there are federal constitutional limitations on those state decisions.

Two significant gay-rights cases--one challenging California's revocation of gay marriage, the other challenging the Defense of Marriage Act--are on their way toward the Supreme Court. President Obama's statement of support for gay marriage helps bring gay marriage into the mainstream and increases its legitimacy. The DOJ position regarding heightened scrutiny will surely benefit the parties in cases on gay marriage heading to the Supreme Court. And together they help forge a path toward full marriage equality.

I learned recently from a Collaborative colleague active in LGBT issues, that the term of choice is same-gender, rather than same-sex, marriage, because really, it's about gender, not about sex, so from here on that is the phrase I will use. And as a Collaborative family law attorney and mediator, I look forward to the day when marriages of any gender can marry (and divorce), all according to the same rules.

For more information, visit us at www.lornajaynes.com

Childhood Obesity in California Custody & Vistation Disputes

March 29, 2012, by

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17%, or about 12.5 million, of the nation's children and teens are obese. Since 1980, according to CDC statistics, obesity rates have nearly tripled.

Should parents of extremely obese children lose custody for not controlling their kids' weight? An article by Dr. David Ludwig in the Journal of the American Medical Association answers in the affirmative, and joins ranks with others who believe the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases and that putting children in foster care may be better and more ethical than obesity surgery.

Roughly 2 million U.S. children are extremely obese and though most are not in any imminent danger, many have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties and liver problems that could kill them by age 30. It is these kids for whom state intervention, including education, parent training, and temporary protective custody in the most extreme cases, should be considered, according to Dr. Ludwig.

Dr. Ludwig states that this is not to blame parents, but rather to act in the children's best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents are unable to provide. Others argue that this debate blames parents when childhood obesity is more likely due to advertising, marketing, peer pressure, the suburban environment - things a parent cannot control.

As lamented by the eminent social critic, James Howard Kunstler, "Our towns have committed ritualized suicide in thrall to the WalMart God. Most Americans live in suburban habitats that are isolating, disaggregated, and neurologically punishing, and from which every last human quality unrelated to shopping convenience and personal hygiene has been expunged. We live in places where virtually no activity or service can be accessed without driving a car, and the (usually solo) journey past horrifying vistas of on-ramps and off-ramps offers no chance of a social encounter along the way. Our suburban environments have by definition destroyed the transition between the urban habitat and the rural hinterlands. In other words, we can't walk out of town into the countryside anywhere. Our "homes," as we have taken to calling mere mass-produced vinyl boxes at the prompting of the realtors, exist in settings leached of meaningful public space or connection to civic amenity, with all activity focused inward to the canned entertainments piped into giant receivers -- where the children especially sprawl in masturbatory trances, fondling joysticks and keyboards, engorged on cheez doodles and taco chips."

Maybe that is an extreme characterization, although I think not, but either way, there is no doubt that our children are becoming increasingly obese, and this debate provides much fodder for high-conflict divorcing parents and their hired gun litigators with accusations about their children's weight and nutrition in an effort to convince judges that the other parent is inadequate.

Child custody and visitation battles have always been ugly. But now obesity is increasingly added to the mix of diatribes and aspersions cast from one parent to the other. The specifics vary. Sometimes it is a grossly overweight child and allegations that soft drinks and fast food comprise the child's primary diet. Or perhaps, it is that the other parent is too obese to parent effectively.

Also, a few high profile news events have illuminated the obesity-and-custody issue. In 2009, a 555-pound, 14-year-old South Carolina boy was removed to foster care after his mother was arrested and charged with criminal neglect. The state's Department of Social Services had determined that without state intervention, the boy was at risk of serious harm.

For judges in many states and in California, the question of custody turns on one issue: What is in the best interest of the child? The trend toward shared custody and child-support arrangements often turn on the relative strengths and weaknesses of each parent, so custody battles have become more contentious, since, unfortunately, it seems that people can always find another thing to fight over. How sad when it is their children.
To help judges, some states have added specific criteria to look at when considering the best interests of a child, such as to what degree is a child exercising and eating well. More fodder for the fight.

But parents in a Collaborative Divorce that includes a full team, divorce coaches and a child professional, can benefit from the child development advice and expertise to learn how to co-parent and communicate well and support each other in promoting the best possible physical and emotional health and well being of their children. So maybe it won't change the physical environment articulated so well by JH Kunstler, but at least families can work together to hopefully, limit the toxic effects of that environment.

For more information about this or any other family law matter, please contact Lorna Jaynes by calling (510) 795-6304, or visit the website at www.lornajaynes.com.

How to Avoid Bias in California Family Courts

January 24, 2012, by

Given the high divorce rate in this country, just about all of us have been impacted in some way by divorce and custody/support matters. Perhaps it was our own family or parents or our own divorce, or simply a very close friend or family member. And with few exceptions, a majority of folks in these situations feel they lost too much or paid too much, received too little, or had a custody/visitation order that was "unfair" to them, and worse. 
Based on these experiences, we develop opinions and biases about how such matters should be handled. And of course, every judicial officer, as well as recommending Family Court Services mediators and custody evaluators, have their own personal biases. Consequently, the reality is that the same exact case may have very different results in different court rooms.

This is not to disparage family court judges who deal with complex issues (permanent removal of children to another state, custody, visitation, domestic abuse, determining real income, valuing assets (eg, closely held businesses) on a daily basis, with honor and integrity. But the inherent bias based on one's experiences in many cases cannot help but bias the judge's factual findings, their discretion, and how they decide to apply the law. This bias probably exists more in family law than in other areas. No amount of bias elimination training can make a judge forget about their life experiences, assumptions, personal beliefs/views and biases. Consequently, family law litigation can be unfair and inequitable.

However, most judges it is hoped, exercise enough self awareness to check in with their personal biases before making a ruling. And it is important to note that mediators and Collaborative professionals are no less immune to being impacted by personal experience as judges and others in the court system. We too are human beings with biases and must guard against forming opinions based on them. However, we are not judging and making orders, rather our role to facilitate a full and constructive dialogue between the parties that will enable them to reach their own agreement, so our biases have less impact. And ethical and conscientious mediators are very aware of the potential for bias and work hard to be neutral and unbiased.

Alternative dispute resolution processes, however, such as mediation or Collaborative Divorce allow you to fashion your own outcome instead of having a stranger (judge) decide your future and that of your children. Mediators and Collaborative attorneys do not decide - they help you make your own decisions. And furthermore, why pay the always substantial legal fees incurred in litigation, when a much less expensive process means those funds could instead be used to pay for your child's college education. More often than not, litigation usually means going through the court process, several hearings, perhaps settlement or case conferences until, worn down by the conflict and fast becoming broke, you settle anyway. Why not focus on resolution (settlement) from the outset rather than pretending you're going to go to trial and then settling anyway but only after wasting tens of thousands of dollars to get there. And last ditch, in front of the courthouse door settlements are almost always hasty, last minute agreements, rather than the well thought out and thoroughly discussed agreements generally produced in out of court processes.

I recently had of a case where the litigators managed to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees before the clients decided to try mediation. It was readily apparent that the husband was willing to give the wife more than her lawyer would likely have obtained through litigation. And both clients felt that their attorneys would not be reasonable unless the retainer was used up and either no more money was available or the client refused to replenish the retainer account. All in all, a tragic waste of emotional and financial resources for nothing. The mediation, however, was positive, constructive and successful.

For more information, visit us at www.lornajaynes.com

Conflict Resolution Quotes for the New Year

January 17, 2012, by

As a Collaborative Family Law Attorney and Mediator, I am privileged to work with those who, because of their divorce, are undergoing a significant life change. Although a mediated or Collaborative divorce is far less painful, emotionally, psychologically, and financially, than a litigated divorce, it is still a divorce, and according to the Surgeon General, divorce is one of life's greatest stressors.

So it is often helpful to rely on insights from some our spiritual leading lights to help lead the way and remind us to be present when stress and anxiety arise. These sayings can also help us get in touch with our own inner wisdom as we move forward into a new life after divorce. They are also useful reminders for all of as a new year begins.

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." ~ Dalai Lama

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." ~ Dalai Lama

"There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

"It is what it is, while it is." ~ Elisha Goldstein

"If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher." - Pema Chodron

"As soon as we wish to be happier, we are no longer happy." ~ Walter Landor

"The fact is, we are not islands and we are far more connected than we know." ~ Elisha Goldstein

"There is no enlightenment outside of daily life." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

"Realize that this very body, with its aches and it pleasures... is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive." ~Pema Chodron

"After the ecstacy, the laundry." ~ Jack Kornfield

New California Law Allows Mature Children to Be Heard in Custody Matters

December 31, 2011, by

Until now, the law in California regarding a child's ability to address the court in his or her parents' custody case has been very limited, and rarely are children able to testify. Courts have typically heard the child's perspective through reports, or from third parties, such as the court-appointed mediators or sometimes therapists.
The California legislature has approved amendments to this process under Senate Bill AB 1050. The new law, which amends California Family Code §3042 is effective January 1, 2012, modifies the rules about children speaking to the court and give children a greater voice in their custody preferences.

"If a child is of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference as to custody or visitation, the court shall consider, and give due weight to, the wishes of the child in making an order granting or modifying custody or visitation," states Amendment (a) of AB 1050.

Under AB 1050, new procedures will require a court to allow a child to address the court directly regarding his or her preferences, if a child is age 14 or older and so wishes, unless the court determines that doing so is not in the child's best interests (and in that case, the court must state its reasons on the record). If, under the new law, the court precludes a child from testifying in the matter, the court must then provide alternative means of obtaining input from the child and other information regarding the child's preferences (California Family Code §3042(e)).

The new law also clarifies that the court can take into account a child's preferences for child custody and visitation. And the law permits any of several individuals to assist a court in determining whether a child wishes to address the court, including a child's own appointed counsel, an investigator, a mediator, custody evaluator, either parent, or either parent's attorney. The judge may also inquire about whether the child wishes to address the court.

AB 1050 does not prevent a court from allowing a child under age 14 to address the court if the court deems it appropriate, but there is no requirement that the court allow a child to do so.

This provides much more opportunity for mature children to have their preferences heard and to be taken seriously when it comes to matters of custody and visitation, important issues in children's lives.

For more information about the amendments to California Family Code §3042 or any other family law matter, please contact Lorna jaynes by calling (510) 795-6304, or visit the website at www.lornajaynes.com.

Budget Cuts Threaten Access to Bay Area Family Courts

November 21, 2011, by

Across the country, state courts face severe budget cuts that threaten access to justice for many and California is no exception. California state legislators have cut $350 million from the state court budget, with more cuts certain to follow. Local court will lose $135 million in the fiscal year that began July 1 and another $170 million next year from an overall budget of more than $3 billion.

In Santa Clara County, it means a loss of $6.8 million this year and perhaps more than double that amount next year. San Mateo County's courts will take at least a $2.7 million hit this year, while Alameda County's court system will be cut by more than $6.7 million. Contra Costa County's courts will absorb more than $3 million in cuts and will likewise be forced to cut even more from next year's budget.

For those considering divorce, be prepared. Twenty-five of San Francisco's 63 Superior court chambers have been closed; two hundred of 480 employees will be laid off. "It will take a year and a half to get a divorce in San Francisco and to get a child custody order. If you file suit, we won't do anything with your case for five years," according to San Francisco Superior Court spokesperson Ann Donlan. That can be disastrous if the matter concerns custody of children, visitation, or many other sensitive issues.

Getting on with life after divorce is key, and a long, costly court battle only continues the pain, multiplies the cost, and hurts you and your children.
But, there is hope and a silver lining. Collaborative Divorce and Mediation provide a less destructive and even positive, path to resolving the issues and rearranging the family. Both are sensible alternatives to the embattled and clogged state courts. Either choice will make the process shorter, less traumatic, more equitable and leave more goodwill and cooperation than traditional divorce.

Forgiveness and Divorce

October 11, 2011, by

Divorce is one of life's biggest and most painful stressors and traumas and far too often those involved carry the weight, the pain, the blame, the hurt and the anger around with them for years, long after the divorce itself.

Dr. Fred Luskin of the Stanford Forgiveness Project defines forgiveness as follows: to forgive is to gibe up all hope for a better past. If you are stuck in regret or anger over the past you have less energy available for your life today, and are in some ways compromising your future by being defensive and carrying around some unhappiness from the past.
Forgiveness is about healing. There is a distinction between justice, reconciliation, condoning and forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean you condone what was done, nor does it mean you have to reconcile with or like the person who did it. It is fine to say, "This was such a dreadful act that I must end my relationship with them." And it doesn't mean you don't seek justice, if warranted. These are separate from the inner healing that occurs with forgiveness, which means that you don't take what happened as just personal, but that you see it as a part of the bigger, ongoing human experience of hurt, resolution, conflict and negotiation.

Dr. Luskin outlines 9 steps to forgiveness. http://learningtoforgive.com/9-steps/

1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.
2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the "peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story."
4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes - or ten years - ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
5. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body's flight or fight response.
6. Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the "unenforceable rules" you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.

According to Dr. Luskin, the practice of forgiveness reduces anger, hurt depression and stress and leads to more hope, peace, compassion and self confidence. Practicing forgiveness leads to healthy relationships and physical health. It also influences our attitude which opens the heart to kindness, beauty, and love.

When you meet people who have forgiven, you see their power. You see the strength and courage it takes to forgive in a world dominated by "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." I have seen this in the truly amazing, inspiring and wonderful story of Azim Khamisa, whose only son Tariq, a 20 year old student was shot and killed while delivering pizza. His killer received a 25-year prison sentence. Azim, a Sufi Muslim, turned to his faith in his grief. Through prayer, he found the blessing of forgiveness, concluding that there were victims at both ends of the gun. Azim reached out to the grandfather and guardian of his son's killer, Tony Hicks, and eventually to Tony also. Azim chose the path of forgiveness and compassion rather than revenge and founded the Tariq Khamisa Foundation by break the cycle of violence and teach peace, compassion, and forgiveness. Tony Hicks and his grandfather, Plez Felix, also work with Azim at the Tariq Khamisa Foundation.
Forgiveness provides a fresh start. So, you can say yes this terrible thing happened to me, and it hurt so much but I'm not going to let it take over my life. That's the choice that's always available. And without making that choice one can get stuck in bitterness and revenge. That's the cost of not forgiving.
And Divorce is a fresh start also. And that fresh start will have a much better beginning if it includes forgiveness.

Divorce is Painful But Not This Painful

September 1, 2011, by

In July of 2011, an obviously angry and unhappy 48 year old wife from Garden Grove in southern California whose husband of 16 months had recently filed for divorce cut off her 60 year old husband's penis and then tossed it into the garbage disposal.

According to the police, Catherine Kieu Becker made her husband a delicious and unbeknownst to the husband, poison laced dinner and served it to him.

As the dinner (poison) kicked in, the husband felt sick and went to lie down. Shortly thereafter he lost consciousness and Becker tied his arms and legs to the bed with a rope and stripped him naked. She took a 10-inch kitchen knife and began sawing away at her husband's penis, according to police.

This caused the husband to awake and he was conscious when his penis was removed, police said.

To add insult to injury, Becker then tossed his sliced off penis into the garbage disposal and turned it on, mutilating the organ. Consequently, the severed organ could not be reattached through surgery.

She did have the courtesy to call 911. When police arrived, she told them that "he deserved it" as she pointed to the room where her husband was bleeding profusely. He was taken to a local hospital and is reportedly recovering after surgery.

Police took Becker into custody and she was was arrested on suspicion of aggravated mayhem, false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon, administering a drug with intent to commit a felony, poisoning, and spousal abuse.

Becker is a real estate broker and she and her estranged husband met at church.
Although positive, supportive, and constructive approaches to ending a marriage such as mediation and Collaborative Divorce are by far the best choices, even a nasty, costly, toxic and protracted litigation would be better than this outcome. And in this case, the divorce is not finished and is sure to be most unpleasant.

Questions To Ask Collaborative Divorce Attorney

May 26, 2011, by

Potential Client: Good morning, my wife who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area has decided she wants a divorce and has retained an attorney. I received a letter from the attorney stating that my wife is interested in the Collaborative Divorce model and that to use that model I would have to retain a Collaborative Attorney also. But I have done some investigation and have several questions, the first of which is, where is the "zealous advocacy" in the Collaborative Process?

Me: If you are looking for a process where the attorney uses any and all means to achieve the best possible outcome for you at the expense of your wife and family then Collaborative is probably not for you. A Collaborative attorney understands that you have important needs and interests and the goal of the process is to meet those needs and interests, but at the same time other family members have needs and interests too. Participants in the Collaborative process must care not only about the outcome for them, but also the outcome for their spouse and children. Advocacy in the Collaborative model is about making sure you are heard and understood, and helping you ensure that your most important needs and interests are met, and helping you and your wife craft a durable, mutually agreeable long-term agreement that works for both.

Potential Client: Well, what kinds of strategies and tactics are used to wear down the other party and/or to stall the process so they give in and I maximize my gain in the process.

Me: It appears that you did not hear what I just said. And to succeed in the Collaborative Process it is important that one be able to listen and really hear what is said. This process requires a certain amount of wisdom and emotional intelligence and frankly, there are some folks who are not ready to participate in a process of this type.