Divorce lawyer and mediator Ron Ousky has created a set of conversation cards to help you stay married.
Ousky got the idea from listening to his divorce clients and wishing he could turn back the clock and get them talking to each other. He says that as kids, jobs, in-laws and money stresses begin to take up all the conversation time in a marriage, couples grow apart.
His cards prompt couples to talk about ideas that keep couples connected, like gratitude, mistakes, forgiveness, and how we express love and want to be loved. The idea is that these topics will help you stay married.
As for a divorce lawyer promoting marriage, Ousky says it is not that unusual. Divorce lawyers want to help people in distress just like doctors want people to be healthy. And, he notes, there will always be enough conflict to keep divorce lawyers busy.
Here are some secrets that divorce lawyers hope you’ll never find out. Because if you did, they might go out of business.
“Arguing and getting angry, never works. Understanding and loving, always works. – Notes from the Universe.”
“May your case be decided by a piece of paper that flies through an open window at the courthouse on the day of trial.” – Unknown.
“He came to court seeking justice. That was his mistake.’ – Unknown.
“May you have a lawsuit in which you know you are right.” – Ancient Chinese Curse.
“We pay judges to make decisions, not to be right.” – Unknown.
“The secret to the success of my marriage is that I’m hard of hearing and have a short memory.” — Anonymous
Cincinnati Judge Amy Searcy is redesigning the courtroom for better divorce proceedings. She wants better outcomes for families going through the divorce process.
Courtrooms are pretty intimidating places. The walls are wood-paneled. The ceilings are high. The judge sits higher than everyone else behind the bench. It is a solemn and somber décor evoking the majesty of the law.
It is set up for a civilized form of combat. As Judge Searcy sees it,”I wasn’t here very long before I started to realize that the way the courtrooms were set up, it was almost like a battleground. There is a plaintiff and a defendant’s table so it’s me versus her, me versus him.”
A More Relaxed Courtroom Environment for Divorce Hearings
So Judge Searcy decided to remodel her courtroom, using her own money, to make it a more relaxed environment for divorce hearings. She replaced the plaintiff and defendant tables with an oval conference table.
Now the parties sit next to each other at the same table facing the judge with the attorneys on either end. She also hung large pictures of area parks and put a sign on the wall that says “Best Interest of the Child.”
“We want you to be successful,” she said. “We want your children to be successful.”
A recent case explores the boundaries of normal communication between divorcing spouses in the digital age. How much is too much?
Daniel Meredith, 42, has been in a divorce battle with his estranged wife, Donna, 35, in Queens, New York. He is an artist with an architectural firm and she is in marketing. The couple has three young children.
The wife complained to the court that the husband was sending her too many text messages.
The husband told the judge he sent his wife about eight texts a day on average over the past year, and she sent him about six texts a day. He cited statistics that said the average American sends and receives 94 text messages a day.
The judge didn’t buy it. She said more than 5,000 text messages in a year was beyond normal communication and amounted to harassment. She issued a temporary restraining order limiting husband to one text a day and permitting him to speak to the children 15 minutes a night on FaceTime.
The husband is opposing making the restraining order permanent.
“Marriage is one of the few institutions that allow a man to do as his wife pleases.”
— Milton Berle
Divorcing spouses and parents have varied life insurance needs. Whenever one or more persons are financially dependent on another’s earnings, there is what the life insurance industry refers to as an insurable interest.
In families of two married parents with young children, the primary wage earner often has life insurance coverage equal to several years earnings. The benefit to the financially dependent spouse and the children is obvious. The benefit to the insured party is the peace of mind that comes from knowing your loved ones are provided for in all events.
Often, both spouses carry life insurance coverage because both are employed or, if one is not employed, the stay at home spouse is providing services that would have to be purchased in the event of her, or his, untimely death.
Upon divorce in families with children there is still the same basic economic need for life insurance coverage to protect the child support payments. The children generally would be the beneficiaries of the policy – directly or through a trust. The insured still benefits from knowing his loved ones will be provided for.
Life insurance proceeds paid during the insured’s children’s minority would be needed and would benefit the insured’s children just as they would if he or she died while the children were minors and the insured was married to the other parent at death.
But the dynamic is different in divorce. The insured views the insurance coverage as benefiting the ex-spouse. Often there is hard bargaining around how much insurance coverage there will be, how long it will be in place or how quickly it decreases, and whether the spouse can be the trustee of the trust to which the insurance proceeds are paid.
I’ll explore this further in future posts.
To file a complaint for divorce, you have to have to cite a reason. These are known as as grounds for divorce in Maryland. They are listed in the Maryland Code.
The Code has both fault and no-fault grounds. Fault grounds, such as adultery, desertion and cruelty, are factors the court must consider in determing alimony and distribution of property.
You may have, and plead, multiple grounds for divorce. Or, like in the following case, the wife may plead one ground and the husband may plead another. Who gets to pick the grounds on which the divorce is ultimately granted if more than one applies?
Mary and Timothy Welsh married in 1961. Timothy had degrees in accounting and law and was licensed as a real estate agent. Mary took care of the house and their four children. They acquired a 22 acre property during the marriage.
Mary left Timothy in 1994 and filed for divorce based on adultery. Timothy counterclaimed for divorce after two years of separation.
The trial court said that Mary failed to prove adultery but Timothy conceded it at trial. Nonetheless, the trial court granted the divorce based on separation.
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the decision, stating that:
It is ultimately up to the court, based on its fact finding, to declare the grounds for divorce. It is not reasonable that the court be obligated to grant the divorce on the grounds requested when the judge is more persuaded that it is more likely than not that other grounds for the divorce are more justified.
Welsh v. Welsh; 135 Md.App. 29 (1999)
Question of the Day: Will the government shutdown affect my divorce?
Answer: No. Although the federal government is partially shut down, divorce court is run by the state government.
If your spouse’s parents don’t like you is that grounds for divorce? Consider Kerry’s story.
Kline, a well-known family lawyer, couldn’t sleep past 5 am. So he was the first one in his law office Monday morning. He flipped on the lights and started checking email. Among the dozens of pitches from salespeople and scam artists, one from a young lady named Kerry caught his attention.
“My husband left me on Friday,” she said. “He called me today and said he would like to get back together but his parents are against it and they want him to divorce me. Can he do that legally?”
Kline leaned back in this chair and looked at the ceiling. “No,” he said. “You have to state your grounds for divorce in your complaint. Grounds are reasons for divorce. They are listed in the law. Parents don’t like me is not on the list.”
“What’s on the list?” Kerry asked.
Kline recited the list:
- One Year Separation
- Conviction of a Felony or Misdemeanor
- Excessively Vicious Conduct
- Mutual Consent
“Wow. Thanks,” said Kerry. “Now I’ll be able to sleep.” Kline was wide awake as he filed her email under “Prospective Clients”.