Postings on Facebook are turning up as Exhibit 1 in more and more custody battles.  Although custody is supposed to be about best interests of the children, parties in conflict are more often than not inclined to try to show the other is a bad parent.

If you post your thoughts on Facebook, you may be giving the other side a roadmap for your case.  Do you want your spouse and his or her counsel to know what you are thinking and what your strategy is?

If you make angry statements about your spouse, you may be stepping in wet concrete.  The other side can use these statements in court to attack your credibility if you say something different.  Or to show the judge what kind of person you are if the statements are unreasonable.

The solution is to keep this in mind.  The first thing your spouse’s attorney will do after signing the retainer, is print out all your Facebook posts to use against you at trial.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said we have a great experiment going on with the laws in the different states in the U.S.  We can see which ones work best.

Arizona is trying to decide whether or not to increase the time of separation in that state from two months to six months.

Meanwhile, Maryland Senator Zirkin  has introduced Senate Bill 577 that would reduce the time from one year to six months for a voluntary separation in Maryland.  The period for involuntary separation would change from two years to one year.  If it passes, the bill would be effective for divorces filed after October 1, 2010.

This would bring Maryland in line with the separation period required in its neighboring jurisdictions, Virginia and DC.

Caroline fidgeted uncomfortably in the worn leather client chair in Art’s cluttered lawyer’s office.  “Why do we have to send him discovery anyway?”

“Well, the purpose of discovery is to avoid surprises at trial and encourage settlement,” replied Art making a steeple with his hands.  “For this reason, the scope of discovery, as set forth in MD Rule 2-402 is very broad.  We sent your husband written interrogatories and a request for documents, which are among the methods allowed by MD Rule 2-401.”

“But he hasn’t responded,” complained Caroline, brushing her dark blonde hair out of her eyes, as she reached into her purse for a cigarette and lighter.

Art silently decided not to tell his client it was a non-smoking building.  He pushed his half empty cup toward her for an ashtray.  It was cold anyway, he thought to himself.  “Yes,” he said.  “But he has 30 days, plus 3 since discovery was mailed, to either answer, object or file a motion for a protective order under MD Rule 2-403.”

“What if he doesn’t give us all we asked for?”  Caroline blew a long puff of smoke into the atmosphere of Art’s office, which was crowded with knicknacks, bric-a-bracs, bibolots, and memorabilia from past cases,  accumulated over his long career.

Art took off his silver, wire framed glasses and began to clean them with his handkerchief.  “If he fails to respond sufficiently, then I must first make good faith attempts to settle the discovery dispute with his counsel under MD Rule 2-431.  If that doesn’t work, I file a motion for an order compelling discovery under MD Rule 2-432.  If he still doesn’t respond, then I can ask for sanctions or ask for a contempt order under MD Rule 2-433.  And if he doesn’t respond at all, I can skip the order compelling discovery and ask for immediate sanctions under MD Rule 2-433.”

“And what are sanctions?” asked Caroline arching her eyebrows that looked like the tops of two question marks.

“The court can strike his pleadings, prohibit him from testifying, keep him from offering exhibits or witnesses or proof of anything that would contradict your claims or support his claims, and order him to pay your legal fees for his failure to comply with discovery.”

“Good, I like that,” said Caroline, tossing the last of her lit cigarette, as though she wished it was her soon to be ex-husband, in Art’s coffee cup where it sizzled as she walked out of his office.

by Jill H. Breslau

I never imagined that I’d be suggesting that a retreat is like a divorce, but it is, in more than one way.  It is a time when ordinary life, life as you know it, is suspended for a while, as you make decisions about how you would like things to be in the future.

The decisions you eventually make are not necessarily the same decisions you would make on Day 1.  I began my retreat, for example thinking about what was not working in my life and determined to root out whatever character flaws perpetuated my problems.  By the end of the retreat, my focus had shifted from pinning down my failures to owning my strengths—a welcome transformation.

If I had made a decision for my future based on my thoughts at the end of Day 1, I would have felt fearful, self-blaming, and full of disappointment.  In giving myself time to engage in the retreat process—not unlike a divorce process—I emerged in a clearer, more confident mood.

Yes, there are some decisions you have to make right now.  And there are emergency situations in which delay is not appropriate.  But generally, it helps if you can maintain the status quo to the greatest extent possible and give yourself time for the big decisions.  Then, as the process unfolds, you can move forward into your future, making choices with more clarity and confidence.

UC Berkeley scientists have discovered that couples who use pronouns like “we”, “us” and “our” in their conversations are happier and have healthier relationships than couples who use “I” and “you”.

The researchers analyzed the speech patterns of couples while they talked about disagreements in their marriages.  Couples who used “I” and “you” tended to be more stressed, less close and unhappy.

The study concluded the reason for this is that successful couples have a sense of unity with each other.  This helps them resolve conflicts, grow closer together and have more positive behavior toward each other.

Emerald Catron at lemmondrop.com, however, finds referring to yourself as “we” rather annoying if you’re not the Queen of England.

A wife filed to divorce her husband, in Orange County, New York on February 26, 2009.  The husband countered with an accusation of adultery.

On February 26, 2009, the wife obtained a protective order against her husband that required him to stay at least 1,000 feet away from her residence or the church where she worked, except for court-ordered visitation or church services.

In August 2009, the husband hired a private investigator, who followed the wife to a motel, where he recorded her encounter with a priest assigned to the church where she worked.  The husband told another priest about the affair and, at the request of the church, turned the recording over to church officials.

The wife was forced to resign.  She then accused the husband of violating the protective order and harassment.  The judge ruled against her finding that “The hiring of a professional licensed private investigator in a matrimonial action to gather evidence is for a proper and legitimate purpose.”  She also found that the husband had a legitimate and justifiable purpose in turning the recording over to church officials.  Anonymous v. Anonymous, Case No. IDV O5502-08-09A.

Read More at Law.Com.

“My husband and I have not been intimate for over a year,” Louise, an unhappily married woman tells Joe, a Maryland divorce lawyer, “and I want a divorce.”

“OK, any other woman in his life?” inquires Joe.

“No.”

“Hmmm, any domestic violence or threats?”

“No.”

“Then you’re going to have to move out of the house for a year before you can file a divorce complaint,” says Joe trying to push the box of tissues across his desk toward Louise unobtrusively.

“But we can’t afford that,” cries Louise reaching for the tissues, “There must be another way.”

Neighboring jurisdictions, DC and Virginia permit parties to be separated while living in the same house, but not Maryland.  In Maryland, spouses are required to live separate and apart under different roofs for one year if the both agree, and two years if they don’t.  This waiting period must occur before they can even file for divorce.  And the divorce might take a year or longer after that.  These are the no fault grounds.  Adultery and cruelty have no waiting period.

The purpose of this waiting period is to favor marriage over divorce and make sure the parties really, really want to be divorced and not married.  After all, sometimes people change their minds.  But the recession has forced many couples to live together in misery because they cannot afford to separate.

So Montgomery County Delegate Luiz Simmons, an attorney, will support legislation this year to add a new grounds for divorce in Maryland, according to this morning’s Frederick News Post.  If this law passes, couples who go a year without sex would be able to file for divorce.

A study commissioned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company reveals that 60 percent of business owners do not have a plan in place to divorce-proof their companies.   According to PRNewswire.com, the study involved six focus groups and 518 business owners.

“If a company is owned by a couple, a divorce can paralyze the business and create divided allegiances among employees and customers,” said Beth Wood, VP of a Mass Mutual division. “It could also jeopardize a family’s wealth and the owners’ retirements,” she said. “Often, a divorce can force the owners to sell the business, with proceeds being divided by the parties involved.”

“When owners aren’t in business with their spouses, a divorce can still hurt the firm greatly, if an ex-spouse is awarded the business in a divorce settlement, throwing ownership and decision-making into doubt, and distracting employees,” Wood said.

MassMutual suggests the following ways to create a divorce-proof plan for your business:

* Buy-sell agreements that can be triggered by certain events, such as a divorce.
* Prenuptial agreements.
* Postnuptial agreements.
* Trusts.

A New York Times article reports new research from Utah State University shows that couples arguing about money at least once a week have a thirty percent higher chance of filing divorce.

In the study, sexual and financial issues were reported to cause arguments in marriages, but financial issues had the higher correlation to divorces.

The study suggests that couples should discuss their financial issues with each other before they get married to avoid disagreements during the marriage, such as:

* Individual financial past – how have you historically handled money?
* Who will be in control of joint finances in the marriage – who pays the bills?
* Credit history – do you have a good credit score? Have you always?
* How important is money – how rich do you want/hope to become?

by Jill H. Breslau

Separation and divorce are among the most stressful life transitions, and self care becomes crucial if you are going to handle the transition with clear focus and good judgment.

I encourage my divorce clients to take care of themselves.  Not just in the casual, “Okay, take care, bye” sense of it, but seriously.  So when a client says, “I’m in therapy,” or “I signed up for a membership at the gym,” I am delighted.  It is so helpful to have a safe place to talk and vent your feelings, and, of course, we know the importance of exercise, not only in promoting physical health but in generating those invaluable feelings of well-being.

As you might predict, I don’t always take my own advice.  But this year, I am.  I am headed out of town on a yoga retreat, which I hope will give me increased flexibility in all dimensions, mental as well as physical.  I want more creativity, more nimbleness of mind in coming up with potential win-win solutions.  I want more compassion when my clients and their spouses get into stuck places during divorce, and more patience with lawyers who only see divorce as a war, not as an opportunity to solve problems and build a different, but still respectful, relationship.