JLJ Family Law » Posts for tag 'family'

Contemplating Divorce?

By Jody L. Johnson
Contemplating divorce is scary, and lack of information further drives fear. There is so much information on the internet about divorce that it is virtually impossible for a lay person to separate fact from fiction. The best course of action is to talk to more than one competent attorney. I recommend getting personal referrals and then checking out those individuals by reviewing their website, checking out whether they have any complaint history with their State Bar, as well as looking at other peer review ratings that might be available for attorneys in your area. Just as you wouldn’t generally select a doctor randomly, you should be just as cautious in selecting an attorney. Consider talking to friends, your minister, CPA’s, or attorneys you may know who do not practice in the area of family law. Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings attest to a lawyer’s legal ability and professional ethics, and reflect the confidential opinions of members of the Bar and Judiciary. The ratings cannot be purchased by attorneys.

You should expect to pay some kind of consultation fee to see an attorney. Again, think about if you were going to see a doctor to get advice on what is wrong and how to treat the problem. You expect to pay for their expert advice, and seeing an attorney is no different. Although there are good attorneys out there who don’t charge for consultations, most do, because good attorneys are busy and can afford to charge for their consultation time.

Before the consultation, write out a list of questions that you have so you don’t forget to get your important concerns addressed. A good attorney will be patient in responding to your questions. You will want to ask about the attorney’s level of experience: do they have experience with the particular issues in your case, and how often do they go to court in the area where you reside. You will also want to make sure that you understand the steps involved in your divorce, and ask the attorney how you can best protect yourself during the process. Again, the attorney should gladly respond to all of these questions. If it feels as if the attorney is putting you off (“we’ll get to all of that later”), I would say that is a red flag that the attorney is more concerned about signing you up as a client then serving your interests.

Look for an attorney who asks you lots of questions about what is important to you (e.g. quality time with your children, keeping your business, etc.). You want an attorney who is listening to your concerns rather than one who does all the talking and tells you what they will do. Be wary of attorneys who make promises about the outcome of your case. No competent attorney can tell you that in a consultation; they don’t have nearly enough information. Also be wary of attorneys who act as if they will come out with “guns blazing” for you. Although that may feel good to know that someone will be your protector, more often than not, an extremely aggressive approach is counter-productive to your interests. It will likely increase the level of hostility with your spouse and decrease your ability to reach a favorable settlement. At the same time, it will increase the attorney’s fees dramatically, which benefits the attorney but not you. That being said, you need to know that your attorney knows how to prepare a case for trial if necessary and then actually try the case. Find out how much experience they have at the courthouse.

As far as steps you can take before you see an attorney, the best thing you can do is to gather and organize information. Absent a true emergency, do not make any major decisions in advance of consulting with an attorney. Don’t move money, withdraw money from financial accounts, cut off your spouse’s ability to use credit cards, etc. without getting some professional advice.

It will help you and your divorce attorney if you are able to organize your financial information. Make a budget that lists all current monthly expenses of the family, including any unusual expenses that are coming up (replace roof; college tuition payment, etc.). Also make a list of all of the assets (house, bank accounts, retirement, life insurance, cars, etc. – not a list of your furniture and furnishings) and debts. Include accounts numbers if you have those. Make copies of the last 3 years of tax returns, most recent pay stubs for you and/or your spouse, and the most recent statements for your financial and retirement accounts. Don’t worry if you don’t have access to this information. Lots of people don’t and your attorney can help you obtain it. However, if you do have it, it helps you stay ahead of the curve.

Depending on the issues in your case, it may also be helpful to copy cell phone records, emails, credit card statements and Face book pages if there is concern about an affair.

For more information on Kip Allison and family law solutions, visit www.aj-familylaw.com

Planning for Divorce

By Jody Johnson

The most important step you should take in planning for a divorce is to hire an attorney who will inform you about your options and help you make decisions for your futures. This is your divorce. The decisions you make now will have lasting effects on your children and your financial security. Now is not the time to surrender control. You want to find a lawyer who will act as a professional partner with you; one who will inform you about all of your legal options, help obtain relevant information, and explain the pros and cons of each possible option so that you can make the best decision at this critical time.

If you don’t like everything that you are hearing from the attorney, then the attorney is probably shooting straight with you. No client has a perfect case. You do not want a cheerleader or best friend who tells you what you want to hear. You need accurate information to make informed decisions. If you are contemplating divorce, you are not functioning at your best. You need a clear-thinking advocate.

Even at the initial consultation, an attorney should be able to clearly explain to you a general strategy for getting you divorced, and explain the reasons why the strategy is recommended. You should feel comfortable with the attorney and if you don’t, find someone else. Rely on your instincts.

Clients have the option of litigating or collaborating their divorce. Litigating means that your disputed issues are resolved through the court system. A collaborative divorce is an option if you want to resolve issues away from the courthouse, focus on you and your children’s interests, and have control over the outcome. The process incorporates the benefits of a neutral financial professional and mental health professional (sometimes referred to as “divorce coach”) to help you and your spouse communicate more effectively and develop and negotiate parenting and financial plans. There is a contractual agreement to stay out of court. You should inform yourself about these options in advance of seeing an attorney and consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about both options. A lawyer who only practices family law one way cannot fully inform you and you may end up selecting a process that is not best suited for your situation. Also be cautious of an attorney who only practices in one arena and tells you that your case isn’t suited for the other; there is an obvious financial incentive on the part of the lawyer who will lose your business if he recommends an options for you that he can’t provide. For more information about the collaborative option, see the website for the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (www.collaborativepractice.com) or the state organization in your particular state.
For more information on Jody Johnson and family law solutions, visit www.jljfamilylaw.com

Good Communication Starts With Listening

by Nancy Foster

Many of us think that communication is talking – and talk we do. We interrupt, advise, reassure, judge, analyze, criticize, argue, moralize, threaten, divert, diagnose, etc., etc. But, good communication requires good listening as well as talking. In fact, since we have two ears and only one mouth, listening just might be the more important skill. However, we receive almost no training in good listening and usually do not realize that really “hearing” someone is not a passive activity.

To be a good listener, we must, first, pay attention. The remainder of this article will focus on “attending” skills. The next article will discuss how to listen “actively” rather than passively.

When you are speaking and someone is not paying attention, how do you feel? Annoyed, frustrated, discounted, rejected, anxious or angry? Such feelings usually make communication more difficult. So how can we show someone who is speaking that we really are paying attention to them? We can do this both nonverbally and verbally.

Research shows that about 85% of what we communicate is nonverbal. This includes our posture, physical movements, eye contact and our psychological presence. So, when someone is speaking to you, is your posture inclined toward the speaker, so as to invite and encourage expression? Or is your back turned or your arms or legs tightly crossed, which discourages and cuts off involvement? Are you fidgeting or otherwise distracting the speaker or yourself? Are you making good eye contact with the person? By looking at and observing the speaker, not only will the speaker feel “attended” to, you will learn more about what is really important to him or her. Finally, we cannot pretend to pay attention by employing these physical techniques without also being psychologically present. We can’t fake interest. The speaker will know if our hearts and minds are not really there.

Verbal ways of showing that we are paying attention include

1. an open invitation to talk,

2. using one or two words to encourage talking to continue,

3. asking open-ended questions and

4. knowing when to be silent.

For example, “You look like something is bothering you. Do you want to talk about it?” describes a person’s body language followed by an open invitation to talk. It is important to silently allow the person time to decide whether to talk and what to talk about. If someone chooses not to accept the invitation, don’t try to force them. Back off and respect their privacy.

Brief responses to encourage continued talking include “mm-hmmm,” “I see,” “Oh?” “Right,” “And?” “Go on,” “Tell me more,” etc. These don’t imply either agreement or disagreement. They simply mean “Yes, I hear you – please go on.”

A good listener uses questions sparingly because questions tend to focus the conversation on the questioner’s perspective and concerns and can derail the focus of the speaker. Work on asking fewer questions, and when you do, ask “open-ended” questions. Compare “Did you call the

police?” to “What did you do?” Or, “Do you feel anxious about the meeting tomorrow?” to “How do you feel about the meeting tomorrow?” An open-ended question is like an essay question which allows the speaker, rather than the questioner, to lead the conversation and clarify his or her own concerns. A closed question is like a true/false question and often suggests or narrows the agenda.

Finally, knowing when to be silent can be a powerful communication tool. Silence allows the speaker to become aware of his or her own feelings, to explore more deeply and to proceed at his or her own pace. Because many listeners become self-conscious with silence, they feel the need to “break” it by talking or asking questions. Unfortunately, this usually disrupts and derails the speaker. How can silence be handled? Pay attention to the body posture of the speaker and “listen” to what it says to you. Try to imagine what the speaker might be feeling, consider various ways that you might respond, and then choose the most helpful response.

Collecting Child Support


Child support delinquencies have reached an epidemic level in the United States, plunging many parents (most of them women) and children into poverty and bankruptcy. Approximately 30 million children in the USA are owed more than $41 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) in unpaid child support, according to estimates by the Association for the Enforcement of Child Support (ACES). Another nine million or more children on welfare aren’t even covered by a basic child support order.

What can you do to protect yourself from bankruptcy, welfare, or other financial hardship when you’re a single parent?

First of all, it’s very important to file for child support as soon as you and your partner separate, because child support judgments are issued as of the date of filing and are not retroactive. If you’re unmarried, file for child support as soon after the birth of your child as possible.

Who Is Obligated to Pay Child Support?

Both biological and adoptive parents are required to support their children until they reach the age of majority (usually 18 years old) and longer if they have special needs such as a disability. If a child is on active military duty or has been adopted by somebody else, the parents’ support obligations end.

Both mothers and fathers have a right to receive child support if they have custody of the child(ren). Step-parents are not legally obligated to support their spouse’s children by another marriage or relationship. A father who never married the mother of his child is still obligated to pay child support, but sometimes there can be a question about whether the child is his.

If a father acknowledges a child as his own, he’s obligated to pay child support. If a man takes a child into his home and openly treats the child as his own, he may be legally presumed to be the father, and in some states this cannot be disproved even if blood tests show the man is not the biological father.

Non-custodial parents are obligated to pay child support even if they are denied visitation by the other parent.