Los Angeles Superior Court Update: Budget Cuts

I went to a meeting today with the Honorable Thomas Trent Lewis at the Los Angeles Superior Court. He wanted to update the family law bar, forensic accountants, and custody expert witnesses about what exactly is going on at the court given all the budget cuts.

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It was pretty interesting. Infuriating, but interesting.

Background below. Here’s what made me nuts:

The Judge said something to the effect of:

Parental Alientation and Divorce Mediation

I get asked a lot about Child Custody.

It’s not surprising, since a parent’s love for their children is bigger than any financial settlement. Oftentimes, a parent feels that getting more time with the child is worth more than any divorce settlement can buy. Unfortunately, as a mediator specializing in divorce and child custody here in Los Angeles, I see a lot of clients who try to manipulate their children into choosing sides.

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As a kid I remember seeing my friend’s parents getting divorced and wondering, “who would I choose?” It’s a terrible thought, but with all the Law & Order-type shows on TV nowadays and with divorce rates sky-high, it’s one that kids think they might have to make. Fortunately, entertainment is entertainment, and most often it is not the child’s decision. The legal system in the United States and here in California have it set up so it doesn’t get to that point.

Sometimes, however, a child involved in a custody dispute does verbalize or behave in a certain way that makes their wish known. This can be tricky. If they favor your side, you may want to encourage the behavior. This is irresponsible and only creates further damage. A child is young enough where they sometimes don’t know the affect that a decision will have on them. This is why they need to be encouraged (and even forced) to visit both parents. Stress to them that it is both parents’ wish to share time and that they shouldn’t feel that they are dividing loyalties. If it is necessary, consult professional help from a therapist or counselor.

In Los Angeles, Major Family Services offers a number of really terrific, high quality programs on how to deal with parental alienation and high conflict parenting. Co Parenting classes can also be very helpful, and there are many available in most communities.

As a divorce mediator and attorney, I see these delicate situations firsthand. In a mediation session I can offer my advice based on your unique situation. Divorce is not easy. It is tough on everyone, including, and especially, children. There is a clinical term for what a child faces when they prefer not to visit a parent. It’s called Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS. They may disregard the unfavored parent or even express vitriol or hatred towards them. Even if you may think that you are not expressing it to your child, you may be encouraging it by what you don’t say, or even through small behavioral cues that the child picks up on, for instance when you are answering the phone or when you see your spouse’s car pull up in the driveway. The behavior of your child often expresses your subconscious desires.

The important part is open communication with your child and your spouse. Try to get your child to express truly what they feel to get it out in the open. Talk with your spouse about it too. That’s one of the things I love about divorce mediation, the ability to sit in a room and talk it out.

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If you feel you are a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome, you have a few options. First, talk with your child about it directly. If that doesn’t help you can have a loved one, someone who you both trust, like a grandparent, talk to them about it. Above all else, express your love for your child. Let them know how much rejection can hurt, and how you really want to work on your relationship. Ask your child what obstacles are getting in the way. You’d be surprised how honest children can be when confronted directly.

You don’t need me to tell you that dealing with children can be tricky. Sometimes the best way to get a message to them is through the least amount of intervention. If, after speaking with them, you don’t feel like your relationship has improved, you do have legal options. There are motions you can file, such as contempt of a visitation agreement, to get the court to intervene. Detainment and/or financial sanctions could handed out to the offending parent. These are last resorts and we can talk about all your options when you meet with a mediator. Search this website for more details on Family Mediation and Child Custody Laws in California or to set up an appointment.

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Mediate Family Law, Don’t Litigate!

Here at Peace Talks, we love Mediation.  If you’ve spent any time looking through our site and blog posts, you know that already.  It’s an easy sell, because, to us, it’s a no-brainer.

 Just look at a recent example: one couple came into our Los Angeles office looking to get a divorce settlement through mediation.  Divorce in California can be tricky, there are divorce laws and fee schedules that can get complicated, not to mention courts are overcrowded to the point where some Judges are seeing over 30 cases a day!  Their case was particularly bad.  They had been in court for months, to the tune of $100,000 and had made ZERO progress!

 At Peace Talks Mediation Services we want to get your case settled as quick and painless as possible to get you on your way to your new life.  That’s what we care about.

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 Sure we’re a business, but we also have a vision.  We realize divorce is something no one wants to go through.  It’s scary and intimate and can bring out the worst in people.  We understand, but we reject the notion that it has to be this way.

 If we can help people get settled for as little money and hoopla as possible, but be fair and leave you with the confidence to go on with your lives, we’ve done our jobs.

 Oh yeah, and that client?  The one who had $100,000 invested in a litigated divorce and had enough?  In and out of Divorce Mediation to the tune of $4,000.  To get an idea of the cost of divorce mediation vs. litigation, check out the chart on our website. There’s also a great list of pros and cons of mediation vs. litigation.

 So whether you are going through divorce, custody, family law, alimony, child or spousal support, come take part in the Divorce Mediation and ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Revolution.  Here are a few of our favorite reasons why mediation is better than going to court:

 1.  It’s cheaper – Duh.  In real numerical terms, it’s over 90% less expensive, on average, than going through litigation.

2.  You decide the schedule.  It’ll go as quick or as slow as you want it to go.  It’s your decision, not the court’s.

3.  It will preserve your relationship.  Eliminate that added stress and negative energy of a contentious divorce.  You don’t want to always be thinking “what if I run into him?” at the store or at the gym.  Especially if you have kids, it’s important to keep that familial bond.

4.  It’s more child-friendly than any court option.  You care about your kids and so do we.  Mediation will teach them that Mommy and Daddy can work things out with respect and understanding.

 More on kids: I was talking to a child psychologist the other day, and they were telling me how easy it is to avoid behavior problems after divorce.  Her advice: Be An Example.  There is a direct correlation to how kids do after divorce and the amount of conflict between their parents.  Mediation helps you avoid conflict.  Even clients that come into our offices thinking they have it all figured out often have layer upon layer of conflict waiting to rear its head in our sessions.  We help them get through it.  That’s what we’re here for.

 Each session is molded to your specifications and to your unique situation.  We never have a set agenda, it’s what YOU want, not us.  We have even implemented a sliding-fee scale.  Contact us and we will review your case to see if you are eligible.  It’s “Divorce Made Easy.”  We want our services to friendly and affordable, the opposite of what most divorce attorneys in Los Angeles provide.  Remember, don’t litigate…MEDIATE!

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Divorce Mediation and Domestic Violence

As a divorce lawyer and mediator here in Los Angeles, California, I get the opportunity to see a lot of clients with varied backgrounds and personalities. There are common threads you can pick up on as a mediator that can help you diagnose each situation with just a short interview. This initial diagnosis allows me to cater the session to the couples needs and most of the time the sessions go extremely well, with both partners wanting to cooperate. Those are the good days! There are however, some show-stoppers: facts in a couples background that can’t be ignored. Especially in cases where kids and child custody are involved, couples with a history of domestic violence or abuse have to be handled differently. It’s a fact of life and a fact of our business. Our local domestic violence expert is Lynn Greenberg.

Divorce is stressful. Even if the couple seems to be getting along great in our mediation sessions and a husband or wife’s previous arrest for abuse was many moons ago, there’s always a chance that the stresses of the divorce and custody sharing situation will bring out the worst in people. I’ve been practicing here for over 20 years and I can tell you that even the most mild-mannered of couples can be put to the test during a custody battle.

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Violence and abuse can take on many forms: from simple harrassment and name-calling to homicide. For our purposes, we will define physical abuse as slapping, punching, shoving, choking, biting, kicking or any restraint or physical touch that invokes fear or causes injury. Verbal abuse can consist of name-calling, verbal jabs and assaults that are used to attack one’s character or esteem. This includes any threats levied on one’s safety or the safety of one’s children, friends or relatives. The key is intent. The intent of any abuse is to invoke fear or physical pain, and often both. Abuse could be used to coerce or to restrain someone from acting. Public humiliation and stalking are also forms of abuse.

As anyone who has experienced physical and/or emotional abuse, it can be devastating, especially when it is committed by someone who you are close to. When someone knows you inside and out, they can use this knowledge against you to cause you severe emotional stress. People who habitually perpetrate abuse are referred to by the system as “batterers”. Their illicit behavior is most often termed domestic abuse, or domestic violence. Women are far more likely to be abused than men. In fact, the percentages are striking. Women are the victim in more than 95% of domestic abuse cases. The opposite still occurs! In fact, I have seen cases where the woman is the batterer many times. Often the man is afraid or is less likely to report this type of abuse, so these numbers could be even higher.

When dealing with child custody, you are dealing with an inherently sore subject. Emotions are always running high. The state can have a tough job in determining who is best fit to take care of the children, and working out a visitation plan or custody sharing plan is often a long and drawn out process. At Peace Talks Mediation Services, we make it our job to promote cooperation. We want to avoid these drawn out legal battles and keep everyone on the same page. We promote open discussion in our family mediation sessions. Divorce Attorneys, especially in Los Angeles, can be high-priced and ruthless. Mediators make sure that everyone knows everyone else’s motives and ensure that families can talk to each other in an open, non-binding forum.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where domestic violence is a fact of life for a lot of families. The number one priority in these instances is safety; safety for the children and for the whole family. Statistics say that almost 40% of all women who are murdered are done in by a boyfriend or spouse. Many are killed in their own house. Women who have just separated or announced the intent to separate from their spouse are most at risk. We may not be able to effectively erase these stats, but we can stay educated. Look on this site for more information about mediation and decide whether it is right for your situation.

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Child Custody Mediation and Contested Custody

Choosing whether to proceed in court with a custody dispute is serious business. It affects your spouse, who you may be trying to deny custody altogether, but most especially, it affects your child or children, who may be forced to grow up without their birth father or mother as an active player in their on-going development. These are not simple issues. They have deep and life-spanning ramifications.

I have to admit, even as a professional divorce attorney in Los Angeles with years of experience in both divorce law and family mediation, I often am emotionally drained after a family mediation session. You can’t let emotions sway you in delicate situations like these. That’s why I’ve included here a short divorce custody self-assessment. There are a series of questions that you should answer before deciding to go through with any child custody battle.

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It’s probably the most frequently asked custody question I get: should I go through with it? I can’t tell you yay or nay–each person should decide that on their own–but like any other professional you will talk to, I can give you some information to help you educate yourself and your family to prepare you to make that all-important decision.

Number one: It’s about the children, their security and their safety. This should be first and foremost on your mind. This isn’t a self-righteous step, this is one where you need to wield an unbiased authority. This is a step that must be taken because all other roads lead to a dead end.

Ask yourself these questions: Have I done everything in my power to resolve this with my family? Have I tried to resolve this? Have I tried mediation and participated in good faith? Has the process I have taken been the best and most efficient? Have I chosen the right professionals to come in and look at our case? This could include doctors, accountants, attorneys, psychologists, etc. Will they represent my family’s best interests, and not their own? Most importantly, do I go into this with confidence and trust? Am I prepared?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to these, so far, so good. You are on your way. You’ve prepared, completed the leg work and done the research. You’ve documented your concerns on paper, addressed them with the appropriate parties and have so far shown a respectful, yet confident demeanor in and out of the courtroom. One-by-one these add up to your authoritative stance, one that is not wrought with emotion and self-righteousness, but one that is calm and collected and rooted in what is best for your child.

Some additional free resources for your divorce:

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Have I closely monitored my children throughout this whole process? Have I been able to gauge their reactions and observe their demeanor for signs of stress, emotional or physical? Have they been able to keep a good perspective throughout this separation process? Have I resisted the temptation to bad-mouth my spouse in front of them, or otherwise try to use them to gain favor in this dispute? As we said before, the child is the most important part of this process. You have to be sure not to put them in the middle of things: this isn’t their doing. They deserve to be treated with utmost respect and concern. If this is a difficult process for you, imagine what it is like for them, having to seemingly choose sides between two people they have loved their whole lives.

Which is why the next questions are difficult: Have I not lost the reason for why I am doing this? Have I done anything to undermine the other parent’s authority when dealing with my children? Am I willing to bear the burden of causing them the pain of separation between them and the other parent? Am I subsequently willing to work with them every step of the way to ensure that this pain is ameliorated?

If you, as a parent challenging custody, are trying to cut a parent from your child’s lives, you must remember that as a result, you may get more time with them, but you also get less of them, because part of them has also been cut away.

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Why Your Kids Will Thank You for Mediating Your Divorce

Why Your Kids will Thank you for Mediating

By Alan Brady, guest blogger

 

Finding a way to share custody of childrenafter a divorce can be an incredibly difficult task. In an ideal situation, each parent will behave with maturity and reason, focusing solely on the needs of the child or children involved and honestly acknowledging the contributions and value of the other. Unfortunately, the ideal is a rarity, and far too often pride and resentment distort our perception of reality, painting our former spouse as unworthy of parenthood.

When a marriage ends and there are children involved, we as parents have a couple of choices. We can go to court, which will be a lengthy, expensive, and hostile process, and the result will be the non-negotiable order of a judge. The alternative is mediation, a process that will encourage both parents to work together to find an effective and healthy agreement that puts the well-being of the child or children first.

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At its core, mediation is a conversation. It is a collaborative decision-making process facilitated by an expert and disinterested third party. A trial or hearing, on the other hand, is by its very nature a confrontation. Representatives from each side of a conflict battle it out, each trying to show that they are on the side of reason and that their opponent cannot be believed or trusted. When this process centers on a child custody dispute, it can become even more cutthroat and desperate, and the person who will suffer most is the child in question.

                During a divorce, it is often tempting for parents to get entirely too focused on their own wants and needs. It’s easy to understand how this might happen. For most people, the end of a marriage is a difficult and painful decision. Hurt feelings, regret, and resentment can overwhelm the best of intentions. Still, it is important to remember that as parents, we have a greater responsibility than ensuring our own happiness or punishing the person who has broken our heart.

                While it may be easy to get wrapped up in the idea of walking away and going back to life as it was before marriage, the unavoidable truth is that you can divorce a spouse, but not a family. As long as there is a child in your life, you will be inextricably bound to this person you’re trying so hard to separate yourself from. The more spiteful and mean you are to each other now, the more difficult it will be adjusting to the new form your relationship and family take going forward.

                In mediation, the goal is always to reach the outcome that will most benefit the child. To that end, there is no blame assigned during mediation and no rehashing of old mistakes and disappointments. The mediator should never take sides or allow the conversation to focus on the past. The intention of this process goes beyond creating a schedule for custody. It should also aid former spouses in creating a functional working relationship that will enable them to communicate effectively and parent consistently.

                No matter how commonplace an occurrence it has become, ultimately, children are affected by their parents’ divorce. The sudden change in family and home life can be difficult and even traumatic for the youngest members of the family. Courtroom custody disputes add a level of uncertainty and helplessness to all parties involved. Choosing mediation keeps the childcare decisions in the hands of the parents and ensures that a conversation and collaboration occurs, rather than a fight.

                We cannot always be the best versions of ourselves. Sometimes we are petty, selfish, or immature. It is important to protect your children from the stress and trauma of watching their parents fight constant, bitter battles over every little thing that come up. Beginning your new life apart with mediation instead of a courtroom dispute will help you and your ex to remain calm and civil during your future interactions, and this will help your children to know that they are still a part of a family, even if it has changed.

 

Author Info:

Alan Brady is a writer who uses personal experience as inspiration to write about family, law, and business practices. He currently writes for Attorneys.com which locates local child custody lawyers.

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