How can I choose an effective divorce attorney?
The answer is for (a) all divorces, and for (b) stepfamily
any adversarial court action between mates is a lose-lose-lose choice,
long term - specially if kids are affected. One of you may “win” short term, but the hostility, hurt,
resentment, anger, anxiety, distrust, disrespect, and guilt you all feel
will taint your souls and relationships for years to come.
Moral: as you seek short-term relief
and resolution, keep a full-generational outlook
that includes the welfare of any kids. If a false self governs you, this will probably feel
I encourage you to
interview prospective lawyers
to see if they:
as an agonizing
multi-year family-change process, vs. a get-all-you-can, battle-to-the-death between
four or more antagonists (you mates and your lawyers); and they…
have genuine empathy for and concern about he
long-term effects of divorce on all your adults
Lawyers choose their profession partly because they want justice served,
and they use the law and psychology to achieve that.
Typical attorneys also like the excitement and ego-challenge of fighting to
win. That win-lose mindset inexorably raises the
to teamwork between
most divorcing partners and their family members.
Alternatively, raging (psychologically-wounded) partners can harass humane,
empathic lawyers to fight "the enemy" more aggressively. Both are
lose-lose stances, long term - specially for any minor kids involved.
Male lawyers may more combative and
aggressive than (some) female attorneys.
Lawyers who have experienced divorce may have extra compassion -
or bitterness and bias - than their unmarried or first-married
Typical Stepfamily Re/divorces
Stepfamily re/divorce is highly complex, and merits wise, experienced
legal and psychological counsel. The "/" in re/divorce notes that it may be
a stepparent's first union. Helpful attributes include...
having credible stepfamily
knowledge and experience,
having helped, say, over 25 other stepfamilies (vs. couples) re/divorce;
knowing how to
advise all of you at recognizing, avoiding, and managing
I suspect that your state
laws make little or no distinction whether it's your first divorce or
Lawyers who know how
stepfamilies and re/marriages are can be real allies
for you caregivers and your kids.
If you agree with me that divorce is a symptom of significant inner
reality distortion, major biases, compulsive combativeness, and
a short-term focus), then you may prefer a (a) married and never-divorced,
(b) stepfamily-aware legal consultant, who (c) shows few of
You'll want a veteran lawyer well grounded in the
family-law statutes of your
state to represent your whole
despite being paid to "beat" the opposition. Balance sacrificing some
short-term wants and some fairness, for long-term
peace and health for you and your dependents!
In bitter and/or complex re/divorce battles, you may need to
hire a lawyer to represent the interests of one or more minor children.
Veteran family-law attorneys can advise you about pros, cons, and costs of
such a Guardian ad Litem
(GAL). Scan the American Bar Association's Web site for ideas, guidance, and resources.
On behalf of your elderly future selves and the
quality of your descendents’ childhood years, I urge you to do everything you can to avoid a prolonged legal fight over property
settlements, child custody, and co-parental rights. Letting rageful Warrior or
subselves lead your re/divorce decisions will probably cost all of you
years of resentment and regret. Work
to let your wise true Selves
Q17) Why can't typical couples problem-solve?
Premises - typical psychological and legal divorces are caused by
a mix of
ignorance of how to communicate and
effectively, because average parents and schools don't teach these
essentials. So most
dissatisfied, wounded mates
focus fruitlessly on trying to "fix" surface partnership
"problems" like these, rather than on identifying and filling the
that cause them...
infidelity / affairs
intimacy including sex
too little time together
In my experience, few courting partners
objectively evaluate "how well can we problem-solve together a key
commitment factor. Does that match your experience?
Q18) Is Redivorce Different Than First Divorce?
No, because it's
the same (a) emotional, legal, financial, psycho-spiritual process causing
(b) major losses and lifestyle changes;
which upset and hurt adults, kids, and society, and takes years to
Yes redivorce is
significantly different, because the second (or third)
time someone says “I quit"…
it's far harder to dodge personal
responsibility for this ending; and…
admitting the personal identity of “I’m
twice (or thrice) divorced” can invoke greater
embarrassment, and self-doubt; and…
the intense guilt, grief, remorse, and shame typical
parents feel at subjecting their kids to another family trauma is often
beyond description; and…
divorce-initiators “know the legal and
social ropes,” and may feel less confusion, hesitation, and doubt than the first
redivorce occurs later in personal and family
so mates' assets, priorities, wisdom, and other things are
significantly different. For instance...
Typical redivorcers are in early to late middle age (35 - 55).
Careers may have peaked or be in full bloom. Retirement and death are
often no longer remote concepts. Supportive bioparents may be retired,
infirm, or dead. Kids are older and more independent, and may have their own kids. Health
and related expenses have probably become a bigger personal concern.
may be deeper, and
have begun or progressed. Finances may or may not be "comfortable."
Assets are (usually) greater than first divorce, and dividing ownership may be more
Some women are more financially independent. Covering kids' college
education expenses and bequests to grandkids can become significant
conflicts. Rejoining the "dating scene" seems far more unappealing.
Typically, living "the golden years" alone is an awful prospect.
These combined differences
to differentiate the process from a first legal breakup. It's estimated that about 90% of recent
U.S. re/marriages follow one or both mates' prior divorces, vs. spouse death. Around 1900 the ratio was
just the reverse.
the phases of normal divorce recovery, and how long do they usually take?
(broken bonds), while adapting to and stabilizing from
and social changes. Grieving and
adapting occur on many levels at different rates, so the slowest one
determines how long it takes each adult and child to "recover enough."
multi-year grieving of divorce-related (or any) losses occurs on
Each level has distinct phases.
Factors that affect how fast a divorcing person moves through these sets of
mourning phases are...
s/he is to (a) their partner and (b) the
role of spouse, and...
many adults and kids comprise their family system, and...
of their extended (multi-generational) family, and...
personal and (b) social
to grieve well.
Divorce recovery depends on who is affected, how, how much, and why. Key factors are (a) the implicit
(rules about admitting significant losses and feeling and expressing grief) in each
partner's family and friends, and (b) how compatible these policies are.
(subjective) indicators of whether a person or family has "recovered" from
(adjusted to) divorce losses and changes are...
whether they can talk
about the causes and effects of the divorce - generally, and on
anniversaries) without undue
hurt, and anger;
whether they usually focus on the past, present, or future; and...
whether each affected adult, child, and home has
resumed a stable,
and family adjustment takes at least several years from the time one partner decides
to break their commitment vows. If family
members are significantly wounded, recovery may take well over ten years -
or may not occur until the wounded people hit
personal healing. This often occurs in midlife or later.
people who recommit before
they or their new partner are well along in recovering from (a)
wounds and (b) divorce or mate-death,
risk making unwise
psychological or legal divorce.
invest time in self-improvement
learn from this
worksheet on divorce recovery;
inspiration and direction from Bruce Fisher's' useful book
When Your Relationship Ends.
concerned adults tell if an adult or child has "recovered" from
family divorce losses and changes well enough?
Each family member and
supporter will have their own criteria for deciding "What is 'well enough'?"
Key behavioral signs of stable acceptance and adjustment: the person...
can talk calmly and honestly about their
(a) losses (broken bonds) and (b) family changes, and (c) how s/he feels about them and their
personal and family impacts; and s/he...
can clearly answer basic questions about
their losses and changes, like...
"Why did the divorce happen?"
it affected you and other family members?"
"What have you lost because
of the divorce process?"
"What are the major changes you've experienced
because of the divorce?" and...
"How well are your other family members
adjusting to all the changes and losses?"
And the "recovered" person...
shows stable interest and energy in pursuing
a healthy range of life activities, including religious and/or spiritual
affairs; and s/he...
shows none of these
in recent months or at anniversary times; and s/he...
maintains normal relationships with all
family members and others affected by the divorce - i.e. s/he hasn't cut off
or avoided contacts with any of these people, and participates freely in
family and other social activities.
person's adjustment process and pace depend partly on how stable their
is following major
separation and divorce changes. So
the real question is
"How can concerned adults tell if
the family has
adjusted well enough to divorce-related losses and changes?"
practical reason to research this question well is to avoid
making courtship commitments before all related adults and kids have "recovered"
enough from prior divorces or deaths. For more perspective, see these
divorce recovery and "right
(commitment) time" worksheets.
How does psychological or legal divorce affect typical minor kids and
The answer depends on many interactive
the person's age,
their family's past and current
(high > low) and
(healthy > unhealthy),
the person's degrees of
(high > low),
(high > low), and social
(effective > inadequate).
These combine to affect how and how long parental separation and
divorce affect a typical biochild or grandparent.
Generally, minor and adult kids must (a)
many significant tangible and abstract
(broken bonds) over time, and (b)
mix of adjustment needs while they (c) continue
to fill their normal developmental needs.
Their success at these interrelated processes depends largely on how aware,
healthy (vs. wounded), and nurturing their adult caregivers and
family supporters are.
Typical grandparents of divorcing adult children must...
admit and grieve significant
admit (vs. deny or minimize) and
altered roles, rituals, priorities, and allegiances), and...
keep their personal
intact while they do these complex tasks over time.
Their grieving progress
requires reaching credible answers to special questions like...
As a parent, what did I (or we) do wrong to
cause my/our child to divorce?" How can I manage any significant
(a normal phase of grieving)?
Can I trust that my child/ren and
grandchild/ren will adjust successfully to their losses and changes?
What do they each
now, and how can I best
support each of them in filling their
adjustment and other needs?
If I need to
forgive myself and/or
apologize to my mate, or anyone
else in the family, why, how, and when?
How do I handle being asked to - or
among my family members? Who's needs come
How should I redefine my relationship with
my grandchild/ren's other parent and his/her relatives?
What supports do I (or my partner and I)
need to help us grieve and adjust to our family reorganization?
How do I (or we) handle any religious
conflicts or stressors (e.g. the Catholic annulment process, and/or
church-community judgments) over my child's divorce?
If a grandparent is too
to face questions like these honestly (vs., deny, minimize, rationalize, or
intellectualize them), they may get stuck
in grieving. This usually promotes significant personal and family
more perspective on typical grandparents' issues, see
does divorce affect a typical biofamily's developmental phases?
all living things, every
moves through identifiable developmental phases as its members age,
procreate, and die. Psychological and legal divorce add several phases to the normal biofamily sequence:
adapting to significant partnership and
routines, alliances, loyalties,
identities after one partner moves out;
adjusting to possible mediation,
reconciliation, and readjustment, or to a complex set of
financial, social and possibly religious divorce events over months or
adults and kids
a related set of
losses (broken bonds) over some years, and possibly...
adjusting to one or both ex mates dating
again and forming or joining a stepfamily. Then for some...
three or more biofamilies over many years, and stabilizing new
rules, rituals, routines,
names, assets and debts,
and co-parenting goals, styles,
values, and strategies. Some
go through another version of these extra
family-development phases each time a stepfamily couple re/divorces. Then all family
members are older, and the family system,
and social environment differ from the first cycle - so adjustment may
be easier or harder than the first time.
Each family member's personal
path may be hindered by these extra family-development phases -
systems. The degree of adjustment-stress from these extra phases (low >
high) will affect
how the family reacts to these four or five common
For a comparison of typical
biofamily and stepfamily developmental phases, see
Do extra-marital affairs mean
(at least psychological) divorce is inevitable?
That depends on many factors, including whether both
mates are genuinely (vs. dutifully) motivated to...
being met well enough
admit their part in not filling these
needs, and forgive themselves and each other
wounds, and commit to
any they find
honestly assess if either or both made
honestly assess for an active
as a chance to learn and
For more perspective on
affairs, see this article and
Q25) How can concerned relatives and friends best support divorcing adults
Let's broadly define support as "anything that helps one or more
people adapt to or reduce some current personal or group stressor." There are many
things that can do that, like...
affirmation, and encouragement
without trying to "fix" the speaker
relevant new information and ideas (education and consulting)
appropriate physical touching - e.g.
respectful, unbiased mediation between
constructive confrontations (vs. enabling or
recommending relevant resource people, programs, and materials
maintaining clear boundaries -
responsibility for someone else's problems
volunteering time and energy without
problems (suggesting a different point of view) - e.g. glass half-full
encouraging win-win problem-solving vs.
fighting, arguing, or avoiding
acknowledging personal and group strengths
being realistic, vs. cynical, pessimistic,
encouraging others to provide these supports
(add your ideas...)
(a) "respectfully helping people identify and fill
(reduce current and chronic discomforts), and (b) filling your own needs
effectively as you do." So effective divorce support starts by...
keeping your true Self
accepting the difference between
the specific current primary needs of each adult and child affected by
the divorce process and your own needs.
A major initial support is to
ask each such person
"What do you need now?"
and "What are your options for filling these needs now?" Then
without trying to "fix" or reassure the person.
And effective support includes...
A related support is to help each adult and child
who wants help to
- i.e. to review and evaluate all options for filling each significant
divorce-adjustment need, and
encourage the person to use these wise
and appropriate human and spiritual help in accepting or filling each major
need. This is illustrated by the ancient parable of helping a starving
person learn how to fish, vs. giving them a fish.
A vital way to support
members is caring, wise
encouragement to (a) learn healthy-grieving
basics, and (b) form and help each other
use an effective
This includes helping family adults...
their true Selves in charge,
for incomplete or blocked grief, and...
learn how to patiently
free that up together.
How can troubled
primary partners select effective professional relationship mediation?
Some troubled couples seek professional mediation on their own.
Others are ordered to do so by a well-meaning family-court judge who often
effective mediator respectfully assists
who have trouble filling key
accurately and impartially assess
relationship strengths and key
stressors (unfilled needs);
and options for
more effectively, or...
after a thoro assessment, the mediator
confronts the couple with reasons they cannot fill their needs with
mediation, and/or makes an informed referral to other
Professional relationship-mediators range from
and ineffective to wholistically-healthy, well informed and aware, and very
effective. How can couples evaluate this expensive type of help? Useful
criteria: can the mediator...
demonstrate that his or her
her nor his
describe and model all seven
and describe these common communication
and how to avoid or resolve them?
if appropriate, can s/he...
affirm that s/he received professional
training in stepfamily basics,
offer realistic, practical stepfamily and re/marital
understand and accept these
alternatives to divorce?
And does s/he...
see psychological and legal divorce as a
family stressor, not just a relationship ("marital") stressor?
does s/he have healthy
attitudes about key concepts?
candidate lacks too many of these requisites (a subjective opinion), look elsewhere, no matter what her or his
credentials! If a judge or someone else referred you to this
mediator, tell that person of these criteria.
What are traits of an
community or online
divorce-recovery support group?
Effective implies that a support
group fills the main
of each participant well enough. So to rate
men and women need to...
their unmet primary needs clearly, and then...
evaluate how well a
prospective group may help to fill these needs.
For perspective, read this
(high-nurturance) support groups, and
these suggestions about
divorce support (Q25).
are stepfamily mates at special risk of re/divorce? (The "/"
notes that it may be a stepparent's first divorce).
Because compared to
typical intact biofamilies, there are usually...
and more complex, unfamiliar (step)family
up to 30 concurrent, alien, biofamily-merger
higher odds of
and associated relationship
adults and kids, and...
less effective social
support available for kids and
Typical stepfamily couples
and supporters (a) aren't expecting or prepared for
these concurrent stressors, (b) don't know how to
and (c) often become
and hopeless over some years
of struggle and frustration.
The site proposes
to help typical
adults avoid and manage the stressors.
Q29) How can courting partners with
prior minor or adult kids minimize the odds of eventual re/divorce? Why and how should they
select effective pre-re/marital counseling?
typical co-parents who date after someone's
early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse ((trauma); and...
they unconsciously risk making up to
that promote eventual re/divorce. (The "/" notes it may be a
stepparent's first union.)
courting partners with kids can best
make three wise commitment decisions by patiently helping each other
before deciding. One way of assessing their progress is by
thoughtfully filling out these right-people,
right reasons, right-time, and
divorce recovery worksheets.
to invest in the unique guidebook
Courtship, by Peter Gerlach, MSW; Xlibris.com, 2002 - and
protection is using effective pre-re/marital counseling. For perspective and
options on choosing effective stepfamily counseling, study and discuss...
redivorce usually indicate about the partners and their
A second or third divorce for one or both partners is strong evidence
that both are significantly
(ruled by a false self) and are not yet in effective personal
(GWCs) are apt to
minimize, intellectualize, rationalize, or ignore these implications
until the person hits
This often occurs in mid-life - and may
Redivorce also implies that the person survived
early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse ("trauma") and her or his
parents, grandparents, and their ancestors probably did too. If the
person has biological kids, they have probably
some version of the psychological wounds also, and are at risk of these
unless they get qualified professional help.
Reflect: why did you read this - did you get what you needed? If
you need? Who's
these questions - your wise resident true Self
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