December 24, 2010
September 11, 2010
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After sixteen years of practicing family law in and out of the courtroom I like to think I’ve seen or heard just about everything. Of course, that’s hyperbole, but the truth is that clients have a hard time surprising me anymore. And I have noticed over the years that in the midst of divorce the universal human instinct for survival frequently tends to temporarily override rationality, common decency, and even parental wisdom.
Most folks facing the prospect of a separation or divorce feel the extraordinary pressures caused by fear: fear the unknown; fear of the lack of perceived control over the future; and fear of the decisions the other spouse will make during the divorce. These fears drive some divorcing couples to make terrible mistakes that will haunt them and their children for years to come. Some of the mistakes are made long before either spouse consults with a divorce attorney.
In this post let’s start with just the basics. Here are three fundamental things you should not do in a divorce:
1. Don’t Involve the Kids – Although this should be obvious, it is one of the most of the common – and by far the most tragic – mistake that I see couples make. Examples abound: (i) Mom and Dad cannot or will not contain their so-called “adult conversations” (arguing) in the presence of the children. (ii) Dad picks up the kids to take them for the weekend and Mom tells children she will miss them terribly instead of encouraging them to have a great time. (iii) Mom is forced to tighten the budget at home out of necessity while Dad, who has recently moved into a bachelor-pad apartment, starts lavishing Wii’s, off-road bicycles, and trips to Disney on the children.
All of these examples, and countless others, place the children squarely on the chess board of the divorce. The parents — whether they realize it or not — have made their own children the pawns in the chess match. And, as we all know, pawns are the most expendable pieces on the board. Don’t do it.
2. Don’t Make Unilateral Decisions. Cleaning out bank accounts, buying a new car, and leaving town with the kids are all examples of decisions most people would never consider making without discussing with their spouse. Yet, faced with divorce, that little voice in our head we call common sense seems to take a vacation. Making important decisions that affect others without discussing it with them virtually guarantees you a quick trip to the courthouse for a contested hearing. Don’t do it.
3. Don’t Over-Lawyer. You can tell a lot from a name. I frequently meet with potential clients who have already been served with a divorce suit and I have learned that you can discern a great deal about how ugly and expensive a divorce is going to be simply by looking to see who the other lawyer is. Individual lawyers have individualized reputations, and if a spouse wants to hire a Rambo-style litigator it is not difficult to find one.
Why do people in this day still seek out those kind of lawyers? Fear, grief, and anger are powerful emotions. Those emotions often drive otherwise rational people to make decisions that are not in their own best interests, much less in the best interest of their family. Ironically, folks who seek out the Rambo’s typically do so either to (i) get their “fair share”; or to (ii) get their pound of flesh. There really aren’t any other reasons. The irony is that they will pay a $25,000 initial retainer to Rambo to fight for a larger piece of what is left over after he has picked over the carcass of your estate instead of seeking out an attorney with a reputation for problem solving who charges significantly less. As for getting the pound of flesh, nothing is free: Every pound of flesh you acquire will cost you something. That something could be your children’s emotional well-being, or bitterness in your own heart that reduces your own quality of life for years to come. Don’t do it.
Curtis W. Harrison
Board Certified – Family Law –
5601 Granite Parkway, Suite 400
Plano, Texas 75024
August 28, 2010
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In traditional divorce cases, Texas law imposes presumptive child support guidelines, which attorneys and judges apply and enforce religiously in the vast majority of cases. Exceptions are rare and when they do occur it is usually because the parties themselves agree to vary from the guidelines. The guidelines are the product of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to meeting the financial needs of children being raised by their divorcing parents.
The obvious problem with that approach is that children’s financial needs can vary as greatly as their shirt sizes, which means that in some cases children are not receiving sufficient support to meet their minimum monthly needs while in other cases the parent receiving support is using it to sock money away for a trip to Disney.
For those divorcing (or divorced) parents who are truly more concerned with finding a support solution that is actually designed to fit them and their children like a custom-tailored suit, why stick with the traditional guideline model? It doesn’t fit everyone and it never has. Instead, consider some of the options that are available through the Collaborative Law model. Scott Clarke, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and I recently wrote a blog specifically addressing those options on the Collaborative law Institute’s website. Here is the link to the article: http://bit.ly/b2759k.
There is also more information about collaborative law available at http://www.friscolaw.com/Collaborative-Law.shtml.
Curtis W. Harrison
Board Certified — Family Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Albin | Harrison | Roach
August 7, 2010
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Support is often an emotional issue in family law cases. Litigants often take polarizing positions as a defensive measure based on the fear of an uncertain outcome. In contrast, divorcing couples in collaborative cases can avoid that fear-based reaction and negotiate based on their true interests because they are empowered with the knowledge that the end result will meet their own needs as well as the child’s needs. Thankfully, there are options: http://bit.ly/b0gyoQ.