The Oscar-nominated film, Marriage Story, by Noah Baumbach, is really a divorce story. It centers on the relationships between Nicole, an actor, her husband, Charlie, a Broadway director, and their eight-year-old son, Henry. The family lives together in Brooklyn until Nicole gets a job on a TV series in Los Angeles – and moves to LA with Henry. From Nicole’s perspective, she and Charlie had a deal that, someday, they would move to Los Angeles, which is where she grew … read more »
… And the wisdom to know the difference
At the start of this new year and this new decade, it seems like a good time to take a self-assessment and to think about my goals for the new year. I am asking myself, “What can I change in my life, and what can’t I?” Then I ask, “What do I want to change so I can meet my goals?” There are so many things that we cannot change — for instance, we cannot change the things that happened … read more »
Being a Guide
This weekend, I saw the movie, Harriet, a riveting film about Harriet Tubman. We know the basics of the story — that she not only escaped slavery herself but kept going back down south, facing incredible danger, to help others make the journey to freedom. But seeing her life enacted onscreen (albeit a Hollywood version) gives the viewer a visceral sense of what it looked and felt like — I was riveted the whole time and went back to see … read more »
The Four Divorces
In my practice, I have observed that when couples divorce, there are actually several layers of separation, each of which requires its own attention. I think of these as the emotional, social, physical and legal divorces. The emotional divorce between spouses, like that of any friendship, often happens over time. People may simply grow apart, particularly those who began their marriage when they were young. They may change their expectations for themselves and for what they want from a partner. … read more »
Power to the People!
A big change is coming to the New York State court system. Starting this fall, all New York State courts will work on a system of “presumptive mediation,” which means that it will be assumed that every civil case filed can be resolved using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) e.g. mediation, arbitration or early neutral evaluation. Instead of having to opt in – to affirmatively decide to mediate — parties may opt out. Think of the difference between being presumed innocent … read more »
What Happens in the Mediation Room?
I ask both parties to come in for an introductory meeting when they inquire about divorce mediation. I am not a fancy person. I look professional, but I don’t often wear suits in the office. I try not to use big words, and to explain things in English, rather than legalese. I don’t think my job is to scare clients — in fact, I try to reassure them that they can get through the process, because they can. And our … read more »
Law School 101
American law is created in two ways — by statute and by case law. Statutes are proposed and drafted by legislators for that jurisdiction, and other government rules and regulations are drafted by the agencies that are charged with running them. Most laws about family relationships are state laws. The statutes that relate to divorce, separation and children are mostly found in the New York State Domestic Relations Law (DRL) and in the Family Court Act (FCA). These are texts … read more »
Hold Your Grudges!
“But you had an affair!” “But you started drinking … again!” What is a grudge? The Oxford Dictionary website defines it as ‘A persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.’ As you can imagine, nearly everyone who walks through the doors of my office to get divorced has a grudge or two in their pocket. I’m sure some are well deserved. Certainly, past insults and injuries are what lead to divorce in the … read more »
Making a Better Child Support Agreement
A few months ago, I wrote a few notes about spousal maintenance. Today, I’d like to write a few notes about child support that I think are important to keep in mind. I gave a basic overview of child support last year, but I thought I would take the time to write about it again, since this is such an important part of any separation agreement. (You’re learning along with my students!) The Child Support Formula In an effort to … read more »
What’s Fair Is Fair… Or Is It?
“I only want what is equitable. That is my operating principle,” Raymond explained as he sat across from me the first time we met. His wife, Lenore, looked intensely at him. “But what you consider to be equitable is not fair to me,” she said quietly. ‘What was going on here?’ I wondered. I’d only met them for a few minutes, but I could see already that they might have some fundamental differences of opinion — in fact, they might … read more »