Category Archives for "Family Law"

Survival Tips For Divorcing A Narcissist

Divorcing a narcissist is often extremely stressful and brings its own set of challenges to the process.  In order to preserve your own sanity , it is important to understand how the narcissist thinks. The following tips will help you develop an effective divorce strategy, minimize your trauma and help keep your legal costs down.

Divorcing a narcissist will take its toll in two key area:

1.  Emotional:

The narcissist will not be cooperative through the divorce process or go away quietly. They will blame everyone else for their problems and perceive themselves as the victim. Narcissists need to win and they love the adversarial nature of the legal system. They will be manipulative, and they will try to paint you as the bad guy with family, friends and even your own children.

2. Financial:

Often narcissists are powerful and financially successful so they use this to their advantage. They refuse to provide financial information and documents. They refuse to negotiate and will defy court orders as they think they are above the law. They will file endless motions, hide assets and income and try to exhaust your financial ability to fight them.

How can you prepare for battle a narcissist and get what you need?

1. Have money on hand (a war chest). You may need this money for living expenses while the divorce plays out and you will need funds for legal fees.  You want to begin the process from some level of financial stability, if possible, so that you can fight for what is important to you.

2. Make sure you have good credit in your own name.

3. Get your financial paperwork together. The narcissist will likely hide and withhold information so if you can compile it before discussing divorce, that is ideal. Don’t keep copies at home, instead give them to a friend or relative, or put them in a safety deposit box so the narcissist doesn’t know about it.

4. Put together a top notch divorce team which may include the following:

i) Family lawyer who has experience dealing with narcissists and domestic abuse;

ii) Financial planner;

iii) Qualified therapist who is familiar with Narcissistic Personality Disorder;

iv) Qualified Divorce Coach who is trained and experienced in dealing with narcissists.

5. Once the divorce process is initiated, keep direct communication with the narcissist to a fact based, dispassionate minimum. Email is ideal as it gives you time to think before responding. It also keeps a record of the dialogue and may eliminate some of the abusive behavior if the narcissist knows that someone else may read it or that it could end up in court.

6. Don’t respond to the narcissist’s behavior in kind. It will only elevate things. Don’t fight fire with fire. Don’t opt for a pit-bull lawyer who will contribute to the elevation of hostility. Instead opt for a lawyer who is tough, but reasonable.

7. Stop feeling, start thinking. Do not respond to the narcissist out of emotion. Take your time, ask questions, be reasonable. Decide which battles to fight and focus on those. Don’t stoop to their level. You can’t change them.

8. If necessary due to the level of abuse and its impact on you, communicate only through lawyers. This will add to your legal expenses but your peace of mind is priceless.

9. Anticipate that the narcissist will try to charm the court, your children, your neighbours and may succeed. Try not to get upset about this. Focus on the big picture and long-term.

10. Document everything and keep good records. Log how much time each of you spends with the children as you may need these records if custody is in issue.

11. Keep the narcissist on a short leash when it comes to court orders because they will constantly be testing your boundaries and will to enforce things. The same is true of the terms of any separation agreement.

12. Have courage, patience and persevere. You can and will survive.

While divorcing a narcissist is never easy, your life WILL get better if you endure the pain of the process.  Just keep reminding yourself, that the alternative to divorcing the narcissist is staying with him or her, and that is a guarantee that your life will NOT improve.

I have a coaching program specifically designed to assist those who are divorcing a narcissist.  Please contact me if you would like more information.

Surviving The Holidays After Divorce

The holiday season is always a tough time during a divorce and for the first few years after. It serves as a reminder of happier family times, and also puts enormous stress on divorcing parents who feel pressure to maintain the status quo while their whole world may be falling apart. While there is no magical solution to cure the holiday blues, here are some tips to make the season a little bit easier:

Continue reading

Alternatives To A Divorce War

Divorce rates are high, but divorce should always be the last option.  There are a number of options available other than full on divorce warfare which often benefits no one.   Here are some alternatives to consider before considering fighting it out in court.

  1. Marriage Counselling:  If both parties have a willingness to try to save the marriage, marriage counselling may be a viable option that can improve the relationship enough that the couple decides to take the word divorce off of the table. Divorce should always be the last option and where children are affected, couples may feel that they owe it to their kids to at least try to work things out.
  2. Relationship Coaching:  This is an alternative to counselling where both parties work with a coach in a positive way to identify goals for the relationship, work on communication and discover paths to remove barriers that are causing problems.  It is client focused, and results oriented.  While counselling has more of a healing orientation,  coaching is more oriented towards action and moving forward.
  3. Mediation:  This involves the couple meeting with a neutral, third party mediator who assists with moving the negotiation forward .  Mediation can be used during a divorce in order to resolve the property, custody and support issues of the parties, or it can be used to resolve other disputes between the parties.  It is not binding, but it can be an effective, low cost alternative to going to court, particularly if the couple is not far apart on their respective position on the issues.
  4. Arbitration:  Another non-court alternative for couples who have decided they want to separate or divorce is to hire a neutral third party who essentially acts as a private judge to make a binding decision with respect to such issues as property, custody and support.  Arbitration is more costly than mediation, but less costly than going to court.

Divorce is a major life decision with far reaching implications affecting your children, where you live, your financial well-being and your emotional well-being. It is important to thoughtfully consider all of the alternatives.

As The Seasons Change, So Do Our Relationships: How To Weatherproof Your Relationship

Just like with the seasons, change is inevitable.  For any relationship to last long-term, partners need to be adaptable and committed to adjusting to life’s changing seasons.  With the holidays coming next month, and the increased opportunity for family time, November is a great time to reflect on our relationships, and make sure we are adjusting with the times to weather the future together as a team.

Here are some tips on weatherproofing your relationship with your partner:

  1. Communication:  This is the number one thing that partners need to do well in order to have a healthy relationship.  We need to communicate our needs so that our partner understands what we need from the relationship.  No one is a mind reader.  Uncommunicated needs lead to resentments which undermine healthy relationships.
  2. Quality and Quantity of Time:  It goes almost without saying that spending quality time together is important.  Date nights and intimacy are very important to a healthy relationship. Quantity of time matters though too.  Absence doesn’t really make the heart grow fonder, it makes it grow more distant.  Just spending time in the same room, even if one of you is reading and one of you is doing a hobby, can still help strengthen your connection. The best relationships are ones where partners know they can just be together and they don’t have to be talking, as the silence isn’t uncomfortable.
  3. Reciprocity:  Both partners need to be committed to working on the relationship and helping it grow with the times.  If only one person is putting in the effort, it won’t work.
  4. Agreement on key issues including money, parenting and sex:  If a couple has very divergent viewpoints on these three issues, there are going to be significant problems in the relationship.  There needs to be lots of communication on these topics and a commitment to always keeping the communication channels open as changes in life affect these three areas.
  5. Respect:  If there is mutual respect in a relationship, it has a much better chance of weathering the storms.

We can’t stop change from happening, but with a little time and commitment, we can weatherproof our lives from the changing seasons.

4 Knowledge Is Power

All too often people stay in bad relationships out of fear of the alternative.  Fear of not having enough money to live.  Fear of never finding love again.  Fear of having less time with their children.  Fear of the unknown.

Fear based decisions are never good ones.  Knowledge is power and while we never have a crystal ball, relationship decisions can be made a lot easier if we take the steps to gain knowledge to empower ourselves. This can be as simple as setting up a consultation with a family law lawyer to find out about your rights.

Many family lawyers offer free 30 minute consultations, but even if you have to pay for the consultation, it can be money well spent.  A consultation can clarify for you what you are likely to gain and lose both financially and with respect to your children, if you walk away from a relationship.  Acquiring knowledge can better help you make a decision about what makes the most sense for you.  The consultation is confidential, so your partner doesn’t even need to know that you spoke to a lawyer unless you want him or her to know.  Most importantly, a consultation will help alleviate your fears, put to bed any misinformation you have heard, and if you ultimately plan to leave, it can provide you with a valuable plan or roadmap to put you in the best position possible after separation.  In addition, a consultation doesn’t obligate you to do anything.  You are empowered by having the knowledge of your rights, but you don’t have to make any changes unless you choose to do so.

Divorce is one of life’s most stressful events, and part of what contributes to the stress in uncertainty.  This is what keeps so may people trapped in unhealthy relationships.  While a family lawyer can’t tell you whether you will find love again, (and chances are you probably will), a lawyer can answer many of the other questions surrounding the uncertainty of divorce so that you can empower yourself and live your best life.

Why Shared Parenting Should Be The Norm After Divorce

What two factors determine how well children fare after divorce?   Mom and Dad.  It seems like it should be a no brainer that having a good relationship with BOTH parents is critical to children’s well being.  Yet many judges still favour mothers in cases where custody is being ordered by the court.

A recent study by Linda Nielsen, a Professor of Adolescent and Educational Psychology at Wake Forest University, found that the effects of conflict between divorcing parents may have been exaggerated and that minimizing conflict may be less important than other factors when it comes to custody.  High conflict does not necessarily mean poor outcomes for children.  What does matter most for positive outcomes for children according to Nielsen’s study?  The quality of the parent-child relationship, with both the father and the mother, trumped everything else.

This provides a strong argument that shared custody should be the norm unless it is a situation involving abuse or neglect.  The love and support of both Mom and Dad is much more important to children’s well being.

Here are some tips for parents that make a shared custody arrangement easier on everyone:

  1.  Don’t talk about the other parent negatively to your child.  If you need to vent, find a friend, write in a journal, call a family member.  Don’t vent to your child.
  2. Be willing to put your child’s interest first by accepting that for certain life events. your child needs both his or her parents there, and you can tolerate the presence of your ex for a few hours at a graduation, an important game, a wedding and other important events in your child’s life.
  3. If your child is having difficulty with something in the other parent’s home, encourage your child to talk about it with the other parent.  Don’t put yourself in the middle of something that shouldn’t involve you.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Let little things go and don’t make a big deal out of something that your ex did that in the bigger picture really isn’t that important.

Shared custody benefits children in many ways.  It’s about time it becomes the norm.

Is The Long-Term Monogamous Relationship Dead?

With high divorce rates, less people marrying and the easy access people have to meet others through the internet, one must wonder whether marriage and long-term monogamous relationships are becoming extinct. I sometimes wonder if by the time my children are 30 whether marrying or finding a life long partner will even be something that is considered important.

Let’s look at the reasons why people married historically. The biggest reason in the past was to create a family unit. Marriage meant a commitment which is something most people value in choosing someone with whom to have children. In 2017, however, many people don’t view marriage as necessary to show a commitment and the common law union has become more widespread. In addition, a small number of people believe that a commitment isn’t even necessary for the purposes of having children with someone. The high divorce rate, and the number of single parent households has also shown that a married couple is not necessary to raise happy, healthy children. Research has shown that children of divorce fare just fine if it is handled properly. For all of these reasons, marriage is no longer viewed as something necessary for the creation of a family unit.

Another reason for marriage in the past was for economic stability. In 2017, however, many two income households are struggling and marriage does not provide the same security it once did. Long-term marriages that break-up can be especially costly where spouses see their net worth cut in half after years of hard work and saving. More and more, people do not want to expose themselves to this risk so they don’t want to marry or re-marry in midlife. Some couples do stay together for financial reasons, often leading miserable lives, co-existing in the same home, but essentially leading separate lives.

Now let’s look at the modern day phenomena that work against marriage or a long-term monogamous relationships. With the invention of the internet and online dating, people have fast, discreet and easy access to a wide range of others looking for everything from marriage to a one night hook-up. Cheating has never been easier. Being a player, a serial dater, polyamorous or just simply content with casual relationships has also never been easier. It is easy to feel like you can always do better and are settling by just picking one person to spend the rest of your life with.

In 2017 we also live in a society that wants instant gratification. There isn’t value placed on working hard, paying dues, and putting others first in the me generation of today. Any long-term relationship is going to have its ups and downs. It will require some level of work to stand the test of time. People today want “good vibes only” and don’t want any negativity. They view relationships as something that should be easy and fun, and if this changes, they see it as time to move on. Commitment to someone isn’t valued the way that it once was.

Another factor working against long-term relationships is the rise of women in the workplace, earning their own money and not being financially dependent on a man. Many divorces these days are initiated by women who are unhappy in the marriage and know that they have the means to stand on their own feet. They don’t need to tolerate a bad marriage the way prior generations of women did because they are not financially dependent on their spouses.

There is no doubt that the decline of marriage and long-term unions has created problems and a cultural change. It isn’t all bad news though. In prior generations, many people led miserable lives feeling stuck in a marriage that brought them down and did not meet any of their needs. People also stayed in abusive or neglectful relationships too. Nowadays, most people realize they have options and choices to do what is best for them. Ultimately, we all deserve happiness, and there has never been a time of more options and choices. We must be careful though, as Margaret Atwood, put it, “We are a society dying…..of too much choice.”

5 Tips To Help You Refresh and Renew Your Relationship This Fall

September is a month of new beginnings and renewal. This feeling of a fresh start in September stems from our childhood days of heading back to school. While we are feeling committed to making positive changes in our life, what better time could there be to take a serious look at our relationship with our partner and to re-commit to making our relationship healthier and stronger?

In an era where over half of all marriages are ending in a divorce, it is time we look at what we can do to make a relationship work, rather than end. Here are some ideas to help you renew your relationship:

1.  Commit and Re-commit: A successful long-term relationship requires both parties to make it a priority, even when you have children. Be careful not to be so busy putting your children first all the time that you completely neglect your partner. It is easy to lose yourself in your role as a parent and forget what it is like to be a man or woman outside of being a parent. It is important to make time for each other without the children to connect emotionally, physically and spiritually.

2.  Take Ownership of Your Role in Things: In times of challenge or difficulty it is easy to resort to the blame game of blaming the other person and taking no ownership of your own role in things. This is never helpful. Instead, ask yourself, how am I contributing to this issue and what can I change in my behaviour that will facilitate a resolution of the problem? 

3,  Show Appreciation Regularly: We all like to be appreciated and all too often we feel taken for granted. Do your best to consistently acknowledge how much you appreciate your partner and what he or she does.

4.  Be Creative: Schedule date nights no matter how busy you are and come up with creative ways to be spontaneous and spend time together. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, connection does.

5.  Communication: No relationship is successful without good communication. If this has been lacking in your relationship, re-commit to sharing your feelings with your partner more regularly. No one is a mind reader, and many misunderstandings occur when we expect our partner to do or say things and they don’t.

Relationships aren’t always easy and there is no magic solution to staying together. Regularly practising these ideas won’t save a bad relationship, but they will help a mediocre one improve.

 

Love And Money: Are You A Gold-Digger If You Say Money Matters?

As a family lawyer, the two biggest concerns most clients have is whether they will have enough money and whether they will ever find love again.  Love and money are at the core of so much of our lives.  When couples divorce, money is often a major issue.  It is also at the centre of many fights in a marriage.  If money is such an important matter in marriage and divorce, one wonders whether it is also important when couples are only in the dating stage.  My answer to this question, is YES money does matter when you are dating.

In an ideal world money wouldn’t matter at all. If we didn’t need money or there was lots of it to go around, dating, marriage, and divorce would be very different.  Realistically though money is a scarce resource, some people have more, some people want more, and some people will do just about anything to get their hands on it.

Money definitely complicates relationships. In modern dating who pays for the date has become much more complex than it used to be in the old days where the man always paid.  Now who pays is a complicated affair that can result in resentment, bad impressions and the end of a potential romance. I have female friends who still expect the man to always pay, and if he doesn’t it’s a deal breaker.  Conversely, I have male friends who think it should be 50/50, and if the woman feels differently, it is a deal breaker for him.  There are no clear cut rules on this and everyone has an opinion.

Who pays for the first date may not be as big an issue as who pays for multiple dates, activities and potentially holidays as a couple moves into the relationship stage.  If both parties have similar incomes or a similar net worth it may be more straightforward,  If one party earns substantially more than the other or has a much higher net worth, should this person pay more often? Does it matter if this person is male or female? If the party with more money likes to enjoy a higher lifestyle, does he or she have to forego dining at fine restaurants and going on luxurious vacations with the other party unless he or she is willing to pay the full tab?  When you are in your twenties and haven’t accumulated much wealth yet, these questions aren’t as much of an issue.  However, when you are in midlife or older, they can be very real issues which is why I say that money DOES matter in a relationship.

There are some people, though, that place too much emphasis on money.  We are all aware of gold-diggers whose main requirement in a relationship is that their partner has money and will financially take care of him or her.  There are many people out there who are willing to settle into a bad or loveless relationship just because the other person has money.  If someone is wealthy, it is amazing how often they are deemed more attractive despite how they look, act or treat their partner.  As a woman, I loathe to say this, but the reality is that women are more often guilty of doing this than men.  I have been advised countless times to give a wealthy man a chance even if I am not attracted to him.  While I think money is a realistic factor in a relationship, it is definitely not the most important or decisive factor.  I think that men or women who place too much importance on money will inevitably end up in an unhappy relationship.

The rise of the gold-digger has also given rise to marriage and cohabitation agreements. As a family lawyer, I recommend these to clients who have assets to protect, but it certainly can take the romance out of a relationship to be discussing what should happen if the relationship ends.  It can also give rise to resentment and power imbalances. As a society though, we have reached a point where people are more willing to risk their heart being broken than they are willing to risk losing money if a relationship goes bad.

With the importance placed on money and protecting our assets, I can’t help but feel that we are losing out on romance. 

As relationships and marriage take on more of a business-like approach, we are losing some of our connection with our partner by keeping a wall in place to protect ourselves. I know these are strange words coming from a lawyer.  It is a reflection of the modern world which leads me back to the question asked in the title to this blog: are you a gold-digger if you say money matters?  My answer:  NO!

If you would like some legal advice on how to protect yourself financially, contact me at leanne@leannetownsend.ca for a consultation.

5 Key Things To Consider Before Dating After Divorce

Whether you were married 5 years or 25 years, returning to the world of dating after a divorce can be a daunting task. If you were married a long time, it is especially scary, but it is important not to let yourself become so paralyzed by fear that you choose to rule out putting any effort into finding love again.  Life after divorce can be lonely so it is important to be open to finding love again, but you must be ready.  Here are 5 things to consider before returning to the dating world after your divorce that will help you gage whether or not you are ready:

1.  Where are you in the healing process?

Divorce is a major life event.  Like any other life changing event you may go through, it requires time to heal.  How much time is a very individual issue.  Often after a divorce it is natural to feel guilt, to blame yourself, and to question your instincts, especially if you didn’t see the divorce coming.  It is also natural to have strong feelings of anger towards your ex, and this can be prolonged if the legal settlement takes time.  If you are still thinking about your ex frequently, whether your thoughts are good or bad, you are not ready to date.  To be able to attract a healthy relationship, you need to have healed from your previous one so take the time to heal and work on you.

2. Have you reclaimed you?

After a divorce, it is common to feel insecure, unwanted and full of self doubt.  This is not the way you want to feel about yourself when you re-enter the dating world.  You want to be confident and secure.  You need to take the time to work on yourself so that you feel this way.  Also, following divorce many people feel a loss of identity.  They don’t know who they are anymore.  In order to know what you are looking for, you need to know who you are as a person, separate from your ex-spouse.  Reclaiming your identity is part of the healing process, but it is so important, it is being stressed as a separate consideration.

3.  Are you in a position to attract what you want?

The law of attraction states that we attract into our own lives what we put out into the universe.  If we are bitter, untrusting and have walls up, we will attract people who are similar.  If we are emotionally available, we will attract others who are emotionally available.  In order to attract what we want, we need to know what that looks like. We need to make sure that we don’t repeat negative behaviour patterns from our previous relationship that may cause us to make the same mistakes.  We also need to consider whether we are ready for a long-term relationship, or whether we are better suited to just get out there and meet a variety of new people by dating.  Those of us a little older sometimes want to get serious again too quick.  There is no harm in just having fun for a while rediscovering who you are and meeting lots of people.

4.  Do you have a realistic vision of your ideal mate?

All too often people approach dating with a rigid checklist of what they want and they won’t even consider someone who doesn’t meet all of the criteria.  It is easy to forget that we have aged and have some baggage, so of course a prospective partner will have aged and have baggage too.  It is easy to become extremely picky as you get older, especially if you are happy with the other areas of your life, and feel that you just need someone to complement an already good life.  While I would never suggest for a moment that anyone should settle for something less than they desire, just be mindful that you haven’t set the bar so high that there is no living person who can meet it.  Don’t settle, but be open to a Prince or Princess Charming who perhaps doesn’t look or seem exactly like the one you envisioned.

5.  How do your children factor into your dating life?

First and foremost, dating is an adult, individual decision and children should never be the one telling you whether or not it is ok for you to date.  Young children won’t understand it and older children should not be telling their parents what they can and can’t do.  Having said this though, children are always our first priority.  If you have young children you will want to be protective of them and need to decide who it is appropriate for them to meet and when.  Children are only young once and it is important that they never feel that they are secondary to mom’s or dad’s dating life.  It is also important though that when you are ready you don’t let your children hold you back from finding a new love.  Be mindful not to use them as an excuse, when the reality may be that you just aren’t ready yet and that is perfectly ok.

We all deserve to find love again following a divorce.  Don’t let the hurt, betrayal or blow to your self esteem hold you back from doing something that could bring a great deal of happiness to your life.  If you need some support on how to approach dating after divorce, coaching can really help.  Please contact me at leanne@leannetownsend.ca for a free 30 minute consultation.