Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Random Musings on Divorce and the Holidays

Blog posts are being replaced by the short status update or, worse even the limited character Twitter feed. I think of these posts as a version of haiku with a challenge of using real words in a concentrated form that gets a message through rather than give in to the shortened R U and OMG, My extra challenge is that I write about complex emotional as well as legal issues. So here are some random musings too long for the twitter feed.

Don't post about divorce during the holidays?

Recently I wrote a short quick update aimed at a very narrow group -- people who worked for a particular company on a particular legal plan who are contemplating divorce- now. Important information to that rather small niche. However, the message went to a wider audience and it was Christmas week. I was chided for bringing up such a topic in a week of peace and love and warm fuzzies. So I contemplate: Is the topic of divorce off limits for the holidays? Is it like the story of the soldiers in World War II that stopped fighting and sang songs on Christmas Eve? Did that really happen? Is it realistic in these complicated modern times? Are the only businesses open those that sell gifts and provisions for the big feast? I think not. Does divorce take a holiday? I know from experience it does not.

Christmases Past

Like Scrooge, I find myself recalling Christmases past. Fifteen Decembers now I've had to keep the store open. Last Christmas eve eve I spent the morning in line at the Honeybaked store for the family feast and then spent an hour and a half driving to an outlying courthouse. It should have been a 30 minute drive but I had to go past a major regional shopping center to get there and traffic was snarled for miles. The Family Law Motions Calendar was full of contentious cases. My clients were fighting over the house, the car, the kids and, I think, even the family dog. It was dark and gloomy when I left the courthouse. My client and his wife still hated each other and I can't even imagine what the festivities were like for the kids being shuffled back and forth between two families. No holiday here.

December traditionally is a very busy month for me. I no longer handle contentious cases but I do find the holidays exacerbate the tensions in a marriage and the family gatherings can bring out the worst. Then there are the New Year's resolutions. The last week of the year brings people who resolve to live differently in the coming year. They want a fresh start and want to let go of a marriage that is no longer serving either party. They want to take the first step before the new year. December 1999 was particularly busy with the "millennium divorces". Folks really examined their lives and wanted to enter a new millennium free from an abusive or loveless marriage.

I try to avoid the holiday custody battles and find the best way to avoid them is to anticipate eventualities in the parenting plan to begin with. New residences, new jobs and new relationships sometimes make existing plans unworkable. Hopefully the plan offers some flexibility or, at the least, the parents can mediate with a parenting specialist. Hopefully they don't wait till the holidays to do so.

Divorce trial in December?

The worst situation a couple can find themselves is with a December trial date. These dates are automatically set when the case is filed and are ten to eleven months out. Suddenly a couple is juggling the holidays with court dates. Trial date does not necessarily mean you start that day; rather you are put in queue until there is an available courtroom and judge. There are ponderous pre-trial and discovery motions and often recesses while the judge does something else. You can't stay late because court house staff can't stay overtime. Judges usually don't have regular trial calendar on Fridays. So you can easily use up much of the month of December. Note: If you have a December trial date, continue it for a couple of months, just in case.

Does Divorce EVER take a holiday?

Does divorce ever take a holiday? I found two such times in my career. Immediately after 9/11 people found themselves clinging to relationships or reconciling. I dont have any records to see if those relationships did ultimately survive. I do know there were a lot of 9/11 babies born the following spring/summer.

Another time I found divorce seeming to take a long vacation was at the start of the recession. People were shell shocked. Out of work and underwater on their mortgage, these couples really tried to suck it up. Some subdivided the house with one moving into the basement or dividing up the bedrooms. As I thought at the time, this only created pent up demand for my services and in a few months these people moved forward with the divorce.

Your Divorce is Unique

So there is certain unpredictability about the divorce business and yet there are certain patterns. What I do know is that each case is absolutely unique to that individual. They dont care how many other people have been in the same situation. Theirs is one of the most important, traumatic events in their lives.

These are my random musings for this week between the peace love and joy of the holidays and the resolutions for better times in the coming year.

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