Recommended Books for Contested Child Custody Issues

Recommended Books for Contested Child Custody Issues

You’ve separated from your child’s other parent. Life is tough, and litigation is messy. You are looking for good resources anywhere you can find it.

• Do try a support group.
• Do consult a lawyer or a court facilitator.
• Do try mediation if your ex is a good candidate for it.
• Do think about co-parenting counseling.
• Do ask counsel about the possibility of a child custody evaluation.
• Do determine if minor’s counsel may be appropriate in your case.
• Do focus on the needs of your child instead of revenge on your ex.

And last but not least, do read books that help you focus on your child’s needs during this seriously conflicted, scary and frustrating time.

We’ve compiled a list of worthwhile books that will instill confidence and help you through the trying times. Keep reading to find out if one of them (or all) is right for you.

Tips for a Successful Mediation

Tips for a Successful Mediation

Mediation works when it is done right. It can be a fabulous way of reducing animosity, finalizing a divorce quickly and efficiently, keeping your personal life and private details more confidential, saving money and resolving conflict. Mediation is not right everyone – it only works when there is no power imbalance, both parties agree to be transparent with finances, each spouse has a serious desire for settlement and neither party has denied access to the children. Benefits of mediation include greater post-divorce stability and shielding your kids from conflict. So what can you do to increase your chances of successfully mediating a family law dispute? We’ve included some tips below to keep in mind when you embark on this process.

1. Commit to being a good listener: Ugh, really? Yes. When spouses in mediation have good listening skills (and refrain from interrupting and attacking), settlement discussions stay on track. Bonus points for empathizing with your ex as you may find that s/he becomes more cooperative when feeling like they’ve been ‘heard.’

2. Choose your consulting lawyer wisely: A lawyer who is not skilled at mediation or who is not supportive of the mediation process can kill your chances of settlement. Most divorce lawyers try to take over and control the entire case. This just sends you into litigation mode. But why do I need a consulting lawyer? A consulting lawyer can give you answers that are specifically tailored to your case. An experienced consulting lawyer can act as a law coach on an as-needed basis. Between sessions, she can clarify your questions and prepare your for negotiations by evaluating your best/worst case scenarios, help you identify legal claims you may not have known you are entitled to (e.g reimbursements for joint expenses you paid after separation or for a portion of the fair rental/use value for the property your spouse has had exclusive use of since separation) and coach you in negotiating techniques. Former clients have asked us to predict the range of possible legal outcomes if they were to go to court, the cost of litigation, and review agreements (make sure that what the mediator prepared says what you want it to say!) Another great perk of having a consulting lawyer is that s/he can be ready to jump in should negotiations fail.

Mediation might be the answer to many of your concerns going into a divorce, but you need to be prepared. Sign up for a free subscription to read more tips for a successful mediation.

5 Relationship Insights We’ve Learned as Divorce Lawyers

5 Relationship Insights We’ve Learned as Divorce Lawyers

Despite our own mistakes, and the many we have seen, we are still believers in love and commitment. For every client we’ve helped through a messy breakup, we’ve had the privilege of hearing their story. We’ve listened, analyzed, and agonized with them, and we’ve learned a few tips that we all might want to consider before saying “I do” — and if it’s too late, if your partner has already filed divorce, we’ve got a few tips for you too, so that you remain in integrity throughout your separation in an effort to ‘consciously uncouple'(a term that we had so much affection for until Gwyneth exploited it).

Read more about five relationship insights we’ve taken to heart as divorce lawyers.

Three Little-Known Communication Tools to Improve Your Relationships

Three Little-Known Communication Tools to Improve Your Relationships

Many people have cats or dogs in their lives, and others may call birds, fish, rabbits, and turtles their companions. But today I actually want to talk to you about porcupines. That’s right, porcupines. Specifically, Schopenhauer’s Porcupine.

Sometimes called the hedgehog dilemma, Schopenhauer’s Porcupine is a fable from the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer positing that human intimacy can be likened to two porcupines trying to figure out how to come close together to share warmth on a very cold winter’s night: the porcupines are drawn to each other for survival against the cold, but in coming together they accidentally (and painfully!) get pricked from the spines of the other. So then they move away until they get too cold again and then move back towards each other and so on and so forth.

in today’s Sunday Comfort, I want to share with you a handful of tools I use with my clients and that I try to use in my own life. These tools are largely drawn from my studies of Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and from my work counseling couples, but the tools can really apply to any type of relationship be it romantic, friendship, family, coworker or neighbor. I invite you to read on to see which of these tools appeals to you and what you might like to add to your own relationship toolbox.

Sign up for a free subscription to read more about how to: frame your conversations for success; reflect, empathize, and validate the other; and slow things down when tempers speed up.

Is Your Style of Communication Getting in the Way of Your Relationships?

Is Your Style of Communication Getting in the Way of Your Relationships?

Have you ever been in conversation with your loved ones and just found it impossible to really, truly, communicate? Like, no matter how carefully you tried to explain your point of view the whole conversation seemed to go off the rails in a series of misses, and you all ended up feeling not-so-good about the contact you just had? It might have something to do with one of the four communication styles you learned in childhood.

Communication styles fall into four major categories – Passive, Aggressive, Passive Aggressive, and Assertive. Keep reading to learn more about all four.

What Are the Tools in Your Emotional First-Aid Kit?

What Are the Tools in Your Emotional First-Aid Kit?

What’s an emotional first aid kit? It’s a set of practices, behaviours, and creative interventions I’ve cultivated over the years that helps me support my body, mind, heart, and soul when times are particularly tough and I need to ramp up my self-care big time.

All of the tools in my emotional first aid kit are unique (read: wicked quirky) and super, almost inexplicably effective for me.

These are some tools you can pull out when it seems like everything’s going wrong and your standard self-care routines just aren’t cutting it for you anymore. An emotional first aid kit is an ongoing practice of self-awareness and self-care, supporting you in recognizing what you need, and getting curious and creative about how you can meet your needs through life’s many ups and downs.

For the purposes of today’s exercise, I’m going to walk you through the four areas for which we want to develop tools, and invite you to identify 2-3 creative interventions for each area. This will be the foundation of your own ever-evolving emotional first aid kit.

Body: Feel, Nourish, and Soothe
When life’s tough times hit, we want to have some tools in our toolbox that we can use to help feel, nourish, and soothe our body.

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean things like exercising for 20 minutes or drinking a daily green smoothie (though if that sounds like just what you need in tough times, rock on). Instead, what [b]I want you to start identifying are activities or practices you know that would help you get into your body and engage your five senses – smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing – in a way that feels appropriate and helpful for you and you alone.[/b]

For examples, one of my emotional first aid body go-to’s when my schedule’s overly full and I’m feeling overwhelmed by life and professional commitments is hopping on my bike and riding it along the Bay while blaring Florence + The Machine’s Shake it Out on repeat through my earbuds. And while I absolutely love yoga and getting on my mat regularly, when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed is the feeling of freedom that comes from riding my bike long and hard. That combined with the smell of the sea (once a Maine Islander, always a Maine Islander!) and the repeated reminder from Florence to shake my stress off does wonders for me. I don’t know what your body-based tools will be, but here’s some inquiries to help you brainstorm:

-What’s the sort of stress you’re experiencing? Do you feel trapped or too uncontained? What’s a physical activity that can support giving you more space (if feeling trapped) or containment (if you’re feeling uncontained)?
-What did your 8-year old self most love to do with her body?
-What does your body crave when you’re stressed? Touch? Childhood comfort food? Stretches? Connection with the earth? Space?
-Can you combine a few activities into one to engage several senses of your body at once? (Eg: Music and movement?)
If your minds feels frazzled, what action can you take that’s soothing? If your mind (and life) feels untidy or unruly? How can you do something to help bring order to your mind?

Sign up for a free subscription to read the rest of the tools in your emotional first aid kit as laid out by Annie Wright LMFT, licensed psychotherapist.

Overwhelm: The Three-Ingredient Cure

Overwhelm: The Three-Ingredient Cure

Much has been written about the seemingly impossible standards and relentlessly full plates most of us have across all areas of our lives — and I probably don’t need to tell you how much stress, anxiety, and depression it causes when we judge ourselves constantly falling short of “expectations” and the side effects or overscheduling Every. Minute. of our day.

But what’s there to do about it? What’s to be done when you find yourself in a full-fledged meltdown because you’re JUST TOO OVERWHELMED and you have no idea how to make things feel more manageable in your day-to-day?

It’s a tough place to be in, so in today’s post I want to walk you through a three-ingredient “cure” I often use with my therapy and coaching clients (not to mention with myself) when life gets to be overwhelming.

Read on and see if this recipe for overwhelm “cure” can be applied anywhere in your own life…

Three Nitty Gritty Truths About Making Life’s Big Choices & What to Do If You’re Feeling Stuck

Three Nitty Gritty Truths About Making Life’s Big Choices & What to Do If You’re Feeling Stuck

One of the most common things I hear in my therapy practice goes something along the lines of this:

“I feel stuck. I just don’t know what to do or how to make choices about [fill in the blank about career, relationships, life choices in general…]. What do I do? How do I get unstuck?”

Does this feel familiar? Maybe you’ve been wrestling with a question for a few weeks or a few years now, turning choices over and over and over like:

“Is he the one?” “Do I really want to stay in this career field?” or “Do I really want to settle in the Bay Area? I can’t move back to the Midwest, can I?”
I have huge compassion for feeling stuck and not able to make a choice about something you dearly — maybe even urgently — want or need to. I’ve been there many times myself.

Feeling stuck is an often painful, vulnerable, frustrating, and vitality-draining place to be in so I particularly love working with therapy and coaching clients when they’re in this place, gently holding them through the pain and struggle and helping them to shift their stuckness and arrive at choices, insights, and decisions that feel true, tolerable, and enlivening for each of them.

Today I want to share some of these same nitty gritty realities, reframes, and inquires I use with my clients when they’re feeling stuck (the very things I wish someone had shared with me a few years back!) to help you if you’ve been feeling stuck/torn/on-the-fence/ indecisive/resistant to making choices somewhere in your own life. So pour yourself a cup of tea and read on…

Nitty Gritty Truth #1 About Choices: Making life’s big decisions actually *is* tricky business
“Personal identity is always in the process of being formed by the very business of making these endless choices. We are, so to speak, constructing the vehicle even as we attempt to ride in it and steer it. And moreover, we must construct it of materials we pick up as we go along.” — Jim Bugental, PhD
The ability to notice our impulses, imagine them into possible choices, and act on them intentionally and decisively is what gives color, shape, and form to the very identity of our lives.

Every single part of this statement — from noticing to birthing to acting — requires self-awareness, sensitivity, and courage. [b]No part of this process is necessarily easy and particularly not so when it comes to the biggest choices of our lives — how to shape our careers, who we want to partner with, how we want to live out our legacy, and so forth.

And yet, we’re called upon to do this Every. Single. Day. and moreover, as the quote above from famed psychotherapist Jim Bugental, PhD suggests, we’re often forced to do this on the fly, basically making choices (and our lives) up as we bump along the road of life. If you’ve ever felt like you were making it all up as you went along, you basically are.

So can we please just all have some compassion for the fact that making choices often isn’t exactly easy? It’s actually supposed to be hard sometimes. Making choices about the big ticket items in our lives is nothing less than the action of identity-formation.

And, to top it all off, the process is harder still if we – for whatever reason – haven’t learned how to notice, name, and honor our deepest needs and wants. For instance, if you were raised in a home where it wasn’t safe or supported for you to have needs and wants, this may add a whole other layer of complexity and challenge to your current ability to make life’s big choices.[

So if you’re feeling stuck with some area of your life right now, torn between options, sitting on the fence waiting for a sign, please be gentle with yourself. You’re not alone. Not in the least. This decision making stuff is challenging for many of us but seeking out skilled support can be a big help.

Nobody said that any of this was going to be easy, but we’re here to help you navigate tough choices. Sign up for a free subscription to read more from licensed psychotherapist and LMFT Annie Wright.

Four Effective Tools For Managing Anxiety

Four Effective Tools For Managing Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal and natural human emotion that everyone experiences at times. And, like with most things in life, anxiety exists on a spectrum — from butterflies in your stomach before speaking up in a meeting to a full blown panic attack when faced with getting on an airplane — the degree and impact and triggers of anxiety look different for all of us.

Bottom line: You don’t get out of this human experience without dealing with anxiety.

And while anxiety may be unavoidable to a certain extent, you can definitely cultivate some tools to help you more effectively manage and deal with it so it doesn’t impact your daily life so strongly or so negatively.

Sign up for a free membership to learn about our four favorite tools to ease and manage your anxiety.

A Pep Talk for Those Times When You’re Struggling

A Pep Talk for Those Times When You’re Struggling

A Pep Talk from Me to You…

I know you’re having a hard time right now. You’re not feeling so great, mentally, physically, overall… You’re wishing this time would pass, that things would be back to normal (whatever that is). You’re wishing for more ease, wishing this wasn’t your reality at the moment. You’re hurting.

I want you to know that I hear you, I see you, and I’m so sorry you’re having a tough time right now.

As much as I want to take away your pain, sadly I can’t. But I can be here with you in your hard time…

My Personal Tip Sheet for Robust Mental Health

My Personal Tip Sheet for Robust Mental Health

Maintaining your mental health is just as important, if not more important, than your physical health when you’re going through a tough divorce. Don’t get us wrong, we want you healthy and happy on the other end of the divorce tunnel when you emerge, but even a “simple” divorce can take its toll on your mental health.

We’ve compiled a 10-point tip sheet for robust mental health, and we think it’d do your body (and mind) good by giving it a read.

“What if I Never Meet The One?”

“What if I Never Meet The One?”

Asking “What if I never meet The One?” is a potentially scary, vulnerable, and often triggering question to contemplate. Imagining ourselves without The One – a romantic partner, a great love, a lifetime spouse – flies in the face of many people’s dreams and hopes for their future. It’s a possibility that, in my experience, most of us consciously and unconsciously avoid looking at and sitting with.

Let’s be honest: It’s a muddy, hard question. But what if there were gold in the mud? What if by looking at and sitting with this question there could actually be value to us and to the way we live our lives whether we’re partnered or not?

Our Favorite Uplifting Quotes to Live By

Our Favorite Uplifting Quotes to Live By

Sometimes, the hurdles we face can feel overwhelming and paralyzing.

Balancing home and work with parenthood is hard enough. Add in a struggling relationship or a difficult separation, and we are stretched thin. We decided to take a break from our legal articles and focus on what we all need most – inspiration, support and a little reminder that self-care is not simply a luxury — it’s a necessity.

In October of last year, Berkeley therapist (extraordinaire), Annie Wright compiled 99 Uplifting Quotes to Spark Your Soul and See You Through Hard Times. We find ourselves clicking on this post over and over, so we’ve decided to compile a few uplifting quotes of our own. Keep reading to see what keeps us inspired!

101 Self-Care Suggestions for When It All Feels Like Too Much

101 Self-Care Suggestions for When It All Feels Like Too Much

There may be some days, weeks, months, maybe even years when – for whatever reason – just getting through the day, or going to work, or putting one foot in front of the other feels hard. Really, really hard.

Maybe it’s because you’re wrestling with anxiety, depression or some other mental illness. Maybe it’s because you’ve had your heart broken. Maybe you’ve gone through a physical or emotional trauma. Maybe you’re deeply grieving. Or maybe there’s no easily understood reason for why you’re feeling bad.

Read through our 101 self-care suggestions for when it all feels like too much.

Three Steps to Expanding & Growing During Challenging Times

Three Steps to Expanding & Growing During Challenging Times

Oftentimes in life we find ourselves in what appears to be a difficult and painful situation. Divorce is a great example. Divorce. Life is not going the way we dreamed about or expected. When this happens we may feel like we have been kicked in the gut.

I have found that in situations like this, life is asking us to expand and grow. The thing that is causing us so much pain is really a call to expand ourselves in disguise. (A very clever disguise at that.) To find the place where we can grow, I use a simple three step process with my clients.

Step 1: Discovery
Before we can begin to expand and grow, we first have to accept all of the painful emotions that we feel. We need to become present to what is really true for us. We make an honest assessment of what is so. This is the most difficult part of the growth process because we may have to revisit our rage, anger, hurt, or disappointment. We may have to be in a period where we feel stuck. Who loves feeling this way? Not I, for sure. Yet we cannot skip this process. If we skip it, we will never make progress. These emotions need to be resolved and honored.

Sign up for a free subscription to read on about the next steps to take when doing your best to grow in the face of adversity.

Is Your Spouse a “Training Partner”?

Is Your Spouse a “Training Partner”?

If you are thinking of divorce, you may have what I call a “training partner.” I learned this from my years of studying Aikido and martial arts. In the dojo, you can’t get better unless you have a great training partner. A training partner is the person who most challenges you—the person you feel most frustrated, challenged, angry, hurt or betrayed by. Along with your spouse, a training partner can be a boss, a co-worker, a child or a friend. These training partners are here to offer you an opportunity to grow and expand.

Training partners seem to have this unbelievable talent of triggering deep, painful emotions in us. They can make us feel inadequate. They can make us feel so angry and enraged. They can bring out our righteousness. That’s what they’re there for. It’s not a mistake. It’s an opportunity to grow.

Read on to find out if you tied the knot with a training partner and how to move forward with your life.

Best Practices for Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities in a Split Household

Best Practices for Supporting Students with Learning Disabilities in a Split Household

Even ‘happily’ married couples have difficulty effectively supporting their children. In some cases, especially when the parents have a child or children with a disability, the parents need to be even more united and consistent with their parenting to ensure that their kids can enjoy their childhood and get the best possible chance at life.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most important tips for separating/separated parents who have a disabled child.

Pre-Leaving Checklist

Pre-Leaving Checklist

If you have one foot out the door, you may be tempted to run and as fast as you can. But before you do, it’s important to do a few things to be as prepared as possible and have access to originals or copies of the necessary documents you’ll need for your dissolution.

I’ve broken it down into two categories—To-Do’s and Documents—and you owe it to yourself to slow down and walk through the checklist.

It’s Over: The Checklist You Need for Your New Beginning

It’s Over: The Checklist You Need for Your New Beginning

It’s over. Officially. But, now what?

As a divorce lawyer for the last 12+ years, I can tell you that – as crazy as it sounds – sometimes one of the most difficult parts of divorce is the end. After enduring so many months of negotiation, paperwork, deadlines, heartache and perhaps even frustration or anger; when the divorce judgment is finally granted, it can feel all at once like an incredible burden lifted – but also like a thick cloud of fog settling in. So, now what? Where do you go from here?

One of the most popular resources on Hello Divorce is a pre-leaving checklist. It’s a comprehensive list of to-dos and documents to get in order that helps someone planning to begin the divorce process do so thoughtfully and strategically, at an emotionally difficult time.

Let’s walk through the checklist together and make sure you’re ready for that new beginning!

Worksheet: Designing a Self-Care Plan (That You’ll Actually Follow)

Worksheet: Designing a Self-Care Plan (That You’ll Actually Follow)

One of my favorite quotes about self-care comes from my friend and colleague Annie Wright, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who runs Annie Wright Psychotherapy, based in Berkeley. “Self-care doesn’t always look like sleep, yoga or green juice,” she often says. And she is SO right.

But sometimes self-care becomes this thing that you have to plan and make time for and commit to. Maybe it starts to feel like a chore because so many people keep telling you to “take care of you”. Or maybe self-care feels silly or selfish, like your time could be better spent checking items off your to-do list.

I get it. We’re all busy. But look: if you don’t make time for you, nobody else will. You’re in the driver’s seat on this one. And I guarantee that one hour a week (at least) dedicated just to you is not too much to invest in yourself.

But, how to fill the time? We’ve got you covered.

In partnership with Annie, I’ve developed a worksheet to help guide you through a decision-making process that helps you think through a decision-making process that starts with booking – and committing – to time just for you. Then, it takes you through a series of questions to help you plan and choose an activity that feels right for you, depending on what you need at this moment and as you grow toward the next version of you.

I hope you like it.

Sign up for a free membership to download this worksheet.

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