Family law attorneys Billie Tarascio and Julie LaBenz are back, sharing a packed hour-long session trading insider tips for surviving the emotional (and legal) strategies that can get you through a divorce. And let's face it - divorce is all about the emotions and managing them so you don't make critical mistakes that cost you more than you expected.
Drop in on Billie and Julie's recording of a live meeting with their divorce group as they answer questions geared to help people who are divorcing without an attorney. If you are trying to manage the divorce process yourself, this is a must-listen podcast that is loaded with ideas you can put to work to help you survive divorce.
[00:00:00] Julie LaBenz: Going the straight up litigation route can be, um, can be dangerous.
[00:00:05] Billie Tarascio: I mean, it's never the most efficient ever because some of the problems that you're gonna face in your Divorce are not really legal problems. They're practical problems. And then your legal problems could be solved sometimes practically.
So, you know, I, I think hiring, if you're gonna work with a lawyer, working with somebody who's super creative and practical is. 10 times outta 10 a better idea than somebody who's just like, I just wanna fight. Unless you're one of those clients who just wants to fight and what's your best advice for those clients who are just like, I want to fight?
[00:00:40] Julie LaBenz: You know, it's interesting. I was, I was talking to a client yesterday and he's mad, he's really upset about how he's been treated and he wants. He wants a moral victory. He wants to feel justified. He wants to feel like, yeah, there's, there's right and [00:01:00] wrong, and, and right is going to prevail. And I had a really long conversation with him just about.
What that looks like. If you're going to go down that path, um, you're gonna spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs the outcome's totally uncertain. And let's really be honest with ourselves. Let's say you have the biggest victory and the court sanctions the other side, and, and, and you're proven right?
And the principle of the matter is proven. Do you really think the other side's gonna suddenly see it? Your way? They're likely gonna be like, oh my gosh, the system wronged me. He's, he or she's such a jerk. And, uh, like your point will not be taken the way you want it to be, most likely. So you're gonna need to decide what's more important for you staying enmeshed and engaged in this ongoing conflict or cutting your losses and moving on.
Um, my [00:02:00] mentor in the law, he used to always say, um, every lesson in life has its tuition.
[00:02:06] Billie Tarascio: Ooh.
[00:02:06] Julie LaBenz: So if you're fighting to try to get, even monetarily, you're, you're likely just gonna keep throwing money at the problem. And sometimes we just have to admit that we made a mistake, whether or not it was our fault, and learn from it and move on.
And that might mean, you know, admitting that you know, you're not gonna recoup all the money you put into the relationship or something like,
[00:02:32] Billie Tarascio: Right. I mean, if, if we can just ha, if we could just start by saying, you're gonna come out at a loss, , there is a price to get out of your marriage. Whether or not you lose lawyers, no matter what it's going, there's going to be costs.
And so trying to figure out the fastest way out is usually the cheapest way out. Not always, [00:03:00] but. , anybody who wants vindication and is looking for justice to be served will probably be disappointed.
[00:03:12] Julie LaBenz: The judge isn't gonna see it the same way, most likely, you know, won't take it as seriously as you do. Um, and really what this is, is you're looking for some sort of external validation.
And instead, can you go inside and get, you know, learn your lessons and get your own validation instead of going on a six month to one year fishing expedition because proving your point is nebulous. Getting the court to vindicate you as nebulous. You know, we see on TV these amazing courtroom scenes where there's these massive victories and justice is served and it's beautiful, but I've been a lawyer for almost 20 years, and those types of moments are extremely rare, especially in family court.
There's [00:04:00] almost never a landslide victory.
[00:04:01] Billie Tarascio: Almost never. And, and I'm thinking of one particular case that we worked on where, um, the, these parties were married for more than 40 years. Husband was a pilot. Turns out he'd been living a double life. He had Oh, wow. Yeah. He had another woman he was married to in, in China, I think.
Um, and. . It was a long, we had huge waste claims. He had spent, he had supported another family while he was married for 40 years. Okay. So those facts, like, they don't get better than that in terms of waste, but he, they wouldn't settle. We had to go to court. We ended up proving waste. She won. But she didn't feel like she won, like no about, it didn't matter that she got what she was looking for from the courts.
The nothing could repair the loss of the betrayal. [00:05:00] And sometimes we're looking for the court to, to do that, to help fix the wound that we've suffered from our marriage and it can't.
[00:05:11] Julie LaBenz: it's really tough because you want that easy, you know, not even easy, but that solution and like you, that example you just gave, you can even get to the end point and then realize, no, that didn't do it for me.
[00:05:25] Billie Tarascio: I won. And I still feel exactly the same. still, still heartbroken, still empty, still angry, you know, still with less money than I had before.
I was getting as divorce. Even though I'm getting this waste claim still, you know, it just, yeah. So what are some survival tactics,
[00:05:44] Julie LaBenz: right? So, let's talk about that. Let's talk about top survival tactics to stop getting triggered by your soon to be ex and reclaim your life. Um, Why are we talking about this to begin with?
You know, we're lawyers, family lawyers, we should be talking about, you know, [00:06:00] how to file a petition or something like that. But what you'll find if you really get into the family courts is that. You can't just run to court and get an immediate solution. I mean, yes, there are avenues for emergency relief, but they're very strictly defined and you need to show irreparable harm, which is a really high standard.
I mean, just imagine ir well. He may get hit or my son may suffer emotional. Like there's a lot of speculation about what may happen and that often doesn't qualify for emergency relief. You need to have some really strong evidence of irreparable harm, so you're not gonna be able to just run to the court and get emergency relief and the majority.
Of the circumstances. Plus, even if you go to court on a non-emergency basis, it's gonna take months to get to a resolution. So the, the hot thing that you're really upset about now is gonna, you know, diminish over time. [00:07:00] And then you may be disappointed to find that the courts want you to work it out. Like the, the judge doesn't wanna figure out your parenting plan and the judge doesn't wanna be like, You know, the person punishing which parents, the bad parent, like the, the judge really doesn't want to do that.
The judge will in certain circumstances, but they really don't, so, mm-hmm. , what do you do when you're having troubles, like real significant problems in your life, but the court is not gonna be your avenue of relief? That's what we're gonna talk about today. And what are your thoughts on that, Billie? Yeah, I mean, what I think is hard about this is.
[00:07:41] Billie Tarascio: Unfortunately there are there. We really do need to talk about what the court cares about and what the court doesn't care about, because unfortunately, I've seen a lot of people not go to court when they should have, and a lot of people go to court when they shouldn't have. . [00:08:00] Um, so, and most of the time, more often than not, people want to go to court for things that the court doesn't care about.
It is rarer that somebody, should have gone to court or should have fought something and they didn't. But those situations that I see most often, um, both in my practice and online when I'm watching people discuss, is like, if you are a victim of domestic violence, This matters. You should not think, uh, the courts always offer, always go for 50 50.
It doesn't matter that there's been domestic violence. I should agree to joint legal and 50 50. I disagree with that. That is not what the law says. That is not true. So I do not think that you should give up on that. and if you believe your child is in danger, I don't believe, and you've got like real issues.
You've got an alcoholic parent, you've got a, a parent who's mentally ill, you've got real danger to your child. Not, you [00:09:00] know, he goes to bed too late or he's feeding him. You know McDonald's too often, but he's not feeding my child or whatever. Like if it's really dangerous it, then you need to take it to court.
And if it's not really dangerous, then you don't take it to court.
[00:09:20] Julie LaBenz: Yeah, exactly. The emergency relief is there if you qualify. But there's going to be so many situations that feel like an emergency, but don't actually qualify under the law. And yeah, so definitely get legal advice along the way if you're facing what you believe to be an emergency situation.
Go ahead, Billie.
[00:09:40] Billie Tarascio: Well, and even if it's not an emergency, even if you, your child is in danger, but you're not gonna be able to prove irreparable harm, what I'm talking about is. There's this belief that in Arizona it's always 50 50 and it's always joint legal decision making. And that's not true. That is not true.
Is [00:10:00] there a presumption for equal parenting time? Yeah, there kind of is, but it doesn't mean that it's always the case, and it doesn't mean if in your situation that that is going to be the case. So, um, e even if you don't qualify for an emergency. So what are some survival tactics? Let's say you're in that situation where you do have a danger to your children.
You do not believe that long-term equal parenting time is the way to go. You currently have equal parenting time. What should they do?
[00:10:30] Julie LaBenz: Well, obviously if there's been some incident that shows harm, um, then maybe you qualify to get emergency relief. Obviously explore that avenue if it's merited. Um, but aside from that, um, you know, you really need to check in, um, because especially if your kids are involved, the emotions will start running high and you may or may not show up the best way that you could.[00:11:00]
And so anytime something happens that's, you know, dramatic or upsetting, involving your ex, Um, I would encourage you to pause. Nothing good really comes out of just reacting out of anger or fear. Mm-hmm. initial thoughts on that point, because it's so easy to respond to the trigger right away and just, you know, explode.
[00:11:23] Billie Tarascio: Absolutely. Like. Okay, so one thing is if you're, if you're pretty heightened, you and your ex are pretty heightened and, and you guys are, are fighting and, and the, the heat is on, I recommend stop texting, stop. Any, um, immediate forms of communication slow down.
If you, if you, if you get out of phone calls and you get out of texting and you just move over to email, you're immediately gonna slow down. You might even need to take that a step further and say, I'm not gonna respond to this email for 24 hours, and [00:12:00] sometimes that will help you as well. I'm just gonna close the door, but what do you think about that?
Like, what's a good response?
[00:12:05] Julie LaBenz: Yeah. First of all, don't fall into this, um, trap that you have to immediately respond to everything. There's a time and a place, you know, if, if, if you're getting a message, Hey, I'm taking our son to the hospital because he broke his leg at soccer. Yeah. You know, resp, you know, respond.
Sure. But if you're getting somebody who's throwing lies at you like, oh, you didn't get our daughter to school on time and you didn't do her homework, and she had dirty clothes. And it's just like all this stuff that's not true. And the first thing you wanna do is like fight back. That's where I would take a pause because that's when you're falling into their world.
[00:12:49] Billie Tarascio: Yeah.
[00:12:51] Julie LaBenz: You're losing your power because now you're getting all upset and you're getting triggered and you're falling into it. But really there's no emergency [00:13:00] here. These are lies. This is stuff that can be addressed. And the other side also needs to learn to communicate with you differently. And if you're gonna just engage right away and, and.
Throwback or, or get into this fight with them. You're really not changing anything in, in your communication dynamics.
[00:13:23] Billie Tarascio: No. And you are giving them what they want if they're spewing venom at you. You know, you're a terrible mother. You, this shows how much you actually care for our child. If you blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, you always blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
That is what they want. What they want is your anger and your hurt, and your energy and your emotions like. The best thing you can do is just refuse to engage. Give them nothing. It doesn't mean you're not gonna set the record straight because a lot of people worry, but don't I need to respond? If I don't respond, will they think that I've admitted it?
You have [00:14:00] all day and three weeks. You could. You could respond anytime you want in any way. You could respond, you know, 48 hours later saying, none of this is true. Not justifying yourself, not proving them wrong.
[00:14:17] Julie LaBenz: Yeah, definitely. Um, don't feel like you always have to prove yourself right. A denial can be enough.
You can just say, no, not true. Yeah. You don't have to get into this long, protracted texting thing that's taking you away from valuable time with your kid, you know, and you're all angry and. What your kid knows, like they feel it. Mm-hmm. , they totally get it. Mm-hmm. , you know, no , no. And this is, yeah, go ahead.
If you are gonna end up in court, if you know that you have a court date,
[00:14:53] Billie Tarascio: you do need to be prepared to offer evidence to the contrary of whatever's be [00:15:00] you're being accused of. But it is not the time to tell the other party what your evidence is or what you plan to show or try to convince them that you're right.
You, you're, it's not gonna happen. So take this as intel. Call. Think about this as discovery. You've discovered what it is they're going to say about you, and now you need to think about how you're gonna combat that, should you need to. But right now is not the time you need to.
[00:15:31] Julie LaBenz: So one technique to start, you know, releasing yourself from these triggers is when it comes up, pause and observe how you're feeling.
Check in with your body. Are you feeling it in your stomach? Is it in your chest? Is it in your neck and your shoulders? Is it your face? Like where are you feeling the upset? Mm-hmm. . And that's gonna help you really just start to recognize how this person is [00:16:00] really making you feel. I mean, obviously you know that they upset you.
But when you can check in with how it's manifesting in your body, sometimes that can be a really big wake up call. Like, wow, I need to stop feeling this way. I got, I'm getting divorced for a reason, or We broke up for a reason. Why am I still trapped in this emotional bond with this person?
[00:16:23] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Totally agree.
Checking in with your body's great. Like I find that sometimes I'll carry to my jaw. My jaw will get really, really tight or here, and, um, taking your, your two feet, planting them on the ground and doing anything bilateral, um, it really, really, really, really helps ground the body. Really influences the nervous system, which allows our brain to be its best self.
Like this is not WOOWOO stuff. This is like, just literally like we're, we're whole human. We're [00:17:00] not just our emotions and our brain, our body and our brain. It's all connected. And so we have the ability to go move. The other thing, um, I've got some people on. Who are, um, making some really great boundary statements and, uh, and if you are on TikTok, there's some people you can follow who are just great at boundary statements and they, they have these like, you know, ten one liners and they're so brilliant things like, Did you mean to say that out loud, or, um, or the one that was brought up here was that, I understand that's your perception, but that's just not my reality.
So just those boundary statements can really help you. If you feel like you need, you need to say something, you can't , you cannot walk away without seeing, saying something. Although no response is sometimes the most powerful response. The another alternative would, Figuring out how to just walk away. But the thing is, if you always feel like you have to have the last word, you're never gonna be [00:18:00] able to, you know that that will never end.
So you have to, I think, challenge yourself to be comfortable not having the last word.
[00:18:07] Julie LaBenz: And really what that comes to is you are going through what the other side's thinking or feeling like you have to win. For the other side, it's all about the other side. So if you could just check in with, And give yourself the last word, and it doesn't really matter about the other person, that's a huge shift that's gonna start you.
It's gonna help you start detaching. And you know this, this body scan is really helpful because it breaks the pattern. . Like instead of just going to the response text or getting mad or wanting to have a drink or, you know, whatever it is that you wanna do, when your ex is upsetting you, this check-in really helps for you to stop that pattern.
[00:18:52] Billie Tarascio: Mm-hmm.
[00:18:52] Julie LaBenz: slow things down. And then, you know, once you've started to recognize how this is impacting you, you can [00:19:00] start analyzing like, how long do I wanna stay? You know, you can't change, like you are not necessarily gonna be able to get the other side to stop being mean, but do you have to get upset every time?
They're mean? Do you have to care what they think or say? And that's really about cutting these ties because whatever relationship you were in and for however long, you likely built this dynamic between you and now you've gotta shift out of it. And so even though it's easiest to say, oh, they need to change and they need to do this or that, that's really just putting yourself in a tough cycle where you're gonna get stuck.
But how about you change how you show up in the dynamic? Um, Billie, can you talk to that a little about that a little bit? You. Post Divorce. You're not in the same relationship with your ex, so how are you communicating differently?
[00:19:56] Billie Tarascio: Yeah, I do wanna talk about that, but one other thing I wanna [00:20:00] say about what you said.
Not only will this, this changing the dynamic and not, you know, re removing your role in the dynamic. Not only will it make you healthier and happier in that moment and long term, it will also help you show up in front of the judge better. It will also help you make your legal case. So you asked, um, how is the relationship dynamic different post Divorce than it was, you know, during the marriage and then in that, um, in that time period when you're going through Divorce. I'll tell you what, so. You know, your marriage usually starts off pretty good. things are fairly functional for a certain period of time, and then they begin to get more and more dysfunctional leading up to your Divorce.
When you go through your Divorce, it is not like a one day thing. You've got like a period, a breakup period that I think is probably for most people a period of years. Mm-hmm. and during that period of years is [00:21:00] when the most you're, you're gonna be at your most toxic, the two of. It's gonna be the most dysfunctional, leading up to the Divorce, and then going through that Divorce period, and then maybe even a little ways out of it.
But I think it's kind of like a curve, right? So if you start off and things are pretty good between the two of you, and then they decline. They decline, they decline, and then they get really, really bad and they stay bad, they're gonna start getting better as the two of you start rebuilding your own lives.
Depending the, the less contact that you have, the less, the more you can break your dynamic and your routine of fighting and inputs to each other, the better the relationship gets. And I sort of think about my ex now, like an extended family member that I don't particularly. Love to spend time with. Like, we're not, I would not call us like [00:22:00] friends, but, um, he is around and he is not going anywhere.
And, uh, you know, you better, you need to want the absolute best for them. Like, I, I want him to be happy and healthy and successful. Um, and, and I have to be polite and, and, uh, you know, properly attentive like you would an extended family. Because you, you ki I don't know, I just kind of feel like you owe that to this person.
This is the, the parent of your children. Your children are half of this human. Like, I think we owe a certain amount of respect and politeness to this person. Did. I don't know if that answered the question.
[00:22:39] Julie LaBenz: Yeah, definitely it did. It's, it's a major shift in how you relate to each other. And it's, and it's, it's really releasing a lot of those emotional attachments.
And, you know, something that can come up is, you know, maybe your, you've moved on [00:23:00] but the other side hasn't, and you're getting like a lot of jealousy and, you know, clinginess and things like that. What are your thoughts on dealing with that situation?
[00:23:10] Billie Tarascio: I mean, Yeah, I think that that can be really hard.
If one person feels possessive and then I think it can be really hard if there's a religious component, you know, to. Your marriage because if there's a religious component, it just makes things more complicated. I was meeting with a client yesterday who, they've been separated a year. He really wants a peaceful Divorce.
She will not. You know, move, and her position is, you know, Divorce is wrong. You are my husband. You owe me, you have left and you've done wrong by even leaving and trying to separate and you better come back begging. And I, and this person feels like they will never submit to a Divorce because they're married and they're married for life.
So if you believe, if you come from a household where there's a religious component and you believe that you've entered [00:24:00] into a covenant and you're married for life, and that's what God thinks. There's a possessiveness that, that the religious thoughts can kind of encourage and it's not healthy . Cause I mean, regardless of your beliefs, that's just not how it works on earth.
You, this person does not belong to you. You have no right to be possessive over them. and so if somebody is feeling possessive towards you, How, how do you set the appropriate boundaries? You know, I've heard of women who've, you know, been separated and their ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends will, will come up to them and like open up their shirts and look at them naked, and they feel like they, they're entitled to do that.
And so I think if that is where you're at, right? If there is that level of jealousy and being with this person or near this person makes you incredibly uncomfortable because they're, they're objectifying you or [00:25:00] they're treating you as if you belong to them and you're their possession, I would probably try to just limit all contact.
[00:25:07] Julie LaBenz: Yeah, you wanna have very clear. , you know, don't be, oh, well I'm sorry. And maybe we can get coffee and like, no, you're gonna have to really set some really clear boundaries and minimize communication. And then if there are, you know, communications, I would be, you know, very clear. You know, you need to let me go.
True love is actually letting the other people go. It's not hanging on for dear life. Um, and just keep hitting them with reality. and yes,
[00:25:36] Billie Tarascio: it does not, a good co-parenting relationship does not require you to be friends, does not require you to hang out with one another, does not require you to be in the same, to celebrate holidays or birthdays together.
And I really do not advocate for putting that in orders at all because there might be times when you can celebrate together and then there will be other times [00:26:00] where the relationship is not in a place where it benefits your children or anyone for you all to be together. So I think if we're still in a possessive phase, like that relationship needs to be like real, real broken.
Like you need almost physical boundaries like space boundaries away from somebody who is possessive and jealous over.
[00:26:23] Julie LaBenz: you know, as you're going through this, another tip is, you know, don't go through it alone. Um, connect with a lawyer that can walk you through strategies to implement or, you know, file court papers for you if needed.
Um, consider therapy for you and your kids. Um, even family therapy, depending on the dynamic. Find a trusted friend, a sibling, a parent, somebody who you can just totally vent to. Like when you have all of this anger and stuff, it's nice to be able to go to [00:27:00] mom or sister or brother and be like, man, you know, my ex made me really mad today and this is what happened.
And you know, they could be there for you. Um, and I like to find the people that just listen. You know, sometimes I don't want the solution and I don't want, oh, well then do this and then do that. Like, can I just, can I just vent and can you just hear me and commiserate with me and then I can move on? And sometimes those are the best people other than the people who are always looking to like, make you better.
[00:27:35] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. Especially when you're in the thick of it. Like It. It is really good if you're going through a Divorce to find some new friends because most likely if when you're married for a long time, your friends are couples and they don't get it, and they want you to get back together.
[00:27:55] Julie LaBenz: because their friendship is with both of you. And so they have some sort of like [00:28:00] allegiance to the marriage, you know? And that's, that's understandable. It's human nature. It's okay, but it's gonna be really good for you to get around some friends who understand what you're going through. So find some friends who are going through Divorce who have been divorced and they will support you.
But I agree with you, you know, you don't need the fixer friend all the time at that point. You know, the ability to vent, like, almost like the friend is the journal. You know, you pour into your journal, your journal doesn't tell you what to do back . So.
Yeah. And Billie, if you are getting comments from, um, the audience, I was wondering if people mm-hmm.
could tell us. Like, how do they feel when they get triggered? You know, where does it show up in their body? Like what are their thoughts about these, you know, these situations and how you deal with it. are they just getting caught up in the trigger or are they starting to implement some new tactics?
Any comments? We have lots of comments, [00:29:00] lots of questions. One of my favorites here is from, uh, mommy is Not Silent on um, TikTok, and she said, we both know that is not true. That's her favorite line when she's skipping garbage. I like that a lot. Um, and then this person said, in the time that we do fall into the tit for tat, does that look bad on us in court?
I mean, it probably depends on the degree. and most of the time not, this is not gonna get in front of a court. Mm-hmm. most exactly. Um, one person said they just let their ex blow up. Just do it. Another liner is that may be your possession perception. It doesn't make it reality. Um,
Just good stuff. And then we do have, we do have some questions here. Okay. Um, if the father of my child is filing in court and claims filing claims against me that I feed our child fast food and our child didn't go to the [00:30:00] dentist and he has a list of concerns and he's filing for custody, what will the judge do?
All right. So first, um, the
quick disclaimers, um, for the q and a session. Um, Billie and I don't become your lawyer by doing the q and a. Our answers are just legal information. We can't give you specific legal advice. We'd have to sit down and like really get into your full situation. And this is based on Arizona law cuz we're both licensed in Arizona.
Um, with that said, . I mean, the fact that he filed the petition is something you're gonna have to deal with. And I'd be going through each allegation and starting to build a defense. And even if some of the allegations are true, but they're not good, I would be making changes. But you know, you kind of have.
Look at, well, what's good or bad? Like, is the judge going to change parenting time based on how much McDonald's is [00:31:00] consumed? Like, I've, I've never seen a parenting time order based on McDonald's, so I, I, I, I would have a really hard time. Seeing any judge base a parenting decision on fast food, um, what were some of the other allegations?
Dentist. To the dentist?
Yeah. I mean, relevant if you're, if you missed one dentist appointment though, you know, happens. Um, if the kids never been to the dentist and has some dental issues again, I would be looking to solve that. Yeah. Um, but again, is the judge going to bring the hammer down because, There, you know, some things fell through the cracks on the dental work.
It really depends on the situation, but likely no. If that's the only thing and Right. A lot of these things that are coming up are stuff that we're, the court is gonna say, parents, you need to communicate and figure this out.
[00:31:57] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. I mean,
it, it really doesn't matter how much [00:32:00] fast food you, you, you feed your child. It does matter if your child. Extremely unhealthy and has health problems, and you're unwilling to do anything to help them in their health problems. You're not following a doctor's recommendations, your child is suffering. You know what?
What if your child has, let's say your TI child has type one diabetes and you're feeding them sugar and you're not monitoring your insulin levels. That matters. It doesn't matter how much fast food your child is eating in and of itself, uh, and with regards to the dentist, if you are not taking care of your child's needs, if they have an infection in their tooth that needs to be taken care of and you're not, I think that matters if you miss some appointments.
I don't think that matters at all if it's not impacting your child's. Go to the dentist . That's the other thing. A quick and easy way to handle that is just to go to the dentist. And, um, [00:33:00] and, and then if that issue is resolved, it's resolved. So these are the types of claims. These, I love these examples because this is kind of exactly what we're talking about.
Um, you kind of, kind of put on your lawyer hat and think about what is the judge looking for a change in circumstance. And best interest of the child. So is the fast food and the dentist thing a change in circumstance or not? If it's not, um, you might be able to get rid of it with a motion to dismiss and then best interest if your child is thriving.
then these things don't matter to me. If your child is not thriving, if your child is struggling, then the accusations I think have a lot more weight or could have more weight, and you may wanna take some proactive measures to get out in front of that issue. Have you had that come up before
[00:33:51] Julie LaBenz: as far as just minor things all being thrown into petition or mm-hmm.
I mean, yes. I have, [00:34:00] um, recently, um, a mom just ran to the court and filed some papers saying she was upset about a schooling issue and the court ended up just summarily denying it, um, on its own, cuz it wasn't done correctly. But, you know, I I think that the, the person who wrote in the question, if Dad is really just you, Being unreasonable and really trying to just cause problems for whatever motivation he has.
I would be trying to set that up as a, a vexacious litigant, you know, somebody who is not, you know, following what the court wants, which is first talking to the other parent and trying to resolve stuff, but just running to the court and so. I would be trying to really get some language and some final orders really attacking Dad for his tactics if possible.
Because what, another thing that I've found is if there starts to be an order or [00:35:00] two within a history of a case, cuz you know, family law cases can go on for a long time, that has really adverse findings against a parent. It can be really hard to overcome those, even if you have a new judge. Even if circumstances have changed.
Yes. So even if things look really bad and the other side's attacking you, if this stuff isn't true and you're able to show that and get some final orders that are saying, oh, dad is an unreasonable litigant, and things like that, that could be beneficial down the road as well.
[00:35:35] Billie Tarascio: Yeah, that's a great point. A great point.
Next question. How do you get your husband to sign a settlement offer? He's put it off for two weeks. Trial was extended. He verbally agreed to sign. He's continued to relapse on drugs. He's finally in treatment, and I know his sobriety is the number one top priority, but I have been waiting and I just wanna move forward.
What can I say to nudge him without angering him or overwhelming him? [00:36:00] He'd often tell me not to control him. Should his lawyer nudge him more than. And then she also followed up. I have a protective order, but I'm still trying to be polite. He and his attorney continue to state that me being polite, that me being polite during minimized communication about the children means I'm not scared of him, and the protective order should be dismissed.
How do I manage the boundary? There's a lot to that question.
[00:36:29] Julie LaBenz: Yeah, and it's, it's kind of hard to answer. Like, if I had been involved in this case from the get go, I'd probably be like, okay, let's try this tactic and let's try that. Cause I would know the players a lot better. Mm-hmm. . Um, so again, this is just information like, I don't know all of these players and I don't know what would be the best tactic, but I would definitely be going through his lawyer.
and saying, Hey, look, if you're not gonna sign this by this date, I'm gonna have to call the court. You know, I'm gonna have to file a motion with the court asking the court to set another hearing [00:37:00] and enforce, you know, if there was an order for him to sign to enforce that order. Um, and then also maybe talk to the lawyer about coordinating.
If the guys in treatment see about getting the papers there, they usually. You know, a notary on staff that I, I don't know, they usually have some stuff that that makes it so that everything can be done right there. And I would be looking at that angle too. I think you need to be a little cognizant of as well of where he's at on his sobriety deal, because you don't want him to come back later and be like, I was under duress and I didn't know.
And so pushing too much at this exact time could be problematic. And you may just. To let a little more time pass and see what happens with him sur um, with his sobriety. On the flip side, if you think he's gonna be out of this, um, sober house and he is gonna be back using again, then maybe this is the time when you need to really push to get [00:38:00] the signature.
So it's, it's hard for me to analyze this without really knowing, you know, without being a part of the situation. Any thoughts, Billie?
[00:38:09] Billie Tarascio: I mean, I agree. I agree. Trial has been put off. There's purportedly an agreement. I don't know what that agreement is. I don't know if that agreement is super favorable to you or not, especially given the alcohol or drug issues.
Like it's very difficult for us to answer that. But I do wanna talk for a minute about the second part about a protective order. So if you have a protective order, um, against your ex, how. Should someone be communicating?
[00:38:40] Julie LaBenz: Well, if he has a lawyer, you can communicate through his lawyer. And so that's what I would do.
There's also an exception in the protective orders for communications about legal stuff. You can, you can really get the specific language in there. So there is an exception for, you know, going to court and doing legal stuff [00:39:00] and, and getting a signature on a, on a decree, um, may fit within that. But again, if he has a lawyer, I would be going through the lawyer and then if the lawyer's giving you a runaround, I'd be going to the judge and be like, judge, this is what, this is what happened when I went to the lawyer and this needs to be done.
Like we reached an agreement. Um, you may, yeah, getting the judge involved may be a very useful tactic in this situation because the judge wants the case closed too.
[00:39:26] Billie Tarascio: The judge absolutely wants to sign your agreement , most of the time. The other thing I'm reading between the lines here is sometimes when you've had an addict as a spouse, you can be in a very codependent relationship.
[00:39:39] Julie LaBenz: Mm-hmm. ,
[00:39:40] Billie Tarascio: you can feel very responsible for their sobriety, for their feelings, for their wellness, for their level of functioning. And I'm not saying this is you, but I'm, but I'm reading that it could be, this could be an issue where you're feeling like you have to be a support for him. and that that supportiveness as politeness is coming [00:40:00] across as you don't actually need a protective order.
You're this person's friend. So I think that can be a very tough situation. You don't have to prove you're in fear to keep a protective order in place. , they now last for two years. So that's been extended. So now if you get a protective order, it's in place for two years. If you wanna get it extended, it's generally hard to do without a new incident of violence.
Um, and whatever happens during those two years, you know, if there's, if there's. Pages and pages of text messages between the two of you and you wanna extend it after the two years, and they use those text messages to say like, this is unnecessary. That might be evidence that it's unnecessary. So I don't, I don't have a lot of, I don't know what else to say about that.
[00:40:58] Julie LaBenz: One thing I wanna [00:41:00] add is, uh, I'm putting together the order protection course. It's almost ready. Um, nice. So that'll get added to the members area soon. And it goes through just the start to finish overview of how to get a order of protection, how to contest one, um, what happens if there's mutual orders filed.
Um, so there's a lot of different information and that's gonna be available to the members shortly. So, I know orders protection come up quite a bit and um, The court continually tries to streamline the process and make it easier. And they've, they've done a really good job, but it's still, there's still some nuances and, and there's trial aspect to it as well.
If a hearing is requested and it's, it's a full trial, um, I mean, it can be short, but all the same trial procedures apply.
[00:41:51] Billie Tarascio: Mm-hmm. well, and they have their own rules of evidence. They have their own rules of procedure and they have their own rules of evidence. So I'm so glad that we've got a [00:42:00] designated course on order protection available in the members area.
The members area is now open, which is super exciting. And what do people get when they join the members area? So, you know, right now we're getting ready to launch the classes in January, so mm-hmm. , this is just the, the early bird access to start getting, um, You're kind of your feet wet with some trial skills, um, with some of these mini courses we're going to be putting in there on, on various different issues.
Um, and then there's also other resources, within the members area, um, that cover various aspects of Divorce and custody. and that'll all be leading up to the classes starting on January 9th. So, um, Mondays we'll be talking about Divorce. Tuesdays will be about custody, and then Wednesdays will be about, um, modifying or enforcing, uh, a custody order or a Divorce decree.[00:43:00]
And then, um, on Thursdays we'll, Talk about trial skills and practicing them. So each day has, um, a lecture component, but then also the q and a to get your questions answered. And that'll be, um, a 10 week course starting in January.
That's so exciting. It's very, very exciting. And if you're interested, but you're kind of unsure, I think we have the first two lessons available on Modern Law's YouTube page and the trial skills course is 10.
Different lessons. All really, really good if you are headed into court and you need to figure out how to represent yourself. Really, really good information. Um, let's see, couple other questions here. My ex didn't show up for mediation and compared the error of our holiday time to the same for the error that he shouldn't have to pay child support.
Okay, so what I'm reading is maybe. , um, took dad's [00:44:00] holiday time and dad didn't pay child support and then he didn't show up for mediation. I don't know if your mediation is, um, required before you do an enforcement action. Maybe that's what we're talking about. I don't know. There's not a lot of information there.
[00:44:18] Julie LaBenz: So, right. If the court ordered him to attend the mediation, there could be some repercussions from the court. Nothing. Too serious, but they might, um, you know, give him a little slap on the wrist. Um, the, if he has a reason for missing it, you know, something he got covid or you know, something like that and couldn't go, the court may reschedule it, so.
Mm-hmm. , even if you think he's lying about the reason, the court may be like, okay, I'll take that. Go back to mediation. Cuz the court just wants you to try mediation. So, um, it's possible it could get rescheduled. There is no direct connection in the law [00:45:00] between exercising, parenting time and, um, paying child support.
Child support is due regardless of what happens with parenting time. So he can't just decide not to pay. Um, and if this, if this case is through the clearing house, that nonpayment will be recorded and interest is going to accrue. You know, they could take his tax return and pay you that way. I mean, there's some different options, but you know, one of the biggest things here, I mean, if he was through the clearing house, he wouldn't be able to just say, I'm not paying.
And that's kind of the point, is if you can get your case, so that child support is through the clearing house and the payer is an employee and their wages are being garnished. It's a system that goes forward regardless of what's happening between you and your co-parent. So I would be looking to get that child support order through the clearing house so that he can't use it as a means to punish you [00:46:00] if, if you guys reach a disagreement on parenting time.
[00:46:02] Billie Tarascio: Mm-hmm. ? Yeah, we get, we did, she did give us some more information. He didn't, he didn't give a reason. The court says they will charge him a hundred dollars and I can try to remodify child support. Um, okay. Another question I've got here is about expert witnesses and the process and the benefits of hiring one for a high conflict case.
[00:46:26] Julie LaBenz: Yeah. Um, you know, when you have a trial, if you've, Dad testifying and mom testifying and that's it. It can be really tough for the judge to make a decision because your evidence may be somewhat equal, and it's just a real toss up between who the judge decides to believe or or whose proposal the judge decides to adopt or, or maybe the judge does something in the middle.
And that's where an expert witness can really help to change that dynamic. And [00:47:00] instead of it being a, he said, she said, now you have an outside third party who can come in and, and give an opinion that can actually make things, um, you know, much more persuasive. But you really need to figure out, okay, what am I using expert for?
Um, Kind of report is going to be generated. What's going to be in there? What are they gonna testify to? Is the other side gonna get a counter expert? Are we gonna have a battle of the experts? Um, and kind of what's I, if this is maybe something about a child, you know, what's happening to the child along the way?
So, um, a lot to consider and, and experts could be pricey too. So there's a lot to consider with getting an expert involved. What are your thoughts, Billie?
[00:47:46] Billie Tarascio: I mean, I love expert witnesses. I do. I just generally think that they're, they can be incredibly useful because judges obviously have their own biases, their own [00:48:00] inclinations, their own framework that they see the world through.
They have a lot of discretion, so especially if you're going in front of a judge, let's say you, you're going in front of a judge who always gives equal parenting time. That's what they do, that's their belief, and you believe that in your case, it would not be in your child's best interest to have equal parenting time for your particular child.
In that case, I would think that it would be very useful to have an expert say why your child would not be served well with equal parenting time because the judge has to consider the evidence. Now, that does not mean that the judge has to agree with your expert, but they have to consider the evidence and that would help you or could help.
It's hard though because judges, largely because they have so much discretion, can do whatever they'd like.
Yeah. I mean, if you're looking at [00:49:00] expert witnesses, you're probably working with a lawyer.
So, um, you know, keep working with your lawyer on that issue.
Let's see. Another question we've got is, Let's discuss legal decision making with final say.
[00:49:14] Julie LaBenz: Yeah, there was some case law on that within the last few years, and the question was, if we have this designation of joint legal decision making with one parent having final say, aren't we just awarding soul decision making? And if memory serves the court said, no, you could do it that way. And it still is joint.
Um, yes, I have a hard time with my clients selling the final, I mean, obviously the parent that wants it, you know, you don't need to sell anything to them. But for the other parent, it, it's, I, I have a really hard time getting that agreement into place. Generally we'll just end up saying join and, and [00:50:00] really I like to break it down.
You know, people think of decision making as covering everything, but it doesn't, no, it's education. It's healthcare. It's religion, it's personal care decisions. So I'm really looking Okay. Are you dispute? Where's the dispute here? Right? Is it education? Is it healthcare? Is it religion? Very rarely is it religion these days.
Mm-hmm. . Um, and then personal care is so nebulous like that, um, that usually doesn't come up. So it's either education or healthcare is where the rub is. And then that's where we're looking to get some really clear language on just those issues that are in. And it may or may not involve mom or dad being a final decision maker.
Yes. Yeah. I, I think when you have children with, um, ongoing medical or educational needs, That are unique [00:51:00] or just not If you anything other than a very healthy, very average, very well adjusted child. If your child currently takes any medication or sees any specialists or is on the autism spectrum or whatnot, and there's high conflict, I like to.
Build a parenting plan that reduces deadlock because joint legal decision making can create deadlock. And deadlock seems to favor the inaction versus action. So if my client, usually, usually it's moms who have taken, um, point on therapy and decision making and, um, if there's a high conflict Divorce. And Dad now wants, the hard part about this dynamic is mom's used to making this decision.
She just wants to make the decisions. Dad had previously given her this authority. She feels like she's the most qualified. She just wants to make [00:52:00] the decisions, and now dad's like, but it's different. Now we're divorced. I get to weigh in, and he's right. , but I like to figure out ways to reduce deadlock, which might mean, um, I put into the parenting plan that the parents are going to continue to use the healthcare providers they've got and follow any recommendations for the future or something like that.
Um, that, or, you know, decisions like they're going to continue with x, y, Z treatment and X school. You know, and won't make any changes unless blah, blah, blah. So really trying to get in front of major decisions like you're talking about, I think is a good thing. Um, the other thing is if you have parents in different states, um, I think it's a good idea for the parent who has, who's driving the kid to school every day and watching the kid in school every day to have the final say.
Let's say the parent moves within where they're at. Like, I feel. Letting the out-of-state parent block that decision could be a problem. So I really try to think [00:53:00] about what's going on in each individual case when negotiating and crafting the right parenting plan. Yeah, definitely. The other thing that comes up is, is counseling.
One parent wants to get a kid counseling and the other parent refuses. How do you handle that? So, um, I definitely want to get the refusal in writing. Because if we are gonna go to court, I wanna be able to show the judge that this parent is objecting to getting the child help. Mm-hmm. . Um, I'd also like to try to get some reasons why, if any.
Mm-hmm. , um,
and possibly open up to a family counseling. Say, look, if you have some concerns, why don't we set up a family session and see if everybody can get involved. Um, Have the other person have some say on what counselor gets selected. That's, that is a bit of a slippery slope. So you've gotta analyze the situation to see if you wanna open that door or not.[00:54:00]
[00:54:00] Billie Tarascio: Um, those are some of the things, um, but it can be tough. And usually the objection is that they think the counselor is gonna turn the kid against them somehow or something like that. And, you know, in practice, The counselors generally don't come to court. I've, I've seen a counselor to come to court here and there, but it's very rare.
Um, there's the counseling records, um, and sometimes they're helpful, sometimes they're totally vague, sometimes they're not correct. Um, So in practice it's, yes, the counseling can be very valuable, especially if the counselor reaches a conclusion that one of the parents is not safe. The counselors are mandatory reporters, they would need to call DCS, um, but yes, sometimes you have to get a court order to order the PA or to order counseling if the other side just absolutely refuses.
And if the reason you
think you need final [00:55:00] say is because of that, which happens, somebody might say, I need final say because I need to get my kids in counseling. The other thing that you could do is write into your parenting plan that either parent can take the kid to counseling. So there's some ways you can get around this final decision making, um, issue by building in what you need.
So we are out of time for today. How do people register and become members?
[00:55:30] Julie LaBenz: All right. Visit win without law school.com and the information's there. If you have any questions, you can email info winy without law school.com, and we look forward to teaching you how to have success in the courtroom without a lawyer.
[00:55:46] Billie Tarascio: Great to see you, Julie. Talk to you soon. [00:56:00]