New Year’s Resolutions for Family Law Clients
Written by: Stefano Ceroni
It’s that time of year again! Yep, time to start thinking about those New Year’s Resolutions.
You remember… those annual false promises that everyone makes to themselves at the beginning of each year about how they’re going to do things differently.
Ha…yeah right. If you’re anything like me, you stopped making these resolutions a lonnnnnng time ago…Or if you do make ‘em, you usually start violating them by mid-February and completely forget about ‘em by April Fool’s Day.
Don’t be sad, we all do it! I mean seriously, have you ever heard anyone talk about their New Year’s Resolutions in August? Never happens!
Well, for one thing, the topics of our yearly installment of self-help therapy are usually just too difficult to maintain. You know, the usual suspects:
2. Traveling to a foreign country;
3. Quit smoking;
4. Quit eating chocolate;
5. Quit eating carbs;
6. Quit eating anything that tastes good;
7. Moderate your drinking (completely quit…huh…what are you, crazy??? Most of us
aren’t that naive);
9. Save money;
10. Pay off your debt.
These are always the popular choices when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions because they are things most all of us feel we could do better at. Honestly, who can really say, “I just don’t get enough chocolate in my diet. I think I should make it a point to eat more…”Or, “I have given so much money to charity these past few years that I’ve decided I really need to cut-back.”
The problem is, they’re just too hard to keep up with all year long. Life, somehow, always seems to get in the way. You know, a big project comes up at work so you start slacking at the gym. Or, something breaks on your car so you have to spend that money you saved up to get it fixed. It’s inevitable– something always comes up in each of our everyday lives that makes it nearly impossible to follow through with any of the typical New Year’s Resolutions.
So, as an alternative, I would like to suggest a different theme for this year’s New Year’s Resolutions that I hope is a bit more attainable–Specifically for those people who have children and are either in the middle of a divorce or are still fighting with their ex over their kids (family law clients).
My hope is everyone who is going through a contentious custody, child support or parenting time case can make one of the following resolutions their own, and, as a result, relieve a little bit of the tension that is impacting their family.
So, without further ado, here is my list of five (5) suggested New Year’s Resolutions that could benefit all families and, at the same time, hopefully won’t be as difficult to accomplish as…let’s say…quitting smoking:
1. No more name calling in front of your children.
It’s simple…if you don’t have anything nice to say about your ex, then don’t say anything at all. News flash here, people: kids remember things. Kids remember how you used to call Mom a B***H, or how you used to call Dad an A** H**E. And, guess what? They don’t like it.
Most kids, if you ask them, want their moms and dads, even if separated, to be nice to one another. They want you both to be at their same birthday party, and they don’t want to constantly be put in the middle of your own drama. (Trust me on this one, I’ve got my own first-hand experience here.)
2. Forgive…and forget.
This one is hard, but it could really save you some stress. Try and forgive your ex for the little things that bother you on a daily basis. Be the bigger person. Place your children’s interests above your own. If your ex shows up ten minutes late for an exchange, give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t scream at them in front of your kids and demand an extra ten minutes of parenting time for yourself. This type of behavior doesn’t do anyone any good.
3. Don’t get greedy.
This one is particularly good for those people in the middle of a divorce. If you can live with $500 a month in spousal maintenance, don’t ask for $2,000. If your sole motivation for an extra day a week of parenting time is an extra $200 a month in child support, maybe consider compromising on parenting time. If you only want the back yard BBQ grill because you know your ex loves it, maybe let them have it and save your energy fighting over something else.
Trust me, you will appreciate this one once the attorney’s bills come around.
4. Cooperate and Problem Solve.
It’s amazing that for some reason when people are not going through a divorce or post-divorce case with their children, they somehow find a way to resolve all their minor day-to-day issues without any help. Yet, when they are in the middle of a case, they require their attorneys to draft three dozen letters a month just to resolve an issue about little Timmy’s extra-curricular activities.
If this sounds familiar, this year, try to become the party who extends the olive branch. Try to resolve your issues before going to your attorney. Why? Well, it generally ticks people off when their attorney forwards them a letter from the other attorney about how crappy they are doing something. So, in return, they usually instruct their attorney to write a nasty response letter about a separate crappy thing that the other party is doing.
As you can guess, this doesn’t get anything accomplished. So, instead of sending your attorneys’ kids to college with YOUR money, consider saving it on the smaller issues by discussing them amicably with your ex. Once again, you will thank me later when you receive your attorney’s bills.
5. Be Honest.
Look…sometimes when it comes to the law, what is right is not always the same as what is legal. For example, if one party pays the other party child support outside of the Arizona Clearinghouse (without proof), these payments are likely to be considered gifts and will not be counted toward any past due child support obligation. If this is the case, the parent entitled to receive support would have a strong legal claim for going to Court and receiving a judgment against the obligor spouse–even though they actually received the money that was ordered.
Doesn’t seem right, right? Unfortunately, it’s true, and this actually happens all the time. So, as far as resolutions go, my suggestion is that if your family law case involves a situation where (according to the strict interpretation of the law) you could get something that you know you do not deserve, be honest, do the right thing and acknowledge the truth. Remember, most of us have a conscience and, last I recall, I don’t remember anyone becoming too upset about doing the right thing.
Happy New Year!!!