Monday, April 6, 2009

Books on Divorce, Even Some for the Kids!

Clients are always interested in finding out more and ask me to recommend books to them. I think that it is the uncertainty of the divorce outcome that makes them thirst for more knowledge in order to try to make the outcome more predictable. Unfortunately, the only way to have a predictable outcome is for the parties to come to agreement on all of the terms of the divorce. In that regard, education is very helpful. These are some books that clients have read and told me they would recommend to others, so I thought I would share them here. As usual, this is not a substitute for legal advice in your particular situation. For that, you need to consult with a family law lawyer.

What Every Woman Should Know About Divorce and Custody, by Gayle Rosenwalk Smith, J.D. and Sally Abrahams (Pub: Perigee) - Men should read this too! Has good explanations of situations (don't take out the bad news on your lawyer, use the energy to gather information needed to fight or your lawyer may deviate from the script because, if she is good, she will be able to read the courtroom). Very practical advice that will help you communicate better with your lawyer and maybe even help reduce your fees. Also gives guidance on whether you should represent yourself and how to hire a lawyer.

What About The Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee (Pub: Hyperion) Gives general information, but also breaks it down by age. Talks about resolutions to various issues, even gives help regarding stepparents and blending families after the divorce. Can help you flesh out issues involving your children which may help lead you to working things out with the other parent in the best interests of the child. (Hint: This can help you both avoid protracted litigation.)

Divorce For Dummies by John Ventura and Mary Reed (Pub: For Dummies) Yes, it is just like the Volkswagen for Dummies book I used in Law School to save money on my oil changes (what a mess I made, though). This book in particular was highly recommended to me by a client who brought it to every appointment and court hearing and regularly would way to me, "Wow, that's just what they said in this book!" I have not read this book but in general it has received good reviews, including good customer reviews. Does not have specific state by state requirements, but in the state I practice, you would almost need county by county information!

There are also some books for the children to help explain divorce to them. Some of my favorites are:

It's Not Your Fault, Koko Bear: A Read-Together Book for Parents and Young Children During Divorce by Vicki Lansky

Dinosaurs Divorce by Marc Brown (the same author of the Arthur series)

Two Homes by Claire Masurel and Kady MacDonald Denton, Illustrator

I Don't Want to Talk About It byJeanie Franz Ransom and Kathryn Kunz Finney, Illustrator

There are many others out there that probably deserve to be mentioned, but this is all the time I have for now. Back to lawyering!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Using Therapists and other professionals

In many divorce cases, therapists can come into play, particularly where children are involved. (Reminder: I am an Ohio lawyer giving you general information. For legal advice in your particular situation, please contact a family law attorney.)

Therapists can play many roles. It is important to remember that the therapist role is limited to the way the therapist is employed, and everyone needs to clearly understand that from the beginning. If the therapist is a pre-existing therapist who is actually treating someone, whether the child or the parent, the therapist is limited to that role and cannot start treating other people or making custody recommendations. However, a treating therapist can testify about the treatment progress and any issues that pertain to that particular patient. This is where is gets very tricky, and each therapist has to decide how to proceed under their own ethics rules. For example, in Ohio is it clear that a therapist treating a child cannot make a custody recommendation. That must be done by a neutral party, usually a forensic custody evaluator. However, a child's treating therapist might be able to testify that the child has exhibited an unusually high amount of anxiety when speaking about that one relative who just got out of prison. This could be used by the lawyer to lead the Court to issue orders limiting the contact with that person. See? It is very tricky.

There are also therapists who can be family therapists, just to help the family learn how to function in its new configuration. Yes, even though the parents are divorced, this is still a family. Sometimes these can be very difficult situations, and the individuals involved may need their own therapists as well.

Therapists can also serve to help mediate and resolve disputes, sometimes more effectively and efficiently than the Court can. You can also employ the services of a mediator if that is appropriate.

Finally, there is the therapist who is actually the forensic custody evaluator. Typically, this person will administer a series of psychological tests to both parents, spend a considerable amount of time privately with each parent to discuss the issues involving the children, observe the children interacting with each parent. This is an expensive and time consuming process, but sometimes it is what is ultimately needed.

So, when you decide to involve a therapist in your divorce case, keep in mind the limitations, but also remember that therapists can often resolve issues that courts are just not as effective at resolving.

For more information, feel free to call me at 614-564-6500 or email me at Also, don't forget to check my website at