Surviving High Conflict Divorce

Amy Goodblatt

Family Law Attorney, Divorce Lawyer and Mediator

Lee interviews Amy Goodblatt, an established Family Law Attorney, Divorce Lawyer and Mediator to discuss the challenges of high conflict divorce. They cover various topics ranging from depositions to co-parenting and how attorneys navigate when their client is the difficult one dragging out the divorce. Amy explains what attorneys discover from the depositions and how those can help them prepare their clients for court or many times help settle the case before court.

Everybody, welcome back to this season’s ebb and flow. I am very excited about tonight’s conversation. It will be interviewing Amy, good black. She is a divorce attorney in the Orlando area and a divorce mediator. I actually met her through my divorce because she was the mediator for my divorce and she was quite amazing. I felt very professional and that we accomplished so much in just 4 hours and completed the majority of the divorce in that mediation. And I decided to reach out to her and see if she would be open to answering questions for us. And she said yes. So I’m going to turn it over to her and let her tell us a little bit about her years as a lawyer and mediator.

I’m Amy Goodblatt. Thank you so much for that wonderful introduction. LEE It makes me feel good to know that what came out of the mediation wasn’t just the outcome of a divorce, but a lasting friendship between us. And I think that’s really and a professional relationship. And I think that leads me into, you know, one of the things that I wanted to talk to a little bit about me and my professional career as a mediator and as a divorce attorney and also as a collaborative divorce attorney to talk to people about high conflict, divorce, a little bit about some solutions, and built in benefits of mediation to help you get the really stressful and difficult process.

. So I’ve been a lawyer since 1985. I have done probably over 10,000 cases in one form or another, mediated over 2500 cases. Many of them are high conflict, some are small cases with a lot of conflict with promotional reasons. Some are high conflict because of just financial reasons, But they’re all sort of the same in this one aspect, which is that people have impediments to resolution. And and so what I want to talk a little bit about is how mediation provides.

A bridge to resolution for people in high conflict situations. There are many, many, many safety features built into mediation that make it so much easier for people in a high conflict situation to be able to discuss and resolve their issues in a safe and professional manner and in a satisfactory manner. So the concept behind mediation to begin with is that is self-determination, not judge determination, not lawyer determination.

I try to say that at the beginning of all my mediation, that if the two people were getting divorced or in a post modification situation could come up with a resolution that works for the two of them and their families. That’s the best possible outcome you can have, because ultimately, at the end of the day, no matter how much your lawyer cares about you or the judge spends time with you, they go on to the next case, Right? So the judge goes on and says, Next case, they have thousands of them. If you have a good lawyer, they have hundreds of them. So at the end of the day, while they care, they’re not living with the outcome of your case for the rest of your life. Right. And if you can have your fingers in the pot and really be the decision makers to what would be acceptable to you in a divorce, that is going to help you be more satisfied with the outcome. You won’t feel as detached from the process. So court, in addition to being sort of an intimidating process, is a detached process for most litigants because you do come in.

Your lawyer makes a lot of arguments, a lot of witnesses speak, the judge talks a lot, and you’re a very small part of that. So when your input is as a witness, you’re not there to tell the judge, Here’s everything I want. You can have a limited role and your lawyer is going to run that show. They’re going to lay out an agenda. And your role may be 20% of what the judge is going to hear. They’re going to hear from the other side, various witnesses, the law. And a lot of people feel left out in that process. And when it’s all done, the judge tells you what to do. So you have very little input except to say, this is why I’m right. I think the other side is wrong. You shouldn’t flip set 180 degrees and that it works this way.

In a mediation. What happens is you, the judge, it’s 180 degrees different from court because the control is in the hands of the people who are going to live with the outcome. So the participants in that mediation and by the way, sometimes it’s just just the parents and extended family members. Sometimes it’s even the child or an adult. SHEPHERD Children, just the participants have control of the outcome of the case.

They are the decision makers. So everyone’s role changes. So in a mediation, nothing is going to happen unless the two of you agree to it. The participants must agree to that outcome. It doesn’t happen in court. A lot of things happen in court that the lawyers don’t agree to. The parties don’t agree to. And your lawyer’s role is very different. They are there to advise you to give you advice. What’s likely to happen in court? Is this a good offer? Here’s how to negotiate. But they’re serving in an advisory capacity to you as the main feature in your divorce to say, here’s what I think you should do or here’s what I think a court will do, But we’re going to defer to you. We’re going to say, this is your life.

You make that decision. And frankly, I think that gives some dignity to a very stressful process and control back to people. It helps your self-esteem. You feel like you’re on a level playing field and the fear factor is out because nothing’s going to happen that you don’t agree to. Statistically, there’ve been a number of studies done that people who resolve their cases through mediation and other dispute resolution methods come back to court, less to modify them. They’re held in contempt a lot less, and they don’t pass many motions to enforce because frankly, once you’ve made that decision to sign and agree to something, you’ve gone through an evaluative process. You’ve said, okay, it’s not perfect, but I’ve got enough that I can live with this. Right. And and it really puts the people at issue back in the process.

So you’re not a bystander watching your own divorce in the middle of it. Right. And mediation has some built in, but I would say safety features. So in many mediations, the parties are separated at various times during the mediation. We may start out together and talk about the agenda or the rules of mediation. But for example, if you’ve been a victim of domestic violence and you can’t make decisions in the presence of the perpetrator or you’re very upset because of infidelity or some other issue that’s going on in your marriage, you can you know, we now you zoom quite a bit. We do both virtual and in-person mediations . But either way, you can go into a separate room and not have to eyeball the person that’s making you feel inferior. This May has dominated you perhaps during the relationship, or perhaps you just have to vent. Perhaps you feel like you’ve been led dry, that you have no money left, or that your spouse did terrible things to you. You can make decisions in privacy if you want to be upset, if you want to cry, if you want to be angry, you don’t have to show your face to that other person and you can let your hair down and relax and a different environment where you can spread out. You can walk around, you can use the restroom. It’s just a more comfortable way to be able to resolve things and get what you need.

If you need to walk every 15 minutes, if you need to smoke. Okay. So if you need to drink coffee, if you need to eat, if you need to stand up and sit down. I’ve seen it all. You know, people I had a I did one very hotly contested mediation where there was a party who was former military, had PTSD. Clearly, all the parties knew that. And he got permission from the people in the mediation to have his former CEO sit in on the mediation by telephone because he needed that reassurance that he could do this, that he could get through this. And he was really struggling. And you can’t do that in court. Right. The judge isn’t going to let you have an outside adviser. But we were able to structure mediation so that he had what he needed to be able to make decisions. He needed a break. We took a dinner break. Then we went through dinner in that particular case. When you go to court, the judge does give you lunch, but they tell you how much time it is. I’ve had mediations where the parties have said, Let’s meet for 3 hours in the morning. Let’s break for two or 3 hours at noon and come back at 2:00. Everyone needs to breathe a little bit.

So when one side is really willing to add some of my clients, what I’m dealing with from their perspective is they really want to finish in mediation. And it seems like, at least from what they’re telling me, the other side feels like dragging out the process for one, makes their lives difficult and dragging out the process and pushing towards litigation. Maybe they feel like my client will break or give in or just say, Fine, throw in the towel. Sure. And it’s almost like they.

Other party wants to go to litigation if, for example, that party. Lawyer. The lawyers sometimes say, Why are you doing this? You’re going to end up in court, or do they recognize their client wants to go to court and they just realize they have to take them there.

So one of the things that people have to understand about lawyers, you have a duty to represent your client. And in many cases, your client could be distasteful, someone you don’t particularly agree with. Now, don’t you know you’re not supposed to do anything unethical, but that’s a pretty broad range of people. So there are people who, you know, you may not think they’re the best parent. They haven’t done anything negligent, but you can clearly see that the other parent is a terrific parent. And this person is, you know, once a year visiting parent. But they want 50, 50 time sharing. But you have to be careful. You have a duty to advocate for your client. A good lawyer, a good lawyer will use mediation as an opportunity. Sometimes what happens is you’re representing your client and the other was representing his or her client in a high conflict situation. And the mediator is a saving grace or like a lifeline.

Yes, there’s neutral. And I can say, for example, I’ve never met you folks before today. I’m not I’m being paid equally by both sides. But I have a question for you. You know, how many times have you taken your child to the doctor in the last six years or since you’ve been separated? How many times a month or week do you call your child or do you ever go to the school and visit, you know, four parent teacher night? Those are the kinds of things a judge is going to look at. But I can say, well, that’s an interesting point of view. You have a case that says that. Mm hmm. Where I can help. The lawyers were doing their job and Joe wanted to show their client that perhaps that their client is a weak position and say, you know, tell me, lawyer so-and-so, you have a case that says that that’s a technique I use.

. I understand your client wants that, but I’ve never seen that successfully advocated. And that gives a lawyer the opportunity to say, I know, you know, I know it’s a loser position. My client really wants this. I have to do that. And that will allow me to help that lawyer say to the client, Listen, client, I understood that, but you don’t want to waste your money going to court for something. You don’t have a snowball’s chance of winning. Right, Right. That’s a waste of money. You’d better have spending it on yourself, your children, college, all of those things. But. But it’s the somewheres. Most many lawyers have different styles. Some words have very good client control, and they could say you’re just wrong. Okay. But a lot of lawyers are pleasers. People pleasers. And if you’re always telling your client they’re wrong, you may feel like you’re not going to much of a practice because most people have unrealistic expectations when they come into a divorce. Some words are better at educating their clients.

Others feel my job is to just get you through the process. And if you lose, you lose, you win, you win. And that’s the way it is. I use it as an opportunity to say, Look, I’m an outsider and here’s what I see. So tell me. Lawyer Right. And that and that gives a lawyer an entree to be able to say, I’ve been trying to tell my client this for months. Thank you for saying that, or it unsettles people just a little bit. Or why do you think your spouse is acting that way? Why do you think how would you feel if you ran off with your spouse’s best friend? I had this one happen in a divorce, Right. So you’re saying they’re being unreasonable and they won’t let you see the kids and they’re very bitter? I’m like, well, not only did you, you know, cheat on your spouse booze with her best friend. Right. And that means there’s two bonds of trust that were broken, the bond of trust you have with your spouse. And then the person she would ordinarily confide in can’t be there for her anymore.

How do we how do we. You know, it’s. Can you see that from another perspective? Can we turn that around? So use a little psychology and all of this in mediation. But there’s so many in lawyers can come to the mediator and say, Look, help me write my client is or my client’s a pushover. They agree to everything. Tough it him up. You know, so sometimes that happens. You’ve got the people want it over with at all cost. And I’ll say negotiation, strategy. Not so fast. Right. Don’t give so much in the first pass. I know you want it over with. But this is a little bit of a process. You don’t want to bet your bottom line right to start with. Start over here so the media, too, can help people. Now, if someone truly if the lawyer truly is and there are fewer of these lawyers than you think, but they do exist, you just is in it for the money, right? They just want to drag everything out.

Go to trial. That’s a good question to ask your attorney. Right. Was this attorney do you know them well? Is this a habit? I mean, I can think of one or two lawyers that I’m media for, and they never settle. They just they just don’t. I don’t want to settle for a particular attorney I know in town who never settles. He went to the restroom and his client looked at me on Zoom and said, Oh, my God, I need to settle this. I can’t pay his fees anymore. I might let me settle it. So I said, When your lawyer comes back, tell them that. Just say, please, I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m not going to say it for you, but I’m going to prompt you to say, Hey, Lawyer Joe, while you were out, your client said something to me. Do you mind repeating that? Cause I feel like you need to say that your attorney, and they may be scared, but once I put them out there, they’ll say, I really need to get this done. You need to do whatever you need to do to get it done. So there are tricks of the trade that make things happen, but there’s so much room for self-expression and mediation that I think that’s why I think it’s a good process.

I mean, I know because my ex and I are now amicable, but obviously during mediation we were in separate rooms. I don’t know if you remember that we started together and then you were like, okay, I want us to separate. And I think part of that was his attorneys toward that choice. But he told me years after the divorce that like an hour into mediation, his attorney just kept saying, we’re going to court. And my ex did not want to go to court and realized his attorney was not in his favor, wanting to have his back. He wanted to make money. And my attorney, my my ex stopped listening to his attorney. Thank God. Thank God. But, you know, I’m sure that’s not always the case. It’s so interesting that you said that the client wanted to end it and they were scared to tell the attorney, I can’t do this anymore. Like, it’s the dynamic between the client and the attorney is a whole another relationship. You know, that you’re navigating through this scary process.

And you have to express yourself to your attorney before you get there. Some some people are looking for an attorney to do all the work for them, like they are afraid and don’t want to speak up. But ultimately, you need to convey how you want this to go to your lawyer. And if you don’t have a lawyer who’s going to have your back and do things the way you want them done, maybe you need a new lawyer. Right? But but it’s like and you mentioned about your husband, so ex-husband. So in this process, he was still able to resolve because he didn’t have to fire his lawyer or hire somebody new and start over. Yet another avenue for resolution. And I am required to convey as a mediator all offers made in the other room. So I just said this yesterday to someone in mediation, I provided an offering. The lawyer kept talking over her client and saying, No, that’s a no, Amy. That’s a no. That’s no. I said, I would like to hear from your client, but she’s perfectly capable of talking. Just I’m not going to say the other room. You have to give me permission. I understand. As a lawyer, you don’t want to ruin your strategy, But talk to me a little bit. How do you feel about this offer? What are your thoughts about this? Just trying to draw someone out.

And because sometimes and sometimes lawyers get flustered, they don’t like that. There’s some lawyers are very controlling and that’s how they built their reputation. But just feel when someone’s listening to you is really helpful. Right. So losing a lot of I mean, a lot of some lawyers are the opposite. They’re completely checked out during mediation. You’re looking to your lawyer for help and they’re working on someone else’s file. I mean, that might happen. Or they’re thinking, oh, we’re in mediation. We’ll let the mediator do all the work like that. I’m happy to do that. I’m happy to help you express yourself this. So sometime. So, you know, you need to kind of ask your lawyer, right? When we go to the beginning. A mediation is like being in a play, right? Everyone’s got a role. Yeah. What’s your role going to be in this mediation? Are you going to do all the talking to the to the mediator? Am I going to be asked for my input? Many times the attorney In the end, the client will say to me, Can you step out for a minute? I talked to my client alone. People get overwhelmed and I find that I have a tendency, maybe sometimes when I’m talking to the lawyer, I’m trying to convince a lawyer that this is why this is a good offer. This is why your client should do it. The client feels left out maybe a little bit.

So the attorney will say they have that long bond with the client. I don’t know. I met them that day sometimes. Let me talk to my client for a few minutes. Can you step out? And I’m never offended. That’s great. Yeah. And you can change it up every case.

] Yeah. It’s very interesting because I think when I went into mediation, I myself had kind of like done soul searching and I really knew what I thought was a fair kind of what I felt like. I will leave today if I can get this this and I hadn’t discussed that in detail at all with my lawyer, but I guess. I felt empowered and I know I’m the reason I connected with you and felt a relationship with you was. We interacted the whole day and he sat next to me and interjected here and there. But it was really us working together. And but I guess that’s because I want I felt like this was my process and I wanted to manage it. Maybe I’m a bit more of a control freak than I realize sometimes, but it makes me realize some people, their lawyers are doing more of the talking in mediation. I assumed everybody kind of went through mediation the way I did, where it was like my process for me with my binder and, you know, my goals and. Soul searching. And I really felt like what I thought would be fair was fair and that But yeah, it makes me realize every mediation must be so unique and different because there’s so many players.

Well, every family is unique and different, so we used a really important word goal. So I, this comes also in collaborative practice as well as mediation. I try to get a sense of what that client’s goals are. And generally, sometimes it’s, you know, I really I want to have my kids around me as much as possible. It’s really just sort of a very general goal, but could be a very specific goal. I want my house. I need my house. Without my house, I’m not I would give away the retirement account and everything else. I don’t want to sell this house. It’s my it’s my security. Right? I’ve lived here. I’ve decorated every inch of this house. It’s very important to me and to the goals of one party aren’t necessarily adverse to the goals of the other party. You find that over time, someone at tell me not just I want, you know, $1,000 a month in child support, but tell me when this is over. What what things are important.

I want my kids to go to college. I want to make sure that I can afford to pay my bills. Right. Or you’re you’re saying I want to make sure that after I pay my spouse and kids that I have enough money to live on? Right. Those are good. If you and if people haven’t prepared you that way, I want to do that for you. I want to know when I go in the other room and talk to the other side. Or many times we stay together, you know, what are your goals? How can I make each of you achieve as many of your goals? You won’t get everything right. You can’t have two. Perfect. You wouldn’t be sitting there. But sometimes your goals are not mutually exclusive. You can both achieve your goals. It just requires rewiring your thinking a little bit.

MM Yeah. You know, in one of our previous sessions that we did an in-person Q&A for clients, you said that there are so many creative solutions that lawyers can help you come up with when they have years under their belt, that you think.

House is a sticking point. But there’s so many ways that you can kind of slice the pie to make it work for both parties. And right.

Some people come in thinking everything has to get divided down the middle. There’s sometimes people will say, I’ll waive my support if you will make the payments on the house. And that person is, Oh, I’ll be happy to make the payments. And that’s because my credit will be good. I just don’t want to write you a check because you’re not really good with money. And I would rather and someone else may say, Well, no, that’s controlling. You might say, I don’t care. I just want my house paid for. I’m good with that, right? So it’s really important and judges can’t do all of these things. So there are many things you can do in mediation that judges can’t do. So here’s one for you that I this comes up more often than you think. Pets. So under Florida law, pets are not people. They’re property. Some states they are people, but not in Florida. So if you you have a you know, some people, their pets are their children. It’s very important to them. Only judges don’t can’t do that. If you go to trial, the judge is going to say, you get the dog, you get the dog. It’s just like a piece of furniture. So the dog is sold in mediation. I have done time sharing agreements for animals.

I have done support for animals and mediation and testified that. So, yes. And to these people, those animals were there to work. I’ve done mediation where the pet goes back and forth with the children. So it’s it’s the children’s pet, three or four kids. It helps them when they go to the new home. So maybe baby daddy has a new spouse or a new girlfriend and they’re nervous going to the house. But if they bring their dog with them, they might feel just a little more comfortable going over there because they’ve got a familiar someone to hug and to bring with them and to adjust to that. So there are lots and a judge can’t do it so that they’re mean or cruel. They’re not allowed to by statute. If you go to trial, they just award the animal unless you agree they were the animal to one person or the other. So that’s one one example. I’m sharing schedules. People make a lot of things about 5050. It’s week on, week off.

It’s just that, you know, in reality, if you work, you know, four nights a week late, you know, is there a big difference if your child sees you three overnights a week and the other parent for overnights, your children are not going to know the difference in that one overnight a week. Right. But just to say you’re exactly equal, I mean, the ideas represent in your child’s life or maybe in the summer time, you have more time and less structured. You can spend more than half of the summer with a child and maybe you can maybe you live 100 miles away. So you make up for some of that time over vacation time. They have different schedules for different children. You might say your two year old has different needs than your 15 year old. So there’s a lot of things you could do. Mediation that. Are unique you from that you would do if you weren’t getting divorced, right? We treat our children differently.

Our family is different. Our religion is different. I, I had a case with guns recently, so. These folks. The mom had moved out of state and her children and they were young, under ten, had knives and guns. And the guy not supposed to be biased, but I think my eyebrows must have gone up and the father wanted to know if the children were going to be born. We’re going to if the grandparents are going to give them guns. And the mom explained to me that they live in a rural part of the country and they shoot squirrels. And that’s that’s an activity that they do and that they’re supervised and that they bring knives to school. The school permits this. And she showed me the school policy that, wow. So, you know, everything is different, you know, depending on your situation. And the dad said, yes, yes, we both come from this rural part of the country and I and my children can have guns, but I want to be advised in advance. I want to know so that I know they’ve been given them, who gave them to them, what type of gun it is, so I can talk to them about gun safety. On my time with them was very I mean, so people’s beliefs are very different and we all bring to the table our own implicit biases. Absolutely

Culture, people expectations. So now we I’ve seen a lot of transgendered youth, gender dysphoria, a lot of families where a child comes from, parents that I’m not the I am not the gender I was assigned at birth. And people struggle with that different ways. Some families adapt better than others, take some people longer to get on the train. How this family’s going to handle that, that’s a very private thing. How hard is that to air those types of things in front of a stranger? Judge You might look like there are 150 years old and like they’re starchy in a bow tie and maybe you don’t feel comfortable expressing yourself that way, but in private, maybe you might have a little bit of an opportunity to say, I’m really scared for my child. You know, they’re taking hormones or, you know, all these things are going to happen. The kids bullied them at school. There are things we can do to help, you know, grief and counselors and therapists. And you don’t have to get up and say the other parents are bad parent because they’re not on board with how you feel.

Coming to that, like one of my clients is dealing with some parental alienation where they they know because the other parent has much more financial capabilities that you know, there’s a little bit of they’re feeling like there’s no way they can compete and they’re not trying to compete, but they feel like the other parent is almost trying to bribe the kid into wanting to spend more time there. And how do you, as a lawyer, help your clients when they are struggling with feeling like the other? Client is trying to alienate them away from their children.

So that’s not an unusual fact pattern or buying your children, Right. So the parent who they have all the fancy toys at one house and the other house is much more modest. That happens more often than you think. That’s the first thing I’ll tell people is that it’s not unusual. But children see past that. Initially, the toys are great, but they see who spends time with them. So, yes, on a superficial level, an eight year old may not be able to understand the complexity of parental love, and they may be swayed a little bit. But ultimately, the end of the it’s person who tucks them in at night. And psychological studies have shown this. There’s several good books written on parental alienation. One was written by a local psychologist here in Orlando, Dr. Deborah Day, along with I believe it’s Teresa Parnell or Barbara Kelly. I can’t remember which other psychologist.

One of the things about parental alienation, people kick this term around a lot and I read the book a few times, and one of the things about parental alienation, it’s not really parental alienation unless it works. So, yes, I will tell you that it’s a people use it attempted parental alienation. It’s just bad parenting. It doesn’t it doesn’t It’s not true. Parental alienation until you reach a point in which the child says, I don’t like you, I’m not going, then the parent has been successful. But I will tell people that whether you’re speaking to a really good therapist, read some good literature figure, develop coping skills. So a lot of people, instead of coming to your lawyer who charges a lot more money than a therapist, right, then seek out someone for what I call good coping skills for yourself, for your children. They will help you and say when you go to Dad’s house or when you’re here, here’s how. And you know, it may be that you do some things differently at your house. So it’s not. How do you diffuse as if they say, Oh, I like being it. I mean, dads, as dad says, better. They have toys, games or whatever. You don’t have to just blow up and say, Dad, this or dad’s that. There are tried and true methods that a psychologist, a therapist can help you divert their attention, have fun things going on at your house. They don’t have to cost a lot, right? Something special for your child. Make them feel special in your home. It’s a fear. Look, this is truly a fear of parents. When there is an imbalance of financial imbalance.

] Right. And that’s what I with most of my clients. I remind them children feel love. And so as long as you are loving them and spending time with them. Sure, they all love the literary shiny toys, but they if they feel loved and enjoy your company, that’s just as important to them. The the glitter of the toys wears off very quickly.People show their stripes. People show their stripes down the road.

exactly. That’s the other thing. By the time your kids get to teenage years, they are more insightful than most people think and observing. If one parent is very manipulative or trying to paint a picture that the other parents are terrible person another So another one of my clients is has they’ve tried mediation twice and not gotten very far and they Are now potentially leading to court, but they’re going to have to do depositions beforehand. What is that? So that’s not something I’m super familiar with. Why? What is the process and use of depositions before you go to court?

So there’s two primary reasons that people take depositions. Number one is to get the other person’s story under oath. It’s called Discovery. So you may have a hunch what the other person is going to say, but they’re now going to be sworn in by a court reporter under oath saying, yeah, this is the reason I think you I should be the primary parent of our children.

I you know, I found roaches in the oven. You don’t ever clean up the kitchen. The baby wasn’t bathed for six days. Whatever those things are, you’re saying them under oath. So if you come into court and say something different, you can impeach their credibility. It also allows a lawyer to build their case because you hear a lot of hearsay chatter. What are people going to say? So you lock someone into a story. You also find out the strength of your case.

. People say a lot of things on paper and then when you ask them, So what is shared parenting mean to you? Or, you know, why is it what is the schedule you want for shared parenting under oath? And you know, why will this work? Or what are your work hours? If they lie, they’ve committed perjury. But you’ve also you could sometimes set them, but other times it’s just merely to know. Explain where this money what do I have? I’ve seen a lot of cases where people tell me all this money disappeared.

I didn’t know where and. The money went during the marriage, and then you take their deposition and you find that there was large credit card debt and they can show you that, yes, I cashed out a CD for $20,000. I paid off the J.C. Penney card, the visa, the hospital bill, and just another other person just wasn’t involved in the money. They just saw the withdrawal. And many times people their relationship was so broken, there’s no they don’t communicate.

So a deposition is a good way to elicit and also to know the weaknesses. How does your client do as a witness? I’m interested in seeing my client. Is there a deposition taken by the other side? To see how he or she does as a witness. Like, how are they going to be on the witness stand if this is how they are with a lawyer, cross-examine with no judge? Maybe they need some coaching on a witness stand. Maybe they’re so nervous. I’ve got people I you know, I prepare my witnesses for court by tell him, tell the truth and so forth. Don’t stretch for an answer if you don’t know the answers. I don’t know or I don’t know without looking at something

May I refer to a note or something like that? And then you get them in a deposition and they’re like, Oh, yes, I think it was this. I’m not really sure. And they’re speculating all. No matter how much preparation you have. So it gives me, as a lawyer, another opportunity to say, go read your deposition to see how you answer this question. They asked you what date this happened and you gave them a date a year and a time. That was completely wrong. Right. So don’t answer. If you don’t know, people feel compelled to have an answer.

No one keeps a calendar in your head. Right. So it’s very helpful for you to. It’s scary, but I think it’s helpful for the people who are deposed to find out what’s it going to be like being cross-examined by this other lawyer. What’s that going to feel like? And there are techniques you can use to alleviate stress. One of my favorite ones, the psychologist told me, if you’re if you have a witness is really stressed out and scared, you can put the tongue on the top of your mouth. No one can see you. And that will give you an automatic relaxation of fact. I don’t know why that works, but it’s a thing and no one did see. But it does help people. And I’ve given that advice to people. No one can see, no one can tell, but it helps you get through it. So it gives you just a practice, those things.

Yeah, definitely. I have a few clients who are struggling with a lot of anxiety before mediation and we did some guided visualization. I bring in my Joga and other sides of my training and work on visualizing and kind of getting them into the place before they go there so that when they’re in there they’re like, okay, I have to practice my nervous system calming techniques and I can incorporate them while I’m here. And but because there are so many different techniques to use in very stressful situations. But okay, so talking about the 5050, this one client who’s probably going to have to deal with depositions, the ex does not want 50, does not want to give 5050. And I know from my experience with the amount of people and friends as well, who if both parents want 5050, it’s going to take a lot for a judge to agree. From what I can tell, there has to be like a psych evaluation or something. But I want to get your thoughts on this to say, no, I’m not going to give 5050 if both parents can.

Yeah, there’s no presumption in favor of it. But in practice, if it’s feasible, you know, if someone lives 150 miles away, you’re not going to be able to do 5050 unless you do all the all the vacation time with one parent school time the other. But if you cooperate, you live in fairly close proximity to one another. Your job allows for it. So if you’ve got a traveling parent who’s out of town, you know, three out of five nights a week overnight, you have to be realistic. You may want your children 5050 each, may not be able to do it, or you may want your kids to all take them every weekend instead. So then the other parent never gets any weekend time. But the judges are very open to 5050. They like it. If it works, they’re not going to do it. If you can’t agree on what color the sky is, you live an hour and a half away and it means waking up your child at 430 in the morning to get them to school just so you can have 5050. Yeah. You know, you have to be you know, how your family operated when you were family unit is important. If the mom or the dad was home all day and the other parent, you know, again, traveled three out of four weeks a month, Why are we changing that? Because you’re getting divorced, right?

I mean, in this case, they both live in town. And so it but I think it’s a scare tactic when there is some emotional abuse involved or gaslighting of I’m not going to give you 5050 and we’re going to go to court. And, you know, I have I think that I can convince the judge that you’re not going to get 5050. It’s such a scary thing for a parent to think that they are going to lose even because 50% is half of what they normally used to have but not get 5050. And I just try to remind people like it. It takes a lot. If both parents live in town for a judge to to agree.

there are other schedules between 50. And every other weekend, like I said, if you have three overnights out of seven, the other party is four. It’s really I mean, and if that’s what works, it, I mean, it’s now understand there are people who use 5050 in addition to the reasons you cited to get a reduction in child support. So with the way our child support guidelines work in Florida, they’re based on the in addition to the incomes of the parties, the number of overnights the children spend with each parent. Right. So there are parents who spend very little time to spend with their children, but they want 5050 because it means they will pay less child support. And in my opinion, this is an injustice. I’m not a big fan of the child support deviation or the 5050 time sharing. And the concept is you have two households and the children need food at both homes. But I think it’s allowed a lot of people who ordinarily might have been more comfortable with an every other weekend scheduled one overnight during the week based on their lifestyle to stand up and say, no, no, I want 5050 so that they can get their child support reduced from 1000 to $600 a month.

, it’s not the intention of the legislature. And it’s sometimes when I’ve gotten into tussles with people in mediation about 5050 versus another schedule, I will say, would you agree to this schedule if the support were based on 5050, or would you you know, would you agree to the scheduling of this support based on a more traditional schedule? If the 50 is the 5050, that’s really important. Is the money driving this right? Sometimes people will take a little bit less to have the schedule that they want, and that’s something you could do in mediation. You can say, I’ll do a 5545. This is a very typical schedule, which is pretty close to 50 or 6040. It’s very close, but you’re going to be paying. But I will treat the child support as if it were 5050. Okay. So you get one person, gets the child a little bit more, maybe more weekday time in one household, and then the other parent gets a little break in the child support. But everybody comes away with some of their goals met.

That’s brilliant. What about okay, if the the the divorce is dragging out for a long time and the amount of money of child support that’s being given from the one party that has more to the other party. So they’re separated for like two years. And the amount that they get for child support in those two years is almost nothing. Right. And then when the case settles, finally, the child support is dramatically more. Ah, those two years that divorce was taking place back. Child support available.

You have a right? Yes. You have a right to retroactive child support up to two years before the divorce was even filed if you were separated. Okay. Okay. But so, I mean, I’m one of those cases right now where there’s a nominal where the parties are living together. So this is an example where this is still in the House, unhappily, but neither one of them will. But it’s like a chess game, right? Right. So when you’re in that situation, it does cost you less to live because it’s not a rent in a mortgage. Right. You’re in one household, one electric bill. So even though it may be uncomfortable, so everyone’s needs are going to change when you’re in two households. So there could be a retroactive award or not. The court is not required to do it. So if they continue to live together, maybe in that case the court won’t give them as much of a retroactive award. But what if they separate during the course of the case? Yes, you could get retroactive child for up to two years before the case was filed.

So this is going pretty long. So I think I. Okay. One more question and then I will close it out for now. If they’re if they make it to litigation, it cannot be finalized in mediation. And it’s one party is it’s kind of two judges. Can judges see through someone who’s an image manipulator slash emotional abuser who They think that they can pull the wool over over.

I mean, can I tell you, every judge can know, but many times they do. And I’m going to give you a little piece of advice, something that I do. And I think a client should ask their lawyer to do. Give the judge a preview of the case. It’s called a case management conference. Most judges are a couple that don’t like doing them. If your lawyer asks for a case management conference, it’s where everyone comes in. You ask for the parties to come and the judge, you tell the judge, Here’s what the case is about. And here are the issues we can’t resolve. The Judge You should give about 30 minutes to an hour and they will not prejudge your case. They will tell you that. But they’re going to say, why isn’t this resolve and what are the points of view? And they’re going to start giving you a hint. Okay, That’s not really you don’t want to go down that path or, you know, I don’t I had a case once where I actually recused a judge because what they said in a case management conference, I represented a dad. This was not a divorce. It was a paternity case. But he had had this child while still married to someone else. But he was very dedicated to this child. Devoted I and he saw this child twice a day for five years. His wife did not know he worked.

It was he had a child with a coworker. And every morning he saw the child and every evening he saw the child. And the therapist who had to testify talked about what he wanted. Eventually did tell his wife. And of course, this paternity action came and the therapist testified, you know, that this was like people getting a divorce and his relationship with his child was as bonded as anybody. And the judge the case management conference was rather old fashioned, said, I just want you to know from the beginning, I don’t treat people who are not married to one another the same. And if you ever put a ring on it, I’m not I don’t You don’t start with the same rights as a father who’s been married to the mother. So I immediately went back to my client and said, we need to recuse the judge and ask him to get out of the case because he’s not going to hear this case way with with an open mind. So it’s a very but it’s helpful for case management.

You get this way, your clients see what the judge is like, what the personality is like, and you start seeing where the judge is coming from. Well, like on issues like this, this is the kind of information I want because I’ll say things like how many witnesses you’re going to have. Someone says 25 witnesses are going to say, no, we’re not. Why do we need 25 witnesses? You know, tell me what’s important about that. And if you call 25 witnesses, this is where I’m going to start ordering attorney’s fees. So judges do this every day. They say this is every day they’re going to start giving you insight into what they’re looking for. And if you have the unrealistic client right, they’re going to say, oh, on that 5050 issue or something like that. Yeah, you’re going to kind of hear with from the judge where they’re coming from and it gives you a sneak preview. And sometimes people go back and say, Oh, that’s what the judge looks at. Oh, I better rethink settling. It is a Hail Mary. There are times you can settle just as you’ve got a case management.

Wow. That is a huge piece of information that I’m going to share with a few people. Thank you for that. No problem. I’ll catch you tips of the trade.

Yeah, exactly. Okay. This was amazing. Like, really, really incredible information. Thank you. I, I think there are so many people who are going to find this so helpful and give them a lot of things to think about and talk about with their lawyers or share with their exes to save them from going to court, hopefully. But I really, really appreciate your time and your expertise is phenomenal. So thank You. I enjoy this. And I’m going to leave you two pieces of advice. Speak up. Make sure your lawyer hears you right. If you can talk to your spouse, maybe you can’t settle the case. You don’t speak up. Don’t If you feel if you feel you’re not being heard, that doesn’t mean your lawyer is going to tell you you’re right just because you want to be right. But make sure that your voice is involved in the resolution of your case. Don’t be a bystander in your own divorce.




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