Managing the Emotional Challenges of Divorce: Good Therapy Can Help

Anyone who’s been through a divorce–or been the sounding board for a friend who’s going through it–knows that there’s a lot of emotional stress involved. The word “crazy” comes up a lot–for example, in the new romantic comedy about divorce, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and the popular book Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life. It’s especially hard if the divorce is high-conflict, but even if it’s relatively peaceful, people in the midst of divorce often find themselves depressed, angry, and having trouble functioning.

Many people dealing with the emotional challenges of divorce need some support during the “crazy time,” and a good therapist can make a big difference. Finding one, though, can be a challenge–most of us don’t know much about how therapists work or what the difference is between a good and a bad therapist. One excellent resource is GoodTherapy.org, which includes basic information about different types of therapy and how the process works, as well as blog posts and resources for finding a therapist who will be a good fit. Mental Health America is another good resource for information and referrals, including resources for low-cost therapy.

In addition to individual therapy, a relatively new field called “divorce therapy” provides help for divorcing couples who are parenting together–it’s not the same as couples counseling during a marriage, which has the goal of repairing the relationship, but instead focuses on supporting parents as they learn to work together and communicate more effectively for the good of their children.

Therapy may not be for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, don’t hesitate. Divorce is hard, but help is available. I’ll do a future post on therapy for kids during and after divorce.

Judge Makes Budget for Dad Who Owes $14,000 Child Support

A judge in rural Clinton County, New York, has decided that one deadbeat dad lacks appropriate budgeting skills, and has handed the dad, called Thomas M., a list of items he is forbidden from purchasing until he has repaid $14,000 in child support arrearages to his ex-wife on behalf of their two daughters. Thomas can’t buy cigarettes or alcohol, nor can he buy a hunting or fishing license or any other item that the judge considers not to be a necessity of life. He must have the Probation Department’s written permission to purchase certain other items, including furniture and clothing. Thomas’s lawyer questioned whether the judge had authority to make such an order, but the broad language of the applicable law certainly gives him a lot of leeway. Maybe if more dads were kept away from their internet service, hunting licenses, and restaurant dinners, there wouldn’t be $12.6 billion in child support arrearages.

Divorced Madoff Victim Wants His Money Back – From His Ex

A New York attorney, Steven Simkin, settled his divorce in 2006 by dividing property and assets equally with his wife, Laura Blank. At the time, the couple had a large sum invested in Bernie Madoff’s now-infamous Ponzi scheme. Mr. Simkin opted to leave his money there; his wife preferred cash, so he took $6.6 million in cash out of the Madoff account and paid it to her. She also got one of their houses and half of the rest of their assets.

The divorce had been final for more than two years when the Madoff fund collapsed, and Mr. Simkin immediately went to his wife and asked for a do-over on the distribution of assets. She refused. He took her to court, arguing the theory of “mutual mistake.” That theory says that when both parties to a contract are laboring under the same erroneous belief–for example, that the value of an item is much greater than it actually is–the contract can be cancelled. Mr. Simkin argues that because both he and his then-wife were mistaken in their belief that they had money in the Madoff account, their settlement agreement should be voided. Ms. Blank’s rejoinder is that there was no mistake and that the money was there at the time, as evidenced by Mr. Simkins’ ability to take out $6.6 million to pay her for her share. She says the only mistake was Mr. Simkins’ belief that the account would continue to have value in the future–a mistake made by many a divorcing spouse who retains certain assets based on a belief that they’ll continue to appreciate.

Does this seem like a simple question of Mr. Simkin regretting a bad decision? Apparently the courts don’t think so–the case is now pending in New York’s highest court, after a trial court held in favor of Ms. Blank and an appellate court overturned that ruling.

My favorite part is the claim of “extreme hardship” by Mr. Simkin, who earns at least $3 million annually as a partner at the law firm that is representing him in the divorce do-over case (for free).

Check back for updates when the New York high court rules on this interesting case.

Disabled Mom Gets Limited Visitation

A mother who suffered severe brain damage during the birth of her triplets can have in-person visits and Skype calls with her kids, a Southern California judge ruled this week.

Abbie Dorn, who is in a vegetative state after a series of medical errors during childbirth, lives with her parents in South Carolina after being divorced from her husband following her brain injury. Her parents petitioned on her behalf for visits with her kids, who live with her former husband in Los Angeles.

Attorneys for both sides praised the ruling, with the grandparents’ attorney calling it a victory for all disabled parents. The father was also pleased, having prevailed in his request to both limit and supervise visitation.

Facebook and Divorce: A Match Made Somewhere

There are more than 500 million active users of Facebook worldwide, according to the site’s own statistics page. It stands to reason, then, that Facebook would have an ever-larger role in the everyday reality of its users. And in fact, when it comes to the not so everyday reality of divorce, the social networking site appears to be increasingly relevant.
For one thing, Facebook, like a high school reunion, can be the road to infidelity. What starts as an innocent reconnection with an old flame can turn into evenings of instant messaging, and the rest is history. But Facebook’s involvement in your divorce doesn’t end there–in more and more cases, Facebook pages and status updates are being used as evidence in the courtroom. The American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers estimates that over 80% of its members have used Facebook evidence in court.

Divorce Expo Coming to a City Near You?

Anyone going through a divorce knows that it affects every aspect of your life, and that you can find yourself in need of just about every kind of resource, from legal information to where to store the stuff that doesn’t fit into your new apartment. Where can you find all of that information in one place? Entrepeneur Tom Kaufman aims to provide it at The Next Chapter Expo by offering one-stop shopping and education at the first-ever expo for divorced and divorcing spouses, in Denver on May 14, 2011. Kaufman says that he intends the event to include a long list of resources, whether you need a makeover or a tax expert. The expo will cater to both opposite-sex and same-sex spouses and will include both educational sessions and exhibitor booths. Interesting idea and we’ll be watching to see how it goes.