For those of you who have been following the highly publicized parentage case involving our client, Jason Patric, mother’s latest attempt to try and stop the parentage case from proceeding has failed. Mother filed a Petition for Review with the California Supreme Court, asking that court to overturn the landmark decision issued by the Court of Appeal in May stating that Mr. Patric had the right to establish parentage at trial by demonstrating the familial relationship he had with his son. As counsel for Mr. Patric, we opposed that Petition and on July 31, the Supreme Court denied review. Trial is set to resume on September 2nd in the Los Angeles Superior Court. The published decision known as Jason P. v. Danielle S., 226 Cal.App.4th 167, will remain the law in California, as it should.
Entries from August 2014
Divorces don’t usually just pop up unexpectedly. That’s not to say that there are not situations where someone is overtaken by emotion and just decides to call it “quits”, that does happen. But more often than not, the divorce process is something that starts, at least in the mind of one of the parties, long before anyone decides to move out of the house or to file papers. Psychologists talk about “leavers” and “leavees”. Often times the person left in the marriage is surprised, as the other party hasn’t shared their level of dissatisfaction, or that they have been thinking of breaking up the marriage for some time.
Often times the person who is “leaving” thinks about the emotional implications of what they are doing, but not necessarily about the practical ones. More often they are working through the ability to separate emotionally and physically, or focusing on what life will be like once the separation has occurred; “will our kids be okay”,” what will it be like to date?”,” can I be happier on my own?”. These thoughts can be overwhelming and they cause us not to pay attention to some other things we should be thinking about.
While we always hope that people can work things out when they separate, so as to do it as amicably as possible, oftentimes that does not happen. When it does not happen, a judge gets involved. He or she may be called upon to decide upon arrangements that will affect many things including who pays what, who has control over assets, what schedule the children will follow.
What the person thinking about divorce does not realize is that many of these decisions end up being made based upon what was being done prior to the separation. So, for example, if the parties were living a lavish lifestyle, once they separate the court is going to consider that lifestyle in fashioning a spousal, and in some instances, child support order. If someone owns a business, and in the latter part of the marriage she was having the business pay lots of personal expenses, it is going to be difficult for the spouse operating that business to argue that suddenly the business policies have changed and the money will no longer be available in that way. And, when it comes to arrangements for children, courts often want to know what the parties were doing before they split up. If both parents were equally involved in the day-to-day caretaking of the children, is much more likely they will have an equally shared custody schedule
If you are the “leaver”, you are at an advantage in this situation which is something that oftentimes people do not see. If the “leaver” is concerned with what the custody arrangements will be after separation, it would be best to address that before separation. If you want more time with your kids once you split up, you need to spend more time with them before you separate. If you are concerned that too much money is going to flow out after separation, then you need to address that far ahead of the actual split by curtailing expenses, or addressing how the business pays for things well before the split.
While the concept of planning what happens upon a separation may seem cruel or too calculating to some, its’ a fact of life that those who plan ahead for their long term goals are usually more likely to succeed at them than those who do not. Divorcing, to some extent, involves business-like decision-making at least when it comes to finances. Most people do not think of it this way and they do not think things like this through. The point being made here is that to prevail regarding issues which cannot be settled outside of court, you need to be aware that planning, and implementing a strategy far ahead of separation often results in dramatically different outcomes then if no planning ahead of divorce is undertaken.
When people learn that I am a family law attorney, the follow-up question is always in reference to the emotions involved and whether I feel more like a therapist than a lawyer. Very often, clients in the divorce process do come to their lawyer expecting a therapist as well.
My role as an attorney is to be an advocate and legal advisor to the client, which can often mean giving blunt advice that may be difficult to hear. Although there is a strict line between attorney and therapist/friend/life coach, to be an effective attorney it is still essential to be aware of my client’s concerns, anxieties and priorities. Every client is different and communicating with them about their particular needs and expectations is the only way to have a successful attorney-client relationship. This can mean telling a client that her shoe collection is not worth fighting over, or explaining that the family residence must be sold, even when there is an emotional attachment.
The key, for both clients and their attorneys, is to remember that your lawyer is not your therapist and not always your friend. In fact, a lawyer should not be assuming those roles for their client; it would be a disservice to them. The effects of a divorce can be incredibly pervasive – socially, emotionally, and financially and the lawyer needs to be there to hold the course and be the voice of reason when emotions are staring to take their toll. The heartbreaking affair, for example, although incredibly relevant to my client, is not something a judge will be likely to consider in court. This is just one example of when, as a lawyer, I must explain to my client that certain issues are better left outside of the courtroom.
I have learned that although I am not a therapist, my role is to make sure that when it comes to the legal aspects of the dissolution I keep the client on track and focused. My responsibility is to give the client the non-emotional point of view, while at the same time recognizing the emotional impact it will have on him/her.
So my response to all the questions as to whether I ever feel like a therapist is yes, I do feel like one, but I know my place is to take care of the legal issues involved and make sure that my client has someone to take care of the emotional issues.
– Sarah Rosenblatt