Being a single mom is super tough, and this I've known my whole life watching my mom be solely responsible for everything in our household while I was growing up with absolutely no safety net to catch her if she missed a step. As a result, being a single parent was not at all what I wanted for myself, and yet it's exactly what I've had to face since my own divorce over a decade ago. Just managing your own life is hard enough-- juggling work, finances, household responsibilities, medical care, family obligations, finding time to travel, exercise or just catch up with friends when you are single is already a challenge, and on top of that the past 15 years I have also had to oversee all those things for a child, who looks to me for all his needs. To be honest, it's been a tremendous load to bear, and incredibly scary and lonely at times. Having to face the fear of being a single mom has been the biggest challenge of my life. Why? Well because when facing any medical scare or risk of financial hardship, I was always painfully aware that I was not the only one that would be impacted. But thanks to the examples created by my mother and grandmother, who were both single moms themselves, I did not allow myself to implode. Rather, I came to accept that I come from a long line of strong and independent women, who honestly don't suffer fools well. And so it is that for over a decade I have just moved forward each day trying to keep my eyes on the prize- to help this child launch into adulthood. Along the way, he has taught me so much about life, family ties, and most importantly unconditional love. He awakened a self-less, patient and understanding side of myself that I never would have seen without becoming a mother, and so ironically I have come to accept that despite how crazy his dad can make me sometimes, if it were not for that man I would never have become the woman I am today. But since there isn't anyone else that is going to shower me with gifts on this day (or any other day really), if there is one thing I really want to emphasize to all single moms out there, it is this: you [...]
Everyone gets hurt or betrayed in some fashion regardless of gender, race, education, or socio-economic status, and as a result all of us struggle with forgiveness, which is not about pardoning the other person, but rather the process of letting go so that the injured party can move forward without being consumed by anger or the desire for revenge. How do you work through the process of forgiving? Well, first let's accept that it is not about forgetting or excusing bad behavior. It's not about becoming vulnerable again or continuing in a toxic or unhealthy relationship. Embrace the fact that it is a multi-layered process that will take time. Why make the effort? Because ultimately it is necessary to finding peace; it is a key component of love, and it is primarily a gift to yourself by lightening the load you have to bear in your heart. There are 3 keys steps towards forgiving: 1. Identify the source of your anger or pain; 2. Try to understand a person's motives or intent; and 3. Weigh all your options to find a workable solution to your situation. Along the way, ask yourself a few key questions: Who hurt or disappointed you? Where does that person rank in your life? What was the transgression? In other words, was there an explicit agreement breached or was it an expectation in your head that was not met? Why did this happen? There is a big difference between an intentional act vs. an accident. Was there a break down in communication, was your agreement ambiguous, or were you not clear about your expectations in behavior? As you cycle through the feelings of anger and sadness after someone has hurt you, keep that in mind that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather apathy. Maybe make that your mantra-- because if you make apathy your goal, you will find that the sooner you detach from whatever hot mess is dragging you down, the sooner you can shed all that negativity, engage in more uplifting activities and tap into a more positive mind space. Ignore those that try to suggest forgiveness is a sign of weakness or foolishness. It actually takes a lot of strength to let go of the past and put yourself back out there. Get others to share their inspiring stories of forgiveness with you, and allow them to help you [...]
A Divorce Lawyer Reveals The Craziest Divorce Case She Ever Experienced by Jeremy Brown on Your Tango
The divorce process doesn’t always have to be messy. But it often is. And amidst the intense emotions that surround the dissolution of a marriage, things can sometimes go wildly off the rails. Regina A. DeMeo, a family law attorney in Bethesda, MD with more than two decades of experience, knows this all too well. She relayed one of the wildest divorce sagas she ever encountered, and the lessons that it can teach.
Now that tax season is almost over, we should all have a pretty good grasp of our income and major expenses. The key now, whether you are on your own or with a partner, is to figure out whether you are saving enough or spending too much, and make appropriate adjustments as needed. When I began practicing family law 20 years ago, I had no idea how much time I would be spending with my clients reviewing household budgets. In fact, after educating people on the law, an inordinate amount of my time is often spent on financial literacy, which is a skill that many seem to lack regardless of race, gender or education. In all divorce cases, whether in mediation or divorce court, we spend a significant amount of time analyzing budgets and determining whether a person's expenses are reasonable compared to his/her income. While we understand that a separation throws a household budget off kilter for a while, we want to see that each person has done his/her best to mitigate the damages, including maximizing income and curbing discretionary expenses. If someone is spending more than 30% of his/her gross on housing, that will be something that needs to be explained-- along with any major deviations to the norm for other necessary expenses, including food, medical care, transportation, and clothing. Why do we care so much about budgets? Because ultimately, the goal really is for each party to be self-supporting, and for the kids' needs to be met to the best of each parent's capacity. When awarding spousal support in jurisdictions likes MD and DC that lack a set formula, the driving issues are (1) the recipient's reasonable need for assistance (after s/he maximizes his/her own income potential) vs. a payor's ability to provide financial assistance after meeting his/her own reasonable obligations, including any child support payments. Going through a divorce is a harsh way to learn about your rights and obligations in family law, as well as the importance of a balanced budget. If you are like me, more focused on preventive medicine vs. opting for emergency surgery, now is the time to reach out to a professional that can help you figure out how to 1) maximize your income; 2) cut expenses; 3) balance your household budget; 4) improve communications with your partner on all these topics or 5) explore legal alternatives (like a prenup or [...]
Wedding season is about to ramp up, and for all those engaged couples that are contemplating a prenup NOW is really when you need to start that process. To reduce the chance of having these agreements challenged or possibly invalidated later in court, matrimonial attorneys will always encourage clients to work on full disclosure with ample time for each party to consult his/her own counsel, and with a strong preference for the final signing to occur at least 30 days BEFORE you say "I do." Many wonder if they need a prenup, which I believe is akin to a safety belt. Do I want the car to crash? Of course not, but just in case I put that seat belt on every time I get into my car. So now if you know the odds of a first-time marriage lasting are about 50/50, and less than 30% of second marriages last, don't you think it's prudent to invest in a document that provides for an orderly separation in the event things do not work out? Some worry about the cost. Well, a prenup probably costs less than what most engaged couples spend on flowers, and unlike those floral arrangements, which will be dead and discarded within days of the wedding, an agreement that defines what is joint vs. separate, and sets limits on any potential alimony claims, will live on until the parties death or divorce, unless they agree to modify or nullify it sooner than that. Another common concern I hear is how to even bring up the topic. Admittedly, it's not an easy topic to bring up compared to where you should go on your honeymoon. But it should not be awkward to talk about a prenup-- because you just need to be clear that this is about addressing a concern you and/or your family and business partners have, and that you need some financial security and peace of mind. If your soon to be partner for life can't understand that this is important, and won't try to help address key issues you want to cover in an agreement, these should be some pretty big red flags that you don't want to ignore. If you find it difficult to discuss money issues with your partner, go get some professional advice. If you are not on the same page about money, go meet with a financial planner. If it's [...]
In family law, it is well documented that over 90% of cases settle before trial, but the reasons driving such a high rate of settlements is probably less clear to most people, except those of us that have spent decades working with families in the legal trenches. Not only is the court process expensive, but it is also far from speedy or private. As time goes on, many find that living with tremendous uncertainty during a very public display of one's worst life moments takes quite a toll on a person's health and emotional well-being. Many of my clients report issues with sleep deprivation, sudden weight loss or gain, hair loss, lack of focus, increased irritability and compromised immune systems. You don't need to have an M.D. to realize there is a direct correlation between a person's messy divorce and an undeniable deterioration in his/her health. Now if the parents can barely keep it together, just imagine what this is doing to their kids, who rely on the adults for everything. Too often, the children are stuck in the middle watching their parents create chaos while taking needless digs at one another. The uncontroverted research is clear: the more the children are exposed to conflict, the worse off they will be for a very, very long time. So, when we look at managing the risks of a litigated case, it's not just about weighing your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) vs. your Worst Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (WATNA), but all the factors I just mentioned about your health, finances, privacy, and impact to your kids that have to be taken into account. Fortunately, most rational people are able to take into account all the relevant data points and decide there is more to be won from reaching a compromise than there is to be gained from a prolonged court battle. It is not about letting someone else off the hook, but rather it's about letting yourself (and your children) move forward with your dignity and sanity intact. I realize that HCPs (High Conflict Personalities) do not make it easy to disengage and reach a compromise, and sadly those are often the ones driving that 10% of cases that do go to trial. These really are the worst of the worst, but all I can say is if given a choice, I hope you find a way to [...]
I realize there are many out there (although none in my immediate circle of friends) that support the President's idea of a wall to limit immigration from countries south of our border, but I am having a really hard time understanding how this can be a "National Emergency." To me, as both a family lawyer in the DC Area for over 20 years and the mother of a young child, there are far more pressing issues like the need for (1) gun control, (2) access for all to good medical care and public education, and (3) getting a handle on this opioid epidemic. Putting aside political views, however, which can always be debated, let's focus on the offensive statements being made by our own political representatives suggesting that all those emigrating from Central and South America are either rapists, drug dealers or gang members. How can we let all these insinuations just slide? My own mother, who came here from South America, was none of those things, and she is one of the hardest workers I have ever met in my life. Luckily, she was able to come to the U.S. legally in the 60's, and later she brought over my grandmother, who helped raise me and then stayed in this country, which granted her citizenship, until her death at age 97 just a few years ago. Now, I may not look it (because I inherited my father's European features), but I am first generation American. And, I may not sound like a minority because I went to some of the best schools in this country. But with each day that passes, I definitely feel more and more like a minority-- outraged by the racial comments being made by our own elected officials, and the blatant discrimination that continues to plague those in our under-served communities. Admittedly, my view on this wall issue might be tainted because of my family background-- but unless you are 100% Native American, aren't we all children of immigrants, who came here for the chance at a better life? And if you believe in the American dream, how can you justify blocking innocent children from the chance to pursue that same dream? If none of what I just said resonates with you, then we'll just have to agree to disagree-- on a lot. But, rather than waste my breath yelling in some demonstration filled with [...]
After 36 years of marriage, Sheila Sammons, 62, suspected her husband was having an affair. Distraught, she googled at 3 a.m. and found a not-exactly-legal suggestion on how to reveal a double life: Run a credit report. Sammons was shocked at what she discovered: “Two different P.O. boxes and three accounts with different financial institutions that I knew nothing about.” Betraying her was incomprehensible enough, “but never in a million years did I think he would steal money from me. Ever.” Turns out he was doing both.