Regina’s Blog2016-11-01T18:59:38-04:00

Regina's Blog

GenXSmartie

This is a blog about relationships, and it covers dating, marriage, parenting, modern family dynamics and divorce as seen from the very personal perspective of a divorced divorce lawyer.

2405, 2022

How Cheaters Get Busted

By |May 24th, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Some people are just asking to get caught-- they leave their phones unlocked, emails open on a shared computer, don't delete their text or voice messages, use a credit card for expenses that should have been paid for in cash, or fail to create an iron-clad alibi and cover their tracks while carrying on an affair.  While some may just be stupid or sloppy, I actually think a fair amount subconsciously want to get caught in order to finally force a difficult conversation-- either the person betrayed will end the relationship or s/he will acknowledge there are issues the couple needs to work through, but either way the status quo will inevitably have to change. Delving into affairs is an integral part of my job, where cheating is a factor in about 50% of all divorces I handle. Half the time, I represent the cheater, the other half the time my client is the one betrayed.  The stories no longer shock me, but what really amazes me is how the opportunities for a tryst have grown exponentially over the past two decades thanks to modern technology, dating apps and social media.  The temptation for someone that is unhappy at home to find an escape from that reality is now literally everywhere and anywhere. Technology of course is a double-edge sword, because it's also made it substantially easier to get busted.  Back in the days when I was a baby lawyer, most clients had to hire a private investigator to tail their spouse once they began to observe subtle changes in their behaviors and patterns.  This used to be very expensive, until tiny and cheap GPS tracking devices came into existence, and now anyone can be their own detective by tracking their partner on a personal device or with an Apple Air Tag for under $30. It is rarely one dead give-away that exposes an affair, but rather a culmination of events that force the betrayed party to face the truth, as much as they would like to deny it.  And this is when things get really interesting because while some adulterers feel incredibly guilty and remorseful, others actually become quite belligerent and blame the other spouse for pushing them to the point of straying after years of feeling unwanted and abandoned.  One thing is for certain, there is no "get out of jail free" card here. Those that choose [...]

1205, 2022

Tips For Self-Care When Parenting Teenagers

By |May 12th, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , |

The sacrifices we make as parents are impossible to quantify, but usually there is an immense emotional reward for all the efforts we make for our children, who give us purpose, a sense of belonging and love-- at least until those teenage years hit.Honestly, the past four years while my son was in high school, it has been my family and friends that have kept me sane. Unlike ever before it seemed none of my efforts were appreciated. It was as if I didn't matter, and I felt like a second-class citizen in his presence. None of my advice seemed to matter, and certainly my feelings were rarely if ever considered in his daily choices. If I didn't find a positive outlet, this situation would have taken a serious toll on me.Luckily, I have good friends with children of the same age, and together we would commiserate. There is a line from The Adam Project that sums up the situation perfectly, "teenagers are the assassins of joy." But when you start feeling this way, I urge you to go find your own happiness.The past few years, I have found my own joy in the work that I do as an attorney with families, teaching students and young lawyers, while also being on the Board of a non-profit for women business owners. I've made sure even during COVID to visit family and friends, and stay engaged in activities that I enjoy, including golf, which allows me to unplug for 5 hours and disconnect from everything.As my son went in one direction, I went in another, and my mantra became Radical Acceptance. To survive, I had to accept that I could not control his choices, only my reactions. Ultimately the toughest life lesson we have to teach our children is that we cannot always rescue them and let them suffer the consequences of their own actions.We can still love our children from a far, and hope that they will reach out for guidance when needed, but there comes a point where we do need to let them adult and figure out life on their own. I've known this day was coming for quite some time, and as a result I admit I laid the groundwork early on to transition gracefully to my empty-nester status. The key is to make sure that when your child launches (willingly or not) you have your [...]

305, 2022

Celebrating Mother’s Day, Your Own Way

By |May 3rd, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

In May 1998, I graduated from GW Law School in Washington, DC and that was probably the best Mother's Day gift I ever could have given my mother, who emigrated from Ecuador to New York City after high school with big dreams for a better life here in America.   She brought her mother over years later, and together those two women raised me to believe that anything was possible here. Five years after law school, I became a mother while working as an associate at a posh downtown law firm.  Little did I realize how much my life would change once my son was born.  When I returned from maternity leave (there was no set firm policy about this at the time) I tried to negotiate a flexible schedule, which was met with substantial resistance even though I had initially been told we would be able to discuss this once I settled into my new routine.  The interactions with my boss changed, as did my assignments, and after a year of feeling dismissed and under-utilized, I left to start my own law firm. The decision to start my own company less than two (2) years after having a child was not an easy one, but the reality was that I didn't have faith that any of the other firms that I would be interested in would be willing to work with me on a schedule and compensation package that I felt I deserved after working on several complex, high-profile cases and being listed in the Washingtonian's Top Divorce lawyers. A year after opening my own family law practice, I got divorced, which definitely made the decision to remain self-employed as a single mother a whole lot scarier, but not as scary as the thought of being miserable working for someone else and losing my autonomy.  Failure was simply not an option, and in many ways this is what fueled my ability to be creative in the brand I wanted to establish and how I marketed the firm as an early adapter to social media. While most law firms a decade ago (and some to this day) are very conservative in their use of social media, I decided long ago to put it all out there.  The blogs I write and interviews I give for radio, tv, podcasts or magazines are all very personal, and real.  It's not a secret [...]

2804, 2022

The Importance of Title IX, 50 Years Later

By |April 28th, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

In June 1972, Congress enacted Title IX which required educational programs receiving federal assistance to ensure women were given equal access to sports.  Later that same year I was born, so I am truly a Title IX baby, who fell in love with sports at an early age.  For my mother and grandmother, who raised me, it was a good way for me to channel all my energy, while also ensuring that I was engaged in safe activities after school.  For me, it was a complete game-changer that has impacted every aspect of my life. By age 11, when I began competing in rhythmic gymnastics I firmly believed that anything was possible and that I was in every respect equal to my male peers at school.  Despite my modest upbringing I had very clear and ambitious life goals, and sports taught me the importance of setting goals, developing a plan, and savoring each and every win as it happens.  But in order to continue with my gymnastic endeavors, my mother made it clear that I could not allow my academic performance to suffer.  As a result, I became super disciplined and organized at an early age.  In order to get in 3 hours of training a day and longer on weekends that were not spent in competitions, I had to make school work a priority on my free time, which resulted in having very little down time but I didn't care. Athletes are trained for endurance, which is fueled by our passion and desire to excel.  But I always knew that my gymnastics would have an early end date (most age out by 21), and my longer- term goal was to be a well-respected attorney in a large city.  When my academic pressures began to conflict with gymnastics, I made the difficult decision to retire as an Elite Class I Rhythmic Gymnast at the end of my freshman year at Georgetown.  From that point forward, I mainly focused on launching my legal career, but I never gave up being physically active.  For me, it's a necessary part of remaining sane, and coping with life. The importance of sports in a child's life cannot be overstated.  Everything I have managed to accomplish as an adult the past two decades living in the DC Area as a mother, full-time lawyer, business owner, media expert, former adjunct professor, and published author I [...]

804, 2022

4 Easy Steps To Gaining Financial Literacy

By |April 8th, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

April is Financial Literacy month, and in that vein I will be the guest speaker on two upcoming podcasts- one is focused on business owners and the other seeks to educate and empower women.  23 years ago, when I started practicing family law, if you told me I would be presenting on financial literacy I would have thought you were nuts.  After being a student for two decades, all I had was over $100,000 of student debt with an undergraduate degree in diplomacy and a J.D., both of which were nicely framed and displayed in my Washington, DC office. Thankfully, over the past two decades that investment in my education has largely paid off, despite multiple life setbacks, and in addition to what I experienced in my own financial journey, I have had to weather hundreds of other storms as my divorce clients grapple with creating new monthly budgets and reassessing their financial investments as part of their divorce.  In the process, I found there are a ton of resources out there available to people of any age that need help with establishing a budget and understanding the financial options out there.  Take it in baby steps. Step One: Get Educated and Organized Educate yourself as to what your total household income is and how much you are actually spending vs. saving.  Tax season forces all of us to reckon with our numbers, and once you have all this information readily available take some time to really analyze what your cash flow situation looks like.  Ideally, the rule of thumb is 50% of your net income (after taxes) goes to needs (such as housing and food), 30% to wants (such as travel and entertainment) and 20% should be for savings (not just retirement because you need liquid assets in the event of an emergency).   If this is all overwhelming, invest in a financial literacy class or a financial coach who can help guide you. Step Two: Establish a Monthly Budget There are plenty of free forms available to help you lay out your monthly expenses, including housing, food, clothing, medical care, insurance, student debt, transportation, travel and entertainment.  Don't forget to set aside some amount for a rainy day fund.  Whatever your net monthly expenses are, make sure that they do not exceed your net monthly income.  Remember this is basic math, not creative writing so if you are [...]

2903, 2022

Key Take Aways From The Will Smith-Chris Rock Saga

By |March 29th, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

As a family law attorney for over two decades, I have been privy to a lot of heated arguments, and especially in mediation sessions I have witnessed many first-hand when settlement negotiations have taken a detour and a couple has reverted to blame-shifting and focusing on the past rather than staying present with me in problem-solving mode. I am used to people being loud and emotional, especially as a Latina.  But as a first gen American, who studied diplomacy in undergrad and became a licensed attorney by age 25, my entire adult life I have been trained to uphold our generally accepted social norms that are codified in our laws in order to allow our society to function properly.  And while I admit that a huge part of my job is educating others on what our rules are particularly with respect to family law issues, there are certain basic principles that even a child over the age of 8 should know, e.g. use your words, not your fists. Before I continue, let me just be clear that Chris Rock's joke at Jada's expense was incredibly hurtful and out of line-- even he has admitted that in his recent apology.   Also, it pains me to use Will Smith, an actor I have enjoyed watching over the years, as an example of what not to do.  But maybe this is exactly why Will Smith, someone loved and admired by so many is the perfect illustration of how a split second decision can derail a good person's life, which is a frequent occurrence in my legal world. The reality is hurtful and disparaging remarks are made every day, and we expect people to either verbally defend themselves or walk away.  In that moment those are really the only two choices you have.  We have all been there, and we all know that walking away is not easy, but when you know that continuing a conversation will be fruitless, it really is the only logical choice.  Of course, in order to implement logic you have to use your frontal cortex, which is the logical part of your brain that helps you with impulse control, managing emotions, and predicting consequences.   Even though I did not go to medical school or study psychology, I have spent the last twenty years learning about how the research from these fields can provide insight into what clients in [...]

1803, 2022

Don’t Fall For The Sunk Cost Fallacy

By |March 18th, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The sunk cost fallacy originated as a business concept, but it really is quite applicable to personal relationships. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article there are five resources we invest in an endeavor: (1) time, (2) effort, (3) money, (4) emotion and (5) our beliefs. The false logic that I see many try to use to justify staying in a bad relationship/marriage is that they have already invested so many resources in this situation that they need to just stick with it. The problem is a bad investment that isn't yielding a decent return rarely gets better over time or by just sinking more resources into it.  In fact, most times it is best to just cut your losses and move on. Moving on is easier said than done, especially when you have merged your finances, entangled your lives together, and know there are complicated or serious monetary, legal and/or social consequences to calling it quits.  When weighing your options, especially if there isn't a clean exit, you need to get both legal advice from an experienced attorney and help from a mental health professional.  This is going to be an exercise in mitigating damages with experts in damage control. As a divorce attorney for over 20 years in the DC Area, dealing with romantic fiascos is my specialty.  These popular Netflix series that highlight romantic affairs that go awry don't shock me or my colleagues, because cases like the Tinder Swindler or Bad Vegan happen every day in my world, just maybe on a smaller scale.  And while I think it is great that these cases are getting the public's attention, I am afraid that many will watch them and just say the chances of this happening are one in a million.  This means the real message is getting lost here. Even though I don't consider myself a numbers person, I do think we need to consider the real stats here.  According to an NIH study that is often cited in the legal world, about 15% of the U.S. population has a High Conflict Personality (which corresponds to the number of cases flagged as "high conflict" in family court).  In addition, we all know there are many cases of undiagnosed or untreated depression, anxiety or bi-polar disorder out there.  I'm going to hypothesize that this is another 15% of the population, and I think that is [...]

1203, 2022

Have You Taken On Too Much During COVID?

By |March 12th, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

As we continue to celebrate Women's History Month, it is important to acknowledge that just in the last 50 years (since Title IX was passed) our roles as women, mothers, and members of the workforce have changed so much.  Less than 30% of U.S. households have a stay-at-home mother that is not earning some employment income, which I interpret to mean that over 70% of households then have to struggle with a division of labor negotiation regarding household chores and parenting. Parenting in the 21st century has been particularly challenging for those of us trying to set limits on our children's use of personal devices and exposure to social media.  For introverted kids that are not interested in sports, music, theater or other social activities after school, a whole new world of options has been created this past decade to give them a false sense of connection while playing games online or sharing posts online, much to the chagrin of their parents.   And now add to this challenge a global pandemic that forced many of us for over 18 months to work from home while also trying to ensure that our kids attended their classes online.  Truth be told, this has been the perfect recipe for disaster for many parents, despite their best intentions. I wish we could all be more honest about these struggles, which I often only hear about in the context of my confidential consults with clients or private discussions with friends and colleagues.  When I was sharing some of my own experiences during COVID a friend jokingly told me, "you have an orchid child."  I had no idea what she meant until she shared with me this Tik Tok video that explains some children are like dandelions-- they will grow anywhere under any conditions, they are just built to survive, while others are like orchids that can only grow under the most ideal conditions.  Fan-f*#ingtastic. Some other parents I know recently confessed that their teenagers were hospitalized for a bit during this pandemic-- not because of COVID per se, but because their isolation led to severe depression, which included cutting, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, and suicidal idealization. Sadly, these are not outliers, but the true number of emotional casualties from this pandemic will never be accurately quantified or appreciated.  One friend recently told me she fears we will just consider these teens that failed [...]

503, 2022

What Does Love-Bombing Look Like?

By |March 5th, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Love-bombing is defined as the strategic use of over the top gestures of affection, attention and admiration with the goal of making you feel dependent and obligated to that person. Narcissists and abusers often use this tactic to win someone over, until they feel they have obtained you and then you will start to see their dark side. In the beginning it is all rainbows and unicorns-- regular check-ins letting you know they are thinking of you, gifts that make you feel special, amazing dates that leave you wondering whether you are in a coma and this is all a dream.  And the truth is, the greater the resources the greater the hook will be, including  front-row center seats to sold out shows, decadent meals at Michelin star restaurants, expensive jewelry, clothes, perfume, and luxury trips.   Year after year I have seen the same play, just different actors on a different stage.  Whether the couple meets organically or online (that part doesn't matter) the problem is the same each time-- they are moving at warped speed.  After just a few months they get engaged, marry and move-in together.  All this happens within less than 18 months.  The fact is that's just not enough time to really get to know someone, including how well they really handle finances and their work, as well as their emotional connections with family and friends (and exes).    Let's recognize that we are all on our best behavior when we first meet someone, but eventually you need to see the good, the bad and the ugly to truly know someone.  When times are tough or a conflict arises, pay attention to how someone handles this situation.  Don't make excuses for bad behavior or ignore snide comments.  Emotional intelligence is a skill that many lack, and it's impossible to sustain a healthy relationship without it. After you have been love-bombed, when the mask finally comes off and you see the two distinct sides to your Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, you will feel stupid.  How did you not see this Master Manipulator for what s/he really was?  How naive could you be? Accepting the truth might be so difficult that you will deny it's as bad as it seems.  You will then try to bargain with yourself and the master manipulator.  There will be moments of sadness, and others of pure rage.  Whether you realize [...]

203, 2022

Do You Know Your Own Value?

By |March 2nd, 2022|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This Tuesday, March 8th is International Women's Day, and in preparation for two talks that I am leading this week, I came across some very sobering statistics.  According to a recent LeanIn study, 1 in 3 women have considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers during this pandemic.  Burnout is real, and although I have seen it first-hand in the legal industry over the past two decades, the numbers are far worse than what I imagined.  From a recent ABA study I learned that of the 1.3 million licensed and actively practicing attorneys in the U.S., approximately 86% are non-Hispanic whites; only about 5% are Hispanic like me, and just 23% of equity partners are women. The only way change can happen is if we are honest, rather than just suffering in silence.  It is no secret that many companies, particularly law firms in major cities have continued to resist requests for more flexible schedules and work/life balance.  This is the very reason I have run my own family law firm for over a decade, while also juggling the responsibilities of being a single mother.  Many of my female colleagues have since followed suit for the same reason, while others have opted to leave the profession entirely or transfer from private sector to government or non-profit jobs. Last month, I attended a webinar hosted by my alma mater, Georgetown University.  The female speakers shared very candid experiences about (1) coping with failure/rejection, (2) learning to take risks, and (3) gaining confidence over time to become more authentic.  Their message was clear-- women take rejection much more personally than men, we take fewer risks in business, and it seems we need more time to comfortably speak up.  All of this resonates with me, and it begs the question how can we improve without openly discussing the unique challenges we have all faced as women? While we have certainly made progress in the 104 years since the 19th Amendment was passed allowing women the right to vote (which almost coincides with when my grandmother was born), we have to recognize that we still have many obstacles to tackle.  Ultimately it comes down to truly knowing what you are worth-- not just at work, but also at home.  As Sheryl Sandberg said in Lean In, one of the most important decisions a woman will ever make in her life is the [...]

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