Archive for April, 2017

Make Communication Work With F-A-C-C-T

The third letter in our F-A- C-C- T overview is Communication. Sadly, when a couple is considering divorce, this is a time when they need to communicate with precision. However, for them there are feelings of emotional and economic betrayal, loss of trust, dependability, and honesty that all factor into this communication. As Caryl Rusbult labeled it, at least one person is at the point of the “Comparison Level for Alternatives.” They are done and for that person, anything is better than where they are.

How do people in this state of mind proceed? First, there is the acknowledgement that this is happening, it is happening in their marriage and they must deal with it. That is a hard task when a person is presented with divorce and they were unaware that anything was, in their view, wrong.

Acknowledgement leads to education about options. The more a person understands, the more prepared they will be for what is ahead. People that have been through a divorce are calmer and more connected to the process. They tend to get down to the business of what’s ahead. Those that have never been through this tend to take their time and weigh each step carefully.

Men and Money - Divorce - Oak Tree Mediation

In either case, it helps to recognize that while these two people perceive that they are trying to get away from each other that is generally a false notion. They state that divorce is their goal, but it is not the reality of the divorce.

The fact is that as long there is a settlement agreement that can carry various types of obligations (support, long-term property issues, etc.) or if there are children involved, there is still a connection with each other. That can create tremendous friction during this process, even if the couple is emotionally glued together. This can sometimes be a painful reality for couples in divorce – the fact that they remain connected and dependent on each other for something in their agreement.

This also plays into the divorce narrative that there is right and a wrong. This drives the idea and concept that there is something in the divorce that each side “deserves.” When there is belief of entitlement, whether stated or not and is based on legal terms or moral beliefs, that can lead to contention. If there is resistance from the other side, this can also lead to resentment. There is a sense of something being extracted rather than negotiated. As lines are drawn, legal counsel takes the position that they are there to defend their client’s legal rights vigorously. The tools of negotiation are then expanded to include threats of going court. That threat may come in the form of a court date to which each side must respond.

Women and Money - Divorce - Oak Tree Mediation

On the other side, when the couple looks at issues, such as the division of assets, as a business negotiation, they are more inclined to settle their differences with an agreement that they craft.

This is the choice – fight for possession or work out an agreement.

We recently had a case that involved a disputed piece of property. The couple finally decided to take the matter to court. After several rounds with attorneys on each side, they settled the matter. But not until they had spent almost 25% of the value of the asset they were fighting over.

The best path is to work through the anger with a good therapist. This is far less expensive than complaining to the attorney at $300 to $400 an hour. Then, as that process is moved forward with this emotional support, they can take an inventory of all things that are owned and all that is owed.

While this can be helpful in deciding how to proceed, it is also a legal requirement. All assets MUST be disclosed. Nothing can be hidden without severe penalties being imposed on the dishonest person.

With a good list of assets and debts, coupled with a good income and expense worksheet, you are ready to work through the difficult aspects of property and income settlements.


Armand and Robbin D’Alo

How Long Does a Divorce Take

As with many questions we are asked, the question about how long it will take for a divorce has a typical answer — – “it depends.” Oddly this honest reply to the question rests with the people wanting the divorce. We always caution that the process will typically take longer than what the couple expects.

In a survey done by Nolo press, the actual average time for a divorce was 11 months. Contested divorces averaged 17.6 months. Those that could settle agreements together averaged about nine months.

It is important to note that the clock for being legally divorced does not start until the couple files the petition and the response are filed. The process simply does not start just because someone wants a divorce. Quite often there is a period of negotiation that goes on before the couple even files.

Divorce Mediation Takes How Long?

In California, the legal time required for a divorce, which includes a cooling off period to see if the marriage is salvageable, is six months. After six months has lapsed a judge can then grant the divorce, assuming everything is in order.

There are other factors that can make the process even longer. According to the Nolo survey, issues that caused the greatest delays and added costs are:

Child custody & child support
Alimony or spousal support
Division of property
Division of debts
Attorney’s fees
Claims for reimbursement
Claims for a possible breach of fiduciary duty

The real factor in time is a couple’s ability to communicate under the stress of a relationship that is ending. The feelings of emotional betrayal, economic betrayal, loss of trust, dependability and honesty all factor into this communication. As Caryl Rusbult labeled it, at least one person is at the point of the “Comparison Level for Alternatives.” They are done and for that person, anything is better than where they are.

In the next article we will talk a bit about strategy for getting through the divorce process with successful communication strategies.


Armand and Robbin D’Alo