Everybody says don’t

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This blog is provided for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice in any jurisdiction. Reading, commenting on, or using this blog in any way does not establish an attorney-client relationship between the Law Office of Alan H. Boudreau LLC and the user. For legal advice, please consult an attorney. Copyright 2012-2013. All rights reserved.

Social Security Administration to Hold Applications from Same Sex Spouses While They Develop Guidance

The Social Security Administration has instructed its agents to hold applications for benefits for same sex spouses in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down section 3 of DOMA. This hold procedure applies to claims, post entitlement actions and appeals. The agency is developing guidance on how to handle claims from same sex spouses. Federal agencies are working at various speeds to address the more than 1100 federal laws impacted by this decision. The Office of Personnel Management and Board of Immigration appeals have issued preliminary guidance and many other agencies are soon to follow. For families impacted by the DOMA decision, it is important to remain educated about the evolving federal guidance so as not to miss the sometimes short windows to apply for benefits or appeal a denial of benefits.

Illinois GOP chair resigns, cites support for same-sex marriage as a reason

Alan H. Boudreau:

It is fascinating how quickly the conversation on marriage equality is evolving. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) spoke about how his stroke changed his thinking on marriage equality. I wonder how much Pat Brady’s wife’s cancer has to do with his thinking on marriage equality. When faced serious illness, the importance of marriage can become even more clear. The rights, responsibilities, benefits and support of marriage are critical when a family is faced with serious Illness. Kudos to Mr. Brady for his stand and best wishes to the Brady family as they deal with a terrible illness.

Originally posted on CNN Political Ticker:

Washington (CNN) – Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady resigned Tuesday, citing a handful of reasons including an ongoing struggle with several members of the state GOP over his support for same-sex marriage.

“There were several reasons,” why he decided to step down, Brady said in a telephone interview with CNN. “I’ve been going at it hard for six years, I need to focus on my family, and obviously I had lost the support of the state Central Committee because of my position on gay marriage.”

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LGBT Diversity: Gay Federal Appeals Court Nominee

On February 7, 2013, President Obama nominated Todd M. Hughes to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Hughes is currently the Deputy Director of the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Civil Division at the United States Department of Justice. If confirmed by the Senate, Hughes will be the first out gay U.S. Appeals Court judge.

More information see the White House press release here and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund press release here.

Divorce Mistakes: Don’t Take “Ame” at Your Spouse

In a divorce, emotions can get the better of you. Domestic Relations Judges often say that they see good people on their worst behavior on the worst day of their lives. Unfortunately, that bad behavior can have terrible consequences in a divorce. Bad behavior prolongs a divorce, increases its cost and reverberates in the family long after the couple reaches a final settlement.

The deep and difficult emotions of divorce often come out in three ways, the B.I.G. 3 as I like to call them.

  • B = Blame
  • I = Inflame
  • G = Games

The B.I.G. 3 are ways you take aim (or “ame”) at your spouse. And they are three of the worst things you can do during a divorce. The B.I.G. 3 are common emotionally-driven responses to a difficult situation. They may provide a temporary high, but over the long term they make things much worse. Instead of helping both parties finalize their divorce so that they can move forward, the B.I.G. 3 drag people back into the past. They act as marital quicksand, trapping people in the negative dynamics of the relationship even as they try to end it.

Blame

Spouses often try to blame each other when a marriage unravels. “If you hadn’t had that affair.” “If you were better with money.” “If you spent more time with the kids.” The list goes on forever. The message is clear: this marriage was supposed to last until death do us part. If we are breaking up, it must be someone’s fault, and it can’t be my fault, so it must be yours.

The need to blame is so great, that even supportive friends and family can get in on the act. “What happened?” they ask. In other words, tell us who is to blame. We need to know who to to blame. Unfortunately, the idea of blame was enshrined in divorce law until recently. The only way to get a divorce was by placing fault or blame on one spouse. This created the idea that there is a perpetrator and victim in divorce. There must be someone to blame.

Fortunately, the law has changed in most places, and most couples choose a “no fault divorce.” This means that whatever happened in the marriage, there is no legal blame needed to divorce. Whatever your divorce petition says, keep blame out of the marital settlement discussions. Blame doesn’t get you anything, and it costs you a lot. Blame often spirals out of control. By the time a couple is seriously contemplating divorce, there is usually enough perceived blame to go around. And around. And around. So keep the blame spiral out of divorce negotiations. It won’t solve anything and it will drain your emotional and financial resources.

Inflame

Divorce is the perfect setting to turn long smoldering issues into infernos. Emotions are raw. And it is easy to throw fuel on those issues and watch them explode. It might even seem fun. You are angry and want to hurt your spouse. Plus you have a lawyer on your side to protect you from the explosion. So why not inflame the situation?

Think about fire. It is notoriously unpredictable. Even controlled burns can rage out of control unexpectedly. The problem is that you and your family are the most likely victims of an inflamed situation in divorce. Kids are particularly vulnerable. They get hurt easily and the wounds last a lifetime. And remember, money burns easily too. The more you inflame the divorce, the more money you will burn through. Before you know it, you have hurt yourself and your family more than anyone else. You always need to rebuild your life after divorce, but the more you destroy, the harder it is to rebuild. Don’t make it harder on you than it needs to be.

Games

Ah, the games people play. People getting divorced spend a lot of time playing games. They think about strategy and winning. They play “Gotcha!” and try to catch each other in lies, inconsistencies and vulnerabilities. Show up half an hour late for parenting time and your ex says you are a bad parent who doesn’t care. Gotcha! Misunderstand an agreement and you are in violation. Gotcha! People even hire lawyers to play along and hit the other side with nearly impossible discovery requests that increase cost, time and anger. Gotcha!

Games are for kids. In a divorce, you need to be an adult and think about what really matters. Refusing to play games does not mean rolling over and being passive in your divorce. It means approaching each situation that arises in an appropriate way. By understanding what is behind difficulties that arise, you can come up with solutions that end the problems, not play games that perpetuate them. Then you can reclaim the time you would take playing games with your ex and use it to play the games that get you something. Join a gym, play pickup basketball or play Candyland with your children. Trust me, you won’t miss Gotcha! when you are climbing that ladder or sliding down that slide while your kids laugh at you.

There are many other mistakes people make during their divorces, but the B.I.G. 3 are so common and so destructive they warrant special consideration. Don’t take aim at your spouse in your divorce. You will inevitably face moments in your divorce when you want to blame, inflame or play games. Those are the moments where the risk to you is especially high. The B.I.G. 3 are easy traps for the unwary. But the rewards for avoiding the B.I.G. 3 are even greater. Looking back, children never say, “I wish you had done more damage during the divorce” but they will say, “your divorce was so much better than my friends’ parents’ divorces.” Looking back, you may say that as well, and that is really what winning in divorce is all about.

Collaborative Divorce: Learn the Basics in the IACP Knowledge Kit

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) puts out an excellent knowledge kit on Collaborative Divorce. The knowledge kit provides basic information about the collaborative process. Collaborative Divorce is way to resolve end-of-relationship issues including parenting, distribution of assets and ongoing finances without going to court. The process, which includes a formal agreement between the participants and the professionals that the professionals will withdraw if the case goes to litigation, focuses on helping the participants find an agreement that meets their family’s needs and interests. As well as the knowledge kit above, the IACP and the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois (CLII) provide additional information about the process.

If you think Collaborative Divorce might be right for you, email the Law Office of Alan H. Boudreau LLC or give me a call at 773-242-9529 for more information.

Collaborative Divorce: The Toilet is Broken, So I Called a Lawyer

Imagine that your toilet won’t flush, and you ask a friend what to do. Your friend says, “Call Alan. He’s a lawyer.”

Huh?

It is easy to see that this makes very little sense. As a lawyer, I know about divorce law, estate planning and conflict resolution. I can advise you on complicated legal matters, administrative rulings and court procedures. I can help you navigate a court system that is confounding on a good day. And I can be a strong advocate for you. But no matter how good a lawyer I am, you should never call me to fix your toilet. That just isn’t my area of expertise. You won’t get what you pay for, and you would probably still have a broken toilet.

But when a couple is in the middle of a divorce, they often call on their lawyers to play every role and answer ever question. Whenever an issue arises, they turn to the lawyers. It doesn’t matter whether the issue is legal, financial, personal or child-related. They call the lawyers. And some lawyers are more than happy to take the call.

As a Collaborative Lawyer, I take a different approach. I use the team approach of Collaborative Law, because it acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of lawyers and the needs of families. I’m not a plumber, but more importantly to my clients, I’m not a mental health or financial professional either. Yes, I have some experience in these areas and can help clients get started, but expecting me to provide a full forensic accounting on a family business is not very different from asking me to fix the toilet. It’s not a good idea. Instead, I am trained to work as part of a Collaborative Divorce Team that brings together other specially-trained lawyers, coaches, financial specialists and child specialists to meet the needs of our divorce clients.

This Collaborative Team approach has many advantages. Putting the right person in the right job is more efficient, cheaper and achieves better results. Instead of wasting time and money fitting a lawyer into other roles, the Collaborative Divorce Team can match the family needs to each professional’s skills from the beginning of the process. This approach can provide incredible value to a family during a divorce. It really is a better way to divorce.

So the next time the toilet breaks, find a good plumber to get things working again. But if you are contemplating divorce, you want the right team on your side. So give me a call to explore whether a Collaborative Divorce might be a good choice for your family.

Mediation: Taking Conflict Resolution Seriously At Loyola

Yesterday, I had the privilege of conducting a mediation training with Tim Love and Dana Broadnax from the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR) at Loyola University in Chicago. As part of the school’s commitment to helping students resolve conflicts before they escalate, eighteen resident advisors (RAs) volunteered their time to learn basic mediation skills. By giving the RAs the mediation skills necessary to resolve some of the most common disputes that arise on campus, the school is beginning the process of establishing mediation as both a community value and a viable career path.

I want to commend the students who participated in this program and share some observations. Mediation skills are difficult to learn, even for experienced professionals. And these students received a crash course. Yet even as they struggled to assimilate the difficult concepts that confound most new mediators, these students showed an understanding of and dedication to the importance of building conflict resolution tools into their community. They impressed me with their effort, insight and skill.

Unfortunately, society too often glamorizes conflict and the people who escalate it. Conflict is exciting, the stuff of entertainment. Conflict is the lifeblood of “reality” TV. Who wants to waste time watching people who resolve small disputes if a little poking can create an epic conflict? In the real world, very few people learn conflict resolution skills, but almost everyone learns how to turn a minor disagreement or misunderstanding into a major conflict. This is unfortunate and damaging.

Yesterday, OSCCR and the Loyola RAs reversed the normal paradigm. They embraced mediation as an early intervention technique to control conflict. Instead of nurturing conflict, the students took the difficult step of learning skills to help their fellow students extinguish nascent conflict before it gets out of control.

By giving up a day of their break and participating in mediation training, these RAs agreed to do something very difficult. They decided to put the needs and interests of their fellow students and the community above their own. They agreed to step into conflict as neutral mediators instead of hiding from it. It is always easier to ignore the unpleasant and hope it goes away. Or let conflict fester until punishment seems necessary. But taking those roads, the easy roads, undermines the community. Once punishment is the only option, everyone loses.

As Loyola students return to campus for the new term, they will have a new community resource available to them: mediation. And they have an opportunity to assimilate a conflict resolution mentality into their community. I look forward to seeing how a culture of mediation takes root on the Loyola campus. And how today’s students carry that culture with them into the rest of the world.