Saturday, January 30, 2010

The justified child custody double standard

Lately I have been receiving more complaints, requests for advice or just other concerns about the discipline or treatment of the children of blended families. Primarily the concern is the treatment of a noncustodial parent's prior children [NCP] as compared to that of the subsequent children of a new family.

That is to say this is how a NCP treats his or her visiting children different from that of the subsequent residential children of the household and if so is this justified. I have found that opinions on this differ widely as do the reasons.

It is not my intention here to provide a blanket procedure or rule for parents to follow when providing discipline or rules for children of blended families. Rather, I want to express some varying ways in which these families handle the situation and allow you to consider these for your own family.

Here are some opinions by others also. Michael G Connor: Parenting in Blended Families.
Cathy Meyer: Child Discipline in the Blended Family.
Shirley Cress Dudley: Discipline in the Blended Family.

It is important that children have consistency in discipline and expectations. For this reason both natural parents need to communicate with each other about what those are. It may be very likely that you won't agree on this which could be one of the reasons you are divorced to begin with. However, it is still necessary to know what the other parent expects so that your rules or discipline may include consideration of that.

The other children in the household must also be made aware of the rules and expectations and the residential household of their visiting sibling. If you choose to adopt the rules of the residential household of your visiting then there will be a difference in the way the children in your household are treated. Age or maturity will be a consideration in how this is explained to the children.

One difference that I personally employ and have found common among others is that the visiting children are not responsible for such tasks as household chores or cleaning up their messes. I am not saying that if the child purposely makes a mess that he or she shouldn't have to clean that surface. What this means is that the child should not have to clean up after regular usage of games, toys, etc. The child should understand that it is proper to clean up after one's self but that you want to spend time with the child not having the child spend time cleaning up.

Other parents choose to treat all children the same while accounting for age. This may reduce sibling conflict and be best for all involved. This is going to have to be a case-by-case decision that best accommodates the circumstances of the family.

There is another possible dynamic to this situation besides the parties that are already mentioned. You may have a new spouse or partner also in the household. The other children may be previous children of your new spouse or partner. Those children are going to be accustomed to a particular existing style. You have had a way that you parent your child. There may be a conflict in parenting styles that must be resolved between the both of you before being applied to the children.

Having a non residential child visiting who brings a different standard into the situation is going to make it more difficult. There is no right or wrong to resolving this. The best I can offer though is that there must be consistency. Whatever you choose it must be applied on a consistent basis. If you have a new partner then you both must support the rules and discipline as applied by each other.

In a family created through two adults with children from previous relationships each adult must have authority to enforce the rules and instill discipline on an equal basis regardless of biological connection. This also applies to visiting children. Failure to have equal authority over all of your children will result in a power conflict. You can expect the children to detect and manipulate that situation which will only create problems in the relationship between you and your spouse.

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Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

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©2008, 2010 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Make your changes to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines

The Indiana Domestic Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference of Indiana [DRC] met on Friday 22 January 2010 for the first session of the year. The Committee is comprised of 12 judges, magistrates or commissioners from throughout the state. Their purpose is to formulate the rules and guidelines that govern domestic relations cases in the Indiana Courts.

At the top of the agenda for 2010 is amending the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines [IPTG]. Committee Chair Judge William Fee said he would like to complete the process by the end of the year.

This will be the first time that the IPTG have been amended since first written. The Committee is seeking input from a variety of sources including the public, practitioners, judges and professionals in the field of child custody or child psychology.

The Committee plans to meet on the following dates:
Friday 19 February 2010
Friday 19 March 2010
Friday 21 May 2010
Friday 16 July 2010
Friday 20 August 2010
Friday 22 October 2010*
* tentative

Although the meetings are open to the public they are not a public input session. Anyone who would like to attend a meeting may contact me and I will ask that he or she be added to the guest list.

The members of the Committee decided that they would like to receive public testimony in addition to written input. 19 March 2010 has been tentatively set as the date for a hearing to receive public testimony at the Indiana State House. I will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Judge Fee gave me an opportunity to present to the Committee for a few minutes. I introduced myself to the members I do not already know and then gave a brief history of the development of the Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates [InCRA]. I informed the members that InCRA is available as a resource for them to use in this process. We will provide testimonial and written input, do research and promote the input sessions to the public and media.

Robert Monday of the Children's Rights Council was also in attendance as he typically has been for all DRC meetings. Monday was an instrumental force in the recent revisions to the Indiana Child Support Guidelines.

I am grateful that I have been given a unique opportunity to be a voice for you to express your concerns about the IPTG. You will also have the opportunity to attend the public hearing and submit written input. I would like to have mothers and fathers including custodial and non-custodial parents [NCP] of each testifying. The Committee wants your input and providing them with feedback as to what has been and has not been effective using the IPTG will help them to better shape the Guidelines for the future.

Anyone who wants to testify or has suggestions should contact me. Written input, which I will take to the Committee, may be sent to me at P.O.B. 374, Lebanon, IN 46052. When the Committee posts the public input information on their website I will post that information here.

Some of the comments I heard at the meeting included that too often father is used as synonymous with NCP and mother is as the custodial parent; that there needs to be an emphasis on the Guidelines being only a guideline and not adopted as the typical parenting time plan, and; that the minimum time for NCP and newborns is not sufficient enough to allow for bonding.

The Guidelines are nothing more than a recommendation of what the MINIMUM should be. I will be proposing that the Committee needs to find a way to emphasize to judges, practitioners and litigants that giving our children the minimum is often not enough.

Currently there is a subcommittee working on parenting coordination. I fully support the concept that all parents who do not come to court with a parenting time plan should be sent to a parenting coordinator. One concern I have though is that the coordinators may have a bias in favour of mothers and not deviating significantly from the Guidelines.

Please do not miss this opportunity to make your changes to the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines.


Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

©2010 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More on the Legislative Process

We have a joke around the State House. There's two things you don't want to see being made; sausage and laws.

For many the idea of how a law gets made may come from a source as legitimate as C-Span where debate on a topic is shown and a vote is taken. Movies or other dramatic programs may fill the knowledge gap for others. It is often portrayed as it happens; legislators introduce a bill, lobbyists try to persuade a vote in their favour, the bill is discussed and a vote is taken.

In Indiana, at least, there is much more to it. Indiana follows a procedure similar to that of the federal legislature and many other states.

A concept is first introduced either to a legislator or an interim study committee. There are various committees, each comprised of a small group of legislators, usually about 10, that meet prior to the regular session beginning. These committees hear matters related to particular topics such as local government, finance, education or family law.

Any legislator, citizen or lobbyist may ask a committee chairperson to have the committee hear their idea. If the chair sets the matter for hearing then the petitioner can present his or her issue to the committee and members of the public, including lobbyists, may speak in support or opposition to the issue. The committee may ask questions of those people testifying but they may not ask questions of the members.

If there is a specific idea that has been formally presented to the interim committee it is called a preliminary draft. The committee may also have its own draft prepared after consideration of an issue. The chair may ask for a vote on the issue. A majority vote in favour will bring a recommendation to pass from the committee to the House or Senate.

A bill may be submitted by a legislator, known as the sponsor, without going through the interim committee process though. Whether a draft or a bill the specific language of the changes sought are sent to the Legislative Services Agency [LSA] whose lawyers write the language as they best feel will accomplish the purpose of the bill. They also check for cross-references to the Indiana Code and then draft the bill as needed. I always write my own bills and LSA usually modifies them in some manner. A legislator then submits the bill to the appropriate chamber. It is then read into the record which is known as the first reading.

At this point the process is similar to that of the interim committees. The Senate and House each have their own committees to hear bills related to specific subject matters. Committee chairs have the opportunity to conduct a few hearings where numerous bills are heard. There are always significantly more bills than there is available time to hear them. This means that the chair must be convinced to set a particular bill for hearing. If the bill does not get set for hearing then it is dead at that point.

When a bill is set for hearing it is put on the committee schedule, usually about a week before the hearing. Any citizen or lobbyist may come speak in favour or opposition to the bill. Just as the interim study committee would pass a proposal on to the House or Senate committee these committees send a bill on to the House or Senate for a second reading when passing it by a majority vote. If the bill does not get a favourable majority then it is dead.

A bill will be heard before the full chamber in a proceeding similar to the committee proceedings except that only legislators speak about the bill. Legislators may offer amendments to the bill at this point which is known as a floor amendment. Amendments can be offered for the purpose of improving the bill or for delaying or killing it. If a bill is amended then it comes back for a third reading and a vote. If it is not amended then a vote is taken upon the conclusion of testimony. A majority vote passes the bill where it then goes to the governor.

There is much that goes on behind the scenes as well. This is where you may envision the television dramas. Lobbyists lavishing gifts or all-expense-paid trips on legislators or secret deals where one legislator promises to vote for a bill if he or she gets the same promise of a vote for his or her own bill. This is less of a reality than what is portrayed though. I was talking to a Senator last week about lobbying. He told me that I don't have to buy him a lunch or anything. He will always listen to what I have to say and vote for it if he feels it is best. Often times the money lobbyists spend on legislators simply buys time to get their voice heard and nothing more.

After a bill I was involved with was recently narrowly passed out of committee I spoke with each committee member and other legislators about it. This provided to me the opportunity to learn what their true concerns where with the legislation and what they would like to see changed before they could provide their full support. I may seek to have the bill amended by one of these legislators on the floor or choose to stick to my guns and try to push it through as written. I believe I could get it to narrowly pass but must weigh the risk.

A way to get a dead bill passed is to use the amendment process. I had one bill introduced this year that I do not believe will get a hearing. However, another bill of a similar nature is already headed to the floor for a vote. After I speak with more legislators I will decide if I should have the dead bill added as an amendment to the one on the floor or if I should have it reintroduced next session.

The risk in amending is that it may provide a bill that a legislator who previously supported the bill now will not. Contrarily it may provide a reason for a legislator to support the bill who had not been in favour of the bill before it was amended. This is where it is like the news accounts you hear of many amendments being added to an unrelated bill. It may be the only way a legislator gets his or her bill to become law and the only way a sponsor can get support.

It is not a simple process and, at times, seems very unreasonable but after going through it I have seen some merit to it. I believe this process allows for ideas to be fully vetted and produce stronger laws. Although at times it does seem to clog the system and keep laws from getting passed. That may be a good thing though.


Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

©2010 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Senate Bill 178 [Joint Legal Custody] Passes out of Committee

2010 Senate Bill 178 was heard by the Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters Committee on Tuesday 12 January 2010 in Room 233 of the Indiana State House. This bill provides that parents who voluntarily sign a paternity affidavit have joint legal custody of their child and the father has parenting time rights at the minimum established by the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines. It also provides that when a parent has visitation time restricted it must be based upon "clear and convincing" evidence. This is the same standard used to deny parenting time rights when CPS files a CHiNS petition.

Robert Monday of the Children's Rights Council and I spoke in favour of the bill. My testimony may be seen here. There was opposition raised by a lobbyist for the Domestic Violence block. I was disappointed to hear her oppose this bill claiming that abusive men would use it as a means to attempt to control women by having legal control over the woman's child.

This is a difficult issue for me as I was a victim of Domestic Violence for years in my marriage and only began speaking up about it a few years ago. A Domestic Violence that does not acknowledge me as a victim certainly does not speak on my behalf. I am perplexed by their assertion that it is in the best interest of children to be under the custody and control of a violent mother than to risk letting two parents agree to joint legal custody.

The members of the committee voted as follows:
Support - Steele [R], Taylor [D], Waterman [R], Young, Michael [D], Hume [D], Delph* [R]
Oppose - Bray [R], Head [R], Waltz [R], Lanane [D], Tallian* [D]
* did not vote but later stated his or her position

I met with 12 Senators throughout the day today. I plan to meet with all remaining Senators that I do not have commitments of support from before the bill comes on for a second reading.

Some slight amendments to the bill were proposed which were basically technical in nature. Once the final bill is drafted and any additional amendments are offered I will ask supporters to contact their Senator and express their support for the bill and ask for a vote in favour.


Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

©2010 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Monday, January 11, 2010

US Government establishes child porn network in the name of security

Child pornography laws have become so expansive that they now include prohibitions against adults portraying a person under the age of 18 appearing in the nude or simulated images. To the horror of some parents criminal charges have been brought against themselves for possession of photos so innocent as a girl who is two years of age sitting in a tub full of bubbles but having a breast fully exposed.

Now this absurdity of a well-intentioned law written by people without the insight or acumen to include safeguard provisions against such misapplication may be used against those charged with the duty to protect airline passengers. The Transportation Safety Administration [TSA] has been using scanning machines that allow security officers to see through outer and inner garments of the people walking through the machine. The "millimeter wave" (MMW) technology bounces radio-frequency waves off people to construct a 3-D image within a few seconds.

This has brought about the ire of some civil libertarians who contend that "seeing" through someones clothing without probable cause is a search as described in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This argument, although valid, is not likely to stand, as whenever the government wants to do away with liberty the causes of security and safety are championed and the dull-minded populace and judges embrace it. However, the TSA counters that passengers are given the option of a traditional pat-down search.

The scanner operates in much the same way as a x-ray machine sees through your skin to the bone. Just as is done with x-rays a photographic image is produced. Unlike x-rays though the scanner produces a real-time video image on a monitor that is viewed by the security officers.

Likely you have heard of the recent attempt of a Nigerian born Muslim extremist to detonate a chemical reactant explosive that was strapped to his leg while on a jet bound for Detroit. This is the type of surreptitious activity that these scanners would reveal. The problem for the TSA is that to be effective everyone must be scanned.

Gone are the days when profiling was an effective tool as interceding security threats. Anyone who recalls the Vietnam war knows that children were used to deliver bombs to US soldiers. Children have been used in military action prior to and since that time. Even on the streets of our US cities and towns children as young as ten years of age are packing firearms and being used as drug couriers.

These scanners which are installed at at least six US airports cannot effectively prevent explosive materials from being carried onto airplanes unless each person passing through the security checkpoint has passed through the body scanner. As the monitors on these scanners show video images of the breast or pubic region of young girls walking through or the photographic like image of a young boys penis the United States Government is producing and possessing child pornography.

Most alarming though is that a parent who encourages or induces a child to pass through these body scanners to produce the naked image of the children's bodies have assisted in the production of child pornography. Don't think that the pedophiles producing this child pornography are going to get arrested for it. Do something the government doesn't like and see if you don't get arrested at an airport checkpoint. My advice to anyone considering taking a minor through an airport security check; take the train.

Your tax dollars, hard at work, establishing the worlds largest child-porn network.

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Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

Connect with me for the latest Indiana child custody related policy considerations, findings, court rulings and discussions.

View Stuart Showalter's profile on LinkedIn

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©2008, 2010 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gambling Intercept for Child Support Bill Heard

The Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee met Wednesday 06 January 2010 to hear public testimony on Senate Bill 0163. The bill is sponsored by committee chairman Bray and was based upon the work of the Indiana Department of Child Services, Child Support Bureau.

DCS director Judge James Payne and Cynthia Longest, Deputy Director of the Child Support Bureau were the first to speak. This made my job much easier as their extensive testimony prepared the committee members for the issues I would speak about.

The bill primarily would mandate that casinos and horse racing facilities check the bureaus database for delinquent child support payment obligors before paying large jackpot winners. Figures discussed range from $600 to $2500.

The bill would also add gaming employees to the list of other licensed professionals who could have their licenses or permits revoked, suspended or not renewed for having a child support arrears.

There was one area of concern for me in the bill which was the definition of delinquent. The bill provides that anyone who owes at least $2000 in back support or a cumulative amount equal to three months is considered delinquent. In many paternity cases and some divorces support orders are not issued until after the final hearing. At that point a support arrears may be set that easily exceeds those amounts considered to be delinquent. I propose that for the purpose of licensing issues that the delinquent amounts apply to after the most recent support order.

I do feel that there are adequate safeguards in place in this bill that would prevent mistakenly intercepted winnings from being paid out to the custodial parent and that licensing issues would only go into effect if a parent failed to cooperate or ignored the notice of possible suspension.

"We do not believe that a parent who's having difficulty paying child support should be out gambling," said Stuart Showalter, with Indiana Shared Parenting, a group that advocates for equal joint custody.

The bill is expected to be amended slightly and be prepared for a vote by the committee next week. If the bill passes out of committee it will go to the Senate floor for a vote. Keep updated on all Indiana child support and custody bills here.

Also next week our joint legal custody upon signing of a paternity affidavit bill is expected to receive a hearing. Please check this blawg frequently for updated information on the 2010 Indiana General Assembly.

You may be read more about this and leave comments in the Associated Press article appearing in the New York Times, Miami Herald, USA Today or the Seattle Times.


Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

©2010 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010 Indiana General Assembly Opening Day

Members of the Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates and Indiana Shared parenting gathered at the Indiana State House Tuesday for the opening day of the second session of the 116th General Assembly. This session is known as a short session since it does not involve a budget. As time is limited to just about 10 weeks the greatest challenge will be getting hearings on the bills submitted. The list of submitted bills may be seen here.

The day started at 9:00am with legislators beginning to arrive around that time. We quickly met with or made arrangements for members to see their local legislators. We were able to meet with Rep. Phyllis Pond and discuss joint legal custody initiatives with her.

Matthew Barnes, State Director of the Capitol Commission, led a session of prayer by various legislators. Lunch then followed which featured sandwiches provided by Chick-fil-A4.

The House convened just after the 1:30 scheduled time followed by the Senate. Throughout the day I was able to exchange pleasantries with numerous legislators. I met formally with Senator Boots to discuss SB0070 which he introduced for me. I also met with Senator Greg Taylor who has introduced Senate Bill 0153 and SB0154 for me.

I met briefly with Representative Summers to discuss alternatives to incarceration for child support payment arrearages and also joint legal custody initiatives. Summers asked me to send information to her and to schedule a meeting with her to discuss these issues.

I was unable to coordinate time with Senator Steele to discuss SB0061 which came out of the ICCSAC interim session meetings. I will try to do that Wednesday. Also on Wednesday is the hearing for SB0163 in which I will be testifying. SB163 would mandate that casinos and other wagering facilities would be required to intercept winnings of people who have a child support arrearage and send any winnings up to that amount to the state child support collection bureau.

The bill would also allow for the suspension or revocation of state gaming licenses or permits for persons with a support arrearage who refuse to make arrangements to pay the arrears or agree to an income withholding order. The bill also has a provision that bars the state from charging to reinstate a drivers license after it has been suspended for child support payment arrears.

InCRA supports the bill because we feel that if a parent doesn't believe that he or she can afford to pay support then he or she should not be gambling.

If you would like to participate in any part of the legislative process or simply meet your legislators please contact me.


Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates

©2010 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Some thoughts on marriage

No soliloquy on marriage would be complete without that comedic one-liner; You know, the leading cause of divorce is marriage.

On New Years Day this year I ran a 5K event titled "What was I Thinking?" which was titled that for good reason. It was windy and 12 degrees. It made me think about what I have heard from many of my divorcing clients; "What was I thinking?" Marriage had been on my mind lately anyway.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss marriage with one of my girl friends. Actually, the most important one. She is the one whom I've had a relationship with like no other. We have complete trust in each other, have told each other our most intimate secrets which have never been revealed to any other and we don't know how or why we came to be so connected.

At some point we discussed what the pinnacle of our relationship could be. We decided we would rule nothing out and let the relationship take its own course. So, eventually we could get married and have children if that is where it flowed. From there that seemed to be the direction we were heading.

Then practicality entered the scene. That is one of the things I found most attractive about her; fun-loving, spontaneous, ambitious, thoughtful and practical. There were many things to consider for us that the usual couple wouldn't face. A substantial chronological age difference and opposition from parents were only two.

There were also many reasons why, at a different time and place, we would be ideal. Some of these reminded me of a few things in one of the many books I have about marriage, divorce and custody. So, I went back and read through that again. I also gave some thought to traditions, mores and philosophical motivations for marriage.

I in no way intend for this post to be a complete checklist or evaluation for potential newlyweds but as the title says, it is just some thoughts on marriage. I get into some of those in future posts.

I was married once. I tried my best to keep it intact but she eventually forced what was best but also what I didn't want to face. It simply was not healthy for my son to face the violence she committed against him and witness it against me, have to beg for her attention and to have a mother who he would never know if she would be home that night. She eventually abandoned us one day and went to live with one of her boyfriends.

It took some coaxing and help from extended family but she did eventually start taking our son with her for some visitation time. She then became extremely interested in having custody of our son once she hired a lawyer and filed for divorce. It was around that time that her recollection that I must have been the one committing acts of domestic violence became clear to her. So, that background is there for you to consider when reading my thoughts here.

My first thought is that no one is required to get married. Sure, the majority of people do. But are the majority getting married for some extrinsic reason such as familial expectations or religious mandates? Your mother likely first clued you into to these invalid reasons when she asked you during one of your risky youthful pleasures, "If everyone else jumped off a bridge would you?"

There should only be two people who decide to get married. Some cultures leave the decision to the parents of the bride and groom to be, which does have some merit, but I believe the two people who intend to marry should be the ones to make that decision. A baby in the womb is not a valid reason to get married. You may think differently but these are my thoughts.

My reason is that there are many happily unmarried parents providing a stable family for the children while at the same time there are likely more unhappily married parents providing an unhealthy relationship environment for their children.

Conversely there can be many people who decide for you to not got married. These are the ones most people in lust ignore. If the advice of family and friends in not to get married then pay very close attention. Few of them are having sexual relations with your intended spouse which may give them a clearer perspective.

Some people may still base their motivation for marriage of religious foundations that say it is improper for persons to live as man and wife or bear children outside the covenant of marriage. However, religions have always been malleable to the forces of society as that is how they maintain adherents and thus power. Society in large part no longer considers pre-marital relations a taboo and religion must adapt itself to this concept or lose the so-called faithful. So let's stick to the relevant factors of the parties involved.

Before getting married you should think about the most annoying characteristic of your future mate. If you can't think of one now it is only because you are lovestruck. Ask your friends for help. Now imagine this most annoying trait getting worse and becoming more annoying over the years. Make sure you can live with that without intentionally placing yourself at the mercy of mob enforcers making you pay up. My point is that you cannot change what you don't like about your partner. You must be able to live with the good and the bad.

Make sure you listen to each other. I don't mean try to placate your partner by pretending to listen attentively while he or she rants. My dear friend and I couldn't stop talking to or listening to each other, sometimes throughout the night. But we heard each other. We genuinely were interested in knowing the thoughts of the other; fears, wishes, experiences and desires. For months we did not go through any 12 hour period without talking to each other in person or, on the rare occasions I left town, by phone. Our conversations have always been uninhibited. If you can't do this then reconsider getting married.

This one is so cliche but here goes anyway. Beauty is only skin deep. Of course that all depends on what you consider beautiful. A little girl friend recently went up to another chick saying I wanted her phone number. I, of course, didn't but that is one of our juvenile ways of just messing with each other. However, the girl was quite a hottie with all the make-up and cute little garments that snugged her shapely body in all the right places. Always a red-flag to me. So, it was no surprise to me when my girl friend comes back and says, "Uh, she is a b@#$%" My dear friend, on the other hand, has a smile and look about her that accentuates her natural physical beauty which is only surpassed by her inner beauty.

Back in high school I once woke up next to a girl and practically said "Who are you?". I soon realized that the reason she spent an hour in the bathroom in the mornings wasn't an intestinal issue. I don't think this reflected much on her character but just goes to show that looks can deceive.

However, there are men and women alike out there that spend significant amounts of time and money in an attempt to improve their physical appearance in cosmetic ways. I believe this is usually to accommodate some intrinsic deficiency. Physical appearance is the means by which we nearly all first notice one another. It should not be the factor upon which a long-term relationship is built though. Physical acts shouldn't either but I will delve into that arena in a more in-depth post later.

I cannot deny that money is a factor in marriage if for no other reason than it will be if there is a divorce. But, first let me take you back to the beginning. Keep money in mind when choosing a partner. That's right. Consider the financial viability of your potential spouse and forget what the Beatles said. I have enough experience with couples to know a few certain truths. One is that financial despair is not healthy for a relationship or raising children. It is the fantasy of romantic lore.

Make sure that you choose a partner who can be a productive contributer to the partnership. This can be through deeds or earning ability. Don't rely upon existing wealth though. That can fade and once depleted so may the reason for marriage in the first place. It could be a fun ride but at some point it will come to an end.

Existing wealth may prompt the thought of a pre-nuptial agreement. Some attorneys advise it as a matter of course no different than advising a client to have a will. I believe it should be a cause for concern though. It says to me from the beginning I do not expect the marriage to last.

With the benefit of hindsight I would have drafted a pre-nuptial agreement before I got married. I thought marriage was for life and assumed that when someone makes a sworn oath to do something for life that, just as I did, she would affirm that commitment. However, I couldn't have been more wrong. Her motivation for marriage and child birth was purely financial. After I failed to comply with her $5,000 cash payment demand for the birth of our son she wanted no additional children with me.

Knowing I would have sought a pre-nuptial agreement tells me I should have doubted her commitment to marriage. Upon consideration of the warnings of others, including her brother, I would not have married her. But, I was young and lovestruck at the time. Eventually it cost me a few hundred thousand dollars in lost wealth. The greatest value from the relationship though is my son which has made all the pain and torment worth it.

This brings me to my closing thought. As women are more often becoming primary earners and the wealthier party going into marriage based upon prior marital settlements this applies to both genders. When considering marriage take a photo of your potential spouse and place it on one side of a table. Next, place your car keys, house keys and bank records along with other financial instruments on the other side. Then decide which you can live without.

If you chose the photo of your potential spouse, friends and family don't object, those annoying habits don't bother you, you have complete openness in conversation and you have relieved yourself of any sexual desires before making this assessment then go forth and get married.

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Make a suggestion for me to write about.

Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

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©2008, 2010 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Unbundled Legal Services puts you in control and saves money

Unbundled Legal Services is a somewhat new concept that is gaining more acceptance. Unbundled is essentially an ala carte method of providing legal services. This allows clients to more actively participate in their legal proceedings and often save substantial amounts of money. There is more to unbundling than just saving money however.

Instead of handing over all responsibility to an attorney unbundling allows for clients to only use the necessary services of an attorney. Many pro se litigants are quite capable of doing their paperwork and even presenting a case on their own when seeking a child support payment modification.

These litigants may need an attorney on the day of a child custody determination hearing when there will be multiple witnesses and numerous pieces of documentary evidence presented. Others will need an attorney at every courtroom appearance and to prepare specific motions, called ghostwriting, that require citation to caselaw but can easily handle a motion to continue based upon a previously scheduled outpatient surgery that day.

There is a side-effect to unbundling in child custody cases. Because it almost inevitably results in more contact between spouses in a divorce, it also sets a pattern for both of them built around sitting down and working out the issues between them, rather than relying on someone else to do it for them. Parents working together is nearly always better for the children.

Other services may include appearing with you for a deposition/police interview, establishing legal strategy, providing advice about alternatives to litigation and planning negotiations. Your coach or attorney may also provide other services such as interviewing your potential witnesses, other attorney and expert referrals, role playing to simulate courtroom action and searching public databases for information beneficial or damaging to your case.

As a non-lawyer litigation coach I encourage my clients to use attorneys who offer unbundling as a way of ensuring adequate courtroom presence while also saving money and keeping them involved with the case. I have a few attorneys around central Indiana that I like to work with.

Unlike in full-service representation unbundling requires a strict understanding of what services are provided and who is responsible for initiating contact. Note that when you are represented by an attorney all court mail goes to the attorney. When using an unbundled service you are your attorney and are responsible for knowing and meeting all deadlines.

With adequate coaching and unbundled attorney services you will have a three person team fighting for your interest that will be better prepared, more effective and cost you much less than letting an attorney do it all for you. Best of all you will be in control of your case with the help of your experts.

If you would like assistance in finding an attorney offering unbundled legal services please contact me. You may read more about litigation coaching and unbundled legal services here.

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Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

Connect with me for the latest Indiana child custody related policy considerations, findings, court rulings and discussions.

View Stuart Showalter's profile on LinkedIn

Subscribe to my child custody updates

* indicates required
©2008, 2010 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.