Facing a divorce or child custody battle? There’s a forum for that!

A friend of mine told me she’s going through a hostile custody battle. Actually, she e-mailed this to a group of friends and family in a veryyyy long email.

Given my experiences of having gone through a lengthy custody battle, the quick reply I sent her was, “Go on-line and find a support group. Look for a forum so you can ask questions and get answers from others who have experienced what you may soon face.”

On the NEGATIVE side…

Divorce and custody battles/resolutions/terminations/lawsuits …whatever you want to call it… can be one of the scariest experiences people face. It can lead to depression. Anger. It can be the lowest point in your life.

And just we you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they probably do.

On the POSITIVE side…

You are not alone. Whether you are divorcing and have kids, or have never married and have kids, there are a whole lot of people who have probably gone through what you are going to go through.

So what this means is… you have already a support network. Hurrah!

Forums

Forums can connect similarly situated people.

BUT, it may not be the people who are in your immediate circle or those who you already lean on for support.

Why? Because everyone experiences different things on their legal journey. Your current close friends may start to resent your communications. Perhaps they think you are whining. Others may give you advice like, “Just get over this, already. I did.” (Whether or not that is true is a different story.)

My point is, you are not limited to the physical people around you or your current on-line friends. You are entering a new world, and therefore you can develop/join/create a new circle of supporters.

Google “divorce forums”, “custody support groups”, “single mom forums”, “single dad forums”, etc. Whatever you are looking for, there probably is a forum for it. Forums are sites where similarly-situated people can connect online.

There are various ways to learn things on forums. You can post a question and receive responses. Or, you can simply read other people’s postings.

Sometimes you can message or e-mail other forum members directly. Sometimes forum members use their real names. Often times they are nonsensical names. It really does not matter. What you are looking for is the relevant content. You are looking for answers.

Forums connect people in other serious situations too. Medical patient-to-medical patient forums tend to pick up where the doctor left off and have spawned a movement to let patients help! Caregiver forums provide support for those who support others. Technical forums from people using a product often replace company service manuals. The hard part is finding the forum that works for you.

If you do not know how to use forums, ask someone for help. Have someone sitting next to you who can walk you through a forum site is extremely helpful if you’ve never experienced these sites before.

Try to find an active forum. How often do people respond to posts? What is the overall tone of the posts and replies? These can range from positive-focused through venting-type outlets.  What, exactly are you looking for? Chances are, you’ll find it in an online forum!

The beauty of forums is that you can connect to people who will support you when you need it the most. And now is the time to reach out because, ultimately, divorce and custody battles involve you AND your children. You don’t have the option of NOT involving them.

Re-stated without the double negatives = your children are involved in this matter, too.

Being a parent is the hardest job in the world.

Being a parent who is undergoing family law battles is… well… it’s something you now have to do.

So find your new support network by using an online forum to help you through these times.

 

Are lawyers the only true experts on family law matters?

Like many Americans, I have gone through both a divorce and having to litigate family law issues in a court of law. I have spent enormous amounts of money hiring lawyers to represent me, and have often represented myself.

Unlike most Americans, while I was going through the litigation, I decided to enter law school. So my approach to family law is also intersected with my academic life of being a PhD in Technology. Yes, I like to learn. That is obvious. And it is upon this nexus of real-world experiences/law student/academic that I’ve started blogging.

Recently, I pitched an idea to a legal website about the potential use by family law attorneys of the Ashley Madison data dump. My idea was quickly rejected; I was told that I could not write about substantive law because I was too junior of a lawyer. I found this humorous because I’m not yet a lawyer at all! However, this dismissal was telling.

Do lawyers really believe that only other senior lawyers are qualified as experts in family law?

Are lawyers the only experts of family law?

Are lawyers the only experts of family law?

I beg to differ. First and foremost, a JD or bar-passage does not make anyone an automatic and well-rounded expert in every legal sense. Many lawyers I know believe the degree means you’re ready to start practicing law. It’s the same thing in many colleges… students learn the most after they receive the degree.

Secondly, being dragged through litigation almost forces a party to compile and acquire legal knowledge.  My knees were skinned with the “real world” applications and twists of the family law courts. And I was able to see the disconnection between what I was experiencing within the courts as compared to the beautiful theory of the law. Law school taught me the law and what the ideal process should be. My experiences as a defendant taught me the applications and realities. Additionally, most of my law professors would answer my questions with, “Family law has its own rules”, which gave me the impression that this area of law truly needs people who have practical experiences gained in more ways than by being the attorney of record.

On that same note, the fact is that many people are litigating without the assistance or representation of legal counsel. It’s incredibly expensive to be involved in a lawsuit. A surprising fact is that 2/3rds of California family law cases are filed by a self-represented litigant! So whether it is by choice or by default, people going through the system are learning in a way that is experiential.

Additionally, the State of Washington has started a program where, surely, these non-lawyers will claim expertise in family law matters!

Some lawyers are taking note of these changes and reacting in a flexible way. They may be offering non-traditional services like limited scope representation (ala Julie Tolek) or teaching people how to represent themselves without an attorney (ala Jason Levoy)

Based upon my experiences, the changing fee structures offered by flexible attorneys, and the emerging programs to license non-lawyers in the area of family law, I think that the belief that senior attorneys are the only family law experts is, well, antiquated. We become experts in various ways.