Visions Anew Institute

Visions Anew Institute
Divorce is Challenging

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The key to a successful divorce is a successful parenting plan!

Who gets the house, the 401(k), the cars, and banks accounts are all tough decisions. Dealing with the division of time between children is not only the toughest, but the most emotional. I’m going to tell you how to clear the clout and confusion from this process and give you a couple unique ideas so both sides can be happy, yes both sides!

First, understand what is important to your spouse and what are the important bonds that your soon-to-be ex and the children share. Second, how can you utilize this connection he shares to gain something you value with your children. Example: John and Jane are married with two sons Jimmy and Jake. John loves coaching the boys’ basketball team. John is very hard headed when it comes to the parenting plan and he will not budge. He wants the kids every weekend, no if, ands, or buts about it. He tells you that if you don’t’ like it then take it up with the judge. You are scared because you don’t want this to go to a judge/court as you feel the boys best interests won’t be heard. The boys love spending time with their father, but you don’t think the court needs to be the last word. You could make a recommendation that the boys can stay with him on Tuesday’s every other week since basketball practice is that evening, making it easier for the both of you. I would think this will open his mind to other options such as taking them every other weekend or something that is more in line with your needs. All you did was bring something to the table that exclusively helped him and unique to his needs!

Be creative during the divorce process and you might find more of what you are looking for!!!

-David Miller CFP® CDFA℠

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spotting Abusive Tactics

By Amy Bear, LPC

Every individual in an intimate partnership has different needs, interests and personality traits. It’s unrealistic for one partner to assume the other partner will consistently meet expectations. A normal, healthy relationship between two adults may include a difference of opinion, arguments or making statements later regretted. However, it’s not normal – or healthy - when one partner always has to be right and lacks consideration for the desires, feelings and well-being of the other partner.** Here are some typical types of intimate partner abuse:

Neglect: Seldom being available for quality time together. Making plans and then canceling them at the last minute or not meeting promises.

Extreme selfishness: Making decisions exclusively based on his own needs and desires. Not including the welfare, wants and desires of the partner or children.

Being secret as to whereabouts: Staying out until late at night or overnight and refusing to disclose where he has been or getting angry when questioned.

Blaming: Refusing to accept responsibility for his or her behavior. Whatever happens is always the fault of the other partner.

Rage attacks and criticism: Making personal attacks against his partner, such as her way of doing things or criticizing her body.

Bullying and controlling behavior: Controlling what his partner does, who her friends are, what she spends, where she works, where she goes. There may be excessive questioning, angry accusations, harassment and badgering.

Public humiliation: Embarrassing his partner in public by criticizing her or bringing up personal matters. Making jokes about subjects he knows make his partner feel vulnerable.

Destruction of personal or family property: Throwing items, smashing glasses or dishes, punching holes in the wall, breaking his partner’s possessions.

Shifting sands: Sending out conflicting and contradictory messages or changing moods and emotional positions frequently and unpredictably. The partner has no clear idea of what is coming next or what she has done to evoke such behaviors.

Gaslighting: This is a term coined in the classic 1944 film Gaslight, in which the lead character comes to doubt her sanity as her husband deliberately manipulates her reality.

Extramarital Affairs: Covertly or openly having affairs or inappropriate relationships.

Inducing fear: Intentionally frightening his partner, such as driving at high speeds when she is in the car or making threats.

Physical abuse: This can range from unwanted touching to pushing and shoving to hitting or choking. Sexual abuse includes demanding sex, forced sex, and sexual humiliation.

Parental alienation: Criticizing his partner in front of their children, lying to the children to turn them against their other parent.

These typical types of abuse are by no means the full extent of ways that abusers can hurt their partners. People who are abusive can get creative in their methods of harm. Regardless of the means, a hallmark of people who commit abuse toward others is that they refuse to take responsibility and often claim the partner deserved it.

If you or someone you know has experienced emotional or physical abuse, I encourage you to seek help. No one deserves to be abused.

** Intimate partner abuse can happen in any couple whether they are opposite sex, same-sex, unmarried, married or in a civil union, and regardless of gender, age, religious or spiritual orientation, disability, or racial, ethnic or cultural identity. People who abuse their partners can be male or female.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Groucho Marx said it best …

Groucho Marx said it best … “I have just one day, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
Last year was the first time I woke up on Christmas morning and didn’t have my kids with me. It sucked. When I became a parent, I certainly didn’t intend to spend any Christmas morning away from my kids … not for years and years … perhaps not until they were on their own, married, and balancing that careful dance of compromise of where to spend the holidays. But life happens, and as it happened, I found myself ‘kidless’ last Christmas morning.
I distinctly recall waking up and thinking how quiet it was. The kids hadn’t barged into my room at 5:30AM asking if it was too early to get up and race downstairs to see if Santa had arrived. I missed that. I got a little sad. I got a little angry.
And then I thought to myself, “You can choose to be sad and angry and have a bad day, or you can accept the hand you’ve been dealt and carry on.” I think Groucho Marx said it better when he said, “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.”
I decided I was going to take my Christmas Day and be happy in it. I could have grumbled and moaned all day about the unfairness of not having my kids on Christmas Day, and when I’m honest, I do still think it’s unfair, but I also know that life doesn’t always appear to be fair. I’m blessed and fortunate. I have been able to spend every single Christmas Day of my entire life with my mom. That’s over 40 Christmas Days if you’re counting! My daughter will never be able to say the same thing. Through circumstances beyond her control, she stopped spending every single Christmas Day with her mom at age 10.
And so it goes. No, it’s not fair for my kids to be punished and not be able to spend Christmas Day with both of their parents. It’s not fair for their father not to be able to spend every Christmas Day with them. Frankly, my mother doesn’t think it’s fair either. Since her grandkids have been born, she has spent every Christmas with “us.” Now, through no fault of her own, every other year, that “us” doesn’t include her grandchildren. No, life isn’t always fair. But, we have to learn to roll with the punches and make the most of each day and just “be happy in it.”
This Christmas morning, I will be awakened by my kids (hopefully not at 5:30AM) wondering if Santa has arrived. They actually don’t believe in Santa anymore, but still, it’s all part of the tradition. And, while some traditions have had to change since our divorce, others still remain the same. For example, my mom will be here; we’ll start with the stockings; we’ll take a breakfast break half-way through openings the gifts; and Santa always brings underwear!
The positive attitude side of me relishes knowing that we are also creating new traditions to be cherished. The realistic side of me realizes that those traditions will remain intact only until such time that life evolves and those traditions so too come to an end. And so the cycle continues!
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic” in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys. The book is available through Visions Anew. Call 770 953-2882.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wisdom from the Velveteen Rabbit More Lessons on Becoming REAL

Written by
Linda Martin

I chanced upon a dream one night
Where I was sitting face to face
With a shabby little rabbit
Within a childhood place

His fur was soft like velveteen
But spots were worn and bald
His eyes were somewhat droopy
His whiskers scrunched and mauled

The little rabbit spoke to me
Just like a wise old sage
He said “I brought you back to when
You were such a tender age”

“Remember who you used to be
With wonder in your heart?
This REALness of your one true self
Was lost and did depart”

“To gain the shards of destiny
Lost to the worldly din
All you need is trust yourself
And lovingly look within”

“You don’t understand” I said to him
“You speak of love and trust
These are what I gave away
Now in my heart are crushed”

Then the droopy eyes held mine
And one more thing he spoke
“REALness happens most of all
Just when your heart is broke”

“The wounding of the broken heart
Is when love’s funeral fire is burning
But the fire only burns the dross
And leaves love’s gold enduring

When the hurting gaping wound
Is drained of all its grief
Love’s pure gold that’s left behind
Becomes your soul’s relief

When this golden treasure
Comes home to soul’s own worth
That’s when the magic happens
And death turns into birth”

The little rabbit winked at me
And gave a knowing grin -
“Being REAL is love’s return
To its rightful place within”

Then the dawn light summoned me
From this amazing dream
But a REALness glowed within my heart
With Love’s golden treasure gleam

I knew right then without a doubt
That life’s an ebb and flow
Of love we keep and give away
And loss refines its glow

The wisdom from the velveteen
Is when love’s loss we feel
There is a suffering and a dying
That brings the magic to be REAL

Alimony Is Alive And Well

By Barbara E. Keon, Esq.

Alimony is alive and well, but the advents of the working woman and women’s liberation have frequently eroded its award in court. This has made representation of the middle-aged homemaker displaced from a long-term marriage a problematic area for the divorce practitioner. The husband typically wants to move forward in life by dividing assets and paying alimony for a few years until his wife can be retrained and get a job, instead of subsidizing her needs for life. Aggressive and innovative legal representation, however, can win a substantial share of assets as well as long-term alimony for the female client, as the following case shows.

A very gracious, intelligent and charming homemaker came to my office this past year. She is what many would refer to as a “deserving woman.” She subsidized the family income in the early years of their 23-year marriage, but stopped working after the birth of the first of their two children and assumed full responsibility for all household duties and childrearing.

Her husband, a bright and driven workaholic, tenaciously pursued his career. At age 48 and at the pinnacle of his career, having reached the level of partner with one of the top six accounting firms, he had a handsome annual income of over $300,000.00 and wanted to start life over. During their marriage, they accumulated a marital home, a summer home, retirement benefits, and life insurance and investment accounts. However, the liquidation of all these assets and their re-investment to generate income would not provide sufficient support for the wife.

The husband wanted to pay his estranged wife a few years of minimal alimony to meet a bare-bones budget until she could retrain in nursing and get a job. He wanted to sell the marital home and other tangible assets then divide equally, after first deducting marital debts, such as the second mortgage on the house, lines of credit and current tax liabilities. He wanted everyone to ignore his non-vested retirement benefits and his earning capacity or regard them as having no real value or being too speculative to value.

The law permits awards of alimony based on ability to pay and need. Certainly, the husband in this case had an ability to pay alimony to sustain the wife’s $5,000.00 monthly budget in the marital home. Having been out of the workforce for almost 20 years, she certainly had a need for spousal support. The issue of how much support and for how long was hotly disputed and ultimately resulted in a contested temporary hearing and contested trial.

As in any trial, mental ability and legal skill must be matched with common sense, and wants must be realistically evaluated. Utilizing his numerical dexterity, the husband pared down, or perhaps the better term would be “hacked down”, his $250,000.00 gross monthly income to only a few thousand dollars of spendable monthly income after payment of taxes, retirement, partnership loan, health and life insurance (all benefits to him), his living expenses and the living expenses of his college-aged son. His efforts were intended to show that he could not possibly pay more than he had proposed and his wife’s demands were unreasonable and excessive.

Our strategy was to focus on his earning power as a marital asset in addition to an income stream for periodic alimony purposes. After all, he accumulated this earning capability during the marriage with the support and assistance of his wife. She took care of the children and the household responsibilities so that he could work 70-hour weeks. She attended functions in support of his career and entertained his colleagues and clients. Using an excess earnings approach, we assigned this asset a dollar value. He was then shown to have excess dollars each month after he paid his budget, his wife’s budget, the children’s budget and taxes. These excess earnings were then projected out over his future work life expectancy and discounted to present value. In short, his professional experience allowed him thousands of excess dollars each month, and he developed this expertise while married; therefore, it should be considered a marital asset, the value of which should be offset by awarding the wife more than 50 percent of the existing tangible assets.

In this particular case, there was another intangible marital asset – the non-vested retirement benefits. We assigned a value to this defined benefit plan using a formula based on partnership shares owned, projected out to retirement age and reduced to present value. The husband argues that this was a purely speculative value, since he would never benefit from this plan if he left the firm before retirement age and the value of the plan could not be accurately determined until retirement age. True enough. The court ordered, however, that the wife receive the marital home, subject to the first mortgage, all of his 401K, most of the cash assets of the marriage, and alimony until she turned age 62, when retirement income would be available. Her husband was ordered to pay most of her legal fees and all other marital debt from his income.

Obviously, results like this depend upon good judges, good facts, and effective courtroom presentation. Typically, courts award alimony for an amount less than a dependent spouse needs to maintain the marital lifestyle and usually only for a term of years, not for life. But, as this case illustrates, it is important not to discount the impact of future earning power on the issue of alimony and asset division. Thus, alimony is still alive and well and sometimes the court should be educated that equal division is not equitable division.

Family attorney Barbara E. Keon can be reached at 770-350-8582;; or

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dating After Exiting an Abusive Marriage

I am a Visions Anew Class of 33 Graduate. I was in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage. While I am capable and successful in my professional career, I'm a great example of how anyone with unresolved childhood issues can end up in a destructive relationship. Over the period of time I was with my husband, the continual subtle "jabbing" and putdowns were a constant assault on my soul. Over time, I became a shell of a person, walking on eggshells, trying harder and harder to please this person who was not even polite to me, much less loving. Thank God for the day I had the strength to leave that destructive marriage, and start on a self discovery journey that has been difficult and scary, yet fulfilling and exciting.

It has been 2.5 years since my divorce and I wanted to share my views on dating. First, I don't think it is wise to date unless and until you know who you are and what you want. I spent 1.5 years getting steady on my own two feet. Until you are steady on your own, you are a haven for a controlling, insecure man who will try to define you to meet his own needs. These guys are often charming, but normally incapable of love. While I know it sounds corny, I truly believe that until you can love yourself you are incapable of giving or receiving true love with a grown-up, mature man.

I have been dating for a year now. I have not slept with anyone as I believe that women sleep with men too quickly and then ignore red flags. I have met number of guys, but had few second dates. I expect to be treated like a lady, including the concept of courting etc. I will be honest and say that is not an easy ideal to live up to. However, if a man really wants me, he will work for me.

I could not have gotten to this point without all of the wonderful women in my life, started with those friends I made at our Visions Anew retreat. It is so important to get support through the difficult journey of divorce. It doesn’t just all go away after the divorce is final.

Today, I'm happy. I am no longer needy. Though I don't need a man to complete me, I do believe there is someone special out there who will treat me with respect and dignity. I had a very nice first date Saturday night with a guy who seems to fit that bill. I’m not holding my breath though because dating does tend to be a numbers game. But one thing is for sure: I can look myself in the mirror with pride and self love, knowing that I have found true love in my life. It may not yet be with a man, but I have a good foundation for that to happen because I do love and respect myself.

Best wishes in your journey. Always remember, you are not alone.

Christine Malek
Graduate of '33