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When parents are going through a divorce, they understandably place a lot of emphasis on their children and how they will be affected. Even when parents are amicable, decisions involving the children can be difficult and discussions emotionally charged. One of the most important decisions involving the children in a divorce is that of custody, and sometimes due to the sensitive nature of the case, it cannot be left solely to the discretion of the parents.

In a case where there is much contention over custody or parenting time, or other issues with regard to the children, and the custody decision falls on the court, a Guardian Ad Litem (or “GAL”) may be appointed to represent the interests of the children. The GAL is an attorney who will be neutral as far as the parties are concerned, not favoring one parent over the other.

When is a Guardian Ad Litem Necessary?

While some judges may appoint a GAL, the majority do not unless the parents fail to reach an agreement on their own. Often parents in an already tense situation and wanting to protect their role in the lives of their children will over-scrutinize small details. For example, they may too closely compare parenting time each will have with the children, or insist on having excessive input on day-to-day, minor aspects of the child’s life during the other party’s parenting time. This rigidity with regard to the parenting agreement is not in the best interest of the children, complicating recreational activities and school schedules, encouraging lack of structure, and creating an unintentional “ping-ponging” of the children between households. Attempting to over-define the terms of the agreement will delay the process, and a GAL may be assigned.


Most adults are familiar with the old adage “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”, and they have likely gained enough life experience to conclude it is reliable in most circumstances. Through trial and error, we learn how to recognize a non-reputable claim, and to make informed decisions.

Too Good to be True

The guarantee of a ‘weekend divorce’ – a flat-fee, quick-divorce completed in a weekend – should immediately bring this saying to mind. Nothing more than an irresponsible gimmick preying upon vulnerable couples seeking a fast, cheap way to end their marriage, and a ‘weekend divorce’ is definitely too good to be true.

One has to assume that these claims are made by attorneys whose offices are not attracting new clients based on their own integrity, reputable advertising or past client referrals. Instead, desperate attorneys have put aside the best interest of the client, and made unrealistic promises in an effort to increase business.


When considering divorce and beginning the research process, you will come across many terms describing methods of negotiating a divorce settlement. It is important for you to acquaint yourself with these terms, and discuss them with an attorney, to ultimately choose the divorce approach that is best suited to your situation. Mediation is a term that you will likely come across when researching divorce, and while not appropriate for every divorce, it is a viable option for some couples.

The Basics of Mediation

By definition, mediation is “intervention between conflicting parties to promote reconciliation, settlement, or compromise”. In mediation, a neutral third-party, called a mediator, is hired to meet with a couple to hear, discuss and resolve the issues of a divorce. Mediators do not make decisions for a couple, but rather facilitate conversation and assist couples in reaching agreements that are best for both parties. Using mediation is voluntary, and all parties must consent to participate in good faith and work together toward resolving issues. However, parties are not bound to resolve their dispute.

A successful mediation requires two parties who are willing to meet, negotiate and compromise. This option should not be avoided simply because there are disagreements between the parties that seem too large to overcome. When everyone is committed to the process, mediation can be very effective.


One thing few couples consider when beginning a divorce is the impact that technology will have on their proceedings.This is especially true in heavily contested cases. Your attorney is not allowed to tell you to go out and purge your various social network platforms, nor should you. It would be prudent, however, to be careful with social media and other technologies, and to use common sense. Often parties will post a picture or a status update in order to elicit a response from a spouse. However, is the status update airing your spouse’s dirty laundry or that photograph of you and the new significant other on vacation together something you want your spouse’s attorney holding up in front of the judge in your case? Besides social media postings, the following are things to consider when going through a contested divorce.

Be Careful With Your Passwords

If your password for your personal accounts are something your spouse knows, you may want to change them. These could be for anything from email to banking/retirement accounts. Account balances and information are shared during the discovery phase in a divorce, but there have been instances when one party guesses an account password, quickly liquidates the account and either makes a purchase, pays off a personal debt, or money simply vanishes. While there are legal processes to try and recover and offset these actions, they can be very costly and time consuming once the damage has been done. As for email passwords, you may think that you have nothing to hide. However, it is easy for a spouse to gain personal and confidential information by simply monitoring your correspondences, especially if you communicate with your attorney via email. While this type of monitoring behavior does take place, it is both improper and unethical. Any attorney who becomes aware of this behavior should advise their client to immediately cease monitoring their spouse’s communications.

Additionally, even if you think your passwords are secure, be sure they are not set to ‘auto login’ on any sites or computers your spouse may have access to.


The holiday season is stressful for many, often requiring so much time and energy we find ourselves enduring this time instead of enjoying the beauty of the season. Add a recent divorce or going through the divorce process to this time of year, and it can become difficult to feel like celebrating at all. Especially when dealing with a divorce, it is important to hold on to some traditions and remember that the holidays are about peace, sharing, gratitude and love. All things that are most needed in times of distress. The way that you spend the holidays may change after divorce, but over time new traditions and memories will be created.

Keep it Simple

Simplifying your holiday season in stressful times is an important goal. Start by accepting a friend or family member’s offer to prepare the holiday meal, narrowing down your gift-giving list, bringing out only your favorite holiday decorations, and using downtime for yourself instead of over scheduling. After a divorce is a perfect time to consider what YOU want to prioritize during the holidays, and focus on only those things.

Many times, divorce means a tighter budget, which can lead to added anxiety during this time of year. However, your gifts of time and attention are the most valuable you can give. Make a budget for gifts you want to purchase, and don’t overspend. Remember what truly matters this holiday season.

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