Full article written by guest writer Haleh Rashidi, Esq., Family law attorney and mediator
The other day I had a consultation with a new client and not once, not twice, but three different times during the consult she mentioned that she had wished she could have foreseen that she and her husband would be separating and heading towards divorce. She repeatedly said she would do so many things differently if she had any inclination this could happen to her. This got me thinking; no one can truly foresee the future and for the most part we do not have control over many things that happen in life (i.e. death, divorce, illness). But instead of dwelling on the things we cannot control we mortal beings must do everything in our power to minimize the issues that could arise from unexpected events. There are various ways that a family can minimize the risks of battling their family members in court. Here are the top 5 things you and your family can do to stay out of the court.
1) SECURE AN ESTATE PLAN
Make sure you have a good and secure estate plan in place with someone that you are in contact with often and is there to ensure your estate plan is up-to-date with your changing life. Having a good estate plan will ensure there is no family members dragging one another to court in order to battle over an estate (or more importantly guardianship of children and access to their funds!) since it will be written-out and secure well before any deaths occur.
2) COMMUNICATION OF EXPECTATIONS
Open communication with family members is about what your expectations are before a marriage, during the marriage, and before any deaths occur. It is much better to speak to your family members and get a pre-nup or a post-nup in place than battling your expectations in court or not having an estate plan in place and then realizing your expectations after your family members’ death will not be met.
This is not taboo but imperative that family members, whether it is married couples, siblings or parent and children, seek counseling. When communication is broken and cannot be repaired without professional help, counseling may be the only solution. This is one area where cultural taboos against counseling are hard to overcome (“I am not going to counseling… you are crazy!”). But those are the same cultures where it is easy to see when the familial norms have broken-down (the daily get-togethers become weekly, then monthly, then ….).
4) LAWYER ASSISTED MEDIATION/FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY
We all want the fairytale lives but in reality couples do separate and do get divorced sometimes even after exhausting their attempts at counseling. Hiring a good family law attorney or a mediator can save you a ton of money and headache. Lawyer-assisted mediation is using a non-adversarial neutral family law attorney to sit down with both husband and wife and resolve family disputes and help in creating settlement. If you or your spouse have specific disputes when divorcing (i.e. spousal support/alimony, child support, child custody, or division of assets) that cannot be resolved with mediation then consulting an attorney that is experienced and has your family’s best interest in mind is the way to go.
5) DOING YOUR HOMEWORK
Last but not least, we should all do our homework and make sure we know what we are getting ourselves into. This could be whether were dating and thinking of getting married to someone or making a decision about having a child with someone, or in case of death who we want as the guardian for our children. If we are honest with ourselves from the get-go then we have a better chance at happiness and staying out of court.
Full article written by guest writer Haleh Rashidi, Esq.—Family Law Attorney and divorce mediator practicing in Orange County and Riverside County. Haleh’s career as a family law attorney started in the chambers of the Honorable Elizabeth Sichel, Riverside County Superior Court Family Law Judge. Working for Judge Sichel gave her invaluable insight into how judges decide cases and hence how to win a case. Haleh is a graduate of UCLA and Southwestern University School of Law. Learn more at www.halehrashidilaw.com