A quick review of a book launch Tanya was part of this weekend. Such a great resource, ‘Mum’s the Word’. Understanding child alienation and what some people have gone through to get their kids back and the lessons others could learn from these mother’s experience.
Then we discuss a means of control which could be costing a fortune. Let’s for the sake of argument assume that Lawyers are a different breed to other human beings. Let’s assume they speak a language that none of us understands. They write the same as us but the meanings have the ability to relay a different definition. They have the ability to portray a story between the lines and in the words unwritten. There is an undertone, which only another lawyer will understand.
Your correspondence needs to be concise and actuate because that is what you are paying your lawyer for, it is this skill they have been taught when doing their degree and evolved over time, so why do some many clients think changing a letter will make all the difference?
In this podcast l talk about these issues and how this can affect you.
So let’s get into it:
Child Alienation and a brand new resource. Mum’s the Word Book [00:03:00]
90 – 95 % of my client’s make this mistake. [00:09:00]
The meaning of disclosure. [00:10:00]
Why we should consider lawyers as a different bread. [00:12:00]
The undertones of a legal letter and what they need to portray to the reader.[00:14:00]
Addressing the mistakes.[00:16:00]
Why the momentum of a letter is so important [00:18:00]
When you receive a letter understanding it’s meaning.[00:23:00]
My book: The Jelly Bean Jar – Empowering Independence through Divorce
Book: Mum’s the word
Dad the documentary.
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Hello, everyone and welcome back to the Divorce Angel Podcast. Thanks for joining me again. My name is Tanya Somerton, I’m the divorce angel. If this is your first time here, thank you for listening. My job is to streamline the process of divorce for my clients and whoever else I can provide information for. If you are coming back and listening again, thank you so much for trusting me to come back and listen to more of what I have to say. I hope that you’re finding it valuable and in some way shape or form, it’s either saving you money or some form of emotions or distress in your life.
I’d really like to tell you about the sort of day I’m having right now. I am doing this podcast because it is so terrible here in Melbourne, Australia. We’ve had a storm overnight and I am down on the peninsula where we live right near the ocean and the wind has been out of control. This morning when we woke up, there’s quite a large cable hanging down across our driveway. My husband was able to just get out from the cable and go off to work this morning, but for me, the day’s got windier, the cable has got lower and I am not going anywhere but it’s a good chance to sit down and have a chat with you guys.
On the weekend, I just wanted to also tell you about a great, fabulous resource. That resource is a brand new book that’s just been launched and it’s called Mom’s The Word. It’s by a beautiful friend of mine, Karen Varney, and we will have Karen on the podcast in the coming weeks and interview her, not only about her book, but the information that she has learnt, some of the areas that she sees that we really need to action and look more into. But Karen had a book launch on the weekend, and this spectacular book she’s written is all around child alienation. The idea is trying to teach others of the mistakes that people have seen when they’ve gone through it. The idea of the five women in this book is to try and help others prevent the same thing happening.
They say it all the time that there’s a lesson in everything that we do. What she’s tried to do in this book is to outline some of the circumstances that have come about, whether that be legal, whether that be just action that’s been taken incorrectly, whether it’s the court system and how to use it better to help you, but the whole thing at the moment is no doubt is in a bit of a mess. It’s in a bit of a shambles, and if we can prevent going to court, it would certainly make everyone involves life a lot easier, but in some cases, we can’t get around it and we must go.
There beautiful women in this book have been able to bear their stories and the strength and will to go on that they’ve shown just inspires me. They’re some of the bravest individuals I’ve ever met who have just been able to get up every morning and continued to survive because that’s all they’re doing in a lot of cases. Day after day, they are just surviving because they’ve lost what they see is the most valuable and it certainly would be in my case as well– The most valuable thing in their lives. Please don’t think that this is only men because Karen’s also done a documentary which you can find on YouTube called Dads and she did that maybe about four or five years ago I think, and it’s where she’s interviewed a few dads about their issues with child alienation and how the court system has prolonged and make things worse and how maybe to get around that. I think, at the moment, the stats are pretty alarming in regards to men committing suicide for this issue, especially when it comes to child support and not being able to even pay their own bills to survive.
The issue, it’s a mess, it really is a mess. The skills for all of us is to try and prevent that happening if possible and what steps can we take and how can we manage the situation to not allow it to get to that stage. So, making sure that you have really good legal advice is important. Within the book, another beautiful friend of mine, Monica Blizzard, who is killing it what she’s doing out there in the legal space. She’s really taken on board domestic violence and trying to do as much as she possibly can in that space and is very, very good at it. She has written, after each of the stories, what she sees that could have maybe been done a little bit differently or what lessons were in those cases to help others prevent the same thing happening.
If you’d like a copy of Karen’s book, I will put the details in the show notes but you can go to Karen’s website which is, www.karenvarney– That’s karenvarney, V-A-R-N-E-Y, dot com, and you can get a copy of the book, Mom’s The Word, from her website. I cannot tell you– Whilst it’s a very unsettling read, it is also very well-written and it’s got some amazing information there if you are going through anything like this and how to maybe learn from the other mothers because that’s their goal. They want to prevent anyone or everyone from going through what they’ve been through. One lady, I think, has spent nearly $250,000 to $300,000 going to court, fining over her children, and even to today, she still doesn’t see them. They’ve been gone for quite a long time now. They’ve been so alienated that they don’t even recognize her anymore so it’s very, very sad but she never ever gave up.
Now, into the podcast and what are we going to talk to today. Having spent a bit of time over the last few weeks in legal meetings and talking to lawyers and reviewing some of the issues that we see because if you’ve listened long enough, you know that I’m all about process and procedures, and how can we streamline the process of divorce. What is it that we can do to save money and also make it easier for everyone involved. This issue here, I probably see 90% to 95% of the time, it’s pretty common this issue. The issue is around correspondence. But before we get into that, let’s just recap why we need a lawyer. Why are we actually employing a lawyer? In most cases, we’re employing a lawyer to act on our behalf and that means that you don’t need to deal directly with your spouse especially if it’s very emotional. Sometimes or in a lot of cases, majority of people want someone else to do all of the correspondence for them. They either don’t feel strong enough or they’re struggling that when they see their spouse or ex-partner, that it will bring up, whether it’d be bad memories or it just brings up these emotions that they still are struggling to deal with and I can recall that being my issue. When I would look at my ex-husband, all of a sudden, I had these emotions that I didn’t even realize would cause any issue and it was just easier for my lawyer to act on my behalf rather than me having to have that conversation with my ex-husband.
The other thing is we need someone to be able to share with us what we are entitled to and help us achieve what the court sees as a fair and reasonable outcome. In a lot of cases, I have clients that sit down and go, “We are just going to divide everything 50/50.” Whilst that might be an agreement that they’ve come up with, the court might not see that as fair and it could be for a myriad of reasons. But we need someone to be able to help us understand what it is we’re entitled to and why.
By far the greatest reason that I see is to help us provide disclosure. Disclosure is the assets and liabilities that, as a group, whether that be you and your husband and you children or whoever it is, you and your partner, what assets you have. We want to be able to understand exactly the net position that the two of you have so that then we can decide what it is or agree on what it is that you are entitled to.
Disclosure comes about where if you’ve got houses or cars or business equity, shares, superannuation, inheritances, 401k, whatever assets the two of you have together, joint assets, we need to be able to put them in a pool and then each partner take their fair share and that’s how we legally divide the assets. A lawyer would call it disclosure.
Before we get to discussing about disclosure, let’s understand a lawyer and what a lawyer does. I’ve done a podcast on this before let’s just bring it back to the bare bones. A lawyer has spent a lot of money and time and effort, and I’m sure a lot of other skills like drive and tenacity just to achieve their degree. They have been trained in a way that you and I would simply not understand. We haven’t done the same courses, and I’m not saying that they’re super human or anything like that, they’re just humans like the rest of us, but what I am saying is they’ve gone through a level of training that you and I haven’t. To simplify even further, let’s, for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that they are a separate breed of humans to us. let’s assume that they speak a language that none of us really understand. Even though they are writing words and those words, when we look at them, mean something that we think it to mean, there’s an undertone or there’s sort of a read-between-the-line thing happening that we don’t have the skill of understanding. There’s something happening on those pages of those letters that is skillful and that’s what they’re trained to do.
They’re trained to write a letter in a way that you and I might read and think, “No, this isn’t correct.” but there’s something in the letter that has an undertone. It means something that we probably don’t really understand. What I’m trying to get across here is a lawyer can’t just simply come out and accuse someone of something without having facts. They could imply it and the way they imply it in a written letter– Because you’ve got to remember those letters can be used in a court of law. How they imply in a letter is not straightforward like you and I would say it. We might just come out and, for instance, say, “Hang on, we think your client is hiding assets.” Your lawyer might not put that in those words because that’s an accusation. They might put it in a completely different way, and whilst you might be reading that letter thinking, “Hang on a minute. We know that his hiding assets but you haven’t said it. Why can’t you just come out and say it. We need to change that.” it’s their job to make sure that they protect, not only you, but they protect themselves because this information can be used in a court of law.
When we are talking about disclosure and finding out exactly what assets there is that the two of you need to divide, the lawyers just is to try and get that, hopefully, as factual and as honest as possible because the greater the pool, obviously, the more there is to divide So it’s making sure that both sides are fair in what they’re disclosing.
But this podcast has come about because I’ve noticed that a lot of clients, when they get a letter from their lawyer to review– Before your lawyer, in most cases, sends out a letter to the other side, they will send it to you because you are paying their bill to read over the correspondence and to make sure it is both factual and that there’s no issues in the letter than can cause harm. It’s important to be able to read the letter and say to your lawyer, “Actually, you’ve got a whole paragraph there that I know for a fact will cause issues for my ex-spouse that’s really going to cause him to either get angry or cause an emotional response that really maybe we want to be going down at this particular stage if that’s your strategy.” Or there could b something in the letter that is completely false and that could be things like years that you’ve been together, it could be a dollar value, the letter might say that at some particular stage, you inherited or you got a lump sum payout of X amount and the figure’s wrong. That’s sort of stuff is what you are getting the letter to review.
You are not getting the letter to sit there and go through with a red pen and make changes to the correspondence. I see this happen quite often. A lawyer will send a letter to the client and the client will send it back having made changes whether it be a word here or a word there or rearranging a paragraph, and then expect the lawyer to update it with the clients changes on it. This is a very costly mistake and I have to say that again, this is a very costly mistake. Because the lawyer is writing that letter to their colleague, the other lawyer. Like I’ve said, let’s just imagine it, they are a completely different breed of humans to you and I. The two of them understand what is in the letter and what is being implied by the letter.
It’s not going to you ex-spouse, it’s going to your spouse’s lawyer. It’s the job of your spouse’s lawyer to then relay to their client what the letter is actually saying. When you get a letter from your lawyer and you’re asked to review it and just make a comment or, “This is the draft that I’m going to send to your ex-spouse. Can you just have a look and make sure everything is okay?” It is not your signal to go through it and alter it and change words because the issues that comes about there is that when you send it back, your lawyer then has to spend time going through and altering it and making changes to it and the momentum of the letter may be lost. They will be flowing on from point to point and if something is changed or altered, then the momentum could be taken away. There’s also an undertone as we spoke about within the correspondence and what’s being implied in the letter.
If you have a skillful lawyer, they’re not coming out and directly pointing to something. They’re letting their colleague know that there’s an issue that they may need to look into because your lawyer has got advice that maybe something that’s been said is incorrect and that they may need to look into it. The other bigger issue here as well is you imagine if you are a sculptor and someone came along and said to you, “I don’t like that arm. Let’s cut the arm off and redo it. I think we can do it better.” You’re actually telling your lawyer that what they do for a job is not right, that it could be done better or the skills that they have taken years to grow and evolve aren’t good enough. This is their job. This is their bread and butter. For some reason, some people feel that they need to go through the correspondence just so they could put their mark on it, that they need to change something and I’ve had clients like this, especially if you come from an education background, and they might go through and make completely an utter changes to letters. They’ll put punctuation in different areas, they’ll change a letter or word from here to there, they’ll just do something to make sure that they feel in control of the correspondence, and there could be many reasons for that because if you think about it, when you’re going through a separation, you’ve got no control over anything so really the only control you can have, possibly, is going over a letter and changing some things from here to there to make it look or sound different.
It’s something to be really mindful of because you don’t want to get your lawyer offside and the other thing is, does it really matter that word here or there could be said differently or another that he used or another word you used? I mean if we’re talking massive spelling mistakes and punctuation issues, then we have an issue. We have a real, real issue and you need to consider the lawyer that you’re using, but if reads well and it’s flowing, that’s all that really matters.
Then there’s the other side of the coin. That’s when you receive a letter from your spouse’s lawyer. Sometimes reading the letter can be just as confusing and, once again, it’s because, let’s go back to what we spoke about, the lawyer speaks a completely different language to you and I. We speak plain English and what we’re saying is what we want, but in a legal letter, in a lot of cases, it is implying something completely different to what we could possibly understand. It’s your job then to say to your lawyer, “I don’t fully comprehend what this is saying. Can you please explain it to me?”
The reason I bring this up is I can remember a client very vividly, who she’d been at work and hadn’t read the letter from the other side and I read through it and was really excited about the content of the letter. A lot of we’d asked for, the other side had come back and agreed to with a few little alterations here and there. But when she read it, she couldn’t see the positive in the letter. All she saw was the negatives and that this wasn’t coming about and this wasn’t happening. When you looked at it, 95% of what we were negotiating over had happened, but she couldn’t see this within the words of the letter. All she saw, because they stood out in the way the lawyers write to each other was, “Whilst we agree to all of these, we need to address these issues at the bottom.” and she concentrated on that five percent.
When I said to her, “Hang on. Let’s just go back over each paragraph and let’s re-read it and let’s understand what this is saying and tick them off as we go.” When we sat there, she ultimately got what this was all about, but when you read a legal letter, sometimes it has different connotations than you actually think. That’s why it’s important to get your lawyer, if you need to, to actually, let’s say, to interpret the words on the page for you so you do fully understand what it’s all about.
That’s it for this podcast. I hope you get something out of it. This is a really important point. Please don’t think that just because you want to change something, it could just simply be because you’re looking for some form of control. We are not employing or paying our bills for our lawyers to be able to then go back and ask them to redo something and redo their work. We wouldn’t ask a builder to come in and build us a house and then knock down a wall and redo it. So let’s think about it when you’re dealing with a lawyer. Unless there’s something factually wrong within a letter or it’s going to cause a massive issue for the other side and you want to avoid that, you let your lawyer know, you tell him that, “Maybe will cause an emotional response from my ex.” so that they can guide you whether it is right to tackle it at this particular stage and send it as it is or whether it should be change. But please, please listen to me when I say do not go through a letter that your lawyer does for you or a draft letter and change it just so that you feel you’ve got some control or that you’ve– Your lawyer will lose trust because they’re going to think that you don’t trust them to do the right job and it could cause an issue in your relationship which is the last thing you want, because they are acting on your best interest.
If you have any comments or feedback on this podcast, I’d love to hear. Before I leave you this week, I just want to relay or read one of the sayings in Karen’s book and it reads, “No one else will ever know the strength of my love for you. After all, you are the only one who knows the sounds of my heart from the inside.” To all of those mothers and fathers who are dealing with some form of alienation, my heart goes out to you. I send you nothing but love and kindness and I hope that you find a way of getting your most precious gifts back because they are so special to us all, and please don’t give up, keep going, be strong and I pray for you. Until next week. Bye for now.
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