Pets In Divorce Settlements

pets in divorce settlementsDivorce is a difficult time for everyone involved. When it comes to splitting up a household, it can be difficult to decide who keeps what. Even harder is the decision on who gets custody of the kids. Recently, family courts are getting more divorce cases where there’s a question of who gets the pets in divorce settlements. This is making it necessary to take a harder look at the role pets play in a family and how the pet’s best interest can be served during this difficult time.

Pets In Divorce Settlements: Pets As Property

Traditionally, the court system has looked at pets as property. When the question of who gets the family pet comes up, the court will put a dollar value on the pet. This often results in one person getting awarded the family pet and the other partner getting something of equal monetary value.

The “value” of the pet is determined by:

  • Who can prove they paid vet bills.
  • Which name is on the license.
  • Who takes care of the pet most often.

As the world becomes more aware of the importance of animals, some courts are starting to change their views somewhat, but there are some things that a couple can do to help make the process easier fro everyone.

Changing Views

As more courts start considering pets as family members, some of the same things that determine child custody are being used to determine pet custody. The judge may take into consideration such factors as who brought the pet into the family, who is able to give it more time and attention and who the pet is most attached to. In essence, he will try to determine the best interest of the pet, but this is also a situation that may not be easy to determine.

Legal Agreements

Couples who are considering a divorce often take the time to sit down with a lawyer and discuss things. If an agreement can be reached between the two people involved, custody issues may be resolved without the case having to go to court.

Let’s look at what can be included in a divorce agreement:

  • Basic custody of pets – Will it be best for your pet to have the consistency of staying in one home and having visitation from the non-custodial person? Would shared custody be better? Set forth who gets what time with the pet. Having it in writing will make it more enforceable if there ends up being conflict.
  • Finances – How will vet bills be paid? Will one partner have sole responsibility or will you share the cost? Is there a way you can arrange some kind of pet fund that will make it easier to pay vet bills if the other partner is unavailable?
  • Attachment – Did one partner bring the pet into the marriage, to begin with? Is there one partner who benefits psychologically from having the pet around? Does the pet prefer one partner over the other? All these answers can determine who has the greatest psychological investment and this is something that needs to be considered in who gets the pets in divorce settlements.

Any custody arrangement works best when two partners can come to an agreement that is best for the children. This holds true for pets as well. Until such a time when the courts fully embrace the concept of pets as part of a family, sitting with a lawyer to discuss custody arrangements for your family pet is the next best thing.

Who Gets What After The Divorce?

who-gets-what-after-the-divorceDivorce is frequently, but not always, a fraught topic for many couples. The reason is that divorces bring into play a number of complicated issues like child custody and visitation rights, potential alimony payments, and often the division of assets and debts post-divorce.

So, how exactly does the court view property within the context of marriage and divorce? Just considering some of the things involved and how those, even theoretically, should be divvied up can be daunting. How does someone get half of a car, for instance, or how should pensions and stock options be handled and equitably divided?

Those are great questions, but first, let’s consider what assets are typically involved in divorce proceedings. One of the most common material assets brought up within the context of family law is physical property like homes as well as rental properties and vehicles. Financial assets like stock options, retirement plans and pensions, certain businesses and brokerage accounts might also come into play.

Equitable Distribution and Community Property 

The law in some states maintains that all property acquired after a marriage should be split 50-50 following a divorce (community property state) whereas other states say that the division doesn’t need to be a 50-50 split but merely equitable.

California – along with states like Arizona, New Mexico, and Washington -are community property states where any property that is acquired after your marriage date is divided equally following a divorce. Believe it or not, though, California is one of the exceptions and not the rule in America since most other states are equitable distribution (a.k.a., common law property) states in which judges have more latitude in how they divvy up property.

The interesting thing is that in community property states like California both spouses are said to have equal rights to all material and financial assets acquired after the marriage date. This means that if for instance, only one spouse had steady employment throughout the marriage or earned considerable more than the other spouse, assets are divided up equally between spouses in a divorce proceeding in states like California.

The flip side is that both spouses are considered liable for debts in the same 50-50 manner. In equitable distribution states family law judges would have the legal latitude to give the higher earning spouse more of the debt burden during divorce proceedings, but in a community property state like California, the judge should be applying the “equal ownership” concept to assets and debts alike. This includes credit card debt, interest, car loans and even home mortgages you might be struggling to pay down.

Are There Limits to Community Property? 

Simply put, yes. These limits are dictated by one overriding factor: time. Assets acquired before the marriage and/or after couples have separated with the intention of terminating the marriage are considered separate property owned by each individual spouse. The title to a home or title to a car, as well as other physical property, owned by one spouse prior to the marriage, should be owned by that same spouse post-divorce.

The interesting wrinkle to all this is that sometimes individual property and community property mix during the course of a marriage.

What happens then? If one spouse works at a high-income job throughout the marriage and uses that income to purchase a car or home, then in a community property state like California that car (or more likely, it’s blue book value) would be split post-divorce between spouses. Value appraisals for other material assets like homes, antiques or even retirement assets will typically be valued by relevant authorities like accountants, financial experts and judges themselves.

Tax Time and Your Divorce

tax-time-and-your-divorceDivorce is angst-ridden enough without the fiscal complications, but you’ll make it through the financial year more smoothly if you get to know the tax laws. The IRS generally thinks of you as married until the end of the tax year, so even if you divorce on New Year ’s Eve, your marital status won’t change when it comes to what you owe the government. Nothing is ever quite that simple, though. There are more tricks to filing that you need to consider.

Filing Status

The IRS doesn’t always use federal law to determine your marital status. You will have to check the laws of your state. Some let you separate under a decree of separate maintenance, which means you’re considered married until the last day of your divorce. The U.S. hasn’t caught up when it comes to registered domestic partners, who can’t file joint returns under any circumstances.

  • If you’re under a decree of divorce, you must file as the head of your household or as a single person.
  • If you’re still married, you can file your taxes as a couple or separately under ‘married filing separately.’ Filing jointly is usually easier on the pocket.
  • Federal taxes are usually lower if you file together.
  • Head of household status can be used if you have children. It comes with extra tax benefits and lower tax payments. If you have custody and will be unmarried by the end of the year, you qualify for this benefit as long as the children are your legal dependents. The IRS redefines custody frequently.

Exemptions

If you divorced last year and have custody of children, you might qualify for childcare and education tax credits. Child support payments aren’t deductible, but they’re not considered income either. Alimony is taxable income, and if you’re the one paying it, it’s fully deductible, too. However, if you receive it as a lump sum payment, it won’t be taxable or deductible.

Tax Returns During Your Marriage

Even if you file separately, you’re responsible for your prior tax returns from years when you filed together. Joint tax returns come with enough complications to make your head spin, so make sure you handle them well in advance and keep yourself safe with an indemnification agreement. This way, if your spouse has due taxes, you won’t be held responsible for them. Any overpayments should be allocated in the divorce proceedings. If your spouse added your name to their returns during your marriage, consent must be formally revoked.

Assets

If you have assets that will be transferred to you during your divorce, they will count as capital gains. When married, you’re not taxed on your home if it’s under $500 000, but when single, you’re only exempt up to $250,000. If you sell the house as a part of the divorce, you might qualify for a reduced exclusion, depending on whether you’ve lived in the home for at least two years of the last five. Retirement assets can be cashed out, but you will have to pay tax on them. The only way to avoid this particular payment is by transferring the funds to your ex-spouse under a Qualified Domestic Relations order.

If your spouse agreed to a joint return and refused later, you’re unlikely to get a court order to force them.

Divorce comes with its fair share of chaos and confusion, and tax law is constantly evolving, which could push you into a different tax bracket. It’s critical to check current state and federal law or, even better, hire a competent professional to advise you.

Late-Life Divorce

late-life divorceDivorce at any age is difficult, both emotionally and financially and a late-life divorce can be even more devastating. As the population in general ages, we are seeing more divorces occurring in couples who have been together for decades. These “gray divorces” pose additional issues that are often not present in a divorce between younger couples.

A Late-Life Divorce: Going From We To Me

Many couples over fifty may be on their second or third marriage. Others have been together for thirty years or more. They have bought a home, raised a family and prepared for retirement. Determining who gets what is more complicated than I’ll take the house and you can have the car. The longer the  couple has functioned as one unit, the more difficult the financial aspects, in particular, can be to sort out.

Your Home

Determining who gets your home isn’t simply a matter of handing over the deed. The person who keeps the house will need to take into account the taxes they need to pay every year, the cost of any repairs and if the home is to become rental property, the income that may be generated from it over the coming years. This can all have an impact on alimony payments, the division of other property and even how retirement benefits are divided. If you sell your home, living expenses change regarding needing to pay rent and utilities.

Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits are even more complicated to divide in a late-life divorce. You may have contributed equally to any retirement plans or one partner may have been the sole contributor. In either case, the benefits will need to be divided so that each person has something to live on during those years. Division of retirement benefits will depend greatly on other financial factors. How will the divorce affect social security payments if the original receiver dies?

Health And Life Insurance

Aging couples often have to deal with decreasing health in addition to other issues. Who is responsible for the health insurance, and how much, becomes a factor. Life insurance policies often have each half of the couple listed as the beneficiary. It will need to be determined whether this is to remain the same or if the beneficiary information will change. It is possible that if either party remarries, financial information will differ and you need to take this into account.

Estate Planning

Wills need to be re-examined in light of the changing relationship. As a couple, you may have written wills to reflect your partner as the sole recipient of your property and other assets. You may have left that partner in charge of carrying out your final wishes. Now, you will both have to determine if this arrangement is actually the best for both of you. Often, it will be better to revise each of your wills to reflect the changed status of your marriage.

Seeking Assistance

Later-life divorces have so many financial nuances that going it alone can make it confusing and make an already chaotic time overwhelming. Seeking the aid of an experienced divorce lawyer who has knowledge of all the special financial considerations unique to late-life divorce. Seeking assistance can make a major difference between being able to survive this split with enough to get through the remaining years of your life or being destitute and feeling like you are completely starting over financially. In the end, you have enough to deal with emotionally that you don’t need the stress of trying to untangle the financial aspects alone.

How Conflict can Build a Stronger Marriage

It is nearly impossible to avoid conflict in marriages. Oftentimes, it is even necessary for couples to move their relationship forward and define a new level of trust, commitment, and communication. Conflict, while not a true measure of a marriage’s success or how strong a marriage is, can make a marriage stronger by allowing couples to engage in collaboration, broaden their methods of resolving issues, and expand their understanding of one another’s needs and preferences. Even when there are a limited number of conflicts that arise in your marriage, you can benefit from resolving them quickly.

Opposites Attract

The old adage that opposites attract might be true, but the dynamics of such a relationship are bound to lead to differences that result in conflicts and heated debates. In reality, there is no substantial difference between couples that have opposing personalities and preferences and couples who share likes and have similar personalities. In fact, it really isn’t a matter of the individual but rather the two people together as a couple. There are different types of couples and each type will have different methods of resolving a conflict. However, you and your marital partner might find that this characteristic actually benefits the relationship and makes it stronger. For couples that have a more hostile relationship, it just means it will take more work to resolve conflicts.

It Takes Two

Obviously, a relationship will not work if one person exhibits respect for her or his partner and there is no reciprocation. When you are in the midst of a conflict, this is the perfect time to exercise mutuality. Each of you should be listening, trying to understand one another, and offering viable solutions that will be implemented immediately once agreed upon. Each conflict should end with both of you having stronger trust for one another and truly believing that the marriage can survive. This will make your marriage stronger and prove that you can get through anything, as long as you’re both working together to make sure every conflict is resolved within a timely manner and with no loose ends to return to or reignite the conflict.

Playing For Keeps

The fact that you’re even willing to resolve each and every conflict, no matter what it takes, is enough to make your marriage stronger. Unfortunately, some conflicts aren’t as easy to resolve as others. When you come across the more difficult ones, you might need to rely on a temporary moment of separation so that you can each think without actually having to bounce ideas and feelings off of one another. Of course, it is always a great idea to confront conflicts head on, but if you know you are going to say something hurtful or that you will regret later, it might be better to give yourself time to think of a better way and calmer words to express your feelings, wants, and needs. You are playing for keeps, so to speak, and you want the end result to be a permanent resolution so that you and your spouse continue to build trust, respect, communication, and the marriage grows stronger.

Couples don’t always have to agree on everything and there are going to be times when these disagreements will result in bigger conflicts. This is the time when each person needs to exercise a fair amount of respect, understanding, communication, and forgiveness. These are the types of elements of a marriage that make a marriage stronger and allow couples to deepen their trust in one another, renew their commitment to the relationship, and develop new and improved ways of resolving issues that arise.

Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

tips-for-co-parenting-after-divorceNo matter the situation, divorces that involve children are always the toughest waters to navigate. Many couples that are ending their marriage in an amicable way make the decision to co-parent, cognizant of the effect divorce can have on kids.

Co-parenting is not easy, but when done correctly it is beneficial for everyone involved. Here’s how to do it right. Of course, the most important thing is keeping your eyes on the prize — the continued healthy development of your children. Moving forward with respect for all parties involved is imperative.

First and foremost, there needs to be a realization by both you and your ex that the kids are largely innocent victims. Common sense would tell you that dragging them into the situation that is occurring between the two of you is wrong. However, it is also important to silence the other third parties, most notably in-laws and friends. To successfully co-parent, they are going to need to be part of the team as well. Grandmas and grandpas need to be just as impartial, keeping their opinions to themselves.

There also needs to be a spirit of cooperation that runs through your support system. All the adults involved don’t need to be friends, but they do need to show the kids that adults can comport themselves with respect. Sometimes that will mean bending over backwards to accommodate what’s best for the kids, just like you would if you and your ex were still together.

You may not always agree with how your ex chooses to raise your children when they are not with you. Maybe they let them stay up later at their house, or spend more time on the iPad than you are comfortable with. It’s important to remember that they are their kids too, and though they may make different choices, they love your kids together just as much as you do. If you feel your children are engaging in dangerous behaviors with your ex, address your concerns, but do so in a way that doesn’t put the other parent on the defensive.

When your ex does introduce a new love interest into your children’s lives, welcome them to the co-parenting fold with open arms. Instead of dwelling on jealousy, get past yourself. Ask to meet them, and open a door of communication by sharing your concerns free of prejudice.

If the situation that is best for the children doesn’t result in you getting to spend the same amount of time with your children as your ex, don’t lose sleep over it. Instead, concentrate on quality over quantity. When you do get time with your kids, hit the ground running on spending time with them, clearing out your calendar so your focus can be on them as much as possible.

Finally, make sure all the cards are on the table so that you and your ex can keep things as open as possible. While you might think you and your ex are on good enough terms that you don’t need to put your plan in writing, it never hurts. Take time to communicate about any changes in your life as well. That helps everyone feel like they are an equal partner in the co-parenting of your children.

No matter what challenges your marriage or family are facing, the we are here to help. We’ll help you deal with the painful and emotional issues you are facing in the San Francisco Bay area, so you can move your life forward.

What is Legal Separation?

what-is-legal-separationLegal separation is either a precursor or alternative to divorce which involves the removal of one spouse from a shared household. Although they are considered still legally married, this separation has both economic and personal consequences as regards child support spousal support payments, and any income earned during the term of the legal separation.

The Judicial Process of Separation

A formal legal separation involves a judicial process presided over by a court judge; for example, in California the state Supreme Court is mandated that couples must live in different houses in order to qualify as legally separated.

It is important to understand that during this separation, the spouses remain husband and wife; however any income earned after cohabitation and its is considered their sole private property, and does not factor into any post divorce settlements – should the legal separation morph into a full-blown divorce. Indeed; eventual spousal support payments in the event of a divorce are affected by the date of legal separation.

Consequences of Legal Separation

Although separated couples are allowed to date and see other people during the period of the legal separation, they cannot marry third parties. Primarily, the court judgment is necessary to ratify the terms of the regulatory agreement presented by the parties by mutual agreement; or, by the presiding judge as regards parent child relations. Some of these considerations include the extent of parental authority, child care and support, visitation, and any associated maintenance costs of the afore-mentioned.

How Do You Start the Process?

The process of legal separation is started after the couple reaches a mutual agreement and presents the appropriate application – which is the petition for divorce/separation – and jointly presents this application to a magistrate. Alternatively one spouse can present the application, as long as he/she has the consent of the other spouse to do so on his/her behalf. Additionally, this application – the Settlement Agreement – also includes the terms of the regulatory agreement, which concerns matters of visitation childcare subject to custody decisions concerning matrimonial property, pension payments, family contribution, housing allocation, and any other considerations that arose as a result of the marital agreement.

Contentious Legal Separations

Generally speaking, legal separations – as well as divorces – proceed in a much more economical fashion when there are no children involved. If, however, the proceedings are contentious and one spouse files the complaints, he or she must have various documents that purport to support his/her economic or situational grievances. Of course, the other spouse and file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. After the court receives these, the legal procedures will be set at a later date, at which time the spouses will have to appear in court with their lawyers.

In the worst-case scenario of either a legal separation, or outright divorce, if the spouses have not reached a mutual agreement, then the judge, having heard both sides, will render judgment. As such, you should always consult with a family attorney even before you begin the process of a legal separation, because the ramifications will have a life-changing effect on your family – especially if there are minor children involved. In the event that there are no objections from your spouse as to the terms, the most likely scenario is that the presiding court will grant the separation.

As the laws vary from state to state, it is imperative that you consult with a local attorney, was well-versed in Family Court law, before you begin the process.

Proving Paternity

proving-paternityProving paternity issues today is much easier medically than before the advent of DNA presence into every nook and hidden corner of our lives and loves.  This also is true in the alternative of disproving paternity.

When the possibility of paternity responsibility is first addressed, your first inclination is not to consult with an attorney, but it should be at least your second.  The retaining of counsel in light of such a sensitive and socially impacting possibility is a very calming rationale.

Although DIY paternity testing kits are available for private home testing, this should only be considered with your understanding that it has no authority as proof in any court of law in the USA. That said, it must be acknowledged that there are circumstances when a private individual wishes to have the paternity testing conducted without any court action contemplated. Even in such personal cases, it would be prudent to consult with a paternity lawyer before doing the test, to be advised of any caveat which might bite you because you had the testing performed minus a court order.

Lab Testing Chain of Custody

Results of certified  DNA tests are admissible in any U.S. court of law due to  verified “chain of custody” and because the lab processing the sample is  accredited. The chain of custody refers to the  “hands” which handle the DNA sample. The legal chain of custody dictates that the subject sample is collected in the presence of a 3rd neutral party at a hospital or laboratory where the subject  parties are identified by photo ID.  The court has testing options for every sort of situation. This is for the protection of all parties.

The Test:

Tested parties usually include a child, the alleged father, and the child’s mother. A mother’s testing in paternity DNA testing excludes her half of the child’s DNA, which leaves the alleged father’s half for comparison with the child’s DNA.

It is possible to perform a “motherless” test, which involves additional analysis, usually at no additional cost. Test results are equally binding, whether the mother participates or not. Motherless tests are certified to have at least a 99.5% probability of paternity for inclusions plus a 0% probability for exclusion.

The Results:

Standard DNA paternity testing is the indisputable proof of a biological paternal relationship existing or not existing with a 99.99% probability.

 Other Needs for Paternity DNA Testing   

If you need paternity test results for changing the name on a birth certificate or to obtain child support and other benefits a Legal DNA Test needs to be performed, and you should avail yourself of the privilege of legal counsel.

Immigration holds issues wherein legal DNA testing is very important for validation. The cases wherein immigrants need to prove parental and child(ren) relationships can be influenced by certified testing of all parties. Agencies from over 168 countries recognize appropriately certified legal DNA testing.

Many adoptive parents  are seeing  benefits of DNA testing at various times during the adoption process, as knowing the biological identity of a child you are adopting with proper relinquishment will ease some uncertainty or stress that naturally accompanies this legal process.

The relationship of a parent and child is more than altruistic chance and validity of Last Wills and Testaments.  It is the most sensitive relationship known to mankind, and deeper than a marital union.  Therefore it is with extreme clarity and fine judgment that you pursue the demystifying of any paternity issue wherein you are a party. You are owed honest certification, as are all of the heirs and descendants after you.

Why Does Divorce Have To Be So Complicated?

why-does-divorce-have-to-be-so-complicatedThe process of legally separating from somebody with whom you’ve been previously tied, perhaps for many years, sounds like a complicated process. That’s why most people don’t think getting a divorce is going to be fast and pain-free. However, the lengths many people go to during a divorce can make the process so complicated that even the cynics among us find it miraculous.

Why are divorces really so complicated though? While it depends on the couple, and every situation is different, there are some common reasons why a divorce can be a long, drawn-out affair.

Real Estate And Assets

When a couple owns a home together, trying to decide who stays in the house can be a major issue. If the couple used joint funds to buy the home, determining who will stay and how funds will be paid to the person relocating can be very tricky. It can also make tempers flare since many situations lead to both partners feeling like they’re entitled to stay in the home.

Other joint assets like investment and retirement accounts complicate the divorce process further. Splitting investments isn’t always as easy as cashing out an investment plan, and in many cases, dividing them is the best choice for both partners.

Figuring out who gets what and why can be a serious problem however, especially when both partners want to retain the same assets.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, or one partner paying to help the other support themselves after a split, can be troublesome for many couples. The most common problem when it comes to spousal support is the amount one partner pays the other.

Often, the individual that has to pay spousal support may feel like they no longer should have to pay for their partner since they’re no longer connected to them. At the same time, the person looking to receive financial support may feel they’re owed payment because of money earned in the relationship when they were an equal partner.

When couples can’t resolve this issue on their own it is often up to the courts to determine what is fair. That makes the issue of spousal support one that could take months or years to completely hammer out.

Do You Have Children?

One of the biggest reasons divorces can become complicated affairs is trying to figure out who will take care of the children and when. Many parents want equal custody, but in some cases, one partner may want that while the other wants full rights to care for their children.

In some cases, you’ll also find that parents argue over when they get to have their children at the home. If both partners work for example, weekends are going to be when parents want to spend time with their kids.

Cases where one parent things the other is an unfit caretaker also may divorce very complicated. These divorces can drag on for months and often turn nasty very quickly.

Hiring The Right Attorney

Getting a divorce isn’t always going to be a simple task. Even when young couples with few assets and no children get divorced, the process can take months.

Hiring a skilled attorney to help you negotiate divorce is something you need to do. Even if you don’t want a contentious divorce – and nobody really does – you need somebody on your side to make sure whatever arrangements are made are fair to you.

Hiring the right attorney can also keep conversation between you and a former partner from turning into screaming matches.

What is a Malignant Divorce?

what-is-a-malignant-divorceThere is no question that divorce is a time of stress and can bring out the worst in us for a period of time. There aren’t many people alive who don’t have the ability to respond negatively to divorce.

But sometimes the negativity and stress go beyond normal and develop into what is now being called a “malignant divorce.” It’s one way of describing a divorce that involves high-conflict and often toxic behavior. Fortunately, most divorces don’t descend into the kind of hostility and potential danger that malignant divorces do.

What Are Characteristics of a Malignant Divorce?

Hostility perhaps best defines a malignant divorce. Instead of legal negotiation when it comes to issues such as child custody and how to divide marital assets, a couple resorts to hostile confrontation. Malignant, high-conflict divorces typically involve the following personality types and the resultant behaviors which come with each:

The Victim.  When one of the parties in the divorce is obsessed with the idea that they’re wronged – as well as the certainty of it – then they’re acting in the role of the victim. He or she believe that they’ve wasted years of their life being with you, or that you’re now unfit to take care of your children.

Control Freak.  He or she may have been a control freak during the marriage and is now taking it to a new extreme during the divorce. He’s now planning every detail, such as documenting your incompetence, so he cannot lose in court.

Narcissist.  This is a common type of behavior type when it comes to malignant divorces. The person is completely self-centered and self-serving, and even more so now during your divorce. He or she will completely dismiss your needs and all of the history of devotion and companionship you once had.

Avenger.  This is the most dangerous type of participant in a malignant divorce and the behavior can be a natural extension of the traits listed above. The avenger is not just interested in winning, but is obsessed with you losing and, hopefully, losing in a miserable way.

What Else Characterizes a Malignant Divorce?

The speed at which it occurs, as well as the ferocity, are two common characteristics of a malignant divorce. What was once an ordinary, functioning couple, is now two people at each other’s throat in what seems like the blink of an eye. Resentments that have festered over the years are suddenly out in the open, and with a vengeance. Pent-up anger comes pouring out and what was once love turns quickly to hate. A person that you were once sexually attracted to now seems repulsive.

As previously mentioned, the ferocity of a malignant divorce is enough for both parties to renounce the good history they had together, including the family you nurtured, to be swept away in anger and victimization, and an obsession with being the one who ‘wins’ when the divorce goes to court. Normal communication dissolves into accusations, blames and threats. Everything, from the house, to the kids, to dividing of the assets becomes an issue.

A reasonable divorce, on the hand, occurs when the couple value what they had and mourn the loss while recognizing that the relationship has ended. But one of the ironies of divorce is that the force needed to blow apart what was a close-knit family is enough to bring on the ferocity of a malignant divorce.