There’s nothing like good ole’ fashion family time. This past Sunday we went to visit Grandma/Great-Grandma to bring her some Easter Sunday entertainment. She was happy to see us ……and during our visit the children had the brilliant idea to do the D-Low Shuffle for her. She watched and cracked an occasional smile. All in all we enjoyed ourselves and were happy to experience another moment with Grandma/Great Grandma.
By Aiyana Ma’at
Black Marriage day is right around the corner.
Black Marriage Day began in 2002 to create a cultural shift in the way marriage is viewed and celebrated in the Black community. Bet you didn’t know that it started with just 30 supporters initially. Hundreds of people celebrate Black Marriage Day every spring.
12 years after its beginning we thought we’d help to spark your imagination and give you some interesting and fun things to do this year. Whether you are considering celebrating this day for the first time or have celebrated since the beginning, I’m sure you’ll find something that appeals to you!
A Few Ideas To Make Black Marriage Day more Meaningful For The Two Of You
Bubble bath for two. Candles. Champagne. Need we say more?
Pick a TV show, get a season’s worth on DVD and make a running date to watch it together every night.
*Try brunch and a matinee; fancy restaurants are way more affordable in the a.m.
*Take a dinner cruise: The motion of the ocean sets off sensuous signals inside us (think water beds).
*Make your boo a personalized mixtape.
*Put a blanket in the backyard and have a picnic.
*A Night in Paris Without Leaving Home. You decorate your home like a restaurant in a foreign country. Make it as cheesy as possible while keeping it looking nice. Cook the themed food yourself. It shows off your cooking skills, your romantic side, your sense of humor and your creativity. <— (I really like this one.)
* Go wine tasting at a winery at a local winery event or get a couple of glasses, a bottle, and have a picnic lunch outdoors.
Ideas To Celebrate Black Marriage Day In Your Community
These ideas and suggestions come from the Smart Marriages Website. These are just the beginning of what you can do. Be as creative as you like and tailor the program to your community.
Ask judges and divorce lawyers to declare a moratorium on divorce – NO Divorces filed or granted during the week leading up to Black Marriage Day. Ask them to “schedule vacation” that week if that’s what it takes. Get this to the media!
Celebrate your own marriage. Teach by example! If you’re not married, offer to babysit so someone else can go celebrate.
Strengthen your own marriage. Read a book, attend a course. See smartmarriages.com for books and classes.
Create a “Ten Most Affordable (or best, or most romantic, or most creative) Marriage Dates” list/contest for your community. Get these to the media – radio, TV, newspapers, community newsletters. Ask radio stations to promote a contest – keep the focus on Marriage – not just any old date, but ideas for the best, most creative, or most affordable Marriage Date.
Honor members of your extended family or community whose marriages have had an impact on your life. Write a note of appreciation for marriages that have inspired you. Or, throw a surprise party.
Hold a “How this marriage has had an impact on my life” or a “Why I think this is a great Marriage” essay contest for children in the community (lessons learned, examples set, why they want a marriage like this when they grow up, etc.) Award prizes, get the media involved. Marriages described could be those of their parents, relatives, ancestors or one of local, state or national significance.
Send a marriage-strengthening book or give a gift certificate for a class to newlyweds, new parents, or anyone whose marriage could use a boost.
Organize a Community Marriage Policy and get it signed during the week leading up to Black Marriage Day. See www.marriagesavers.org to get started.
Encourage civic, community and religious leaders to acknowledge Black Marriage Day with an endorsement, announcement or declaration and activities.
Ask media to include a Strengthening Marriage Tip, Marriage Article, Marriage Quiz -” Of the Day” for the full week leading up to Black Marriage Day. Send them the material! It’s only seven days……
Recognize the couple in your community, region or state who has been married the longest.
Ask local stations to run Public Service Announcements about marriage.Source: Blackmarriageday.com Smartmarriages.com
Marriage rates in the United States have hit an all-time low, dropping from a 1960 high of 72 percent to just barely half. Leading family scholars are troubled. Studies show that children from cohabitating and single-parent households face increased risks for a wide range of social, emotional, and economic ills compared with their peers from intact, married households, whose numbers are rapidly dwindling. Black families fare far worse.
“The black community has the distinction of the lowest marriage rate in America,” says Nisa Muhammad, founder of the Wedded Bliss Foundation, the sponsor of Black Marriage Day. “When White America has a cold, Black America has pneumonia. And we don’t have the resources or history to rebound as quickly.”
In 1960, 61 percent of blacks were married; today the rate hovers at a dismal 31 percent. Seventy percent of black children are born out-of-wedlock. Their mothers are more often than not poor. Black children continue to have the highest rate of poverty. While the considerable gap in divorce rates between blacks and whites has narrowed (blacks still out-divorce whites), far fewer blacks are also marrying. Forty-four percent of them consider marriage obsolete.
Over ten years ago, Muhammad, a journalist raising her own five children, went searching for answers to the problems plaguing the African-American community. She found her way to a Smart Marriagesconference, and left “mesmerized” by all the information available about the benefits of marriage.
“Black married people make more money, their kids do better in school, marriage rescues blacks from poverty, their kids are less likely to go to jail, become teen parents and get divorced,” Muhammad says. “I started thinking, does anyone in the black community know this stuff?”
She asked around and nobody did. Even among the well-educated. She couldn’t find anyone promoting marriage within the black community either.
Mainstream cultural cues mostly excluded blacks. No black Bachelors or Bachelorettes. Muhammad thought “27 Dresses” was a cute movie, but notes that the average black woman doesn’t have 27 married friends, much less has attended 27 weddings. When Muhammad spoke at Morehouse College, a distinguished all-male black college in Atlanta, Georgia, she asked the young men in the audience to name a song where a black man says “I love you” to a woman in the lyrics.
“They look baffled,” she says. “They couldn’t name one song. College students being nursed on music that offers sex without responsibility.”
Relationship stories in the black community typically center on “somebody did me wrong” or “woe is me,” she points out.
When Muhammad couldn’t find anyone offering portraits of healthy marriages, she took on the task herself. “Our silence co-signs a lot of negative behavior. We say it’s not me, but then it becomes you. That bothered me.”
So she founded Black Marriage Day in order to shine a national spotlight on all the positives. Stories of black couples married 50, 60, 70 years. Relationship workshops, celebratory dinners, vow renewal ceremonies, inductions into a Black Marriage Day Hall of Fame. She praises President Obama’s example of regular date nights with the First Lady.
Reprint *3/25/12 @HuffingtonPost.com
By Minister Mxolisi Ozo-Sowande / (aka Bro. Mxolisi T. Sowell)
As we journey through the month of March, and over 300 organizations around the nation (USA) observe/celebrate Black Marriage Day, some words from Dr. Llaila Afrika (in African Holistic Health, pg. 351) resonate within my soul:
“The female/male relationship is microcosmic of the culture . . . (it) transmits and translates culture . . . (it) is the smallest functional unit of the culture . . . The Black wholistic female/male relationship is for the upliftment of the culture,” with a major function of this relationship being the rearing of children who have what it takes to “advance the culture.”
Dr. Afrika goes on to assert that the positive result of such a dynamic is that “the culture (i.e., village) serves the relationship and the relationship serves the culture. It takes a village to have a marriage . . . it takes African-centeredness to have a holistic African cultural marriage.”
Another voice vibrating within is that of Dr. Molefi Asante (cited in the book, Friends, Lovers and Soul Mates by Drs. Derek and Darlene Hopson, pg. 49): his belief that to be whole, Black people must place African values, culture, and history at the center of their very beings. Asante says, “We have a formidable history, replete with the voice of God, the ancestors, and the prophets. Our manner of dress, behavior, walk, talk, and values are intact and workable when we are Afrocentric.”
Adding to the strength and convictions of those voices is the voice of Dr. Marimba Ani, speaking before the 2011 annual convention of the Association of Black Psychologists, where the following was among her comments: “Culture is the immune system of a race . . . the armor that protects a people against genocide . . . African culture is the unique expression of the African soul. It cultivates, nurtures and cares for the African soul as nothing else can. It makes us part of the global African family. It imparts to us the power of our ancestors. It has got to be the foundation of any educational system that we have . . . We need to rebuild our cultural system!”
If we follow the wisdom and admonition coming to us from ancient Kemet – and other traditions as well, calling on us to open the books that contain the enduring words and practices of our Ancestors, to read and heed the preserved ingredients of our cultural system(s), we would likely understand and agree with Dr. Afrika’s profound expressions: “In an African centered relationship, each person was viewed as a sacred presence of God . . . An individual served God by serving their mate . . . Relationships between Black women and men founded on correctness, justice, harmony, balance, reciprocity, truth, propriety and order (Maat) are African centered . . . (are unions) of God . . . the balance of the spirit, mind and body . . . (are) given to African peoples as another way to serve God.”
We do, indeed, need to rebuild, restore, and renew ourselves according to that cultural system!
The Five Major Initiation Rites of our traditional African way of life provide an excellent foundation for the beginning of this restoration process. These are rites that evolved as our ancestors responded to their collective perceptions of Creator, Ancestors and Prophets speaking to their hearts and souls. They include the rites of Birth, Adulthood, Marriage, Eldership, and Ancestor-ship.
(See Prof. Manu Ampim’s essay on these rites at this link:http://www.manuampim.com/AfricanInitiationRites )
These rites, which continue to be nearly universal in one form or another throughout traditional African life, provide foundation for a way of life that includes this pertinent point of view: That a person is not truly an adult until they have married and had children!
Additionally, this way of life holds that a new life (an infant) is not a complete being until she or he has been thoroughly initiated into the values and principles of the family-community-nation; and that the family-community-nation has an abiding responsibility to provide the necessary environment, training and inspiration to assist each individual in discovering and fulfilling their life mission and unique contribution.
(View my reflections on these Initiation Rites at this link:http://hcvoice.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/reflections-on-the-initiation-rites-of-our-african-way-of-life/)
In simple terms, our African cultural way of life places high priority on preparing and developing men and women who know one another to be a sacred presence of God, who hold marriage in high esteem (who are, indeed, ready for their Black/African Marriage Day), and are eager — along with Ancestors, Elders and others, and every institution of the culture — to fulfill their roles to carry forward and “advance the culture” in and through succeeding generations. Our African cultural way of life absolutely needs Adults of this spirit and character as marriage partners and parents, and in other roles that might be required for the perpetuation of that sacred, inspirational, family-community-nation environment.
The overriding priority of that sacred environment is to inform and inspire each individual relative to his or her potential to manifest Godliness (Maat) not only in marriage but in every circumstance of life. No doubt, something easier said than done.
In ancient Kemet, Maat was understood as the intelligent, creative energy-spirit-power emerging from what can be viewed as a radical, transformative development at the core of the Creator’s being, giving rise to all existence and to the obligation for humans to be diligent in pro-active moral behavior in all things. In The Husia, our ancestors’ perceptions of the Creator’s thoughts/words in that radical, creation moment are expressed thusly: “I formed it from the desire in my heart; I laid the foundation through Maat.” Other translations reflect The Most High saying S/He worked “magic” on Her/His own heart in order to facilitate the birth of Maat and the emergence of creation. Thus, it was understood that the Godly pro-active morality that the humankind is to pursue and practice requires a radical, transformative development at the core of our individual and collective existence, giving birth to an undying desire in our hearts for Maat to be the distinguishing character and driving force in all that we do.
As above, so below. As with Ancestors throughout the spectrum of our traditional African way of life, let it be with you and me.
Marimba Ani has argued that our African culture is “amazingly resilient,” continuing to survive in spite of the most culturally destructive force (u.s./western culture) in history. Perhaps that explains why there are as many successful Black marriages as there are, given the severely anti-African forces – social, educational, economic, political, as well as individualistic concepts of manhood, womanhood, marriage and family – that work against our well-being at all times. She goes on to assert that our solutions will come not only from denying the “European world-view” as a basis for human organization but that there must be a spiritual component in our organizing efforts and in any view of the future that is projected as our goal.
“Our Africanness has existed within us primarily on an unconscious level,” Dr. Ani posits. “But the forces of evil are strong. European colonialism is powerful and the unconscious survival of the African heritage is not enough to subdue it. This survival must be moved to the level of conscious awareness, so that it can be used for political analysis, motivation and commitment. . . . The African world-view revitalized, can again be a life-giving force. It promises ‘eternal life’ to its descendants.” (Let the Circle be Unbroken: Implications of African Spirituality in the Diaspora, pgs. 50-53)
There are numerous resources to inform and inspire us for the revitalization of our African cultural way, for marriage and all circumstances of life, including:
• Selections from The Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt, compiled by Dr. Maulana Karenga – (containing a significant number of admonitions and insights relative to marriage and family, as well as a host of Teachings for character development in general, including The Declarations of Innocence/Negative Confessions)
• Friends, Lovers and Soul Mates: A Guide to Better Relationships Between Black Men and Women, by Derek S. Hopson, Ph. D., and Darlene Powell Hopson, Ph.D. – (featuring a vast spectrum of issues to be considered and discussed in the process of “self-knowledge” and fruitful relationships)
• The Ten Virtues of the Egyptian Mystery System – (Control of your thoughts * Control of your actions * Devotion to purpose * Faith in the ability of The Master to teach you the truth * Faith in your ability to assimilate the truth * Faith in your ability to wield the truth * Freedom from resentment under the experience of persecution * Freedom from resentment under the experience of wrong * Cultivate the ability to distinguish between right and wrong [that which is loved from that which is hated] * Cultivate the ability to distinguish between the real and the unreal [have a sacred sense of values])
• Kwanzaa & the Nguzo Saba: Something Sacred for & from the Souls of Black Folks, by Minister Mxolisi Ozo-Sowande – (for a deeper-than-superficial presentation of the Principles, Symbols and Precepts of this tradition and their potential for serving as a blueprint for the restoration of the souls of Black folks)
Let it be that we open these and other books, with our hearts and souls wide open, to allow a plentiful harvest of radical, transformative moments to occur in great abundance throughout the Global African Family. Let Black Marriage Day, the sacred African way, be the exhilarating, unending norm once again, forevermore!
Ankh, Udja, Seneb!!!
By Aiyana Ma’at
*This pic is of me and my mother in law whom I affectionately call “Mom Sharon” at a Prayer Breakfast on a Saturday morning. I stole it from my hubby’s Facebook status. :-)*
One day last year ago my mother in law gave me a call and said that she had been meaning to do this for awhile and just hadn’t but wanted to see if we could spend more time together.
WOW! This may seem small to you but it was huge for me! I was so touched by her desire to be closer and her willingness to take a risk and see if she could make it happen.
And you know what? That one simple yet profound gesture instantly elevated us into another space where we now make it a point to connect, connect, connect!
So, what’s the BIG LESSON here?
If you want something to be different in your relationship (any relationship) you have to take a risk and ask for what you want.
You can RE-CREATE any relationship you have….all it takes is a willingness to try. I’m so thankful for our new found connection. It has inspired me to re-create a few of my other relationships too! So, now it’s my turn to take a risk and ask for what I want. I’ll keep you posted!
Are there any people in your life you’d like to see more, know better, or connect with more? Leave a comment below and let me know how you plan to make it happen. 90% of the time the only thing standing in your way is YOU.
By Sheila Anderson
Often the fondest childhood memories stem from family traditions that were lovingly repeated throughout the years. Family traditions have family at the center of a celebration spending time together and creating lasting memories. If you don’t already have a family Valentine’s Day tradition, why not start one this year? It could be the beginning of many wonderful years of Valentine’s Day memories with your family.
A Valentine family tradition doesn’t have to be expensive. The main idea is to spend time with the family together. Here are some inexpensive ways you can start a Valentine’s Day family tradition in your family.
Make a Food Treat Together
Most people associate chocolates with Valentine’s Day, but how about making a different treat together that your family can share together. One fun treat you can make are Rice Krispies hearts. All you need is the basic Rice Krispies squares recipe, heart shaped cookie cutters and red sprinkles. Lightly grease the insides of the heart shaped cookie cutters and press some Rice Krispies squares mix into the cookie cutters. Then remove the cookies cutters and add the sprinkles. Repeat as needed with the rest of the mixture. It’s simple enough for young kids to help out.
Another simple idea is to bake a cake in a heart shaped cake mold. Make some red (or at least pink) icing and then the kids can decorate the top with sprinkles and heart shaped candies.
Play a Family Game
Games are a great way for families to interact with each other and have fun at the same time. Choose a favorite family game and have an enjoyable time together. Make sure that it is a game everyone enjoys so nobody feels frustrated or left out. It’s also fun to learn a new game together so the whole family is at the same level of expertise.
A card game that has hearts as the central theme is a good match for creating a Valentine’s Day family game time tradition. Capture the Hearts is a simple card game that the whole family can easily understand and play. The object of the game is to win as many hearts as possible. The only card knowledge required is to know the order of the cards.
Each player starts with 7 cards and plays 2 cards face down in front of them each round. The top card cannot be a heart. After each player has selected their cards then everyone turns over the top card. The player with the highest card wins all the remaining face down cards, hopefully containing some hearts. In each subsequent round, deal 2 more cards and continue play. The player with the most hearts in the end wins the game.
Watch a Family Favorite Movie
The movie doesn’t have to be mushy and sentimental, as long as it is a movie that the whole family enjoys. It doesn’t even need to be a movie you’ve seen if it’s a movie that the whole family wants to see. Pop some popcorn, or eat some of the treats you’ve made for Valentine’s Day, and enjoy some time together.
Exchange Homemade Cards
Instead of shopping for cards try making cards at home. You’ll save money and have nice keepsakes. The cards can be as simple as folding a piece of paper and cutting out a heart with one straight edge of the heart along the fold. Write a customized message for each member of the family on a separate heart card for each. Encourage the other members of the family to do the same and you’ll have a nice time exchanging special heartfelt cards.
Holidays are very special to children and Valentine’s Day can be made even more memorable if you create your own family tradition. Your children may even use these traditions when they are grown with their own families.
Sheila Anderson creates free printables for kids to provide fun and educational paper based activities. These free printable activity pages and worksheets can be found at PrintActivities.com.
I firmly believe that if more men did MORE of this…..there would be FEWER divorces, FEWER teen pregnancies, and FEWER young black men being incarcerated BECAUSE there would be more whole and healthy family’s. Many of the problems our youth face can be traced back to a broken home…..GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER MEN. Tell and show your woman that you love her.
What’s up y’all we are Ayize & Aiyana Ma’at….a married couple that has been together since high school. Yup…high school sweet hearts. We have Fo’… not four… but Fo’ incredible children…who keep us on our toes all the time : ) We are relationship therapists, coaches, and experts that have been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers, TV One, and other media outlets. We are helpers…we are healers….and we are here to serve you.
If you or someone you know would like to have INDIVIDUAL or COUPLES coaching from us please CLICK HERE
To learn how you can work with us, have a business around whatever your passion is, and EARN MONEY ONLINE…. CLICK HERE
By Lauri Przybysz
Most people have been raised to expect that certain jobs are done primarily by one sex or the other. Despite these stereotypes job assignments aren’t written in stone. Many couples shift their roles and responsibilities several times throughout the years of their marriage. Is it time for some job reclassification in your marriage?
The issue may be more serious than you think. One of the main causes of domestic problems is domestic – as in, housework. Who picks up the used newspapers? Who takes out the trash? Who will empty the dishwasher? Who walks the dog? Sound familiar? Neil Chethik polled 300 husbands across the age spectrum for his book, VoiceMale: What Husbands Really Think About Their Marriages, Their Wives, Sex, Housework and Commitment (Simon and Schuster, 2006). “Housework showed up right after money as the top issue of discord,” he said. “It was higher on the list than sex, higher than raising the children, ahead of every other issue you can name.” In other words, couples can build a happier marriage by finding better ways to share the mundane tasks of their life together.
Sometimes a wife clings to more than her share of the housework out of a need to meet the expectations – real or imagined – of her mother or friends. Even if her husband is willing, the quality of his help leaves something to be desired, in her mind. Or if a man prides himself in a spotless car, the way his dad always did, he may be against letting his wife take on that task.
Blending our two worlds and creating a partnership of life and love sometimes comes down to changing how we wash the dishes, make the bed, or store the groceries. We can let go of our idea of perfection in order to accept the help of our spouse. Sharing tasks means more time at the end of the day for us to appreciate each other. It is about making our relationship a priority.
By Ayize Ma’at
The pain that black folks experience runs deep. There have been hundreds of years of self-hate passed down from generation to generation in the black community. The consequences of generational scars have been aptly coined Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. Neither you or I can escape it….it is what it is.
While we all may deal with remnants of slavery in some form or fashion, it’s rare that you see or hear African Americans overtly dissociate from their race. Many people develop maladaptive coping mechanisms (i.e. the mutation of nigger to nigga) to depersonalize the psycho-emotional pain attached to traumatic historical experiences. In the above video you see a lot of that….denial, dissociation, and repression as a means of survival.
To all the folks who feel like they feel…THERE’S A BETTER WAY YALL.
Black is NOT synonymous with bad, ugly, painful, ghetto, dirty, cheap, or ridiculousness.
Genius was birthed out of blackness…from the womb of a black woman came the founders of science, mathematics, history, technology, and spirituality. From the virility of a black man came the original architects, poets, professors, politicians, schools, etc.
It’s imperative that we all engage in a process of cognitive reframing by studying who we were, changing who we are, and realizing who we can be….so that we minimize the effects of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. This is not a maybe….IT’S A MUST.
Greatness is awaiting all of us…
But we must take the first step toward it. Embrace all of you as you put one foot in front of the other.
Hold your head high….and say….
I LOVE BEING BLACK.
Ayize & Aiyana Ma’at (founders of this site) are relationship experts and internet marketers who have been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers, TV One, and other media outlets. They are helping people build healthy relationships and build home based businesses. To learn how you can MAKE MONEY while working from home CLICK HERE. To get INDIVIDUAL or COUPLES COACHING from Ayize & Aiyana Ma’at CLICK HERE.
The judicial system is F%&ed Up!! It really is. Based on this news story, this brotha was doing the right thing and handling his business (paying child support and visiting his child), and that was still not enough. It really makes you question whether the judicial system is really concerned about what’s in the best interest of the child. Now I know we’re making sweeping generalizations here based on one judge’s verdict…but c’mon. Yes the whole check variation thing and not receiving notification about the changes in visitation leads to more questions ….but C’mon…really? Jail time when you’ve paid child support and have been visiting? Check out the video and let us know what you think. You may see something different than what we see.
Below is an excerpt from the Father’s Rights Survival Guide. We thought it may be helpful for the men out there who may be having issues in their homes as it pertains to divorce and child custody. The information below should not substitute for legal advice. Should you need INDIVIDUAL or RELATIONSHIP coaching through the family drama feel free to contact us (Ayize & Aiyana Ma’at). Otherwise check out the suggestions below and if need be contact an attorney.
The Father’s Rights Survival Guide
The following is a comprehensive list of recommendations for men who are facing marital separation and divorce where children are involved. These recommendations are not legal advice. They are “street smart” suggestions gleaned from personal experiences and the experiences of other men who have worked their way through the minefield that is family law.
Although the statutes stress that decisions taken in family law litigation should be, first and foremost, in “the best interests of the children”, the fact is that almost all rulings are made in favour of the mother, as “primary caregiver” — ostensibly “on behalf of” the children. As a father, you, supposedly, have rights under the law, but, quite realistically, have few rights at all. 85% of custody decisions go to the mother (mothers have custody in the vast majority of cases); mothers rarely pay child or spousal support fathers are routinely forced into personal bankruptcy or go underground because they cannot pay onerous support orders; mother’s routinely withhold children from court-ordered ‘access” with their fathers as court orders for access are virtually unenforceable; family equity is split right down the middle, even though a mother may have only provided barely adequate child care and indifferent housekeeping as her contribution. So you must take steps to preempt and mitigate, where possible, a situation wherein you are at the mercy of cut-throat lawyers, biased judges and a very flawed system.
Although the tone of this article may seem pessimistic, I propose that it is, in fact, realistic. The plight of fathers in family law disputes is grave. However, I am optimistic because of the tremendous devotion that so many fathers display for their offspring in facing overwhelming emotional and financial challenges in the simple desire to play a meaningful and critical role in their children’s lives. And I sense a rising tide of awareness and anger in the general public, at large, at the inequalities and abuses of their rights that fathers have been suffering for far too long. It’s time that innovative solutions like mandatory shared parenting be written into the statutes to give fathers a chance at participating in a reasonable fashion in their children’s lives.
Once again, it must be stressed that the following is not legal advice. Ask your lawyer / attorney for a definitive opinion on any and all of the recommendations presented here. This document is prepared specifically relative to Ontario, Canada family law, but most principles should work relative to other North American jurisdictions.
The recommendations begin with the supposition that you are still in the matrimonial home, that your marriage is beyond saving and that mediation is not an option. If you have already separated, pick up the suggestions at the appropriate point.
1. Do not move out of the family home. If no custody order is in place, and you move out, you are granting your spouse de facto custody of your children; you immediately expose yourself to petitions for child and spousal support; you abandon all joint possessions and even your personal possessions to your spouse (and you don’t have to be a lawyer to know that possession is 9/10ths of the law); and you give your spouse leave to petition for exclusive possession of the house in perpetuity in “the best interests of the children” thus tying up the house as an asset.
2. Throughout the period of final co-habitation with your spouse, do not engage in any verbal battles..PERIOD. If the situation is volatile, do not engage in any discussions about legal or settlement issues. Do not engage in any kind of verbal or physical confrontation with her. If you do, you put yourself at the risk of her getting an order to have you thrown out of the house and possibly restrained from going anywhere near her, the property and, possibly the children. If she becomes confrontational, walk away and avoid close contact. Make the only dialogue between the two of you be about the care and well-being of the children and the day-to-day running of the home. If you simply must communicate directly to your spouse regarding matrimonial issues, do so in a written note. You can organize your thoughts better that way and avoid a verbal joust. Do not use inflammatory language stick to the facts. Date the note and write “Without Prejudice” at the top (this protects you from later use of your note against you). And keep a copy of it for your files.
3. Throughout the period of final co-habitation with your spouse, eliminate, or at the very least, reduce, your consumption of alcohol. If you have a drug / alcohol problem, GET HELP IMMEDIATELY, otherwise you may be dead in the water. Alcohol – and most drugs – reduce your inhibitions and may make you more aggressive and thus in danger of confrontation with your spouse. And later, when you come down from your high, you will suffer from depression that will impair your ability to function and may make you susceptible to suicide. In almost all cases of murder / suicide in marital disputes, alcohol is a contributing factor.
4. If there are firearms in your home, GET RID OF THEM. Take absolutely no chances that someone may lose it and grab a gun.
5. Get emotional counseling if you need it. There is no stigma attached to getting help for the stress and the anxiety depression that almost everyone experiences during the ordeal of a high-conflict divorce. Have your family doctor recommend a psychiatrist – covered under provincial health plans in Canada (psychologists and social workers are not usually covered) – or check your employment health benefits to see if referral to a counselor is available to employees. If you are a member of an organized religion, your clergyman / priest / rabbi or affiliated lay counselors may provide assistance.
6. Transfer all money from joint spousal accounts to your own sole accounts. If you don’t, chances are that she will clean out the accounts before you do.
7. Have your spouse’s name removed from all joint credit cards for which you are responsible, get her spousal cards from her and destroy them.
8. Engage legal counsel sooner rather than later. Be prepared for the fact that you will have to provide a legal retainer of (typically) a minimum of $1,000 for a lawyer to begin working on your case. Make sure your lawyer is an experienced family law specialist not someone who does part-time family, part-time real estate, etc. law, Ask him (or her) if he / she is aware of the bias of the family court system against fathers and if he (we’ll assume it’s a man from here on) is willing to fight for your rights as a parent and not be intimidated by biased court officials. For your first meeting with him be prepared with a written outline of the issues of your case. Do not make this a novel about the emotions of your marital breakdown stick to the hard, cold facts. Go to all meetings with your lawyer with a written agenda, and with all issues, questions, etc. spelled out in detail. Write down all responses and action items. Be prepared to do any legwork for him that you can (document searches, brief preparations, etc.). Use his time wisely. The meter is ticking all the while you are sitting in meetings with him or consulting on the phone. And remember two things: he works for you so be demanding; and he will not (nor shouldn’t) make decisions for you you must make them yourself with his guidance.
9. Start and maintain in chronological order a comprehensive and well-organized file of ALL documents, memos, letters, briefings, affidavits pertinent to your case. Your file is critical for referring to past actions, issues, details. Take all relevant files with you for meetings with your lawyer; and take the originals plus a second set of all relevant files with you to court appearances as back up in case your lawyer does not have the appropriate ones with him.
10. Court actions. Don’t even THINK about going to court without a lawyer. In most cases, judges will just laugh and scoff at you literally and tell you to get representation. If you persist in forcing them to allow you to represent yourself, her lawyer and the judge will take you apart. Consult with and rely on your lawyer for the timing and the appropriateness of court actions. It may be in your best interests to get to court first with a petition or motion (to be the “petitioner”); or the other side may move quickly and make you the “respondent” to a court action. Your lawyer should know what strategies are best. Assist him as much as you can with written briefs for the affidavits, financial statements, etc. he will prepare on your behalf.
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