A Journey: From nursing to foster caring to parenting to individual adoptions to family

Written on March 22, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

Senior Judge Bernard A. Friedman issued his decision after trial in DEBOER v SNYDER, Civil Action No. 12-CV-10285 (E.D. Mich. 2014). He determined that the Michigan Marriage Amendment, a 2004 voter-approved amendment to the Michigan Constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional.

The lengthy opinion summarizes the holding as follows (excerpt)[citations omitted]:
In attempting to define this case as a challenge to “the will of the people,” state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people. No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples. It is the Court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up “to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” Today’s decision is a step in that direction, and affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.
IT IS HEREBY DECLARED that Article I, § 25 of the Michigan Constitution and its implementing statutes are unconstitutional because they violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the State of Michigan is enjoined from enforcing Article I, § 25 of the Michigan Constitution and its implementing statutes.

What would you do with a $20 bill?

Written on March 8, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

CBS highlights superhero Myles Eckert, age 8.

Relationship building: Tips for difficult conversations

Written on March 5, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

Today’s Love and Logic Insiders Club e-Newsletter featured tips that apply to make difficult conversations in life. The specific context was teacher-conferences, but it noted the interpersonal applications as well.

Charles Fay excerpted some of his father Jim Fay’s advice (excerpt):
• Remember that parents who look angry and resistant are usually hurting inside.
• When we remember this, it becomes much easier to avoid becoming defensive or angry ourselves.
• The most powerful skill involves listening and allowing parents to vent about their frustrations…before sharing our ideas.
• “Tell me more.” “What would you like to see here?” or “How long have you felt this way?” are great responses to show parents how much you care…and to get them talking.
• Share your ideas only after making sure that the parent is ready. Asking, “Would you like to hear my thoughts on this?” is a good way of showing respect and testing to see if they are ready to listen.

Secrets to finding happiness in your life and relationships

Written on February 18, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

The TED Radio Hour features insights into happiness research and simpler ways of life. The “Simply Happy” episode includes:
Pharrell and his “Happy” song.
Matt Killingsworth on staying in the moment.
Carl Honoré on slowing down to enjoy life.
Graham Hill on decluttering our lives.
Psychologist Dan Gilbert on feeling happy when things don’t go as planned.
Brother David Steindl-Rast on stop-look-go moments for being grateful.

Valentine’s and Violence

Written on February 13, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

Jim Wallis poses some interesting thoughts about celebrating February 14th. He writes (excerpt):
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, our annual reminder to celebrate the love we share in our lives. While many may be struggling through aisles of candy hearts and bunches of roses, I invite you to flip this day of mandatory public expressions of love on its head.

What if, along with romantic dinners and expensive chocolates, we celebrated those we love by committing ourselves against sexual and domestic violence? This Valentine’s Day, or V-Day, Sojourners is joining with One Billion Rising to speak out on violence against women — the most hidden injustice in our world. We speak out because one in three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. That’s one in three women in my family, in my circle of friends, in my workplace — and in my church.

We speak out because we want a different reality for our daughters.

Why am I not happy? Or am happy? Or not sure? Graphic research findings

Written on February 9, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

Trent Gilliss at On Being
shares a Webpage FX infographic on “The Science of Happiness.”

Gilliss writes (excerpt):
The infographic above may not capture the details of the science, but it jogs a host of questions and insights. A few thoughts to chew on:
Married people are 10% happier than unmarried people, but having a child reduces happiness by one-quarter of 1% on average. Hmmm… doing the math (tapping finger on temple).

Considering Cosby: comedy with commentary

Written on February 2, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

CNN-HLNtv offers us a take on Bill Cosby’s “10 greatest lessons.”

Colette Bennett’s slideshow commentary includes these life lessons (excerpt):
1. Age is in your mind: “Old is always 15 years from now.”
2. Fear is all that’s stopping you: “Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.”
6. How to maintain your integrity: “If you speak your mind and if it is true what you’re saying, then I think the integrity of what you’re saying carries through.”
9. Humans are pretty darn smart: “We are not a pitiful race of people. We are a bright race, who can move with the best.”
10. The only moment is now: “The past is a ghost, the future a dream and all we ever have is now.”

Sincerity and follow-through: How to apologize

Written on January 26, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

Steven Stosny, Ph.D. helps us understand how to “[master] the art and science of apology” and shows the wonders of reconciliation–for your relationship, your core self, and your overall well-being.

Steven Stosny writes (excerpt):
Apology must:
1. Come from your heart and sympathize with the effect of your behavior on your loved one. (Focus on what it meant to your loved one, not on how you would have been affected by it.)
2. State how important your partner’s wellbeing is to you.
3. State how sorry you are that you’ve done something to hurt your loved one and/or break your connection.
4. Offer recompense: “How can I make it up to you?”
5. If the offense is recurring, describe an action-plan to prevent future repetition of the offending behavior (which violated your core value to the extent that it hurt your partner or your relationship).

Dealing with unreasonable people

Written on January 2, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

Psychology Today offers up “7 Ways to Defuse a Difficult Encounter.”

Susan Biali writes (excerpt):
Minimize time with problem people. . . .
Keep it logical. Communications should be fact-based with minimal details. . . .
Focus on them in conversation. . . .
Give up the dream that they will one day be the person you wish them to be. . . .
Avoid topics that get you into trouble. . . .
Don’t try to get them to see your point of view. . . .
Create a distraction. . . .

For your consideration: Resolutions for divorced parents who love their children

Written on January 1, 2014 by David C. Sarnacki

The Huffington Post highlights Kate Scharff’s New Year’s Resolutions for Divorced Parents in a “Dear Kids, Because we both love you” format. There are 26 statements to which parents may aspire.

Kate Scharff writes (excerpt):
. . . This year, we’ll tell you fond and funny stories about how we met, fell in love, and had you. We’ll compliment the good traits we still see in each other, and we’ll tell you how, if given the choice, we’d do it all again — because not being your parents is unimaginable.

Kids gone wild: help for overwhelmed parents

Written on December 15, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

CNN Parents addresses struggling with a child’s behavioral problems and highlights the fact that there is help out there.

Kelly Wallace includes references to advice like (excerpt):
–”help them hear about why (sneaking on a plane) wasn’t safe, why it was against the law and how other people were harmed, and then you take a look at the consequences.”
–wait for a “cooling off period” if no one’s safety is at risk before talking with their kids about the bad behavior.
–”The best consequence is not deprivation, it’s reparation . . . . As a function of what you did that you should not do, you are going to have to do some things around the place to work this off.”
–”try one thing and be consistent with it. Be calm with it. Be caring with it.”
–get counseling when “significant caring or communication or cooperation or compliance with their adolescent has been lost, and there is a need to get everyone better connected and the relationship back on track.”

Divorce, joint tax returns and the IRS

Written on December 10, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

Rhemann CPAs and Consultants show how spouses often are treated as “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” by the IRS. They explain how married couples might be jointly responsible for taxes, interest and penalties, and how a former spouse might be responsible for the past tax matters even if the divorce decree says otherwise, as well as the difference between “innocent” and “injured” spouse status.

Their newsletter includes this advice (excerpt):
Advice: Don’t count on innocent spouse relief if you know your spouse is cheating on tax returns. . . . . [T]he IRS often denies relief.

Consider filing separate tax returns — especially if you’re in the process of a divorce. It may save you a bundle in the future. For more information about your situation, consult with your tax adviser.

A passion for social justice: Michael Chielens, rest in peace

Written on November 7, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

MLive notes the passing of “one of those great people,” Michael Chielens, Executive Director of Legal Aid of Western Michigan, who died of cancer this past weekend.

Sue Thoms writes (excerpt):
“He just had a heart for the underdog and wanted to push back against systems that are just closed doors to people,” said Leslie Curry, the managing attorney for Legal Aid. “He was absolutely committed to the work.”

Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms in Grand Rapids

Written on November 1, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

The Sarnacki Law Firm PLC has been awarded a Tier 1 Ranking in the 2014 Edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ “Best Law Firms.” The firm’s founder, David C. Sarnacki, practices family law, mediation and collaborative divorce in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has been selected as one of the Best Lawyers in the three separate practice areas, spanning the full range of methods for resolving domestic relations cases:
1. Collaborative Law: Family Law [Collaborative divorce];
2. Family Law [divorce and custody litigation, negotiation and mediation advocacy]; and
3. Family Law Mediation [serving as neutral facilitative mediator].
Mr. Sarnacki is a past Chairperson of three State Bar Sections: Family Law, Litigation and Law Practice Management Section. He has been named one of the “Best Lawyers in America,” a “Michigan Super Lawyer,” and a “Leading Lawyer” in Michigan Family Law.

How long does it take to process my emotional divorce?

Written on October 12, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

Psychology Today reminds us that divorce recovery is not a one-size-fits-all. It’s a process that you journey through. And you come out on the other side when you do. The time it takes depends on a number of factors.

Susan Pease Gadoua, L.C.S.W., offers this Top Ten Do’s for Divorce Recovery list (excerpt):
1. Ask for help & let help in
2. Talk about your grief with others
3. Get as much information as you can about the divorce process
4. Face each obstacle as it arises
5. Let others know when you’re not feeling well
6. Allow your feelings to come to the surface
7. Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel
8. Accept your new reality and move on when it’s appropriate to move on (this doesn’t mean you have to like it!)
9. Have trust/faith that things will work out
10. Be willing to make mistakes (mistakes are going to happen no matter how well prepared you are – it’s just part of the process

What happens when you put down your phone?

Written on September 1, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

charstarleneTV reminds us that life happens when you put down your phone.

Best Divorce and Family Law Lawyers in Grand Rapids

Written on August 15, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

The Best Lawyers in America completed their most recent peer-review selection process, their 20th edition. The confidential survey of Michigan attorneys and judges resulted in the designation of Grand Rapids divorce attorney David C. Sarnacki as one of The Best Lawyers in America. Mr. Sarnacki was selected as one of the Best Lawyers in the three separate practice areas, spanning the full range of methods for resolving domestic relations cases:
1. Collaborative Law: Family Law [Collaborative divorce];
2. Family Law [divorce and custody litigation, negotiation and mediation advocacy]; and
3. Family Law Mediation [serving as neutral facilitative mediator].

Overwhelming mistakes: how to deal with common problems in facing divorce

Written on August 1, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

The Huffington Post includes “The 5 Worst Mistakes People Make During Divorce.” Contributor Michelle Rozen also posts her tips for making it through your divorce.

Michelle Rozen discusses her top 5 (excerpt):
Making Decisions Without Fully Understanding the Implications
Losing Control of Your Divorce
Acting Out of Anger
Settling for Less Than You Need or Deserve
And last but not least: Do not lose yourself

The story behind the facts: How to get someone to talk

Written on July 2, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

The New York Times Opinionator reminds us that what’s good for writers is good for us all. When you are “seeking the unknown — the story behind the facts,” the secret is is simple.

Lee Gutkind writes (excerpt):
This is the first lesson for writers — or anyone — who conducts interviews: If you want someone to talk, you’ve got to know how to listen. And good listening is a surprisingly active process. The interviewee is your focus of attention; you are there to hear what he says and thinks, exclusively.
This is a key point to remember. It is fine and often delightfully surprising to permit interviewees to go off on tangents — sometimes they absolutely need to tell you something, and sometimes what they tell you will be valuable material to supplement your story. But you must keep the primary narrative in mind . . . .

Kaganizing erudition: Writing the readable Supreme Court opinion

Written on July 1, 2013 by David C. Sarnacki

The New York Times recognizes Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and her writing style. The editorial notes her goal of writing so that non-lawyers can understand and her usage of techniques to enhance understanding.

Lincoln Kaplan writes (excerpt):
She is a master of the topic sentence (“A trip back in time begins to show why”) and the stylish dig (“wrong, wrong, and wrong again”). Yet what puts her in a class by herself is her combination of down-to-earth writing and the ingredients essential to influential opinions: conceptual insight, penetrating legal analysis and argumentative verve.