A week in family law: Caseloads, mediation and grandparents’ rights

A week in family law

The latest figures for care applications and private law demand, for November 2018, have been published by Cafcass. In that month the service received a total of 1,214 new care applications, 1.2 per cent less than November 2017. The total number of new public law cases during the current year (since April 2018) is running at just under 2 per cent lower than last year. As to private law demand, Cafcass received a total of 4,111 new private law cases, which is 9.1% higher than November 2017. The total number of new private law cases during the current year (since April 2018) is running at nearly 3 per cent higher than last year. So the pattern seems to be becoming clearer: modest decreases in public law cases, but modest increases in private law cases.

Still on the subject of statistics, the latest ones for legal aid, for the quarter July to September 2018, have been published by the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Aid Agency. Amongst other things, the statistics showed that Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (‘MIAM’) volumes were 5% lower than in the same quarter of 2017, and that mediation starts decreased by 3%, and are now running at just under half the levels they were at prior to legal aid being abolished for most private law family matters in 2013. A stunning success for the government’s policy to fill the void left by abolishing legal aid with more cases being settled by mediation. Of course, as has been pointed out many times, the main reason for fewer mediations is that solicitors used to ‘direct’ many cases into mediation, but were taken ‘out of the loop’ by the abolition of legal aid. Perhaps that fact might encourage the government to restore legal aid for early advice, when it finally gets round to finishing its legal aid review in the New Year.

Perhaps the most notable thing shown by the legal aid statistics with regard to family matters, however, is the ‘bottom line’, i.e. the total expenditure during the period. The statistics show that the total family law legal aid expenditure during the quarter was some £138 million, with public law work accounting for some £116 million, and private law work some £22 million. These figures demonstrate just how little (comparatively) is now spent on legal aid for private law family matters. More importantly, however, they show just how costly public law legal aid is, an indication of the scale of the problem of children needing protection in this country.

Moving on, it has been reported that grandparents (and aunts and uncles) may get more ‘access’ rights, under plans being considered by the government. Leaving aside the fact that the term ’access’ was replaced by the term ‘contact’ nearly thirty years ago, the story is that Justice Minister Lucy Frazer QC has agreed to look at the rules allowing grandchildren to maintain contact with grandparents after parental separation, following pressure from MPs and campaigning groups. Specifically, campaigners seem to want two changes: a presumption in favour of contact between the child and its close relatives, and the removal of the requirement for such relatives to have to obtain the leave of the court before they can apply for a child arrangements (i.e. contact) order. As to the former, a presumption didn’t make any real difference when it was introduced in relation to parents (it was never going to), and it won’t make any real difference in relation the grandparents/aunts/uncles. As to the latter, is this even news? I seem to recall this being raised a while back. Whatever, the ‘leave’ stage is really little more than a formality in most grandparent contact cases, so again I can’t see that removing it will make much difference.

And finally, yet more statistics for your delectation. Or perhaps not. Experimental statistics on cases processed under the 2012 statutory child maintenance scheme administered by the Child Maintenance Service, between August 2013 and September 2018, have been published, courtesy of the Department for Work and Pensions. I was going to make some pithy comment upon the statistics, but the bacchanalian delights of the holiday season beckon, so I will leave it to you to read them yourself if you so wish, here.

Have a great Xmas and New Year break.

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Author: John Bolch

What does EastEnders tell us about divorce and Christmas?

Let’s be honest, there is no such thing as a merry Christmas in EastEnders with the Christmas Day episode now famous for its dramatic events from tragic deaths to murders to illicit affairs.

But when a recent poll placed the Max and Stacey’s affair reveal from 2007 as the most shocking soap Christmas moment it highlighted that most of them are based on family and relationships dramas.

The Den & Angie divorce

Back in 1986, approximately 30.1 million viewers tuned in on Christmas Day to watch Den serve Angie divorce papers, sealing its position as one of the most popular and shocking soap moments.

Taking place next to the crisp boxes in the Queen Vic, Den informs Angie that he has a letter from his solicitor saying he has filed a petition for divorce and that she needs to get one herself, quickly. Well, at least he gave some good advice.

Possibly served on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, Angie had feigned a terminal illness to keep the marriage going but had revealed all in a drunken conversation on the Orient Express that Den overheard.

So, can you file for a divorce using this as a reason? Specialist family lawyer, Sarah Jane Lenihan from our London Victoria office explains:

In order to file for a divorce in England you need to prove to the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down which has to be based on one of five facts:

Adultery
Behaviour of such a nature that you cannot be expected to live with them
Desertion
2 years separation with consent
5 years separation

If Den had been my client I would have advised him that we could file a divorce based on her behaviour if he felt he could no longer live with her. If not, he would need to wait for two years and even then, it would require Angie’s consent

I would draft a petition for Den including how Angie’s behaviour has impacted him. I often see dishonesty  as a key factor in behaviour petitions whether it is like Angie being dishonest about health/debts/where or who they are spending their time with or dishonesty around addiction whether it be drugs/alcohol or sex.

The Max & Stacey affair

Another memorable Christmas Day moment was in 2007 when the affair between Max and Stacey, who was rather awkwardly married to Max’s son Bradley at the time, was revealed.

Having been caught on camera a few months earlier, the scene somehow made it onto the wedding video which was shown to the whole family in the living room after the presents opening. By July 2009, Stacey was shown signing her divorce papers, albeit reluctantly.

Fast forward to early 2018 and Stacey has been thrown out of her home and in a custody battle with her husband Martin over their three children after she has another short affair with Max on Christmas Eve.

This Christmas, Stacey has been reunited with Martin, but the marriage is struggling with Martin recently declaring “I want a divorce…”

Sarah Jane explains:

It is likely that Bradley issued his divorce based on Stacey’s adultery. However, this would have required Stacey’s to admit the adultery or Bradley to be able to prove it. Without either of these, Bradley would have had to consider issuing a petition on her unreasonable behaviour.

However, I often find that adultery may not have been the root cause of the marriage breaking down, adulterous relationships don’t usually begin within happy marriages. When I first meet a client, I take details of their breakup and the reasons why to assist me in providing the most appropriate approach for that individual, considering all the circumstances of the case.

I am frequently asked by clients, does adultery have any impact on your settlement or spending time with the children?

The answer to this is specific to each case however generally an act of adultery itself would not legally have an impact on either the financial outcome or the individual spending time with their children.

It can have an impact emotionally on the other party which can in turn make negotiation difficult as they feel that the other party should be ‘punished’ for their behaviour.

Relationship worries at Christmas

Christmas can easily put pressure on relationships and marriages. Dubbed Divorce Day, the first Monday in January is apparently the most popular day to start legal procedures for a divorce as marriages meltdown over the festive season.

Well, they certainly do in EastEnders….

If your relationship is struggling to survive Christmas season, the best advice is to seek early legal advice, so you know your rights from the beginning.

You can contact Sarah Jane Lenihan at the contact details below.

The post What does EastEnders tell us about divorce and Christmas? appeared first on Stowe Family Law.


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Author: Sarah Jane Lenihan

6 Ways to Feel Better About Your Money in 2019

6 Ways to Feel Better About Your Money in 2019

By Charlotte Cowles

@charlottecowles

The Cut’s financial advice columnist Charlotte Cowles answers readers’ personal questions about personal finance. Email your money conundrums to mytwocents@nymag.com

Photo: Mirrorpix via Getty Images

It’s time to throw in the towel on 2018. We tried our best, right? I, for one, got nowhere near the bar I set in 2017, when I socked away a baffling 30 percent of my income. This year, however, I was not quite so thrifty. On the upside, I’m satisfied with where my money went: I took a long trip to South America last spring, donated to great political candidates last fall, and paid some annoying but necessary medical bills last summer. But still. I’d like to get back on the wagon, or at least more disciplined.

Where to start? I know all the things I’m supposed to do — be better about automating my savings, stick to a budget, etc. — but I’m not feeling particularly inspired or motivated. Many people take a rip-off-the-Band-Aid approach to January, but I’d rather ease my way in. Plus, that’s what research says you should do: Make small, manageable behavior changes rather than a punitive overhaul. So I asked a bunch of my favorite money experts — financial planners, psychologists, investment advisers — to send me their best, most painless advice for starting fresh in the new year, regardless of how your bank account currently looks. Here’s what they said.

  1. Break up your habits, even just for a little while.

“If you normally put everything on a card, try going cash-only for a week to see how it affects your behavior,” says Amanda Clayman, an L.A.-based financial therapist. “Or, if you hate talking about money, challenge yourself to haggle down a price for something.” The point is to try something new in a playful, low-stakes way so that you can shake up your routine (or get out of your rut).

Personally, I’m toying with the idea of attempting the “envelope method”: instituting a weekly spending limit, and then dividing that amount — in cash — between envelopes labeled with the days of the week. If I want to spend more on any particular day, I have to “save up” cash from other days to cover it. I’ve already labeled the envelopes, which are sitting on my desk. Baby steps.

  1. Make yourself an inspiration board — no, really.

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This sounds so cheesy, but that’s why I love it. Dr. Brad Klontz, the co-founder of the Financial Psychology Institute and a professor at the Creighton University Heider College of Business, recommends the following steps: 1) Identify three top financial goals; 2) Get some poster board, glue, scissors, and art supplies, and make a visual representation of those goals; 3) Put the poster someplace where you’ll see it every day, like your desk or your kitchen, and/or take a photo of it and make it the wallpaper on your phone. “Last year, we studied people in five different cities who did this, and their savings rates increased by 73 percent — no joke,” says Dr. Klontz.

And even if it doesn’t work, it does sound sort of fun, right?

  1. Pair up with someone who’s equally interested in getting their act together.

I know, every annoying “How to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions” article always recommends a “buddy” to “hold you accountable.” The thing is, they’re right — especially when it comes to finances. You don’t need to enlist someone to check your bank statements and nag you about that shirt you just bought; instead, just finding a person to talk to helps destigmatize the subject more generally. And it works: According to a 2016 survey by LearnVest, 74 percent of respondents were more likely to stick to a financial resolution if they discussed it with others, says Alexa von Tobel, the CEO and founder of LearnVest and chief digital officer at Northwestern Mutual. Her recommendation: “Find a ‘money buddy’ who you’re around often — your partner, a family member, or a friend — and check-in with each other as you both move toward your goals.” Even better, find more than one. It takes a village, I say.

Also of note: You don’t need to partner up with someone who’s better with money than you. In fact, a recent study found that people with low financial skills tended to learn more and improve their money decisions if they sought advice from peers with similar levels of financial knowledge. This backs up my personal theory that it’s better to get financial advice from someone you can relate to (and is already in your life) rather than a whiz who’s ten steps ahead.

  1. Think about who else might get your money someday, and put it on paper.

It’s Thursday. Do you know where your beneficiaries are? If you’re anything like most people, you probably aren’t sure. (A beneficiary is whoever receives your retirement savings and/or life insurance policies if you die.) It’s a morbid subject, yes, but don’t underestimate how on-top-of-it you’ll sound when you call up your brother and say, “Hey, just letting you know, I’ve put down your name as my secondary 401(K) beneficiary.” It’ll also make you feel generous, in a weird way, and remind you that your money management — good or bad — always affects your loved ones.

Best of all, this process takes about two minutes (or maybe a little more if you need to track down your login information — but look, you’ve been meaning to do that too). “I always remind my clients to take the time to make sure their provider has things set up how they want,” says Pari Hashemi, a Philadelphia-based financial adviser. “Too many people forget to update that information after they get divorced, have a child, or lose a family member” — and inadvertently leave their money to an ex-spouse or no one at all.

  1. Cut out unnecessary clutter — extra credit cards, and subscriptions or memberships that you don’t use often.

“Close down any store credit cards and cut them up,” says Manisha Thakor, the VP of financial education at Brighton Jones. Yes, this may temporarily ding your credit score (closing a credit card does that, for counterintuitive reasons explained here), but it’s like cleaning out your closet — making a mess is part of the process. And the result will be worth it: “It’s best to keep your financial life simple,” explains Thakor. “Store cards in particular tend to have very high penalty interest rates if you’re the tiniest bit late on a payment. Don’t be enticed by the 10 percent off your purchases.” She recommends having one primary credit card and one as a backup — chop the rest. “Unless you are right about to buy a home or a car, it’s fine for your credit score to take a temporary dip while you clear your credit-card clutter,” she says.

While you’re at it, look at your other recurring charges — Hulu, magazines, the Tidal subscription you signed up for just to get Beyoncé’s new album — and do some weeding. You can even use online tools like Trim and ClarityMoney to ferret out “gray charges” (like those mentioned above, or that mysterious $2.99 that shows up on your bill every month for reasons you can’t remember) and help you get rid of them. There may be a cancellation fee, but like the credit-score penalty, it’s a temporary annoyance that’ll pay off in the future.

  1. Do the “Three Things” exercise to become more aware of your spending habits.

Psychologist Sarah Asebedo, who is also the president of the Financial Therapy Association, recommends the following: “For at least one week, identify three good things that happen in your life every day. Write them down, along with how you felt about them and what led to them happening.” Research has shown that this exercise boosts your overall psychological health and decreases symptoms of depression (which we can always use in the dead of winter). Then, to layer on a financial component, Asebedo advises adding three good financial things to your list as well. “We often focus too much on the negative, especially with money. Recognizing the good things, even if they’re very small — like resisting an impulse buy — matters a lot for habit development over the long-run,” she says. The objective is to train yourself to pay more attention to links between spending money and your general well-being. Touchy-feely stuff, I know, but hey — it costs nothing to try.

Parenting Apps

Co-Parenting Woes: There’s an App for That

By Darla Jackson and Jim Calloway

Ask any parent and they will likely agree that parenting is a difficult job in the best of circumstances. Co-parenting during and after a divorce, where negative feelings and miscommunication have often been the case, increases the difficulty of focusing on the interest of the children. In today’s app-filled world, you would expect there to be apps to help with clear communication, documentation and scheduling between co-parents, and there are.

This article covers six apps that can assist with co-parenting. The use of these apps may be ordered by a court.1 Sometimes family law attorneys or other professionals recommend the apps to their clients. Divorced or separated parents may locate these tools on their own.

The relationship between the parents, the technological competence of the parents, the device and platforms the apps utilize, the likelihood the parents will use the app and available budget are all factors to be considered when choosing such an app.

FEATURES
While not an all-inclusive list, some of the features of co-parenting apps are:

  1. Calendars with embedded tools to create parenting schedules, record upcoming events and make requests for trades in parenting time
  2. Expense and payment tracking tools that allow parents to communicate about parenting costs and to attach virtual receipts
  3. A banking feature that allows for transfers between parents’ banking accounts for parenting-related costs such as child support or medical expenses
  4. A feature to maintain a record of vital family information that both parents and caregivers have access to, such as medical insurance, medication, Social Security numbers, etc.
  5. A message board or message feature where important topics can be discussed
  6. An accountability tool that dates and timestamps all messages sent as well as the date and time when those messages were viewed2

APPS
We focus on six apps. There are others and, many of the others are discussed in the articles and blogs referenced.

OurFamilyWizard

OurFamilyWizard (OFW) is perhaps one of the most often recommended3 co-parenting apps. One attorney-authored blog about the app differentiates OFW from other similar apps, indicating that “[w]hile some co-parent communication tools only facilitate messaging, the OurFamilyWizard website offers a full suite of tools to help parents create parenting schedules, log expenses, send reimbursements, and share important family information.”4 One of the more unique features offered by OFW is its ToneMeter. The ToneMeter, sometimes referred to as an “emotional spellchecker,” will “identify and flag emotionally charged sentences within your OurFamilyWizard message. As intuitive as grammar or spell-check, ToneMeter goes beyond sentiment to gauge words and phrases against eight levels of connotative feeling, allowing the end user to make real-time corrections and adjust the overall tone of messages.”5 However, ToneMeter is currently available only for communications in English.

OFW is also favored by some attorneys because it “makes it easy for professionals to work with clients. OFW Family Law Practitioner provides a way to oversee parent activity and access court-ready reports at no cost.”6 Yet, while OFW is “one of the oldest and most established of the co-parenting apps [that] … has been developing and refining their program for the last 15 years”7 it received only a 2.2 average rating in the App Store. One attorney has suggested that although he recommended OFW for several years, in part, because of the cost, he has had few clients use the app and had received no feedback from those who did.8

The cost of OFW depends on the period of subscription and the package selected. The basic subscription is $99 per year for each parent.9 A professional account is free. As described by OFW, the “professional account gives you the ability to create parent accounts, manage a database of your clients, store important client documents online (judgment and decree, court orders, etc.), communicate with your clients, create client to do lists, and much more. This account gives you the ability to see what is actually going on in your cases. All of the information is directly tied to the parent accounts that you create.”10

If you already use a practice management solution with a client portal feature, you can share documents, events and information with your client. However, a practice management solution will not facilitate communications between co-parents. For attorneys wanting to offer the app as part of the legal services provided, OFW offers volume discounts which may represent significant savings depending on the number of subscriptions purchased. For example, for a firm that provides accounts to 20 clients the package pricing is $240 less than 20 individually priced accounts.11

2Houses

2Houses has been described as “on par with Our Family Wizard and slightly less expensive.”12 2Houses offers a calendar to organize events, share information about appointments, a journal to record notes and important reminders and an expense module to manage child-related expenses for both parents.13 One of the features of 2Houses users appreciate is the ability to upload and export photo albums.

Even though it has many features, the app is described as “very user friendly, organized, and intuitive.”14The cost of 2Houses is $10 per month or $120 per year for a family, regardless of the number of family members.

AppClose

AppClose is described on one law firm blog as:

It turned out to be my top choice … First, it’s free. Second, it’s very user friendly and has most of the features to address common parenting disputes. It keeps track of messages and shows you the latest when you open the app. The shared calendar provides schedule templates, with descriptions like “Alternating weeks” and an explanation of how that schedule is followed. Parents can use a template with specified days/times and apply it to one or more children, or have the option to customize the entire parenting time schedule. Parents have the ability to create events, notify family members, and create reminders. Parents can request a parenting time trade or drop off/pick up change in the app. The reimbursement request has an option to attach an image and allows parents to keep track of their share of the expense and payments that are made.

This app includes a place to keep important, detailed information about each child, but parents will need to do some customization when it comes to organizing that information. I found this app easy to navigate and fairly intuitive after getting accustomed to it. This would be the best alternative to the subscription services … Also, this app, available at appclose.com, has a separate side for attorneys to communicate with clients and accept electronic payments.”15

AppClose is a free download from the App Store or Google Play. Additionally, as suggested previously, AppClose integrates with LawPay to allow electronic payments.16

Kidganizer

Kidganizer is suggested as “great for a couple who find it difficult to get together, either because of divorce, [difficulty communicating well face to face], or time constraints”17 or if you “have a number of people involved in the care of your children and need a central point for communication and record keeping.”18 The app provides parents with the ability to create profiles for each child and input information including scheduling and finances. Updates to the system are in real time, allowing all users of the system to have access to current information.

The cost of Kidganizer is $1.99, but the app is not available for all platforms.

CustodyJunction.com

CustodyJunction.com is designed to facilitate co-parenting arrangements both before and after the divorce. The calendar and tracking features allow parents to schedule current and future visitation and support arrangements for a significant period of time in advance (up to two years). Custody Junction also generates customized reports on topics of concern such as visitation, support payments, expenses and hours spent with a child. The customized reports can be shared with third parties, including lawyers or court-appointed professionals.19

Custody Junction is a web-based service and the service cost “is an affordable $47” for a one-year subscription.20

Talking Parents

Talking Parents is a free service described as being “designed as a secure communication system for divorced and separated parents.”21 Talking Parents primary feature is a “secure” messaging system. The system is operated so that “conversations cannot be edited or deleted, allowing for both parents to maintain a verified record of past conversations. Files can be uploaded and attached to messages as well. The system tracks when messages are sent, when parents sign in and out of the system, and when parents view each message for the first time.”22 Additionally, the system has an export feature that, for a fee, allows parents to export a transcript of past communications to a PDF file.

A standard account is available for free. Parents can upgrade to a premium account for $4.99 per month. “Premium accounts include unlimited access to PDF records; a totally ad-free experience across all devices; a 10 percent discount on printed records; and access to our new iPhone and Android apps which include new message notifications right on their mobile device. Parents can cancel Premium status anytime and their account will revert back to a Standard account.”23

SECURITY CONCERNS

The discussion of “secure” systems brings to mind a caution regarding app security. While an in-depth discussion regarding the security measures included in these types of apps is beyond the scope of this article, before ordering, recommending or adopting an app, one should inquire about the security measures employed to protect the information and carefully review the terms of service. Although Talking Parents emphasizes that the app provides a “secure” environment, its terms of service does not address encryption or legal requirements for systems containing medical records. Rather, the terms of service contain the following language:

TalkingParents.com will attempt at all times to keep your information confidential, subject to the other provisions of these Terms …. Any breach of our security measures will be the sole responsibility of the breaching party and TalkingParents.com will not be subject to any sort of liability as a result. In the event of a security breach, TalkingParents.com will make every reasonable attempt to re-secure our services and will provide an explanation of the breach upon written request.24

It should also be noted that we did not test drive all of these apps. An extensive test drive of all features would be required before recommending the app to clients. At some point a client will ask the lawyer about some function of the app and the response of “I don’t know how to use the app” will not endear the lawyer to the client who had to learn how to use it.

CONCLUSION
There are numerous apps and online resources to assist with the woes of divorcing parents and their attorneys. While tools like client portals may help with communications between clients and attorneys, these tools facilitate more neutral communications between co-parents, reducing the temptation to use their children to carry important communications.

Divorcing and divorced parents are becoming more familiar with these tools and some family law attorneys are promoting and using them as evidenced by the number of reviews and blog posts we have cited. Lawyers with technology skills might develop their own tools, integrate existing resources with their practice management systems25 or suggest use of other communication resources, such as Facetime and Google Calendar.26

Lawyers who practice family law appreciate that the pain, both financial and emotional, of divorce often impairs parents’ ability to communicate and objectively consider what is in the best interests of the children. Knowing that communications are tracked and recorded should improve appropriate communication. Perhaps being “forced by the lawyers to use this app” will be the starting point for other types of cooperation. Cooperation and effective communication will help parents make the decisions about the care of their children and will likely make the work of attorneys and judges easier as well.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jim Calloway is the director of the OBA Management Assistance Program and manages the OBA Solo & Small Firm Conference. He served as the chair of the 2005 ABA TECHSHOW board. His Law Practice Tips blog and Digital Edge podcast cover technology and management issues. He speaks frequently on law office management, legal technology, ethics and business operations.

Darla Jackson is the OBA practice management advisor. She earned her J.D. from the OU College of Law. She also holds a Masters of Library Science from OU and an LL.M. in international law from the University of Georgia School of Law. She has practiced as an Air Force judge advocate and served as a law library director at the University of South Dakota School of Law.

  1. “We have already seen technology assisting judges in family law cases. Parents have been ordered to provide Skype or Facetime to children so they can communicate with the other parent. They have also been ordered to use apps like “Our Family Wizard” to track parenting time, reduce divorce conflict and remove the “he said/she said” that keeps families returning to court over custody and coparenting issues.” Sharon D. Nelson & John W. Simek, Through a Glass, Darkly, 74 Or. St. B. Bull. 62 (2013-2014). Two apps, OFW and Talking Parents, even provides language that parties may suggest in preparing orders for courts. The OFW suggested language includes the following: “All parents entries shall be viewable via a Professional Account to both parties’ attorney(s) of record and the (Judge / Commissioner / Minor’sCounsel/ Parent Coordinator/ Special Masters /GAL ) assigned.” Our Family Wizard, Common Order Language. www.ourfamilywizard.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/Model_Language8.13.pdf. See also Talking Parents, Court Enforcementwww.talkingparents.com/court-enforcement.
  2. This list of possible features is summarized from Lisa Brick, A Must Have App to Co-Parent with Ease, Huff Post Blog (Aug. 30, 2016 05:34 pm ET, Updated Aug. 31, 2017), www.huffingtonpost.com/karen-mcmahon/a-must-have-app-to-copare_b_11549114.html.
  3. Natalie R. Kelly and Michael Monahan, Legal Tech Tips, Ga. B.J. 46, Oct. 2017, at 46, digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/publication/?i=441814#{“issue_id”: 441814,”page”:48}. recommends OFW as one of three coparenting apps. LawInfo, Co-Parent App Helps Manage Kids’ Lives, LawInfo Blog (May 3, 2017), blog.lawinfo.com/2017/05/03/co-parent-app-helps-manage-kids-lives/, also list OFW as an app to help with coparenting.
  4. John Harding, Our Family Wizard, Family Law Lawyer Tech & Practice (Jan. 20, 2017). familylawyertech.blogspot.com/2017/01/our-family-wizard.html.
  5. Our Family Wizard, Frequently Asked Questions – ToneMeter, Your Emotional Spell-Checkwww.ourfamilywizard.com/help/tonemeter-your-emotional-spell-check.
  6. Id.
  7. Lisa Brick, A Must Have App to Co-Parent with Ease, supranote 2.
  8. Seif & McNamee, Getting the Most Out of Co-Parenting Technology, Seif & McNamee Blog (Mar. 29, 2017), law-oh.com/2017/03/29/getting-the-most-out-of-co-parenting-technology/.
  9. Our Family Wizard, Plans and Pricingwww.ourfamilywizard.com/plans-and-pricing(last visited Jan. 9, 2018).
  10. Id.
  11. Id.
  12. Seif & McNamee, Getting the Most Out of Co-Parenting Technology, supranote 8.
  13. Id.
  14. Id.
  15. Id.
  16. LawPay, AppCloselawpay.com/appclose/(last visited Jan. 9, 2018).
  17. CoParents.comThree Useful Co-Parenting Apps, CoParents.com Blog (Feb. 2, 2016), www.coparents.com/blog/three-useful-co-parenting-apps/.
  18. Lucy Good, 5 Apps for Calm and Controlled Co-Parenting, Beanstalk (Feb. 7, 2016, updated on Sept.9, 2017), beanstalkmums.com.au/co-parenting-apps-for-calm-and-controlled-parenting/(last visited Jan. 9, 2018).
  19. Tracey Dowdy, Apps to Help with Co-Parenting, TheOnlineMom (www.theonlinemom.com/apps-help-co-parenting/(last visited Jan. 9. 2018).
  20. CustodyJunction, Pricingwww.custodyjunction.com/pricing.shtml(last visited Jan. 9, 2018).
  21. Grant Toeppen and Lora Grevious, Co-Parenting Apps and Online Resources, Toeppen & Grevious (Jan. 13, 2016), grantandlora.com/co-parenting-apps-and-online-resources/.
  22. Id.
  23. Talking Parents, How it Workswww.talkingparents.com/how-it-works(last visited Jan. 9, 2018).
  24. Talking Parents, Terms of Service, Talking Parents (Sept. 15, 2017), www.talkingparents.com/terms-of-service.
  25. Yet there are security concerns that need to be addressed when resources are integrated or linked. Juliana Hoyt, Getting Up to Speed: Tech Savvy Tips for ADR Professionals – A Mile Wide, Inch Deep Review of Online Resources for Your Business, Vermont B.J. (Fall 2010), at 45, www.riverstoneresolutions.com/files/ADR%20Getting%20Up%20To%20Speed%20Tech%20Savvy%20Tips%20for%20ADR%20Professionals%20Hoyt.pdf(web-based version does not reflect pagination of print original).
  26. Brandie Weikle, Divorced Parenting in the 21st Century — There’s an App for That, TheStar.com (Mar. 24, 2016), www.thestar.com/life/2016/03/24/divorced-parenting-in-the-21st-century-theres-an-app-for-that.html, suggests the use of Google Calendar, and Damien McKinney, Co-Parenting In The Digital Age, www.themckinneylawgroup.com/co-parenting-digital-age/, addresses the use of Facebook.

 

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal — OBJ 89 pg. 28 (March 2018)

Don’t forget!

The Spacing Effect: How to Improve Learning and Maximize Retention

Reading Time: 12 minutes

We are not taught how to learn in school, we are taught how to pass tests. The spacing effect is a far more effective way to learn and retain information that works with our brain instead of against it. Find out how to use it here.

“Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”

— Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge

The most important metaskill you can learn is how to learn. Learning allows you to adapt. As Darwin hinted, it’s not the strongest who survives. It’s the one who easily adapts to a changing environment. Learning how to learn is a part of a “work smarter, not harder” approach to life—one that probabilistically helps you avoid becoming irrelevant. Your time is precious, and you don’t want to waste it on something which will just be forgotten.

During the school years, most of us got used to spending hours at a time memorizing facts, equations, the names of the elements, French verbs, dates of key historical events. We found ourselves frantically cramming the night before a test. We probably read through our notes over and over, a gallon of coffee in hand, in the hope that the information would somehow lodge in our brains. Once the test was over, we doubtless forgot everything straight away.1

Even outside of formal education, we have to learn large amounts of new information on a regular basis: foreign languages, technical terms, sale scripts, speeches, the names of coworkers. Learning through rote memorization is tedious and—more important—ineffective. If we want to remember something, we need to work with our brains, not against them. To do that, we need to understand cognitive constraints and find intelligent ways to get around them or use them to our advantage.

This is where the spacing effect comes in. It’s a wildly useful phenomenon: we are better able to recall information and concepts if we learn them in multiple, spread-out sessions. We can leverage this effect by using spaced repetition to slowly learn almost anything.

It works for words, numbers, images, and skills. It works for anyone of any age, from babies to elderly people. It works for animals, even species as simple as sea slugs. The effect cuts across disciplines and can be used to learn anything from artistic styles to mathematical equations.

Spaced repetition might not have the immediacy of cramming or the adrenaline rush of a manic all-nighter. But the information we learn from it can last a lifetime and tends to be effectively retained. In some ways, the spacing effect is a cognitive limitation, yet a useful one—if we are aware of it.

In Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language and Never Forget It, Gabriel Wyner writes:

Spaced repetition…[is] extraordinarily efficient. In a four-month period, practising for 30 minutes a day, you can expect to learn and retain 3600 flashcards with 90 to 95 percent accuracy. These flashcards can teach you an alphabet, vocabulary, grammar, and even pronunciation. And they can do it without becoming tedious because they’re always challenging enough to remain interesting and fun.

In Mindhacker, Ron and Marty Hale-Evans explore further:

Our memory is simultaneously magnificent and pathetic. It is capable of incredible feats, yet it never works quite like we wish it would. Ideally, we would be able to remember everything instantly, but we are not computers. We hack our memory with tools like memory palaces, but such techniques required effort and dedication. Most of us give up, and outsource our memory to smartphones, cloud enabled computers, or plain old pen and paper. There is a compromise…a learning technique called spaced repetition which efficiently organizes information or memorization and retention can be used to achieve near perfect recall.

“If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.”

— Edgar Allan Poe, Marginalia

The Discovery of The Spacing Effect

Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909), a German psychologist and pioneer of quantitative memory research, first identified the spacing effect. After earning his PhD in Germany, he traveled to London. Like so many people, he found his life forever changed by a book.

The work in question was Elements of Psychophysics by the pioneering experimental psychologist Gustav Fechner. Inspired by this book, Ebbinghaus began the research into memory that would consume his career and impact all of us.

Ebbinghaus took up his new field of study with the unbridled zest of a newcomer. He didn’t believe strongly in the prevailing understanding of memory at the time. In his wish to avoid getting bogged down in theory, he made everything about experimentation. As researcher and the sole subject of his experiments, he faced an uphill battle.

His most important findings were in the areas of forgetting and learning curves. These are graphical representations of the process of learning and forgetting. The forgetting curve shows how a memory of new information decays in the brain,2 with the fastest drop occurring after 20 minutes and the curve leveling off after a day.

There is a way to slow down the process of forgetting. We need only to recall or revisit the information after we originally come across it. Going over the information later, at intervals, helps us remember a greater percentage of the material. Persistence will allow us to recall with 100% accuracy all that we want to remember.

The learning curve is the inverse. It illustrates the rate at which we learn new information.

When we use spaced repetition, the forgetting curve changes:

Frequency matters. Under normal conditions, frequent repetitions aid memory. We know this intuitively. Just try to memorize this article on a single repetition. However much attention, focus, or individual ability you have, it won’t work.

Memory mastery comes from repeated exposure to the material. Ebbinghaus observes, “Left to itself every mental content gradually loses its capacity for being revived, or at least suffers loss in this regard under the influence of time.” Cramming is not an effective memorization strategy. Lacking the robustness developed in later sessions, crammed facts soon vanish. Even something as important and frequently used as language can decay if not put into use.

There are other ways to improve memory. Intensity of emotion matters, as does the intensity of attention. Ebbinghaus notes in his definitive work on the subject, Memory and Forgetting:

Very great is the dependence of retention and reproduction upon the intensity of the attention and interest which were attached to the mental states the first time they were present. The burnt child shuns the fire, and the dog which has been beaten runs from the whip, after a single vivid experience. People in whom we are interested we may see daily and yet not be able to recall the colour of their hair or of their eyes…Our information comes almost exclusively from the observation of extreme and especially striking cases.

Ebbinghaus also uncovered something extraordinary: even when we appear to have forgotten information, a certain quantity is stored in our subconscious minds. He referred to these memories as savings. While they cannot be consciously retrieved, they speed up the process of relearning the same information later on.

A poem is learned by heart and then not again repeated. We will suppose that after a half year it has been forgotten: no effort of recollection is able to call it back again into consciousness. At best only isolated fragments return. Suppose that the poem is again learned by heart. It then becomes evident that, although to all appearances totally forgotten, it still in a certain sense exists and in a way to be effective. The second learning requires noticeably less time or a noticeably smaller number of repetitions than the first. It also requires less time or repetitions than would now be necessary to learn a similar poem of the same length.

As the first researcher to undertake serious experimentation on memory and why we forget, Ebbinghaus transformed psychology as a new branch of science. His impact has been compared to that of Aristotle. Ongoing research into the spacing effect continues to support Ebbinghaus’s findings.

“There is no such thing as memorizing. We can think, we can repeat, we can recall and we can imagine, but we aren’t built to memorize. Rather our brains are designed to think and automatically hold onto what’s important. While running away from our friendly neighborhood tiger, we don’t think “You need to remember this! Tigers are bad! Don’t forget! They’re bad!” We simply run away, and our brain remembers for us.”

— Gabriel Wyner, Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language and Never Forget It

How the Spacing Effect Works

Let’s take a quick refresher on what we know about how memory in works, because it’s not what we think.

Memories are not located in any one part of the brain. Memories are formed in a process which involves the entire brain. If you think about your favorite book, different parts of your brain will have encoded the look of it, the storyline, the emotions it made you feel, the smell of the pages, and so on. Memories are constructed from disparate components which create a logical whole. As you think about that book, a web of neural patterns pieces together a previously encoded image. Our brains are not like computers – we can’t just ‘tell’ ourselves to remember something.

In Mastery, Robert Greene explains:

In the end, an entire network of neurons is developed to remember this single task, which accounts for the fact we can still ride a bicycle years after we first learned how to do so. If we were to take a look at the frontal cortex of those who have mastered something through repetition, it would be remarkable still and inactive as they performed the skill. All their brain activity is occurring in areas that are lower down and required much less conscious control…People who do not practice and learn new skills can never gain a proper sense of proportion or self-criticism. They think they can achieve anything without effort and have little contact with reality. Trying something over and over again grounds you in reality, making you deeply aware of your inadequacies and of what you can accomplish with more work and effort.

No definitive answer has been found to explain how the spacing effect works. However, a number of factors are believed to help:

Forgetting and learning are, in a counterintuitive twist, linked. When we review close to the point of nearly forgetting, our brains reinforce the memory as well as add new details. This is one reason practice papers and teaching other people are the most effective ways for students to revise—they highlight what has been forgotten.

Retrieving memories changes the way they are later encoded. In essence, the harder something is to remember now, the better we will recall it in the future. The more we strain, which is painful mental labor, the easier it will be in the future. There is no learning without pain. Recall is more important than recognition. This explains why practice tests are a better way to learn than opening your text and re-reading your highlights.

Our brains assign greater importance to repeated information. This makes sense; information we encounter on a regular basis does tend to be more important than that which we only come across once. Disregarding any forms of mental impairment, we don’t have trouble recalling the information we need on a daily basis. Our PIN, our own telephone number, the directions to work, and names of coworkers, for example. We might once have struggled to remember them, but after accessing those sorts of information hundreds or thousands of time, recall becomes effortless.

Some researchers also believe that semantic priming is a factor. This refers to the associations we form between words which make them easier to recall. So, the sentence ‘the doctor and the nurse walked through the hospital’ is easier to remember than ‘the doctor and the artist walked through the supermarket’ because the words ‘doctor’ ‘nurse’ and ‘hospital’ are linked. If you are asked to remember a logical sentence such as ‘mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell’, it’s not too difficult. If those same words are scrambled and become ‘cell the house mitochondria power is of’ it’s a lot harder to remember. And if those words are broken up into nonsensical syllables – ‘th ell ce he ous hon mit odria fi of’ – retaining them would become arduous. But some researchers have theorised that repetition over time primes us to connect information. So, if you revised ‘th ell ce he ous hon mit odria fi of’ enough times, you would start to connect ‘th’ and ‘ell.’ We can demonstrate semantic priming by telling a friend to say ‘silk’ ten times, then asking them what a cow drinks. They will almost certainly say ‘milk.’ The answer is, of course, water.

Yet another theory is that of deficient processing. Some literature points to the possibility that spaced repetition is not in itself especially efficient, but that massed learning is just very inefficient. By comparison, spaced repetition seems special when it is, in fact, a reflection of our true capabilities. Researchers posit that massed learning is redundant because we lose interest as we study information and retain less and less over time. Closely spaced repetition sessions leverage our initial interest before our focus wanes.

With properly spaced repetition, you increase the intervals of time between learning attempts. Each learning attempt reinforces the neural connections. For example, we learn a list better if we repeatedly study it over a period of time than if we tackle it in one single burst. We’re actually more efficient this way. Spaced sessions allow us to invest less total time to memorize than one single session, whereas we might get bored while going over the same material again and again in a single session. Of course, when we’re bored we pay less and less attention.3

In Focused Determination, the authors explain why variety also contributes to deficient processing.

There is also minimal variation in the way the material is presented to the brain when it is repeatedly visited over a short time. This tends to decrease our learning. In contrast, when repetition learning takes place over a longer period, it is more likely that the materials are presented differently. We have to retrieve the previously learned information from memory and hence reinforce it. All of this leads us to become more interested in the content and therefore more receptive to learning it.

“How do you remember better? Repeated exposure to information in specifically timed intervals provides the most powerful way to fix memory into the brain. …Deliberately re-expose yourself to the information more elaborately, and in fixed, spaced intervals, if you want the retrieval to be the most vivid it can be. Learning occurs best when new information is incorporated gradually into the memory store rather than when it is jammed in all at once.”

— John Medina, Brain Rules

Taking Advantage of the Spacing Effect

We don’t learn about spaced repetition in school—something which baffles many researchers. Most classes teach a single topic per session, then don’t repeat it until the test.

Going over a topic once teaches very little—sometimes nothing at all, if the teacher is unengaging or the class is too long. Most teachers expect their students to take care of the memorizing part themselves. As a result, many of us develop bad learning habits like cramming to cope with the demands of our classes.

We need to break up with cramming and focus on what actually works: spaced repetition.

The difficulty of spaced repetition is not effort but that it requires forward planning and a small investment of time to set up a system. But in the long run, it saves us time as we retain information and spend less total time learning.

A typical spaced repetition system includes these key components:

  • A schedule for review of information. Typical systems involve going over information after an hour, then a day, then every other day, then weekly, then fortnightly, then monthly, then every six months, then yearly. Guess correctly and the information moves to the next level and is reviewed less often. Guess incorrectly and it moves down a level and is reviewed more often.
  • A means of storing and organizing information. Flashcards or spaced repetition software (such as Anki and SuperMemo) are the most common options. Software has the obvious advantage of requiring little effort to maintain, and of having an inbuilt repetition schedule. Anecdotal evidence suggests that writing information out on flashcards contributes to the learning process.
  • A metric for tracking progress. Spaced repetition systems work best if they include built-in positive reinforcement. This is why learning programs like Duolingo and Memrise incorporate a points system, daily goals, leaderboards and so on. Tracking progress gives us a sense of progression and improvement.
  • A set duration for review sessions. If we practice for too long, our attention wanes and we retain decreasing amounts of information. Likewise, a session needs to be long enough to ensure focused immersion. A typical recommendation is no more than 30 minutes, with a break before any other review sessions.

The spacing effect is a perfect example of how much more effective we can be if we understand how our minds work, and use them in an optimal way. All you need to learn something for life are flashcards and a schedule. Then, of course, you’re free to move on to actually applying and using what you’ve learned. Tagged: Gabriel Wyner, Gustav Fechner, Hermann Ebbinghaus, Memory, Robert Greene

Footnotes
  • 1 When is the last time you used a2+ b2= c2 in real life?
  • 2 This is different than the half-life of knowledge, the process by which information in memory becomes less valuable because your understanding of the world has changed.
  • 3 You can test this by asking yourself what your last meeting yesterday was about.

Source: https://fs.blog/2018/12/spacing-effect/

New DHS Child Support Calculator

DHS/Child Support Services is pleased to announce that the online child support guidelines calculator is now available on our website. This calculator will allow you to calculate child support pursuant to the Oklahoma Child Support Guidelines. In addition to calculating the guidelines, this calculator now will allow you to print a computation form to attach to your orders and decrees using the “Print” function of your web browser.
The guidelines can be found on CSS’s Attorneys & Judges page on the “CS Guidelines” tab, or by clicking here: http://www.okdhs.org/services/ocss/pages/computation.aspx

What’s the Right Age for a Child to Get a Smartphone?

NOT long ago, many parents wondered at what age they should give their child full access to the car keys. Nowadays, parents face a trickier question: At what age should a child own a smartphone?

The smartphone, after all, is the key to unfettered access to the internet and the many benefits and dangers that come with it. But unlike driving a car, which is legal in some states starting at the age of 16, there is no legal guideline for a parent to determine when a child may be ready for a smartphone.

The topic is being increasingly debated as children get smartphones at an ever younger age. On average, children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central, down from age 12 in 2012. For some children, smartphone ownership starts even sooner — including second graders as young as 7, according to internet safety experts.

“I think that age is going to trend even younger, because parents are getting tired of handing their smartphones to their kids,” said Stacy DeBroff, chief executive of Influence Central.

The downward age creep is meeting resistance. James P. Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that reviews content and products for families, has a strict rule for his family: His children get a smartphone only when they start high school — after they have learned restraint and the value of face-to-face communication.

But Mr. Steyer added that other parents might decide that their children are ready sooner. “No two kids are the same, and there’s no magic number,” he said. “A kid’s age is not as important as his or her own responsibility or maturity level.”

So how do you determine the right time? To come up with some guidelines, I interviewed internet safety experts and combed through studies on smartphone use among children. I also asked for parents’ advice on regulating smartphone use and keeping children safe.

The takeaway will not please smartphone makers: The longer you wait to give your children a smartphone, the better. Some experts said 12 was the ideal age, while others said 14. All agreed later was safer because smartphones can be addictive distractions that detract from schoolwork while exposing children to issues like online bullies, child predators or sexting.

“The longer you keep Pandora’s box shut, the better off you are,” said Jesse Weinberger, an internet safety speaker based in Ohio who gives presentations to parents, schools and law enforcement officials. “There’s no connection to the dark side without the device.”

The Research

Let’s start with some of the data. Ms. Weinberger, who wrote the smartphone and internet safety book “The Boogeyman Exists: And He’s in Your Child’s Back Pocket,” said she had surveyed 70,000 children in the last 18 months and found that, on average, sexting began in the fifth grade, pornography consumption began when children turned 8, and pornography addiction began around age 11.

In a separate study published this year, Common Sense Media polled 1,240 parents and children and found 50 percent of the children admitted that they were addicted to their smartphones. It also found that 66 percent of parents felt their children used mobile devices too much, and 52 percent of children agreed. About 36 percent of parents said they argued with their children daily about device use.

There is also biology to consider. The prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that controls impulse, finishes developing in the mid-20s. In other words, parents should not be surprised if younger children with smartphones lack impulse control.

Pros and Cons

Smartphones undoubtedly bring benefits. With the devices, children gain access to powerful apps, including education tools for studying, chat apps for connecting with friends and the wealth of information on the web.

But they also are one step closer to distracting games, sexting apps and social media apps where online bullies are on the prowl. Even older children are not immune: Last year, at least 100 students at a Colorado high school were embroiled in a scandal that involved trading naked pictures of themselves on their mobile devices.

In the end, such cons may outweigh the pros, Ms. Weinberger said. If you hold off giving smartphones to children, many still have access to technology tools through devices like computers and tablets, she added. The main difference with a smartphone is that it is with a child everywhere, including outside of parental supervision.

Teaching Responsibility

Ultimately, parents will determine when their child truly needs a smartphone. When that time comes, there are approaches for testing the waters before handing one to the child.

One popular option is to start the child off with dumbed-down mobile devices, like feature phones that can only send text messages or place phone calls, and to assess whether they can use those devices responsibly.

Lynn Muscat, a parent in San Francisco, said she had considered buying a “dumb phone” for her 10-year-old son to keep in touch while he was at summer camp. She ended up buying the LG GizmoGadget, a Verizon smartwatch that has calling and texting capabilities and a locked-down list of contacts so that her son could interact only with people she had approved.

Ms. Muscat said she did not consider buying her child a smartphone partly because she felt the device would make him a target for muggers. She also was not appreciative of how smartphones had affected other children around him.

“It drives me nuts when I see his friends on it all the time — it seems very antisocial,” Ms. Muscat said. She said she planned to use the smartwatch to teach the responsibilities of using a mobile device safely before her son eventually earns the privilege of carrying a smartphone.

When you decide that it’s time to bestow a smartphone on your child, there are ways to set limits. To help parents enforce rules consistently, Ms. Weinberger has published a family contract listing the rules of smartphone use, which includes promises never to take nude selfies and never to try to meet strangers from the internet in real life. Parents state what the consequences are for breaking the rules, and the child must sign the contract before receiving a smartphone.

Mr. Steyer of Common Sense Media said he set other limits, like no smartphones at the dinner table and no phones in the classroom. If his children break the rules, he takes their phones away.

Parental Controls

There are some phone settings that can help keep children safe when they do get smartphones.

For iPhones, Apple offers a switchboard full of features that parents can enable or disable, including the ability to restrict the Safari browser from gaining access to adult content and the ability to prevent apps from using cellular data. The iPhone’s parental controls live inside the Settings app in a menu labeled Restrictions.

Android phones lack similar built-in parental control settings, though there are many apps in the Google Play app store that let parents add restrictions. Ms. Weinberger highlighted the app Qustodio, which lets parents monitor their children’s text messages, disable apps at certain times of day or even shut off a smartphone remotely. While that can be an aggressive approach to restricting a child’s smartphone, Ms. Weinberger said her job as a parent was not to make her children like her.

“My only job as a parent is to prepare you for the day you leave,” she said. “If that’s the case, I have to keep you safe, and you’re not going to like some of the things I say — and that’s O.K.”

PreNuptial Agreements

Rachel Grate's avatar image By Rachel Grate 

Prenups: They’re not just for celebrities anymore. In fact, more of your engaged friends may be getting them than they admit. Prenuptial agreements are more popular than ever, and millennials appear to be driving the trend: In a 2013 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 63% of divorce attorneys say they’ve seen an uptick in prenups.

“Historically, most people that were getting prenups were people with substantial wealth or family money, or people who were getting married for the second time and wanted to make sure their assets were protected for the kids,” Regina DeMeo, a Washington, D.C., divorce attorney, told Mic.

“Definitely since the Great Recession around 2009 there has been a spike in prenups overall, but the big surprise is the gain in use among the millennials, who often are marrying for the first time and may not have much.”

But despite their growing popularity, there’s still a stigma around prenups. Many people think prenups aren’t romantic, or they’re exclusively used by wealthy people trying to protect their assets against shallow gold diggers. Unfortunately, that fear of judgment discourages couples who’ve signed prenups from speaking up about what they are and how they actually work.

In the spirit of clearing the air, Mic spoke with three prenup experts to find out the truth about prenups — because you can’t decide it’s right for you without understanding what it actually is first.

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Source: http://mic.com/articles/132479/here-s-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-prenups-but-were-afraid-to-ask#.jqXYq6g2L