A review of Divorce Handbook For California" - 4th Ed.", by James W. Stewart
ISBN 1-886230-23-4. approx $37.95, 185 pg, softbound. Available from Amazon.com at this link: Divorce Handbook for California 5th Ed, or from Impact Publishers Inc, PO BOX 6016, Atascadero, CA 93423-6016, 1-800-246-7228.
Written by Judge James W. Stewart, Divorce Handbook For California is refreshingly candid. Although specifically intended to address divorce laws and procedures in California, nearly all the information in the Divorce Handbook For California could be applied to a divorce action in almost any other State. Keep in mind that while practices vary from State to State, many States are moving towards a "California style" approach to divorce, so the information may be more appropriate for your State than you might think.
In the first dozen pages, Judge Stewart gives you a frighteningly accurate picture of how most divorces actually get resolved. The primary focus of the Handbook is preventing "financial disaster", but considerable attention is also paid to making sure that the settlement you receive is fair and equitable.
Some attorneys will bristle at the brutally frank discussions of how the system operates, but others will smile as they see a judge "telling it like it is". The fact is, nearly every popular notion of divorce is dead wrong, and Judge Stewart punctures some of the most common myths like a marksman. Here are a few of the eight key myths Judge Stewart covers:
Myth - My case will ultimately go to trial before a judge who will rule on the disputes my spouse and I cannot resolve.
Myth - The judge is the person with the most influence over which of us will have primary custody of our children.
Myth - The judge who hears my case will have substantial experience in dissolution (divorce) matters.
Sad to say, people in the know will tell you that this is all true; the vast majority of cases never see the inside of a courtroom, the judge may actually be one of the least influential persons when it comes to determining custody, and the judge who hears your case may have virtually no experience in divorce cases.
Judge Stewart describes the typical progression of most divorce cases and provides some practical alternative practices that, if used, will almost certainly save you and your spouse a small fortune in legal fees. A variety of practical tips are presented, including pointers on hiring an attorney and ways to "bypass" the public court system.
One good tip, for example, concerns hiring an attorney for mediation. Judge Stewart recommends hiring the attorney and informing him at the outset that if mediation fails, another attorney will be retained for whatever may follow. (You may want to have one picked out already.) This lets the attorney know that failed mediation will not result in any further work (money) for him. There will be less reason for him to "flub" the mediation in a deliberate or unreasonable way because doing so will not benefit him financially.
At $19.95, this book is a bargain. Written in a clear, no-nonsense format, the Divorce Handbook For California is a worthwhile buy for any California resident as well as people in other States going through divorce. The Divorce Handbook For California would also make an excellent companion book to "Win Your Child Custody War", filling in a few additional topics.
Based on price (moderate) and content (very useful), we rate Divorce Handbook For California as a 4-star resource (on a scale of 1 to 5).
Available from: CHILD CUSTODY CENTER, VILLAGE PUBLISHING BUILDING, Seventy-three Valley Drive, Village of Furlong, PA, 18925. (800)553-7678 (800)633-7223 FAX (215)794-3386 or from Custody Center.Com.
The first thing you notice about the book "Psychologists Custody Strategies For Parents" is that it's not a book, it's a a 3-ring binder, just like a notebook. The 76-page single-sided manual is printed in a huge font size, about 20 pt. or so. There are also an additional 35 pages of inserts, covered later in this review. The format is intended to make it easy to digest the information in small chunks, and the large-print pages have wide margins to aid in making notes on the pages. Printed in a normal font the book would only run about 20 or 25 pages in length, but the format they've chosen works well.
The authors, Dr. Barry Bricklin and Dr. Gail Elliot cover 14 major points they feel to be of critical importance in winning a custody battle. The authors cover topics like "the importance of having the right attorney" and "how to avoid becoming obsessed with your case" with brevity and clear, common sense language. The authors have both been involved in custody issues "since the early 1960's" and have compiled their experience into this manual.
Some of the points they cover, such as "knowing what kind of evidence influences a particular judge the most" would be worth the price of admission all by themselves. These are the kinds of key points that can make all the difference in the world. There is also discussion on how to make your attorney work more effectively for you, ways to give testimony with impact and the value of being the initiator (filing first) in litigation.
(I was pleased to see that much of what they cover was also available in The Laymans Guide To Being A Good Client, a publication that was written exclusively for the SPARC site and is available nowhere else.)
The authors also warn you to treat the book like a secret weapon; don't discuss the contents with friends or anyone else. The authors caution "Do not even allow this handbook to lie around where it can be read by the wrong people." I have to agree; as with all serious weaponry, this is NOT the kind of thing you want to fall into "enemy hands".
At the end of the book are 35 pages of photocopied inserts of articles relating to custody and domestic relations. Some of the inserts, although of marginal copy-quality, are quite instructive as well.
After reading through it, I asked myself the ultimate test question: "If I had the opportunity to buy this book during my divorce, would the information in it have been worth $59.00 to me?"
The answer is an unqualified "Yes". The information could be priceless, depending on your situation. If you're in a custody battle or are going to have a custody study done, this book is well worth the money, no doubt about it.
We rate "Psychologists Custody Strategies For Parents" as a 3-star resource (on a scale of 1 to 5). Although it is a valuable guide, it is overshadowed by products such as "Win Your Child Custody War".