San Diego U-T: Divorce workshop offers needed advice

Maybe it has something to do with the icy winds blowing about, but I’ve sometimes heard that January is one of the busiest months of the year for divorce lawyers.

The holidays are over; the mood is more solemn; and perhaps people are thinking it’s time to finally take action on something they’ve been putting off for a long time. Whatever it is, the wave of divorce seems to be relentless.

Marita Ford, senior management analyst for Riverside Superior Court, said that in 2012 an average of 660 disolutions were filed every month in the county, including approximately 360 families with children.

For those who are actually thinking about divorce, there are some things you should know, according to Ginita Wall of San Diego, who advises people about the topic every day.
“The first thing is that divorce is not fair,” she said. “It’s an uphill battle for a prize that will only get you half of what you want. The other thing is, some people think of divorce as a solution and it’s not. It’s the start of a whole new set of problems that should not be taken lightly.”

For the last 25 years, Wall has partnered with Candace Bahr, also of San Diego, and several volunteers for a program that is known as “Second Saturday.” True to its name, the workshop meets for four hours on the second Saturday of every month at the San Elijo campus of MiraCosta College in Cardiff.

And from how it’s described, the focus is not so much the “how to” of divorce as much as it is “what to expect” from a legal, financial and emotional perspective.

According to Bahr, the workshop has attracted plenty of people from outside the San Diego area, including Riverside County.

“There is no other program quite like it anywhere around here,” she said. “People come from as far away as L.A. and Arizona. And that includes a lot of people from Temecula and the surrounding area.”

One of those is Elizabeth Bryan of Murrieta, who experienced a difficult divorce a few years ago and is now a volunteer at the workshop.

“We were together for 13 years and I did everything he told me to do,” Bryan said, explaining her relationship and marriage. “I knew nothing about the money because I thought it was all taken care of. And while we were living comfortably, I had no clue that we would eventually be in debt for $4 million.”

Bryan said the workshop helped her pick up the pieces from a broken family and a broken life. She has since married again and seems very happy moving forward.

Bahr and Wall indicated that money is a major concern at the workshop. The volunteers include attorneys, financial advisers and family counselors. The advice they offer in those four hours doesn’t replace the professionals in the divorce process, but it can empower someone to help minimize those bills that pile up during hourly office visits.

It also may lead people to think a little harder about going through with it at all.

“In many cases we’ve had people get an understanding of what’s involved and they’ve gone home thinking they would try harder to make their marriage work,” Bahr said.

Second Saturday is presented by a nonprofit group known as the Women’s Institute for Financial Education. The $45 fee for the workshop is put back into scholarships and programs at Mira Costa College. Bahr said that more than $200,000 has been raised for that cause.

The workshop is primarily intended for women, but also includes a two-hour session for men. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the workshop is at 8:30 a.m. Visit for more information.

“One thing about divorce is that it’s a great equalizer,” Bahr said. “We’ve had women trying to settle disputes worth millions of dollars sitting next to women who are sleeping in cars. They all come for the same reason.”

Article by Jim Rothgeb  Jan. 9, 2013
The original article appeared Jan 9, 2013 in the San Diego U-T


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