Try to keep your children out of the divorce at all costs. Healthy kids are those that know that mom and dad love them dearly but are just going to live apart from now on. Never bad mouth your ex.
Don’t bring someone too quickly around your children. It’s tempting to be excited about your newfound happiness but know that kids are trying to adjust to their new lives. Don’t bring someone new around your kids too quickly as they may not be as excited as you about your new partner.
As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kris Balekian Hayes.
She has more than 20 years of experience practicing family law. She is a board-certified family law attorney and is licensed to practice law in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Georgia. She is a credentialed mediator in all civil, family and CPS matters. Today she serves as managing partner at Balekian Hayes, PLLC based in Dallas, TX. Website: https://bh-pllc.com/
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Beginning at a young age, my parents allowed me to work in the family business at our beloved local pumpkin patch. This taught me how to run a business in good times and bad. My parents were very strict but encouraged my independence and “sassiness.” My father often challenged me by betting me I could not do something. By the age of 6, I had made the decision that I wanted to be an attorney. I maintained that path throughout my life. I graduated from college at 20 and completed by JD and MBA by 23. I was anxious to prove wrong those that said it could not be done. In the days before advanced placement and dual credit classes, it was quite a feat.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I earned my law degree at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio after completing a Bachelor of Business Administration at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. I continued my education by earning a Master of Business Administration at St. Mary’s University School of Business. Soon after, I started my business with only 2,000 dollars to my name and zero clients, but I was armed with tenacity and vision. That’s how I was able to propel myself professionally while navigating single motherhood with my firstborn, Hailey. I started working out of my home until I could afford an office, and eventually, an assistant.
My company has had its ups and downs, and my supportive husband has been wildly encouraging along the way by shouldering additional family responsibilities, giving me the time, I need to get it done. My kids have been patient and flexible (most of the time). Many of my closest friends have been employed by me at some point and have continued to encourage me in my career. It’s been incredible to have such a strong support group in good times and bad.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
About a year ago, I completely changed the way that I practice law. It was almost like a lightbulb went off, and as a result, I have significantly reduced the time spent in a courtroom. Having significant time restrictions in Court has always added another facet of challenge in a courtroom. In family law, there is quite a bit to discuss, and it’s hard to present the evidence you need to within the time limits imposed. My new style has produced better results, more precise/direct questioning, and less time billed to the client.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“Always be honest and act with integrity.” Oftentimes, people talk about being honest but seldom are. Sometimes, that means that we lose income because we send a potential client away and explain that this can be handled without counsel or that there is a free resource available to them. Lawyers generally don’t have an excellent reputation, and we try to make sure we never fall into that group. It’s our policy that while honesty can sometimes cost us, we owe it to our clients to give it to them. They often reward us with referrals from people seeking what we have to offer. We are involved in the most instrumental decisions of people’s lives, and it is a matter of respect that we treat every situation with deliberate delicacy and honesty.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have joined committees for the Dallas Permanency Court to assist children in the permanent conservatorship of CPS to have proper graduation and to help the Court with getting more children out of CPS care and into loving homes. I have also become a board member for the Family Law Section for the Dallas Bar Association, which gives significant funds to various charities benefitting families of Dallas in various capacities. I have also become a committee chair for the Texas Association of Family Defense Attorneys, which assists families in maneuvering a CPS case and assists in reuniting families.
Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?
I went through my own child custody case. I learned how difficult it is to ascertain what is legally relevant facts and how to remove emotion from the matter. The feelings of rejection can be overwhelming, and it eats at your self-esteem. It takes time to heal and mourn any loss, and a relationship is no different. Take care of yourself and love yourself and know that this too will pass. Ultimately navigating the journey with as much grace as you can muster will make you a better friend, a better parent, better spouse, better person.
In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
I think many people assume that the most expensive lawyer must mean that they are the best, but that isn’t necessarily true. It’s essential to choose a divorce lawyer wisely because the decision will ultimately impact your bottom line. The best lawyer is one that is experienced, knowledgeable, and fits well with you. As the client, you have the ability to set the tone for your divorce. Your lawyer is there to advise you and will respect your position on how to approach the negotiations. Just because a lawyer is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean they will honor your wishes or handle your case well. That’s why it’s sometimes a better idea, especially when children are involved, to discuss reasonable alternatives to a court hearing or trial. Children often suffer tremendously when their parents are involved in a highly contested divorce. Mediation is always an option that should be seriously considered. Mediation proceedings take place outside the courtroom and can result in a swifter and more cost-effective outcome. Additionally, depending on the issues, mediation allows parties to creatively customize their orders to more cohesively fit their co-parenting styles and, if no children are involved, it makes dividing marital assets and liabilities much simpler.
People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?
It may seem easier to stay together for the kids, but a bad marriage will have a lasting negative impact on your children’s lives and future relationships. A dysfunctional relationship can drain your happiness and energy, making it harder to look after your children because your thoughts are on your marriage. After the divorce, you may realize that you have more energy and focus to take care of your kids. You only get one life to live, and you should always try to have the happiest one possible. Divorce will unleash freedom and strength and allow you to start again on the path to happiness.
Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?
I always say, “It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.” You can start slow and build your way up. You don’t have to dive head-first into intense relationships. Maybe start by talking over the phone, doing Zoom calls before going on an in-person date. It is essential to take your time to get to know people, and when you are comfortable, find activities that allow you to talk and see your date in person. Try to stay level-headed and remember things have probably changed a bit since the last time you dated. Don’t trust too quickly, and don’t rush to settle down. Take enough time to learn from your mistakes.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1. Be reasonable in your expenses until you learn your budget. You are about to embark on a whole new life, and it’s tempting to start entirely anew. Try to resist the urge as much as you can so that you don’t start in the red.
2. Start a co-parenting relationship on the right foot. You will have a lifetime of dealing with the other side even after a divorce if you have children, so try and start off on the right foot with flexibility and generosity.
3. Know that divorces are emotionally draining because you are forced to keep track of every negative aspect of the case, try to build in emotional breaks.
4. Try to keep your children out of the divorce at all costs. Healthy kids are those that know that mom and dad love them dearly but are just going to live apart from now on. Never bad mouth your ex.
5. Don’t bring someone too quickly around your children. It’s tempting to be excited about your newfound happiness but know that kids are trying to adjust to their new lives. Don’t bring someone new around your kids too quickly as they may not be as excited as you about your new partner.
The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?
Most people budget for the cost of their divorce but forget to account for additional services that are vital to maintaining their mental health during this challenging time in their lives. Now is the time to make sure there is extra cash for therapy, massages, fitness classes or whatever you need to help keep you sane.
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I wish more people would embrace one another’s differences. I don’t have a single friend like me. I love that we are all different. Even when we disagree on major events, we learn from one another. I wish more people could understand that we don’t always have to agree, but we have to get back to caring about people for WHO they are and not what they believe.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
There are countless people I would love to have lunch with from all walks of life (especially Hollywood). Lately, I would like to most have lunch with Greg Abbott (while practicing social distancing, of course). There are so many questions I would want to ask about recent events so I could get a better understanding of the actions of our local government. I think there are major flaws and defects in our CPS system in Texas, and I want to put a bug in his ear about how I believe his leadership can resolve those issues to help families in this state.
Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!