Divorce, ADHD, and the Law with Seth Nelson

Divorce is one of the greatest challenges we face. Even the best of divorces brings an emotional cost. Living with ADHD, the costs that come from disorganization and distraction can be so much higher.

Beyond the stress of disolving your relationship, embarking on a journey into the legal system brings with it a raft of uncertainty and doubt — a system that cares very little about your ADHD. This week on the show, Tampa-based divorce attorney Seth Nelson joins us to help us understand where our ADHD will be most pressured, and where a great law firm can help you pull your weight.

About Seth Nelson

At Nelson Koster, the motto is “Helping good people through difficult times.” This is Mr. Nelson’s aim in every case, though how he works to achieve it varies greatly with each family’s unique situation.

From an early age, he has always wanted to help people. After law school he found that he could do the greatest good by helping people through one of the most difficult times of their lives. Being a divorcee himself, as well as a father, he understands what you’re going through.

Mr. Nelson focuses on Florida divorce law, Florida family law, and Florida family law mediation. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Florida’s College of Law. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable John C. Godbold, Senior Circuit Judge for the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Returning home to Tampa, he then worked for other Florida law firms before establishing his own practice in South Tampa. Since 2008, he has been the sole shareholder of Nelson Koster.

Links & Notes


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello everybody and welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast on TrueStory FM. I’m Pete Wright, and I am here as always with Nikki Kinzer. Hello, Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, Pete.

Pete Wright:
Oh, Nikki, my wife left me.

Nikki Kinzer:
To go to the store?

Pete Wright:
No, for three days. She’s going to Burns, but it’s as if she left me for… There’s such grief. And I think we’ve been around each other for so long in the context. She hasn’t been doing any traveling and now schools in rural Oregon are starting to open up, and she’s been vaccinated, and she’s going back to work and starting her travel season again. My whole family is in grief at the separation. You’d think we couldn’t do fast enough to get away from each other, but the dog-

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s not the case.

Pete Wright:
… is crying in the window, it’s just very sad. It makes me think about our guest today. We’re going to be talking about divorce and specifically divorce in ADHD and what that’s like. And it turns out we have lots of questions-

Nikki Kinzer:
We do.

Pete Wright:
… about it.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m very curious about this. Yes.

Pete Wright:
Who knew that you and I are divorce curious. Before we do that, we’re going to head over to takecontroladhd.com. You can get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list and we’ll send you an email. Each time. A new episode is released.
Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook @takecontroladhd. And if the show has ever touched you or helped you make a change in your life for the better, if you’ve ever found that you understand your relationship with ADHD in a new way, we invite you to consider supporting the show directly through Patreon.
Patreon is listener supported podcasting. With a few dollars a month, you can help guarantee that we continue to grow this show to add new features and invest more heavily in our community. Visit patreon.com/theadhdpodcast to learn more. And I will say, I thought I had more time, honestly. We said last time, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a pitch where we’ve told people we have this new goal that we’ve been working on and we’ve really been working on it. And I thought I had about 15 Patreons worth of time at our current rate to get everything ready.
And then over the last couple of weeks, everybody signed up and now we only have one left to hit our goal of 200 before I have to be ready. I’m almost there, but I’m going to need 199 and 200, and maybe by 201 I’ll be there. It was a surprise, this is one of the very best problems to have is enthusiastic folks waiting for our new library. And eventually our next goal is the Pete only tech podcast for members only. We’re very excited about doing all of these things, and thank you so much for your enthusiasm and support to us get there. It is really, really gratifying.

Nikki Kinzer:
You got some work to do.

Pete Wright:
There we go.

Nikki Kinzer:
The only announcement that I want to put out there is study hall, because I had that one minute of fame in The Wall Street Journal-

Pete Wright:
That was big.

Nikki Kinzer:
… which was exciting.

Pete Wright:
That was exciting.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. And we talked about study hall and article. So I just want to keep reminding people that on Thursday afternoons, I have a study hall that you can join for four hours where we’re body doubling and getting work done. And I’m leading with The Pomodoro Technique and if you have any questions on how it works, make sure you let me know.

Pete Wright:
Outstanding. Study halls, we’re still rolling through it. Check it out, takecontroladhd.com, it’s the coaching tab. And now let’s talk about divorce.
Seth Nelson Esquire is a dear friend of mine and a partner in the podcast, How to Split a Toaster: A divorce podcast about saving your relationships. He is a family law attorney in Tampa, Florida and he’s here today to talk about the big breakup.
How are you doing, Seth?

Nikki Kinzer:
Welcome.

Seth Nelson:
I’m doing well. Nice to see you, Pete, Nikki. Thanks for having me on Taking Control. I’m really thrilled to be here.

Pete Wright:
The whole reason we started this podcast somewhere, I don’t remember who started it, but we started thinking about just… I think Seth, maybe you and I were talking about something related to ADHD and you started rattling off these issues where someone who’s living with ADHD might be seriously challenged when they approach the legal system. And so we thought this would be a great opportunity because we know, and Nikki, you should probably talk to this, the preponderance of evidence says that people living with ADHD have a hard time in marriage.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh yes. Yes, definitely. High increase of… Not high increase, but I should say, high percentage of doors and multiple marriages within a lifetime. And it can be because both couples have ADHD or just one or whatever, but it definitely can get messy. So are you both on the podcast? I have to say, I haven’t listened to it and I will now, but are you both there?

Pete Wright:
Nikki, we’re the dumb-

Seth Nelson:
That’s a ringing endorsement right off the bat.

Pete Wright:
It is a ringing endorsement.

Seth Nelson:
Wow. Seth, you’ve got a good voice for podcasts, but I haven’t listened to it.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s actually really positive, Seth because I’m not going through a divorce. So maybe that’s good-

Pete Wright:
Yeah

Nikki Kinzer:
… right?

Seth Nelson:
Right. And thankfully, we are very niche on the people we’re trying to help. So I am glad that you are not in the market for divorce lawyers.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right.

Seth Nelson:
That actually makes me feel good. But yes, Pete and I are co-host on How to Split a Toaster. And when Pete and I were talking about divorce and all the different aspects and ADHD, there was a list of issues that make the divorce process extremely difficult for the most organized, spreadsheet loving person in the world. And if your mind doesn’t work that way, if you’re living with ADHD, there are a host of other issues that are going to make the process even more difficult than it already is.
It’s not easy for anybody, but it is even harder for people living with ADHD. And I’m happy to give some pointers or help out where I can and make the process just a little less different.

Nikki Kinzer:
Where should we start? I’m curious… Because I have a lot of different questions, but they’re all over the board.

Seth Nelson:
Fire away.

Nikki Kinzer:
By the time they come to you, have they already decided they are getting divorced.

Seth Nelson:
Not necessarily. The average person will think about a divorce for three years before they call a lawyer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Three years. But that makes sense, especially if you have children involved.

Seth Nelson:
Right. It’s not a decision you make lightly, so that does give it some time and credence, but there’ll be people that will come to me that will say, “I’m done. I’m ready. I’ve been ready for a long time.” There’s others that will come to me and say, “I just got served with divorce paperwork. I had no idea this was even happening.” So out of left field in their mind. Now, there could have been signs that they ignored, but in their mind at that moment, they had no idea.
The first Monday in January in my industry, quite frankly, the divorce industry, we call it divorce Monday-

Pete Wright:
What?

Seth Nelson:
… where people are ringing-

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow.

Seth Nelson:
… the phone off of divorce lawyers. They’ve gotten through the holidays. January is a very busy month for divorce lawyers and they’ll call and say, “I don’t know if I’m going to go through it now, but I’m ready to start talking to you. It might be now, never, six months.” They might call me and then work on counseling, so it’s all over the spectrum of where people, when I first talked to them, where they are in their own mind. And that can change through the process.
I’ve had cases where they start out in a divorce and they ended up staying married, but we negotiated what’s called a post-nuptial agreement to figure out how we’re going to work out the money in case they do get divorced. And separating the finances like that has actually helped save marriages.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, interesting.

Pete Wright:
Wow.

Seth Nelson:
So they could be all over the board.

Pete Wright:
One, do you have a vinyl banner that says, “Divorce Monday deal,” that you hang outside your office because that’s amazing?

Seth Nelson:
Pete, you know me well enough. I’m a hopeless romantic.

Pete Wright:
I know.

Seth Nelson:
I have the Valentine’s Day special.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s great.

Pete Wright:
Nikki wrote to this question and I can’t believe we’ve never talked about it, you and I, because you do a lot of mediation, then this sort of navigating the complex relationships of people who are separating. How would you characterize the difference between a cordial divorce and one that isn’t? And is it possible to consciously uncouple? What is your position on conscious uncoupling?

Seth Nelson:
You can certainly consciously uncouple, is just how painful that process is. Just because you’re constantly saying, “We’re going to uncouple, we’re going to divide. We’re not going to live together anymore. We’re going to figure out how we’re going to see the kids and what’s going to be best for them, and how we’re going to divide up our assets. And what about alimony and child support? And who’s going to pay attorney’s fees if we need an attorney?” Just if you’re consciously doing it and you’re trying to be very respectful, you’ll still have the same communication problems you might’ve had throughout your marriage.
There’s things that went differently than you anticipated than when you got married. So when you have the hurt and people are fearful of what lies ahead because it’s an unknown, so it still is difficult. It’s never easy. Now, it is easier or not as difficult, whichever way you want to say those two phrases, if you can treat each other with respect, you can understand that most things people are saying are about them, not about you. Don’t take things as personal.
Now, Pete you’re stressing because your wife left you for three days.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Right.

Seth Nelson:
And how anxious that is after being through this COVID time that we’re still in. Imagine if she was leaving forever.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Seth Nelson:
And how do finances work? What do we do with the house? All those things. And I am a true believer of whatever your personality traits may be. They are heightened in a divorce. If you’re naturally anxious, you’re going to be hyper anxious. If you look at every dime on finances, you will look at every penny. So if you are suspicious, get ready for the conspiracy theories. So whatever your main personality traits are, they are going to be heightened, be aware of that. Check yourself, to see where you are on that spectrum.
Sometimes I’ll talk to clients and say, “Where are you today in our conversation? Are you like all in, ‘Seth, I’m focused. I’ve got three things I want to talk to you about,’ or you distraught and just all over the place?” And I’ll work with you wherever you may be on that spectrum. I’m going to find you where you are and get done what we can get done that day. And it might not be everything I want to get done as your lawyer, but I can only go as fast as the slowest person.
And there are certain deadlines and requirements that we have to go through, but being able to lay them out and just take it one bite at a time, you eat the elephant one bite at a time, and so it get as overwhelming as the process usually is, can be very helpful.

Pete Wright:
I think that is so important, and particularly that bit about whatever your base personality is, it’s going to be heightened going through the divorce process. And I’m consistently surprised with the things I’ve never thought about in terms of separating our relationship than I’m working with Seth. What happens when you move out and you realize you don’t have any furniture? How do you learn to make choices again about your identity?
What is it that is you when it is not a part of this other person anymore? And that causes my brain to firework. That causes an overload of noise that is hard to imagine. I wonder, Seth if you could walk us through, as you start talking about working with clients, what are the places in the legal process, in this case, check your local jurisdiction in the great state of Florida we’re talking about specifically.
But what are the things in the divorce process that you feel like would be particularly stressful that require that sort of organization and focus just to get to the other side of it? The legal system is that demanding.

Seth Nelson:
One big area of stress to all clients is the requirement to gather financial documents. Nikki, let me put it on you. How would it make you feel if I said I have 20 different categories of financial documents that you may have some, you may not have others, but I need you to gather and get to me within 30 days? Here’s the list; your last three years of tax returns, the last 12 months of any banking statements, checking or savings. Any trust that you might have, any Bitcoin accounts or cryptocurrency that you may have. Any of your retirement statements, your health insurance cards and on-

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow.

Seth Nelson:
… and on, and on. Give me a list of your budget. How much do you pay for cable? How much do you pay for car insurance? How much is your health insurance? How much does your employer pay for your health insurance? How much is trivial to the kids? I can keep going, and going, and going. It is overwhelming. So that I think, Pete, to answer your question about that is one of the highest areas of stress that the lawyer is putting on the client, because we need this information and how do we get it?
Because I can’t represent you and tell you how I’m going to divide up your assets if I don’t know what your mortgage is and how much is left on the mortgage, and what’s your house, and what’s the value of your house. And this is just the gathering of information stage. I’m not even talking about trial.

Pete Wright:
I definitely want to talk about trial.

Seth Nelson:
Which we will.

Pete Wright:
I have an interjecting question though that I’ve never thought of. And when you said 20 categories of financial documents and started listing off all of the things that I hate to think about it, it made me wonder from an aspirational ADHD perspective, you’re doing that for many clients. How do you keep it all straight? What systems do you have in place to actually manage all of that stuff for your clients? Is your head just work particularly beautifully in this capacity?

Seth Nelson:
Yes, it’s a beautiful mind, you’re right. To the annoyance of my girlfriend, I think very linear. So that’s one aspect I think of being a lawyer. And it’s not that I can’t be… I do have a creative side, but in this aspect, I’m very linear. First off, I have an amazing team. No one just hires a lawyer, they hire a legal team, so you need to talk to your lawyer about what people who in the office you need to talk to about who does what role. So I’m not the guy in my office that reaches out to the client to say, “I haven’t gotten your bank statements yet.” Or if they just don’t have the capability.
And this is not a slight or a dig on anyone. If you don’t have what I call the bandwidth to sit down at the computer and figure out your password and do the lost my password and get the email to change your password, to get onto your bank account, and then download 12 months of your bank statements, because you’re going to be distracted by the dog or you got to go to the kitchen and make dinner. And then the kids do this and their homework comes in. And by the time all this happens at the end of the day, you just don’t have the bandwidth to do it. We have processes here at our office in place to help you get those things done.

Pete Wright:
That seems key to have somebody, if you’re really struggling with that stuff, to know that you can count on your attorney’s office team to actually help you do the work and keep you on. It’s like accountability, it’s like a study hall for law.

Seth Nelson:
Right. And what we mean by this, okay, let’s have an appointment where you come in for half hour, hour, bring your phone with you. Let’s log in. If you don’t have your login, we’re going to send you the email right now. We’re going to change your password. We will record it. Let’s get it. You give us permission, click, click. And while we’re downloading, my paralegal’s downloading the 12 months of bank statements, it’s okay if you start talking about other things. She can multitask that.
That is perfectly acceptable, that’s okay, that’s who you are. Let’s meet you where you are, but we’re still going to work with you to get the information that you have or that you can get access to even if we’re the ones helping you get the access to that. And people will tell us, “I don’t even know where to find my tax returns.” We do. We can go to the IRS and ask for what’s called your transcripts. It’s the IRS format of your tax return.
We can do a credit check, freecreditreport.com. While you’re sitting here, we can do it right on the computer, you click yes that we’re allowed to do it. So there’s ways that we help our clients get us the information that we need to then properly do the analysis and represent them.

Nikki Kinzer:
I have a question. I know that some of my clients are behind in their taxes. What happens if you want that tax information, but they haven’t paid taxes in the last three years?

Seth Nelson:
Happens all the time, you’re not alone. We can only get the information that is readily available. So if they don’t have their taxes filed, then we’ll say, “Did you get a W–2 from your employer?” And then we’ll say, “Okay, yes. I have no idea where it is.” Fine, we’ll go ask your employer. Then let’s say you don’t even work there anymore. I can actually send a subpoena requiring the employer to give me the documents. I don’t even need you for that.
There’s a legal process and all these hoops I have to jump through, which I’m not going to bore anyone with today, but I can literally go subpoena things if you just can’t get them. I’ve subpoenaed my own client’s bank records because they just didn’t have the bandwidth to go get them for me or to come into the office. So I have other levers that I can pull to make your going through the process less daunting.
Now it will call cost more money. It’s cheaper if you give me the bank statements and I have to go file in the court, and then subpoena them, and send someone to serve the subpoena. There’s all these steps, but we’re there to help you, and so there are different ways to do it. Now, financially, Nikki, if they haven’t filed the tax returns, that’s a legal issue we’re going to have to deal within the divorce.
But as far as getting the documents, I can get the W–2s. We have accountants that we work with, we can refer them to an accountant and try to clean it up, but yeah.

Pete Wright:
That’s immediately what I was thinking is, once you’re three years behind, then there’s a certain amount of just general fear of starting a process that’s going to uncover more things that you are not on top of. And I can imagine that being a highly stressful, terrifying experience.

Seth Nelson:
It is, but most things in life, I believe the worrying is worse than the doing. Worrying about, oh my God, I haven’t paid taxes for three years is going to knock at you. Once you get it all out there and the IRS says, “Okay, we’re going to put you on a payment plan. Here’s your payment plan,” and you know what it is. And we’re going through a divorce and we’re going to count that in alimony or not, or we have some assets maybe we can sell to pay off this debt quicker. You will feel better. You’ll feel better knowing that the plans in place, and it’s not something lurking behind you.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, I agree with that, because it feels just as bad at five years, three years, one year. You got to take care of it and be able to breathe without having that burden. I do have a question about the cost because I had a friend a long time ago who was considering divorce. But she decided not to because it was too expensive. So they decided to stay together, but they’re not together. They just live in the same house.

Pete Wright:
I find that’s so hard to imagine. I can’t.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. I do too, but you know it’s-

Pete Wright:
I get it, I get the circumstances, but-

Nikki Kinzer:
I get it, but I’m just curious. I never asked her like, “How much money does it cost? And is it really worth staying with this person?” I didn’t go into that kind of detail, but-

Seth Nelson:
There’s two parts to that cost. There’s, how much does it cost to pay lawyer to represent you in a divorce. That can range from $1,500 if everything’s worked out simply and there might be some court costs on top of that to hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars, depending on how much money is at stake, and how much fighting, and how many appraisals. So it’s a massive range. Are their kids? Are there no kids? Are we finding about the kids? Is there alcoholism? Is there abuse?
There there’s a wide range of issues that come up that will change how much time it takes the lawyer to deal with those issues. Because divorce is a process. It’s not a win or lose, it’s problem-solving. We have a problem, we are getting separated, we’re uncoupling. How do we work all these issues out? The other part of how much does it cost, which might be, Nikki, what your friend was referring to is, I can’t afford to live on my own and maintain the same standard of living.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. I think you’re onto something there. That makes sense.

Seth Nelson:
So they might’ve said, “You know what? We’re going to be roommates because we both like the nice house and neither one of us want to go and live in an apartment.”

Pete Wright:
And have to rebuy furniture and have to set up a second of everything.

Seth Nelson:
And that’s a personal choice people make, and I have no judgment on that. People get to live their lives.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. That’s a really good point though, because I think it is. It’s probably not so much about the divorce, it’s the aftermath of it all.

Seth Nelson:
And there’s comfort in knowing your current circumstances, where there is discomfort in the unknown. Like, I know this guy’s going to be sitting on the couch every night that I get home, even though he’s not going to help lift a finger to help with the dishes. But I’ll do the dishes because he’s paying for three fourths of the mortgage.

Pete Wright:
Wow.

Seth Nelson:
Okay.

Pete Wright:
We digressed a little bit from talking about the trial experience, because I know that’s a thing that when you’re talking to folks who are living with ADHD who maybe have distractibility or hyperactivity issues that they’re dealing with, that might be a source of anxiety. How do you navigate the trial experience?

Seth Nelson:
It’s a source of anxiety for everyone. Less is more and there’s two parts to this when you talk about trial. The two parts really are the testimony. So when that client is sitting on the stand like you see in the movies and they’re being asked questions by either me, their lawyer, the opposing party’s lawyer, or the judge. The easy part and all of that are the questions from your lawyer because-

Pete Wright:
Right. You know what’s going to be asked.

Seth Nelson:
… we can prepare. And if your lawyer’s really doing a good job, they should prepare you for the questions that will be asked by the other lawyer and potentially even by the judge. The same rules apply to answering all of the questions. And if you can stick to a few basic rules, it makes your life on the stand much easier. Now, when you’re living with ADHD, it’s very difficult to stay within those rules, which are just very quickly.
You have to listen to the question and think about it. If you understand it, you answer it honestly, in the least number words as possible. And that’s where people get tripped up. They will go on, and on, and on because their mind is going in there trying to say… And this happens with everybody, but especially, I think living with ADHD, if I can just tell my story, the judge will believe me and they’ll understand.
That’s not what the courtroom’s about. You actually don’t get your day in court. I, as your lawyer get your day in court. You frankly get treated like a child. You sit there and you speak when spoken to. And other than that, you have to keep your mouth shut. You’ve hired me to speak on your behalf within all these crazy legal rules that I have to abide by.

Pete Wright:
Rules that you are not expected to know, nor would you ever be able to know without going to law school. Like don’t try to carry the burden of all of that. Is that a fair assessment?

Seth Nelson:
And not only going to law school, but being a trial lawyer. There are a lot of lawyers I know that haven’t tried a case and they are so nervous because they want to do a good job for their client, but they haven’t actually lived it. And the best teacher’s experience. So Nikki, you ready for a little quiz?

Pete Wright:
Oh, I love quizzes.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh dear. Okay.

Seth Nelson:
Okay. Here we go. Listen to the question, think about the question. If you understand it, answer it in the least number of words as possible. Now I’m going to pretend I’m the other lawyer, my job is to take your money and your children from you. You are on the stand.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh jeez.

Seth Nelson:
Yeah. See, you anxious now. Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh yes.

Seth Nelson:
Already. Already, nothing’s even happened. We’re sitting here doing a podcast.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Seth Nelson:
Okay, do you understand the rules?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Seth Nelson:
Okay. Here we go. State your name for the record.

Nikki Kinzer:
Nikki Sue Kinzer.

Seth Nelson:
Okay. Now it’s just me, back to Seth talk on the podcast. You’re no longer on the stand. How did you do? A through F, what would you grade yourself?

Nikki Kinzer:
I would grade myself at A because I actually gave you my full name.

Seth Nelson:
Okay.

Nikki Kinzer:
I never use my middle name.

Seth Nelson:
That’s right. And it’s actually an F because I didn’t ask you a question, I gave you a statement. I told you to do something. And my instructions as your lawyer were, listen to the question. This is not a conversation, this is a question and answer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay. Hold on. Let me wrap my head around this. You said to listen-

Seth Nelson:
To the question.

Nikki Kinzer:
… to the question and think about it.

Seth Nelson:
And if you understand it.

Nikki Kinzer:
If you understand it, answer it. But you didn’t ask me a question?

Seth Nelson:
Nope. I said, “State your name for the record.”

Pete Wright:
So what do you do in that case? Because I would want to say-

Nikki Kinzer:
And I just said-

Pete Wright:
… “Watch yourself, counselor.” But that I got from a movie. So what do you do in that case? Do you not state your name?

Seth Nelson:
In that case, you’d state your name, because otherwise you’re going to look like a fool in front of the judge, which is not persuasive. But my point of the exercise is to show you how anxious it is and how simple my instructions were, listen to for question, think about the question. If you understand it, answer it in the least number of words as possible. But I tell my clients this-

Nikki Kinzer:
I just failed.

Seth Nelson:
Yeah. No, big time.

Nikki Kinzer:
Because I even used an extra word, which is my middle name.

Pete Wright:
That you never use.

Seth Nelson:
Oh we’re going to get there in a minute. Nikki we’re-

Nikki Kinzer:
That I never use.

Seth Nelson:
Nikki, we’re going to get there in a minute. Let’s just talk about your [inaudible 00:27:59]. And the reason why I point this out is because a skillful lawyer might not ask a question, they’ll say a statement and then you respond.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. And you know what? I learned that in interview. When I was in HR and I would interview people, one of the very first things I learned when to interview was to pause. Because when you pause that person speaks.

Seth Nelson:
That’s right, it’s uncomfortable, the silence is uncomfortable and they’ll start filling in the gaps. I do that all the time when I take depositions, I do it all the time at trial. I’ll just look at the witness.

Nikki Kinzer:
And you just want to speak.

Seth Nelson:
And then they start talking again.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, look at you,

Nikki Kinzer:
See it right there, I just wanted to speak to you, Seth.

Seth Nelson:
Okay. Now, you’re back on the stand. Sorry to put you through this.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay.

Seth Nelson:
Ready? I promise you-

Nikki Kinzer:
All right.

Seth Nelson:
… I’m going to ask you a question now. I’m not going to pull that little trick. Okay. Here we go. What is your name?

Nikki Kinzer:
Nikki Kinzer.

Seth Nelson:
Look how long that took.

Pete Wright:
That delights me.

Seth Nelson:
He started laughing. Oh, Nikki, how did you do there? We’re grading you now.

Nikki Kinzer:
It was a question, I understood it and I did think about how I was going to answer. And I did do it in the fewest words possible. So I’m going to say I did pretty good.

Seth Nelson:
I disagree. All right.

Pete Wright:
You could have just said, “Nikki-”

Nikki Kinzer:
No?

Seth Nelson:
I disagree.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh no.

Seth Nelson:
Bingo.

Nikki Kinzer:
Really?

Seth Nelson:
So think back to when you’re single and you’re at a bar and a nice guy comes up to you and says, ’Hi. What’s your name?" Do you say, hi, I’m Nikki Kinzer? You say Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
No, of course not.

Seth Nelson:
Right. If you don’t want to talk to the guy, that’s what you say, but if you want to talk to the guy. What you did, and this is really important because I want people to be themselves on the stand, even if you’re living with ADHD, it’s okay. It’s not a negative. We’re going to get that information out. We’re going to have the judge understand it, but it’s going to be understood through the answers and questions. Okay? My point to that is, is that you answered formally. In fact, when I said-

Nikki Kinzer:
I did.

Seth Nelson:
… “State your name,” you even gave you a middle name. That’s a very formal answer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, totally.

Seth Nelson:
Because you pictured yourself in a courtroom, which is a formal setting.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yep.

Seth Nelson:
Nowhere where my instructions to put on a fancy dress or a tuxedo and be formal and answer formally. It was, “Answer the least number of words as possible.” And if you’re living with ADHD, this is really important because if you can just practice with your lawyer of listening to the question and answering and stopping. It’s okay if your mind is running inside your head, I don’t have a problem with that. I just want you to answer the question and sit silently.
So this is what happens in court, and I’m going to show you why this exercise is very valuable to clients on the stand. Now I’m going to ask you, what is your name? You’re going to say, Nikki, and then look what I do as a lawyer. What is your name?

Nikki Kinzer:
Nikki.

Seth Nelson:
What is your full name?

Nikki Kinzer:
Nikki Sue Kinzer.

Seth Nelson:
Okay. Now what you just did is you made that lawyer who’s trying to take your kids and money away from you do their job. I asked a bad question on my first, what is your name? If I wanted your full name, then I should have said, what is your full name? That little bit will give clients such confidence at the very beginning of their testimony, they just smile. They look at me and smile because most lawyers will say, “What is your name?” You’ll say, “Nikki.” Then they’ll say, “What is your full name?”
And the lawyer’s now annoyed, but he’s really annoyed with himself because he asked a bad question.

Nikki Kinzer:
Because he asked a bad question of what is your name.

Seth Nelson:
Right. If he wanted the full name, that’s what he should have said. Don’t help them do their job.

Nikki Kinzer:
I see. I see.

Pete Wright:
There’s another piece to it that I think if I’ve learned anything about this Q&A, and believe me, Nikki, the number of times Seth has put me on the stand, it’s too many to count and I fail every time.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh it’s fascinating.

Pete Wright:
But the thing that I think I’ve said, Seth, please stop me. I know you will stop me when I start lying on your behalf. But the thing that I find so interesting about the way Q&A works in this process is, that by answering in as few words as possible, you’re actually not just making the other lawyer do their job, you’re allowing your lawyer to build the wall the way he needs it designed. Every question and answer is a brick. And if you go too far, that brick starts looking like something that isn’t the wall that Seth needs to build.
If you answer the questions as designed, you’re allowing them to build this wall that is in your favor, that actually tells the whole story.

Seth Nelson:
And I’ll do it a little different than a wall, Pete just for the visual is, these are all pieces to a puzzle. It’s a jigsaw puzzle that I have a picture that when I put all those puzzle pieces together, that’s what it should look like for the judge.

Pete Wright:
And as a client, I might not have any perspective on what that picture looks like.

Seth Nelson:
Yeah. We’ll talk about it, we’ll talk about my themes to the case, but there are things I have in court that happen so fast that the clients don’t understand, nor should they. But my point is, don’t start adding picture puzzles that I don’t know about. So just by answering the questions and zip, zip. I think it’s okay.

Pete Wright:
Do you ever do that in court?

Seth Nelson:
Oh my God. I would love to. I would love-

Pete Wright:
Zip.

Seth Nelson:
… to be able to do that.

Nikki Kinzer:
I have a question, because this is something where I think it could get really messy. I’m thinking about, and this is going to go dark and I apologize because we’re not a dark podcast, but I’m just really curious about this. If you have a relationship that is abusive and you do have like a gas lighter in the relationship, whether you’re representing them or not, what you just did is like such a trap for the more vulnerable person.
Because they’re going to want to try to defend themselves or try to say, “This person did this, this and this.” And then you’ve got somebody else who’s like, “Yeah, but you did this, this and this.” It almost makes that person feel even smaller. How do you deal with that when you know there’s abuse in the relationship?

Seth Nelson:
I’m going to make sure I understand your question, because when there’s abusive relationship, it’s very serious. I take all my cases seriously, but there’s an added heightened of safety.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, yes.

Seth Nelson:
Okay?

Nikki Kinzer:
For sure.

Seth Nelson:
There is information that I will be given and then there’s what I can prove in court, and those might be two dramatically different things. Okay? When it comes to someone that is being accused of being an abuser, I might not know the answer to that question. I know my client has been accused and I’ve represented clients that have been accused of horrific things to children. And then in cases that I’ve dealt with, on many cases, it turned out not to be true.
So the real trapping your question is assuming I know the answer.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s a good point.

Seth Nelson:
Okay? I’ve represented people I know have abused people or I thought very strongly because either one, they told me and I believe them, or two, we are in a domestic violence injunction and the judge said, “Have you been arrested?: ”Yes.“ ”Do you want to take the fifth amendment, your right to the fifth amendment? Not testy. That would be against yourself.“ And my client had said yes. Okay.
I’ve also been on the other side where I’ve represented people that have been abused. When you’re asking those questions, there is a level of skill that comes with being a trial lawyer on getting to what you believe the truth is for the judge to hear. And sometimes you can get it through the rules of evidence and sometimes you can’t, but you just do your best. It isn’t a trick though. At no time am I asking a trick question.
A trick question is frankly going to confuse myself and it’s not going to be succinct and persuasive to the judge. The judge knows. It’s doing it within the rules of evidence, but for someone living with ADHD, it’s okay for your mind to keep going. As long as you’re not saying it out loud. And then you’ll get refocused when they ask you that next question. And if your cadence is a little slower because you got to think about that question and your mind is racing, you want to make sure you answer it, that’s okay.
Because in court, I’m going to ask my client who’s living with ADHD, ”Do you have ADHD?“ ”Yes.“ ”How,“ and this is an open-ended question, ”does that impact you when answering questions?“ ”Sometimes I’m slower and I might go off the questions path, not I am meaning to is I’m trying to get it all out. That’s how my mind works." Now the judge hears that and doesn’t think

Nikki Kinzer:
And understands it.

Seth Nelson:
… you’re avoiding the question. The one thing judges really dislike is when you don’t answer the question, because they’re listening to the question, they’re looking for the answer. They’re trying to take their notes, to do all the things they need to do and compare it to the law. And when you don’t answer, they get very frustrated.

Pete Wright:
What’s your strategy for guiding clients and working with specific judges? Do you ever say like, “This judge isn’t going to have any patience for you and your ADHD right now.”? Or, “If you’re just honest with the judge, they might be more forgiving in case you go off on a tangent.”? Do you navigate that specifically or is there always just one rule?

Seth Nelson:
No, there’s the one basic rule, but you always adjust for the judge. I prepare the same way for every case. I prepare, prepare, know the information or the facts. Work with my client, prepare them. When I’m in the courtroom, depending on the judge and how things are going, he’ll tack and go different ways. And Pete, the assumption you make, which is a fair assumption for someone that’s not a practitioner is that I know the judge I’m going to have.
I’ve walked into court, I’m ready for a two-day trial thinking it’s one judge, and now I have a senior judge because my judge is sick. That’s why you prepare the same way and you’ve got tack. But Nikki, to your point, it’s all really about working with the lawyer that’s going to prepare you for these items. Now, when you’re dealing with kids, they’re going to be, “How does this impact the children?” I’m sorry that you are living with ADHD, but is it at such a point where it has to impact your parenting? And if so, how?
And then as your lawyer, I’m going to try to minimize that and show the other positive aspects of your parenting because none of us are perfect parents. We all have our strengths, we all have our weaknesses. This is the best example I can give you on this. If you’re living with ADHD, when you’re looking at it, it might be like a spigot that has a hose that’s all messed up and it’s turned on and the water’s just gushing at the top.
And if I put duct tape around that, I’m going to kind of slow that water, but now you look down that hose and there’s a bunch of little pinpricks where the water shooting up. That might be your spouse. There’s a lot of little things your spouse is not doing what’s best for the kids and negatively impacting them, but no one can see it because they’re focused on the gushing water, which is what you’re living with.
So I need to get that under control, not 100%, that’s a fool’s errand, but let’s get it under control for our presentation to explain to the court what other amazing things you do as a parent and how you manage your ADHD. And then we can say, there’s other issues in this case, judge, that you need to look at too, because that water’s coming up down that hose too. So it’s not an all or nothing type scenario. Rarely is it all or nothing in a case, you do have your extreme exam.

Nikki Kinzer:
I have a question about if somebody is thinking about going through this process, how do you know if you have a good lawyer? I would hire you.

Seth Nelson:
Thank you.

Nikki Kinzer:
You sound fantastic and I will feel like you had my back.

Seth Nelson:
That’s very kind, but like I said, your husband is already paying me. I know you hate to break it to you.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, I know. Dang it. But yeah, how do you go through that kind of vetting process a little bit of knowing, is this person going to have my back?

Seth Nelson:
It’s one of the most difficult things for a potential client to do. So I would say get a list of questions that you want to ask your potential lawyer. We actually have a whole show on this, right, Pete?

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Seth Nelson:
On How to Split a Toaster. Here are some just rules of thumb, and this I think is especially important if you’re living with ADHD, and Nikki, you can correct me if I’m wrong on this. One, if you’re doing the majority of the talking in the initial consultation, there’s a problem.

Pete Wright:
You as the client, you mean?

Seth Nelson:
You as the client, because there that’s what happens, the client gets low on the phone and just spills everything.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, I can see that.

Seth Nelson:
That gives you no information on how the lawyer is going to do the analysis of your case, how the lawyer can work with you, how the lawyer runs their office to get the information we talked about. What is the lawyer promising you or not promising you? So these are the type of questions I think you should ask is, how does your office run? If I have a problem, who do I talk to? How do I get ahold of them? Can you promise me that the judge is going to do X? If someone says yes to that, that’s going to be a problem.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Never promise anything on behalf of a judge.

Nikki Kinzer:
Because you can’t promise anything.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Seth Nelson:
Right. So I think there’s those types of questions. Now, they should get enough information from you to give you a bit of an outline on how they deal with issues. And we just have an outline, it’s called PEACE; Parenting, Equitable distribution, dividing assets, Alimony, Child support, Everything else, the process. They should be talking to you about those items and how they on a very thumbnail sketch outline of your life and how that might play out.
Do you have a rapport with this lawyer? Do you know that you’re going to go on, and on, and on talking and you need a lawyer to stop you because you don’t want a lawyer that’s going to kick back, put their feet on the desk and let you talk for an hour and charge you $400. So do you have the rapport where you can say, “Listen, I appreciate you have a lot that you want to tell me today. It’s more important for you to walk away from information from this initial consultation, whether you hire me or not.
I don’t need to know your story unless you hire me. I just need enough of your story so we can figure out whether we can work together.” So these are the type of questions.

Nikki Kinzer:
I think that’s a really good point with ADHD. Can you say that again? Because I think that’s a really important point.

Seth Nelson:
The lawyer does not need to know your story, unless you’re going to hire them. You need to know whether you can work with this lawyer. Because if you have ADHD, you’re going to want to tell your full story, and you’re going to go from, what I call the seamless web, and that lawyer is going to have to bring you back to focus on the information they need when they need it in a timely, efficient way to save you money.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, that’s such a good point. And I know that from my own experience with clients who want coaching, they’ll do that. They’ll tell me their whole story before we even get to the point of whether or not we can work together. And I think that that’s a really valid point and the emotions are so much higher with talking to a divorce.

Seth Nelson:
Right. And what’s sad about that is they’re going to hang up that phone and be like, “Oh my God, Seth was great. He just listened to everything I had to say.” That gave them no information about how I practice law or whether I’m the right fit. And there are some people that will call me that will say, “Seth, you’re not my guy.” I’m okay with that.

Pete Wright:
I can’t imagine it, but I’m okay with it, is all I’m saying.

Seth Nelson:
I really take seriously.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know.

Seth Nelson:
No.

Nikki Kinzer:
My husband is so lucky to have you, Seth.

Seth Nelson:
Pete, you know me well enough, I don’t pull punches. I’m going to tell you what you need to know, not what you want to hear. And depending on where that client comes into the attorney-client relationship at that point, that’s might not what they want even when you tell them. Some very direct, some people need a little more little softer approach.

Nikki Kinzer:
How do you balance that, being the divorce lawyer versus the therapist?

Seth Nelson:
Oh, Pete, what’s my favorite line on this one?

Pete Wright:
I’m not your therapist.

Seth Nelson:
Let’s play Seth Nelson Bingo.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m not a therapist.

Seth Nelson:
I’m not your friend, I’m not your therapist, I’m your lawyer.

Pete Wright:
Nikki, I’m telling you, the number of times I’ve tried to have Seth buy my friendship or buy his friendship because you see all the movies, that’s all like, “Oh my lawyer, he’s my lawyer. I have him on retainer and we go play golf.” Apparently, that’s not a thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s not normal. Okay.

Seth Nelson:
Not in family law.

Pete Wright:
Not in family law.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
Play golf with somebody else’s lawyer

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m not even say it. Yeah, yeah.

Seth Nelson:
Exactly.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right, right. That’s so interesting.

Seth Nelson:
So I think these types of questions when you’re living with ADHD are so important to, even if you can just say, “I’m going to write down two questions. I’m going to write down three questions.” just set a reasonable goal. And you know yourself better than most people if you’re being honest with yourself and people listening to your wonderful show are being honest with themselves. You can start with a lawyer and say, be upfront, “How would you handle me if I am living with ADHD?
Or, ”I got you on the phone, I’m going to talk for three minutes and then you can tell me to be quiet, but I’ve got to get this out. “Okay, go.” Start the timer, whatever the case may be. But to be upfront and honest with your lawyer and then see what kind of response you’re getting from your lawyer to see whether you are going to be able to work together or not.

Nikki Kinzer:
When you say family law, are you only working like on divorces or do you also do like estates?

Seth Nelson:
That’s a great question. In my practice, family law means divorce, paternity, where people have children, but they’re not married, prenups, where they’re creating a document on how they’re going to divide stuff if they get a divorce or even if they die while they’re married. Post-nuptial, you’re already married, but you’re going to rework your finances. Unfortunately, domestic violence.
After the whole case is over, we’ll deal with post-judgment. You’re already divorced, but you’re having problems still or someone didn’t do what they’re supposed to do. It’s called contempt and enforcement motions, and with all these areas though, it’s what people think of as divorce, child custody, dividing assets, alimony, child support. Those are the substantive areas of law that we deal with on a daily basis and all the emotion that goes along with it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh yes. Wow.

Pete Wright:
What do you think, Nikki? Is this useful?

Nikki Kinzer:
I think it’s really useful and again, I was just so curious. I’m so glad that you got on the show and that you’re here, Seth, to help us understand this process. If any of our listeners have questions I hope you send them in, and I know you have to look at your jurisdiction.

Seth Nelson:
Yeah, always check your local jurisdiction.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Seth Nelson:
I know Florida family law.

Nikki Kinzer:
We want to be legal here.

Seth Nelson:
Right.

Pete Wright:
And it is remarkable.

Nikki Kinzer:
[crosstalk 00:47:53], it’s so helpful.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, it’s remarkable. Just when you talk about… Because, Seth, we spoke on a show recently, we were talking about a great divorce and the timeliness of divorce and you compared the great state of Florida with Louisiana in this case. Can you just recap that? Because that difference is significant for those who wonder why we say check your local jurisdiction.

Seth Nelson:
In the great state of Florida, let’s assume you have everything worked out, you have a whole plan. Everyone agrees. Easiest divorce ever. You come to me, I can get that filed and I can have you divorced within 21 days. Okay. Everything works out perfectly, no problems everyone’s… Now, you might’ve taken longer to get to that point, but from the day I file to the day I get you divorced, the soonest I can do it is 21 days under Florida family law. Louisiana, it’s 360 days. It’s almost a year. There’s a waiting period.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow. And that’s if everything is agreed.

Seth Nelson:
And I might have the number of days wrong, it’s almost a year. Even if everything’s agreed, you have to be separated or something of that nature for that long. And we were speaking to a guest on our show that went through a divorce in Louisiana and it was basically agreed to, and they had to wait almost a year.

Pete Wright:
A lot happens in a year.

Nikki Kinzer:
Wow. That is crazy.

Pete Wright:
It is amazing and I imagine our global audience, there are different stories from around the world. Check your local jurisdiction, but I’ll tell you, just being able to have a framework of what to expect going through a divorce is I think really powerful. And for anybody listening, we’re so sorry if your relationship is suffering to the point that you’re thinking that it might be time for a divorce, but we also hope that you have gotten something out of this to maybe ask the right questions and take the right steps forward to do it.

Nikki Kinzer:
And I just want to say one last-

Pete Wright:
Sure.

Nikki Kinzer:
… thing about that, Pete. One of the things about ADHDiers is they’re not always self advocators. And so I think that is probably something to have that conversation around your lawyer with is that, even though you may feel and know that you deserve something, you may back down. So having somebody be able to advocate for you and build your confidence so you can advocate for yourself. There’s a lot of value in that too, I think. So just keeping that in mind, that-

Seth Nelson:
And, Nikki, to layer on top of that, you’ve just described part of the grief process of going through a divorce, it’s grieving. And one of them is bargaining, I’ll do anything to keep you. The other is bargain, I just want it done, you can take everything. That happens in all cases. And then when you add on when you’re not a great advocate for yourself. And everyone will have some bias remorse on any deal that they have, because they always think about what they gave up and not what they got.
And a lot of what you get is not going through a trial, but just to layer that in, as you’re saying, if you’re not a great advocate for yourself to have someone that you can communicate with about your issues and how potentially solve these problems is vitally important.

Pete Wright:
Seth Nelson, you’re a champ, man. Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your insights. Where do you want to tell people to go to learn more about your stuff?

Seth Nelson:
My website’s nelsonkoster that’s NELSONKOSTER.com and True Story FM, we have our podcast, a divorce podcast about saving your relationships called How to Split a Toaster, and happy to help in any way I can. Nikki, Pete, thank you for having me on the show, and hopefully this is beneficial to people out there that are living with ADHD.

Pete Wright:
We sure I appreciate it, Seth.

Nikki Kinzer:
Thank you.

Pete Wright:
Thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this show. We deeply appreciate your time and attention. And on behalf of Nikki Kinzer and Seth Nelson, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next week right here on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.