In this episode, host Jaime Davis and colleague Lynn McNally discuss Jaime’s newly released book entitled A Year and a Day which is based largely on this podcast. In 2017, Jaime decided to create the podcast to provide tips and information for getting through a separation and divorce without destroying family relationships or the family finances. The book is geared toward divorce related professionals and individuals who are contemplating separation, have been told by their spouse that they want to separate, or who may be dealing with child custody issues.
Note: Our Podcast, “A Year and a Day: Divorce Without Destruction”, was created to be heard, but we provide text transcripts to make this information accessible to everyone. All transcripts on our website are created using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and could contain errors.
Jaime Davis: Welcome to Episode 2 of Season 3 of ‘A Year and a Day’. I’m your host, Jaime Davis. Today, we will be doing things a bit differently on the podcast. In this episode I will be handing over the microphone to my good friend and colleague, Lynn McNally, and she and I will be discussing my newly released book entitled ‘A Year and a Day’, which is based largely on this podcast. Lynn is a board certified family law specialist and partner with the Smith Debnam Law Firm in Raleigh.
You may recall that Lynn joined us on the last episode of the podcast, and we’re glad to have Lynn back with us today. Welcome, Lynn.
Lynn McNally: Thank you, Jamie. I’m excited to be here today on this side of the microphone and get to ask you questions about your new book, which is based on this podcast, right?
Jaime Davis: It is.
Lynn McNally: So what inspired you to even do the podcast to begin with?
Jaime Davis: Well, as a family law attorney, I saw that there was a need for a better way to get divorce related information to the people who really needed it. And I thought that the podcast format would be the best way to deliver that information, even when a person comes in for a consultation with a lawyer, typically, that consultation may be less an hour and a half. It’s not very long and it’s not enough time to really go into all of the details of all the various claims that the person may have.
You know, you can get a general idea of the law and how it might apply to your case. But when you leave that consultation, you may still have questions. And I thought the podcast would be a really good resource for folks, even after that initial meeting with a lawyer, to be able to go listen to some of the episodes and either refresh their recollection as to what they heard. Or maybe there’s some new information that they didn’t get. And so from there, the podcast was born and that was in 2017.
And so I decided to create the podcast to provide tips and information for getting through a separation and divorce without destroying family relationships or the family finances.
Lynn McNally: Yeah, well, one of the things that I find so interesting about my initial consultations is that it’s just so much information that people cannot possibly retain at all.
And this is a nice way for people to have a touchstone to go back and listen to something that that applies to their case or re-listen to your podcast to remember the information because it’s just so voluminous.
Jaime Davis: Right. And the beauty of a podcast, too, and having different episodes is that each episode is about a completely different topic. And so let’s say that you are going through a separation and child custody is the biggest issue to you, and that’s where you have your questions.
You can go to those episodes, just listen to them and, you know, be on your way or, you know, maybe you have questions about alimony. The real beauty of the podcast is that you don’t have to listen to it in order. It’s not, you know, something that has to be listened to sequentially. You really can just pick the episode that you want to learn, you know, the topic that you want to learn more information about and go to that particular episode.
Lynn McNally: Yeah, well, I love that it’s not just you sharing your legal expertise. You have guests on your podcast. Some are lawyers. I’ve been on there a couple of times. But you have therapists and other resources, people that sort of comprise a team for folks that might be going through the divorce process and you’re giving people their expertise and information too. How do you choose the folks that you want to have on your podcast as guests?
Jaime Davis: Really, what I do is I think about the questions that I am most often asked by potential clients, usually during that initial consultation, and then I think about who might be the best person to help answer those questions. As you mentioned, you know, I do often have therapists on, other lawyers on, and so, for example, you and I did an episode on mediation and I chose you as a potential guest for that episode because I know you’re a mediator and I knew that you would have lots of insight to offer about the mediation process and how it’s beneficial to clients.
Lynn McNally: Yeah. Yeah. Am I missing a guest? We’ve had therapists, you’ve had lawyers…
Jaime Davis: I’ve also had some financial folks on to talk about, for example, Gray Divorce. Holly Moddasser has been on the show before and we have discussed issues related to folks divorcing after the age of 55 and what that looks like for them financially.
Lynn McNally: Yeah. So why write a book? You’ve got this podcast, it’s successful. It’s helpful to people. What does a book add?
Jaime Davis: Well, I found that the content from the podcast and the guests who shared their areas of expertise with me was just it was so great that I wanted to compile that information into a book so that it would be more readily accessible to a larger group of individuals. My hope was that the book would become a resource for divorce related professionals and individuals who are separating or dealing with child custody issues.
Lynn McNally: How are the book and the podcast connected?
Jaime Davis: Wow. Well, the book and the podcast are very much connected. I have actually based large portions of my book on previous podcast episodes. However, the book allowed me to dive deeper into the subject matter to provide more context, more examples, and also to fill in some gaps where episodes have not been created yet. For example, I don’t currently have an episode on equitable distribution and so I was able to write a chapter on that subject for the book because obviously equitable distribution is a very important part of your family law case. For folks who may not know that is the division of property between separated spouses. And so the book gave me the opportunity to really fill in those gaps and provide a more comprehensive overview.
Lynn McNally: So who should read your book?
Jaime Davis: Well, the target audience for the book is twofold, in my opinion. The book is geared toward divorce related professionals and also individuals who are contemplating separation, have been told by their spouse that they want to separate, or those folks who may be dealing with child custody issues. I created the book as a way to help these folks get some basic information about the divorce process and to have a general understanding of the laws related to those subjects.
Lynn McNally: So the title of the book is ‘A Year and a Day: Divorce Without Destruction’. What does that title mean?
Lynn McNally: Well, as you know, Lynn, in North Carolina spouses must be separated for a year and a day before they can file for their divorce. And that year is the critical time during which decisions must be made about the parties’ finances and their children. And these decisions can either be made by the parties themselves or by the court. And really so we have a year and a day to figure this stuff out. And then the second part of the title, Divorce Without Destruction. That phrase means a lot to me. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for couples to divorce without destroying their family relationships or finances. And that’s one of the things that I really want to come across in the book.
Lynn McNally: What does that mean to you? How do you go through a divorce in a way that is constructive, rather than destructive?
Jaime Davis: Well, I have a lot of different tips for doing that. First and foremost, I think it’s important to remember when it comes to family law. If your case goes to court, there’s usually not a clear cut winner. Usually there are more shades of gray in this field of law. And so for the family law client, it’s not about winning. It shouldn’t be about winning. It’s about fixing what’s broken. Whatever that may be in the context of the family law case.
I also think that if you want to try to divorce without destroying these relationships, you need to remember that the children come first. And when it comes to custodial schedules and when the children will be living with which parent and where that it’s really not about what the parent wants, it should be about what’s best for the child. And sometimes those are not the same thing. I also think it’s important for folks to remember to make good business decisions. Sometimes you can get caught up in the heat of the battle and you are willing to spend your last penny fighting over how to divide your dollars with your spouse.
And that just doesn’t make sense. And it doesn’t make sense to continue to spend good money to fight over bad and to potentially get less than you have spent on legal fees.
I also think it’s really important to take care of your mental health when you were going through the separation and divorce process. And actually you and I did a podcast episode on this and there is a chapter in the book about it. I believe it’s a really important topic. And that topic is self-care, right? You need to take care of your mental and emotional health. Your physical health and be healthy. Getting through this process.
Finally, I think another way that you can attempt to divorce without destroying things is to assemble a team of trusted professionals. You know, maybe your team has a therapist and a lawyer. Maybe your team also has an accountant. Maybe you’ve got some valuation, folks. There are lots of different people that you can put on your team. But making sure that you reach out to these folks and assemble your team of professionals is crucial.
Lynn McNally: Yeah. So is this in your characterization, your book, is it a reference book? Is it a self-help guide?
Jaime Davis: I think it’s really a bit of both. When going through a divorce, a person has to deal with not only the legal ramifications, but the emotional aspects as well. And I had hoped to write a book that was a reference guide for people going through separation and divorce. But as we just discussed, self-help is so important if you’re going to get through this process and come out on the other side. And so I think it’s both.
Lynn McNally: So there are lots of books and podcasts out there about divorce. What insights do you have that distinguish your book and podcast from the rest?
Jaime Davis: Well, I have been through my own separation and divorce and I am remarried. I have three children and a blended family. And I think that I have a unique perspective that I can help offer to my clients. You know, I’ve been through this. I know some of the things that they’re feeling. And I feel like that can be really helpful when you’re trying to guide somebody else through the process.
Lynn McNally: Yeah, absolutely. So where can we buy this book?
Jaime Davis: Well, you can buy it online. It is available from Amazon and also online through Barnes & Noble. And I have a website for the book. It is jaimehdavis.com. And that’s J-A-I-M-E-H-DAVIS D-A-V-I-S dot com.
Lynn McNally: Can I ask you some questions? Just about you?
Jaime Davis: Sure.
Lynn McNally: Talk about your background, your legal background. How did you get to the spot where you are in your career today?
Jaime Davis: Well, it’s a little bit of a long story. It started when I was in the fifth grade, which according to my mother, is when I first said that I wanted to be a lawyer. Interestingly, the year before, I said I wanted to be a roller derby queen. And between fourth and fifth grade, somehow I wanted to trade in my skates for law books. So that’s where we started.
And then when I was in, I think it was 9th grade, I had the opportunity to participate in Wake County Government Day, which was a really cool experience.
I got to shadow a public official and in my case, it was the district attorney at the time and I got to spend the day with him and learn about what he did all day. What did you do in court and all those sorts of things. And it was from that point that I knew I really wanted to go to law school. And so I worked hard in high school. I graduated from Sanderson High School here in Raleigh. And then I went on to undergrad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I graduated in 1998.
And from there, I went to law school, also at UNC Chapel Hill. And when I first started law school, I thought that I really wanted to practice some sort of criminal law. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a prosecutor or a criminal defense attorney or what that would look like exactly, but I really thought I wanted to do criminal law. And in my second year, I believe I took my first family law class and absolutely fell in love with it.
Family law is so unique in that you get to touch on so many other areas of the law. You get to work on contracts. You deal with real property issues. Maybe you’ve got some trust and estates issues. Occasionally you have to deal with some criminal law issues. And so there is such a wide variety that I found it to be fascinating. And I really wanted to help people going through this very difficult process.
Lynn McNally: And you limit your practice to family law today, right?
Jaime Davis: Yep. That’s all I do. I represent family law clients. I would say I concentrate in complex equitable distribution cases where usually one spouse or the other owns a business. I also handle a lot of child custody cases. They may be high conflict. They may involve interstate or relocation issues. I am a certified parenting coordinator and I am also a certified family financial mediator.
Lynn McNally: How would you describe your overall approach to representing your family law clients?
Jaime Davis: Well, first and foremost, I treat my clients the way that I would want a lawyer to treat my mother or father. Family law clients come to us at a time when they are especially vulnerable and they trust us to help them make decisions about two of the most important things in their lives, their children and their money. And I take this responsibility very seriously. I strive to guide my clients through the process and help them avoid conflict where they can. You know, just like the book says, divorce doesn’t have to be destructive.
Lynn McNally: Do you get phone calls or inquiries from potential clients asking for an aggressive lawyer or asking you whether you are aggressive or a bulldog?
Jaime Davis: All the time.
Lynn McNally: What does that even mean?
Jaime Davis: You know, I don’t really know in the context of a family law case because I’m not sure that it’s always the most aggressive or bulldog lawyer that is going to serve your interest well in this process. What I tell those folks is that I consider myself to be smartly aggressive.
Lynn McNally: What’s that mean?
Jaime Davis: It means that I can take an aggressive approach from my clients when I need to. If we need to file that lawsuit and go to court, we are happy to do that. But I am also pragmatic and it is typically more cost effective and less destructive to resolve family law cases outside of court. And I have found that mediation is a very effective way to do just that. And so, you know, maybe we try that approach first. And a lot of times if you’re dealing with an opposing party with some sort of mental health issue, court might be unavoidable. And that’s OK if you have to go there. You do. But it shouldn’t always be the starting point.
Lynn McNally: I like the phrase smartly aggressive. I have the same experience that you have when people call for my services, I get that question, “are you aggressive enough”, or “are you a bulldog?”, and what I find is that that means different things to different people. And I also try to explain that in order to have a divorce without destruction, you have to, as the lawyer or as any professional on the team working for this client, you have to be objective.
You cannot take on the subjective personality or fears or anger of your client because that does not help them make good business decisions and it doesn’t help them get through this process in a constructive way.
Jaime Davis: Right. Because if you do that, you really lose perspective just like they have on the situation. And so, I mean, I think we probably said this in the last episode. You know, the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. It’s sort of the same thing. If you get sucked into the emotional aspects of what your client is going through you can’t be objective in the representation.
Lynn McNally: That’s right. And another thing about aggressive representation is that it’s usually pretty expensive.
Jaime Davis: Right.
Lynn McNally: And when you’re talking about trying to preserve and not destroy your family’s finances, you want to be smart about it. You want to be smartly aggressive.
Jaime Davis: Absolutely.
Lynn McNally: So, Jamie, what was your favorite part of this book to write?
Jaime Davis: Well, I have to say, I really enjoyed the writing process of the whole book. It was something different. Not something that I get to do on a daily basis. And the way I started, I actually had several of the podcast episodes transcribed. And so going back and reading the words, it was a really different experience than listening to the podcast itself. But if I had to pick a favorite chapter, if you will, or section, I would say that I really enjoyed writing the Navigating Your Custody Case section.
That part of the book is full of so many practical tips that parents can use that are not necessarily readily apparent to the person, you know, ways to interact with the other parent, tips about social media, very practical things that parents going through a custody case need to think about.
Lynn McNally: Well, and those kinds of very practical tips that that aren’t legal in that they are tied to the law of North Carolina are applicable to lots of folks in different states, right?
Jaime Davis: Yeah, that’s true. So while the legal aspects of the book are limited to North Carolina, I’m licensed in North Carolina and this is the only state that I really know anything about the law in. But some of the more practical things, such as, for example, in the podcast episode you and I did on self-care, that chapter also has some really good practical information that, you know, could be relevant to somebody living in California, New York or North Carolina.
Lynn McNally: Right. When I read the book, if I were to put myself in the shoes of a potential client, I would feel well equipped to have really smart, pointed questions to ask my lawyer or potential lawyer so that I could start to move through a divorce process efficiently.
Jaime Davis: So that was the point. That was really my main goal in writing the book. I wanted folks that we’re gonna have to go through this process to have enough basic information that they could start to learn about the laws in North Carolina and figure out what questions they might want to ask their divorce lawyers.
I do not intend for this book to be, you know, a guide that somebody can read and then go represent themselves, that’s not the goal here. I still think you need to at least have a consultation with a lawyer to figure out specifically how the law might apply to the facts of your case. And I’m hoping that this book can help, you know, the potential client figure out what questions they might want to ask.
Lynn McNally: Yeah, you and I recently did a podcast about what times, if any, is it appropriate or good for an individual to represent him or herself in these kinds of of family law cases? And while there are sometimes, you’re usually really behind the eight ball if you don’t have a lawyer on your side.
Jaime Davis: That’s right. I agree.
Lynn McNally: Are we going to see a volume 2 of ‘A year and a Day’?
Jaime Davis: I hope so. You know, there were a lot of episodes, podcast episodes, that I simply could not fit into volume 1 of ‘A year and a Day’. There’s just so much good information and I am continuing to record podcast episodes at least monthly in 2020. And so, you know, eventually, yeah, I think I would like there to be a volume 2. If anyone has any suggestions for future podcast episodes I would love to hear them. So please reach out and let me know by email or phone would be great.
Lynn McNally: So as far as I know, this is your first book, right?
Jaime Davis: Yeah, it is.
Lynn McNally: Did you have any aha moments while going through the book writing process?
Jaime Davis: Yes, that writing is really hard and that the way people talk is not necessarily the way that things should be written in a book. And so going back and reading the transcripts of the podcast, it was a lot of work to change that into actual text.
And I also learned that your editor is invaluable and that no matter how great of a writer you think you are, you are wrong and your editor is going to fix all of the mistakes that you make in your writing.
Lynn McNally: Were you an English major?
Jaime Davis: I was. And it really didn’t help much, but we got through it.
Lynn McNally: Did go in through this process, this book writing process or any of the podcast episodes, do they make you a better lawyer?
Jaime Davis: Oh, absolutely. You know, as I was writing the book, I was going back and reading statutes and case law. And anytime that you are, you know, refreshing yourself like that, I think it makes you a better lawyer. And I also did a lot of thinking about the practical things that a person going through a divorce needs to know and really tried to put myself in their shoes for a minute and think about the kinds of questions that, you know, I would want to ask as I was going through the process. And you know, what should the answers to those questions be? And again, a lot of those questions are not necessarily legal questions.
There’s lots of practical things that you have to decide when you’re going through a separation and divorce. Like, you know, “are we going to sell our house?”. OK. Well, the answer is yes. Who’s going to sell it? When are we going to list it? Just all of these very practical questions that need to have answers.
Lynn McNally: Well, it would help me in my practice. I’m sure it will help me in my practice. It’s nice to read through and be reminded of these practical issues that you don’t learn about in law school. You don’t really learn about them when you’re reading statutes or cases. They’re just logistical, practical things that apply sometimes universally that can really help clients get to the other side in a better way.
Jaime Davis: Well, and I think it also helps, you know, having this collective wisdom. You know, I cannot take credit for all of the information in the book. It was all of the guests who were on the podcast episodes with me who were so kind to share their wisdom with me about the various areas that we were talking about and specifically with the other family lawyers that were on the podcast. You know, we all practice a little bit differently. We’ve all had different experiences. We’ve all been practicing for different lengths of time and to really pool that wisdom and write it down and put it in a book. You know, I think that was pretty powerful.
Lynn McNally: Jamie, thank you for letting me be the one to come on your podcast and interview you about the book. I love being a guest on your podcast. I enjoyed the book. And I appreciate being able to ask you all these questions and get these answers.
Jaime Davis: Well, thank you. I really appreciate it.
I hope you all enjoyed this episode of A Year and a Day. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. You can e-mail me at email@example.com. If you like what you heard today, please leave us a review on Apple podcast.
As a reminder, while in my role as a lawyer, my job is to give folks legal advice. The purpose of this podcast is not to do that. This podcast is for general informational purposes only, should not be used as legal advice and is specific to the law in North Carolina. If you have any questions before you take any action, you should consult with a lawyer who is licensed in your state.