Divorce – Ready or Not?

Recently, I’ve been encountering a lot of feedback related to people “rushing” to a divorce, before being informed, as to what needs to be done ahead of time. Here are some of the recurring themes that many therapists and advisors caution about when facing this decision. At Peace Talks we offer discernment counseling to help you decide whether to get divorced. We believe the most important agreement is HOW you go through the process and we offer a free orientation to learn all the options.

Most couples starting a divorce are unprepared and this lack of preparedness can cause a marriage to end prematurely or deteriorate into a competition.

Pondering divorce for a long time before acting on it buys into the false belief that they’ve thought about it thoroughly and are ready.

There is a natural tendency for people to want to get the divorce over with as quickly as possible in order to move on with their lives.

 At Peace Talks, as with all mediation specialists, one of our first considerations is finding the proper guide to help deal with the inevitable stress and emotional difficulties to come. The right professional help with the intangibles is at leastas important as the financials. Having someone who’s objective and experienced advising you through these difficulties can be invaluable. It’s all too easy for anger to take control without a co-pilot.

Once you feel after you have sought professional help for a few months and accepted your own responsibility, that a divorce is the right choice, thenmake a plan. Many therapists are suggesting mediation instead of litigation when appropriate to spare the patient money and pain. For people that come to us from a lawyer or financial advisor we have a group of therapists listed on our website.

If you’d like to ask some questions about your situation please contact the office anytime.

The Good The Bad and The Women

by Stephanie Maloney

The Good The Bad and The WomenWomen are going to play at Augusta National the home of the “Masters”. Even if golf is just another four-letter word to many of us this is the gender politics version of Jackie Robinson’s first game for the Dodgers. In another “Tear Down That Wall” moment an obsolete fixture tumbled because of social pressure from the “common sense” movement. Who knows next might be pay equivalency-be still my foolish heart.

Unfortunately, the first female shooter appeared thinking YouTube executives were blocking her broadcasts. While not involving a school it is still a very disturbing image for our daughters to process and I’ll pass on any helpful advice that pops up from my reading. Please feel free to do the same.

According to the statistics, most of us know of someone that needed help from a Planned Parenthood Clinic having nothing to do with the concept of termination.There are millions of examples showing that economic factors are preventing women from receiving very necessary assistance with serious health problems that they should be entitled to without question. This is a gender issue that should never have to be countered with pointing out that VIAGRA, for example, is often covered even though it’s not exactly a serious health medication.

With any luck and the necessary will perhaps it won’t be that long until we stop having to explain to our girls why the boys seem to be getting the better of the deal.

The Small Outdoors

by Stephanie Maloney

Small OutdoorsHere it is again that time to start getting out and planning out some “away from the house” time. It seems to get tougher each year so we have to get more creative.

Actual vacations involving travel are kind of a special event category and require detailed coordination never mind extraordinary cooperation.

It’s no small accomplishment to find ways on a daily and weekly basis to get some fresh air with the kids without wasting hours of time in traffic. So we’re seeing stories about people taking turns hosting “yard parties” that are geographically user-friendly and BYO “whatever” toys for the group.

I know of parents that are taking walks and bike rides in the neighborhood instead of driving to a park. In a real switch there are stories about some single parents renting a local Air B&B with a backyard just for a few hours on an afternoon for fun & games.

This is a reach but if you have teenagers-ask them about a baseball game-funny things can happen in the spring.

Unplugging To Connect

by Stephanie Maloney

Unplugging to ConnectEvery family that I interact with has difficulty creating and managing their time together. By definition, Divorce creates two entities from one source. With our technology, it sounds crazy to admit that we have trouble connecting with each other but that is the reality for a lot of people. This is all about spending time together not time spent typing together.

There was a nice piece in the LA Times a few weeks ago by Catherine Price who writes about “Breaking Up With Your Phone” and avoiding screens not people.

It made me think about how easy it is to mistake texting with talking when someone asks about the kids and we say we just spoke and we mean text messages were exchanged.

Actual “Face Time” not the video application is sort of the Holy Grail of raising kids and excruciatingly so when divorced. It’s tough to compete with all the available options for kids out there but some people are getting creative in efforts to bring new spins on things to the table.

One family that caught my attention is using the bowling alley and the miniature golf course with their phones turned off until they are all finished. They all take turns keeping score and making reservations as well as handling the gear. Some people are applying that technique to the dinner hour or other shared activities in order to really connect with each other instead of their equipment.

Whatever it is I’d like to think that there’s something we can do together that doesn’t involve screens-unless it’s the screen on the back door of a cabin on a lake.

50 Million People Can be Wronged

by Stephanie Maloney

50 Million People Can be WrongedIt’s an old advertising ploy used by promoters for everything from cigarettes to soap; postulating, “If so many other people are doing it how can they all be wrong?” The simple answer is they were sold out – literally.

Mr. Zuckerberg has stepped up in a somewhat delayed timeline to acknowledge that like the captain of a ship he is responsible for whatever happens with his vessel.

He will now face a barrage of questions in D.C. to explain the massive borrowing of personal data by Cambridge Analytica for the purposes of obfuscating information related to the candidates in the 2016 elections.

Facebook gives away its services in return for our data. If you’re not familiar with “Bedazzled” you still might recognize the “made a deal with the Devil” dynamic and what your soul is really worth.

I admit that it never occurred to me that 50% of us rely on Facebook for news about the country and the planet, not just vacation videos. So if we thought that we were getting a free ride with our friends and family “pics & clicks” we were wrong.

There are any number health professionals suggesting that we find, no make, the time to unplug for a while every day. It might not be a bad idea to show the kids what it’s like to get an actual letter in the mail-no the other one-with a stamp and their name on it-and it can’t be hacked.

Spring Cleaning

by Stephanie Maloney

Spring Cleaning Your FinancesAs we finally are getting some much-needed rain I keep thinking about things, besides the social and political black holes, that are ripe for clean up.

With a clearer picture of your finances under the new tax laws it’s probably not a bad idea to get an overview from your advisors about all your options.

I used to talk with my brokerage clients at the end of the first quarter, especially after a turbulent year, so they could position themselves for any changes their tax advisor might suggest.

We already know the landscape has changed but we’re just learning about the effects on our individual situations.

You might very well need to talk about some adjustments with your ex-spouse about your co-parenting parenting plan in light of what is not working so well and any increased levels of stress on the kids. Worries about money have a habit of affecting all family members.

As I have noted please let me know if you think I might be able to be of help even if only for a referral to someone with a very specific area of expertise.

Also let me know if you or a friend might be interested in our Tuesday Support Group.

The Ides of Marches

­by Stephanie Maloney

Things did not go well for Julius Caesar when he ignored the soothsayer and his advice about being wary of the “Ides” (15Th) of March and was struck down on the steps of the Senate. The kids in Florida never made the steps but the survivors and thousands of their contemporaries across the US are taking what they feel are the necessary steps to put an end to this madness.

When you listen and watch what is happening the obvious questions stick out about why it has taken children speaking out and marching to get the adults motivated to action. The Florida legislation will not be enough for these young men and women; apparently you grow up fast post-gunfire.

I know parents are having difficulty with trying to explain the scenes of “17 Minutes of Silence” and with split families that kind of time is not always available.

On March 24th there will another demonstration “March for Our Lives” and here is a link for information and an opportunity to make a donation: marchforourlives.com

I am going to encourage my family to participate in any way possible as well as anyone in my circle of friends.

Hopefully we’re not the only ones listening.

 

Crypto-Scams, or, Old Wolf New Online Sheepskin

by Stephanie Maloney

Crypto ScamEvery year around “Tax Time” consumers, across the board, get hit with opportunities to “turn that refund into a lot of money” and this year some of it is coming a “Bit Coin” at a time.

Scams that have historically targeted retirees, widows and widowers are now bleeding out to include the newly single. The promise of fantastic returns on even small investments involving “Crypto Currencies” and “Block Chains” is a familiar tale echoing the old hustles of Oil & Gas and Gold & Silver back in the eighties. These scams always prey upon the “fear of missing out” and for a certain percentage of people it always works.

If you, like many of us at a certain age, are engaged in parental care you’ve already heard about some “incredible” offers being made online to “make those retirement funds really pay off”. It’s a relative new development for people to say ‘I know Dad ever since the divorce those things started showing up every day”. Since it’s all online one bad decision might open a “Pandora’s Box” of connected problems.

One of the insidious aspects of this “currency investment” is that it has become all too easy to use the pitch “no traditional broker can make money from it so they steer you away from it”.

That strategy plays deeper into the “missing out” fear and makes it a lot easier to push those buttons and “get in” on something they think is a deal “too good to miss”.

You’re going to see more about this so “be careful out there” as the “Woodsman” said to “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Divorce Resource

by Stephanie Maloney

The more I read about how little time people have for things they’d like to do the question remains about how to make time for things they need to do. That always brings me around to creating opportunities for a friendly exchange of information in a relaxed setting.

What we’re talking about is a “Divorce Support Group” designed to give people a chance to compare notes and share “strategies”. Managing the divorce process means being prepared to meet the constant challenges that an ever-changing landscape often presents.

Instead of just an exchange amongst peers I’m thinking about inviting people from different disciplines such as the Real Estate and the Investment sectors. It seems that as our time gets harder to control it might help to “double up” and combine opportunities to exchange and discover new resources for securing a better future.

The Kids Are Alright

by Stephanie Maloney

“Divorce is always toughest on the children” has been a very old mantra for very demonstrable reasons. As much as we try to shield them from the negativity that comes with the divorce process the after-effects are felt for years. It’s how we deal with co-parenting issues on a daily basis that sets the tone and the example for the family to help guide them in the direction of good decisions.

How incredible is it that the kids in Florida are now turning around to show us the path to a smarter decision.

How does a child process a parent not being able to explain why students, like them, are being shot and why the grown ups don’t make it stop. Apparently one way these Florida kids discovered was to get on a bus, go to the Capitol(s) and “Call BS”. BRAVO!

This is one that both parents can reinforce with the family and offer support if anyone wants to get involved. It’s one of those times to “reach across the family aisle” towards a common goal because it just makes sense.

Congratulations on the Gold to the USA Women’s Hockey Team-the goaltender, Rooney, is from Minnesota.

Winter Olympics – Teaming Up

by Stephanie Maloney

Even if you don’t have “Olympic Fever” there are always some great moments worth watching.  Because I skated competitively growing up in Minnesota I’m reminded how important teamwork is to even the individualevents.  The research and planning that are part of the preparation process involve many people and have a lot to do with the final results.

Relying on a team is something that starts before every divorce and continues afterwards as you reshape your life. You are still going to need advice from professionals after the settlement to protect your assets as well as your own peace of mind. There are also going to be people in your social circles with whom you’ll network and exchange resources. Those same people will be grateful for the perspective and suggestions that you bring to the table.

Working in Divorce Mediation I get a good look at how willing people are to share when they believe it will be of help. If you have gone through the mediation process you can be very comfortable with telling people it may not be right for them if they are NOT in mutual agreement with their spouse. If, however, they are on the same page then they can “go for the gold” and take home a “medal worthy ” settlement.

Make Some Time-Take Some Time

by Stephanie Maloney

The pictures from the Florida School shooting will be tough to digest and tougher to forget. Without getting maudlin-hug the kids a little tighter, a little longer and get some pizza and ice cream-or just a smoothie and some sushi. Whatever it is do something ordinary that you don’t ordinarily do even if it means taking some time from your workday.

If the kids are not an option go do something that you enjoy.  Valentine’s Day is always a tough one because memories uncontrollably come rolling over us; and it’s tough to block out just the bad ones.

If nothing else go do something physical that will have its own rewards. There are a couple of months left before the warm weather starts and you will feel better if you look better and just walking can help put color in your cheeks.

If you’d like to talk with some other people dealing with Divorce we’re starting a support group on Tuesday nights. Send an email to:

info@peace-talks.com

and we’ll let you know all the details as they are finalized

If Wall Street Is Your Street

by Stephanie Maloney

If individual stocks or mutual funds are associated with your divorce, whether by mediation or litigation, don’t panic because of the recent market volatility. When people “inherit” equities it can take some time to learn how to properly keep track of them.

In my many years in the investment sector I witnessed corrections similar to what we are seeing recently and they are an organic part of our financial dynamics.

“You can’t time the market” has been a longtime mantra in a very self-explanatory way because of its simple but indisputable message-just accept it.

What you can do is talk to your investment advisor about whether any changes might be warranted. More often than not “riding out the storm” will be the safest strategy but if your life situation is changing you can adapt accordingly.

A Paradigm Shift: Conscious Uncoupling

by Ali Marcelino

Recently I completed a Conscious Uncoupling training course conducted by Katherine Woodward Thomas.  My intent is to introduce those principles into my practice here at Peace Talks Mediation Services.

The foundation for the extensive training and certification is found in Ms. Thomas’ book, Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After. This book serves as the catalyst for a paradigm shift for people going through a divorce or a relationship breakup.

The current divorce model supposes that the end of a marriage is also the end of a coupling.

But what if it is not?

One belief among divorce professionals is that they can’t make a profit if they are cooperative and ethical. The truth, and the new agreement, is that divorce mediators will thrive if they promote expeditious and collaborative judgments.  This will increase their value to their current and future clients.

In a crisis, men typically want to “fix” things and women feel the need to take on the responsibility for everyone’s well being. The exercises in the book are tools that make one realize that one can only provide for others when one prioritizes self-care.

The stories that we tell ourselves, what Ms. Thomas calls “the source fracture” otherwise known as a breakup narrative, are debilitating.  Choosing to gift ourselves a peaceful divorce requires the same core set of values we volunteered for in marriage- honor, respect, consideration and even love.

What I’ve learned from the book and training is that connecting to a deeper, wider place within ourselves gives us an opportunity to connect with the experience of the breakup. Only then can we create a new life in a more empowered and healthy way.

My new conscious agreement to the couples I work with is to help honor their old relationship while transitioning to a new one.

Divorce Continuum

Divorce Resolution Continuum

By Diana Mercer, Attorney-Mediator, copyright 2003

The decision to divorce is followed by a number of choices for how a case might be filed and later resolved. Some of the steps are a loop, and others may be mixed and matched, but the general continuum, from least confrontational to most confrontational, is:

Decision to Divorce

• No response: spouse ignores petition, or is missing = proceed by Default

• Kitchen Table discussion on how to resolve case, do-it-yourself papers

• See a lawyer, get an idea of rights, then resolve around the Kitchen Table and DIY

• Use a paralegal or one lawyer to draft the papers, no individual representation

• Individual representation with lawyer for one party only who helps parties settle informally, without court

Mediation

• Mediation with lawyers involved, to a more or lesser degree

• Streamlined Collaborative Divorce

• Collaborative Divorce

• Start litigation

• Litigation at first but ultimately settle

• Litigation at first, but use Private Judge or Arbitrator for final decision

• Litigation and Trial

Know your choices. Litigation attorneys have a reputation for determining the total amount of your net assets, dividing by their hourly rate, and then that’s how long your case takes. Some cases cannot avoid litigation, but understand the toll and the cost. https://www.peace-talks.com/compare.php

Insider Divorce Advice

Divorce Advice I Give My Friends

I’ve been a divorce attorney for 23 years (youthful appearance notwithstanding).  As you might guess, every single one of my friends (including Facebook friends) ask me for my advice when getting divorced.

I’ve written a couple of books about divorce, and that’s where the official advice is.  This is the unofficial advice.

Jedi Warrier, Use This Advice Wisely to Stay Out of Trouble:

Wile E. Coyote Schemes: Your spouse may be plotting and being strategic like some sort of Divorce James Bond. But at the end of the day, it’s a business deal and a parenting plan.  It is what it is. Don’t let your imagination run away with you.

 

divorce schemes

 

 

 

 

You can keep costs (and suspicion, and plotting) down by:

  1. Be organized. Make a notebook or set of folders with labeled dividers with all your financial records (recent ones, at the very least) and all tax returns you can find.  Get  a comparative market analysis for free from any realtor to estimate the value of your house and include that in your notebook.  Also include a recent pay stub or two.  Make your spouse a notebook, too.
  2. Yes, you heard me right.  Make a 2nd notebook for your spouse.  No playing games. If you don’t organize and copy the financial documents, your spouse’s lawyer will, billing by the hour.  Either you can make the notebook or your marital property will pay for having the notebook made (the attorney’s fee comes from somewhere, and most likely that’s your savings account).  Yes, it sounds crazy. But removing the mystery from the finances will prevent a lot of arguments and legal wrangling. 
  3. Don’t get paralyzed by your emotions. It’s natural to be upset during your divorce. If you find yourself too upset to make good decisions, ask for help, whether it’s your therapist, best friend, clergy or family member.  And even if you’re feeling numb, it’s easy enough to get a hole punch and a notebook and sit at your kitchen table and get this information together.  You don’t need all your faculties to do that, so it’s a good activity for when you’re feeling lost.
  4. Don’t take the bait: Your spouse will say things just to get you upset. Ignore it. “We aren’t getting anywhere with this fight, so I’m not going to fight about it anymore. I hope we can work all of this out, though, eventually.”  Change the subject. Say that sentence as many times as you have to.
  5. Eventually, your spouse will get bored when it’s clear you aren’t going to fight back. It’s going to be very hard to do, but you must refuse to fight.  When you behave differently than you have in the past, your spouse will wonder what’s up and watching that might be amusing, so enjoy that moment and watch as your spouse adjusts to the fact that the old tricks don’t work anymore.
  6. Stay Sane. Take care of yourself. Exercise. Eat right. Make appointments with your therapist, make extra time for your kids (this is bonding time so don’t talk about your spouse), play soccer or checkers (ideally with your kids), make hang out time with friends.
  7. Finding that Special Someone: If you decide you want to meet someone, date or get laid, keep that plan to yourself. Seriously. It’s actually better to wait to get involved in a relationship, but so many people start to date as soon as they can so I’m telling you that your spouse will not take this news lightly. Your spouse will go nuts if you’re with someone else.  I know that makes no sense, but it happens all the time. All the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse who found a new lover first or if he or she moved out and filed for divorce and you wanted to reconcile.  Your spouse will still go bananas when they see you’ve moved on. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying don’t let anyone find out.

My Friend Said: If your spouse talks about other people’s divorces or what the lawyer has planned for you, ask:

  • How many years did that friend’s divorce take?
  • How much did the divorce cost?
  • How much did your lawyer say that all of this would cost in legal fees?   https://www.peace-talks.com/compare.php
  • Will your lawyer put it in writing their guaranteed result? And that it will be better than what I’m prepared to offer without having to go to court? Net of the legal fees?

You’re safe with that last question—no sane lawyer will guarantee an outcome or total fee so this will force your spouse and his or her lawyer to have an honest discussion about the pros and cons of pursuing any given legal action.

Legal Advice from Your Spouse:   I love that spouses try and give each other legal advice. Really? Since when did your spouse become a divorce lawyer?  I thought he was a marketing executive

Court Field Trip: Mediation

to kill a mockingbird resized 600We see a lot of grandstanding in mediation.

I think a lot of clients think they’re going to get To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus Finch style attention in court.  The sad truth is, however, that if you get 10 minutes you’re lucky.

I know you don’t believe me. Nobody does until they actually spend the $ and time necessary to get their 10 minutes (squeezed in before the lunch break, so you already paid your lawyer for 4 hours plus travel time).

So go ahead, and think I’m some self-interested mediator who just wants to drum up business.

Don’t believe me when I tell you that California has closed entire courthouses since the recession began. Or that in Los Angeles county there’s a monthly mandatory furlough day when there’s no court staff and the courthouse is closed. Shuttered.

Judges getting pink slips? You better believe it.

And this is AFTER you were already probably going to get 2 sentences and a stack of paperwork to hand the judge and then your hearing was over.

Over 41,000 couples get divorced in Los Angeles County each year.

But no, don’t believe me….why should you? You can see for yourself!

Here’s what we put in our summaries and reports:

Court Field Trip: At different points during the mediation session, you each indicated that you might feel like court would be a good option for resolving some of your impasse issues.  Before you make a final decision as to whether court would be a good option for you, we’d suggest that you make a trip down to the Superior Court at 111 N. Hill Street, 2nd floor, Los Angeles,CA 90012 and see what happens in the family courtrooms.  We think it makes sense for you to have all of the information before you make final choices about going to court or not going to court.  Without seeing how the court operates, you won’t know if it’s the best choice for you.

As you know, we’ve painted a fairly bleak picture of the litigation process and pros and cons of using the court to resolve your dispute.  But you don’t need to rely on our version of the situation:  you can go to court and see for yourself.  All court files and proceedings are public record, which means you can look up anyone’s file in the filing room (room 112) or sit in on anyone’s divorce case in any of the family court rooms (most are on the 2nd floor).

By going to court, you can observe the litigants, lawyers, bailiffs and judges. You can see and feel what the court experience might be like for you if you were to choose to go to court on your case.  You can get an idea of how much time a judge has to hear each case as well as the opportunity litigants have to speak to the judge, their lawyers, and the other party.  You can get an idea of how much attention the court proceedings give to individuals’ goals, values, common interests, and creative non-judicial solutions.  We think that you’ll agree with our observations, but it’s important that you see for yourself.  Without seeing how the court operates, you won’t know if it’s the best choice for you.

 

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation > and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post. Join the community on our video blog.

The Tale of 2 Blogs: Mediation

For those of you who’ve found this blog, but not the Making Divorce Work blog, I actually maintain 2 blogs. This one, the Peace Talks blog, is pretty straightforward. Mostly mediation and legal information and advice, in a sort of op-ed type format. The 2nd blog is much more personal.

I’ve found that as a mediator, the more personal I get with people the better success rate I have.  I actually do care about clients (contrasted with my feelings about my litigation clients, with few exceptions, 15 years ago). 

So for the 411, the Peace Talks blog is the place. This is the mediator whose articles you’ll read:

Diana Mercer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 For insight into what really goes on at the office, and inside my head, check out the Making Divorce Work blog. This is the person whose blogs you’ll read:

describe the image

Sincerely (and I do mean that),

Diana Mercer

Divorce and Graphotherapy

graphotherapy divorce recoveryDivorce and Graphotherapy

Guest blog post by Sheila Lowe, MS www.sheilalowe.com

Divorce sucks. No point denying it. Whether you’ve grown to hate the person you once loved or the parting is amicable, when it comes to ending it all, you still have to grieve for the hopes and dreams you once shared. It’s stressful, it’s painful, and there are plenty of difficult feelings to deal with. But there is a way to make some of it just a little bit easier.

In my work as a handwriting analyst, I’ve found that people in stressful situations such as divorce have been helped by doing a few simple exercises called graphotherapy. Some exercises help difficult emotions come to the surface for release. Others help the brain to focus and attend better, so that when you’re filling out all that paperwork and figuring out who gets what, you won’t miss any important details.

graphology

Graphotherapy works because everything you’ve ever done or thought or said remains in your brain, and when you pick up a pen and write, the way you’ve responded to all your life experiences and integrated them into your personality is translated into the trail of ink you leave on the paper.

Your handwriting is unique to you

Divorce in California

California has its own personality with divorce.  One of only 9 states that follows Community Property law, California seems intent on doing things its own way.

But a divorce in California doesn’t need to be complicated. At least not the legal part.

Mediation provides a way for couples to get divorced in a respectful, thoughtful and informed way without “giving away the farm.”

mediation california

Because California community property law is so simple:  everything is 50/50 from the date of the marriage until the date of separation (assets, debts, everything), the complex part becomes all about the exceptions to the very simple rule.  And there are plenty of exceptions.

What I like about mediation, at least mediation with an attorney-mediator, is that you can talk about the rules and the exceptions, and the laws and case law that supports each side in a very open way.  When we have these legal discussions at Peace Talks, if it’s something clear-cut under the law, we can give people a copy of the law, or a handout that explains. 

If it’s something more complicated, I can say, “If I was husband’s attorney, this is what I would argue, and here’s the law that supports his position,” and then, in the same breath, “If I was wife’s attorney, this is what I would argue, and here’s the law that supports her position.”

Once everyone has heard both sides, we can then talk about what seems fair. 

The problem with going to only 1 attorney, individually, is that you’d just hear the argument that favored your side, while your spouse would be in another attorney’s office hearing the argument that favors the other side.  See the issue?

I’m convinced that when people have the information, time, and support that they need to make a good decision, that they will make a good decision.  And that’s what mediation is all about.

Sometimes I hear criticism of mediation, like that a participant is feeling like the mediator is taking sides, or that their position isn’t being heard.  Speak up!  Part of a mediator’s job is to make sure you don’t feel that way, but sometimes it’s not clear from the discussion that someone is uncomfortable.  Bring it up!  It’s really important to the process, and your mediator WANTS to hear that you feel like the mediation isn’t working.  It’s much easier to fix that problem in the session, while you’re there with the mediator, than afterwards.

If you do speak up and your mediator gets defensive, then maybe it’s time to switch mediators.  It’s the mediator’s job to hear everyone’s side and where they’re coming from, even if the mediator doesn’t personally agree. After all, it’s about the clients and participants, not about the mediator.

Want to learn more about mediation?  Check out these resources, or schedule an appointment with a Peace Talks Mediator:

About mediation

FAQ about mediation

Pros and Cons of Mediation

 

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

Shared Custody Schedules

Shared Custody Schedules.  When you’ve been married you’ve been parenting together, the idea of seeing your kids on a schedule probably seems pretty foreign.

It’s a divorce and separation reality, however.

There are a few things to keep in mind to help you be successful at shared, cooperative co-parenting:

  • It will take some time for everyone to adjust, including you.  Give yourself some time to get used to sharing parenting.
  • Sometimes kids will say different things to each parent. Sometimes they’ll do it to test you, and your reaction.
  • Some of the separation anxiety kids experience is normal and it would happen even if you weren’t divorced. Try and keep some perspective, and don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about what they’re going through.

Shared custody schedules are as unique as each family. You’ll read about guidelines in books and on web sites, but your parenting plan needs to fit your family, no someone else’s. So don’t be afraid to deviate from what the experts say if you know it will work. And, if it doesn’t work, you can always adjust the schedule.

joint custody

Here are some popular shared custody schedules:

Split Week Plan for parents sharing children on weekdays and weekend. You’ll also hear this called the 2-2-5 plan because kids are with one parent 2 days, the other parent 2 days, and then 5 days with the 1st parent…then vice versa.                      

Week #

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

1

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Dad

Dad

Dad

2

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

3

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Dad

Dad

Dad

4

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

What we like about this schedule:

  • Good for children under age 5 who have good attachment to both parents.
  • Works for even-keeled children between ages of 5 to 12.
  • This is a regularly recurring and consistent plan. Nobody goes too long without seeing either kids or parents.

What we don’t like about this schedule:

  • For kids under age 5, this plan may require the child to be away from one parent for too long.  If you like this schedule, you could break up the 5 day stretch with some time with the other parent.  
  • If the situation is high conflict, there are a lot of transitions between households. High conflict transitions are particularly stressful for  immature and special needs kids.

Alternating Week PlanYou’ll also hear this called “week on, week off”

 

Week #

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

1

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

2

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

3

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

4

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

 

What we like about this plan:

  • Works for children over age 7, since they understand the concept of a “week.”
  • Older kids like teens and pre-teens tend to like this plan because it requires fewer transitions.

What we don’t like about this plan:

  • 7 days is a long time not to see your kids, or for your kids to see you.  Consider breaking up the 7 day stretch with some time with the other parent.
  • If the situation is higher-conflict, you might try and schedule that “in between time” at school or an activity where both parents won’t be face to face.  

So these are some guidelines, but we encourage you to think about your own child’s needs, temperment, and your schedule.

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Low Cost Divorce

In response to the recession, Peace Talks now offers a couple of new services for low cost divorce and uncontested divorce California.
low cost divorce
I hope you’ll keep us in mind if you come across couples needing either of the following, or if you need these kinds of services yourself:
1) $995 paperwork only service: for couples who already have an agreement and who just need the paperwork, we’ll do all of that for $995. This is no mediation time, no contact with an attorney or mediator….just the Peace Talks head paralegal who will do the intake and all the paperwork. Linda Duarte (our head paralegal) is also a trained mediator and is able to handle minor things that come up, but Plan A is that people using this service already have an agreement and don’t need any legal information or dispute resolution.
As a practical matter, we have an in-house attorney draft the Judgment, or at least the important parts of it. The attorney also supervises and proofreads the work, but is not in contact with the clients.
2) A sliding fee scale:
This is for clients who need mediation time and our attorney-mediator + therapist-mediator team, but who legitimately aren’t in a position to pay our full fee:
Sliding Scale Service Agreement: To qualify for a reduced rate, you and your spouse must have $100,000 or less in combined gross income and less than $200,000 in net assets.
Sliding Scale Rates:
Mediation time: $395 per hour (almost a 40% discount)
Petition and Response flat fee: $250
Judgment Package flat fee: $995
For more information, contact Linda Duarte at Peace Talks Mediation Services, (310) 301-2100.
As always, we offer a free mediation orientation where you and your partner/spouse can meet one of our mediators and decide if the process will work for you.  Click for a 90 second video about mediation orientations.
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Causes of Divorce

What Causes Divorce?     

   You hear a lot about the reasons marriages end. Usually, fingers point to affairs or money. But marriages don’t end because of events. In 23 years of practice, we have found that divorce occurs when a couple has turned from one another and looked for satisfaction outside of the marriage. We call this turning. Turning is the cause of divorce.

            If you are the one who asked for your divorce, it may be clear to you why your marriage is ending. If you are the still-loving partner and didn’t want the divorce, looking back for the signs that led up to your spouse wanting the divorce will become clearer to you as you reflect. Marriages fall apart like erosion. The breakdown started slowly with one tiny misstep after another, until the sum of these became so large that the relationship collapsed.

causes of divorce

            Looking back at the deterioration of your marriage is takes courage. But understanding what happens to typical couples, and what happened to you, can help normalize the situation for you, and this will allow you to move on  If you initiated the divorce, you’ll have a more clear understanding of why. And if you didn’t, the process will help you appreciate that this isn’t a sudden, single event which could have been prevented. Turning happened before either of you saw the signs or understood their gravity.

            Though the particulars vary from couple to couple, there is a predictable sequence of events that occur as a marriage breaks down.  While you’re in it, it’s difficult or even impossible to see. As outsiders, we can identify the turns

Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

Tips for Co-Parenting after Divorce

This is a guest blog by Scott Morgan, a board certified Austin Divorce Lawyer.

Co-parenting after divorce can seem daunting, but it is entirely possible to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse. The most important thing to remember is to put your children’s well-being ahead of your own feelings towards your ex. Your ex will always be your kids’ mom/dad; despite the fact that you are no longer together, your ex will still be a part of your life, and you can build a healthy relationship based on co-parenting your children.

Tips for a healthy co-parenting relationship after divorce include:

Focus on the Positive

Always speak positively of the other parent in front of or to your kids. You and your ex-spouse may have stopped loving each other but your kids need to know that you still respect each other as parents. Do not undermine your child’s respect for the other parent by saying hurtful things to each other in the child’s presence.

Communication

Communication is essential for maintaining a civil relationship with your ex. You don’t have to like each other, but maintaining open communication about matters related to your children will make it easier on everyone. If you and your ex find it difficult to be civil, or to remain calm during discussions or handovers, it might be worth enlisting the help of a professional. A counselor or therapist may be able to help you to address your feelings about your ex, and help you to focus on your ex as your children’s other parent, as opposed to someone who hurt you, or whom you dislike.

Blended Families

If more than one child or set of children in the family is dealing with divorce, you will need to try to create a positive relationship between all members of the family. Communication will be especially important within a blended family, and it can be even more important to remain positive about, and civil towards, your stepchildren’s absent parent. Again, you do not have to like each other to be civil. It is ok for your kids to know that you do not love, or even like, your ex very much, but it is also important to children in a blended family that all of the parents involved behave respectfully towards each other, and towards each other’s children.

Create a Co-Parenting Plan

Agreeing on parenting techniques can be hard enough for married couples, but it can be even more difficult for divorced couples. You may not feel like talking to your ex, or your ex may refuse to talk to you, but drawing up a co-parenting plan as a guideline is a good idea. Your divorce lawyer or a court mediator can give you advice on how to draw up a co-parenting plan, and there are even co-parenting classes available for couples going through a divorce.

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Stay on the Same Page

If at all possible, try to make life easier on your child by having a similar schedule, and similar rules, in both mom’s and dad’s house. This is easier said than done, especially if different parenting styles were a factor in the divorce, but children are likely to feel more settled, and be less likely to try to play one divorced parent off against the other, if mom and dad are on the same page for important issues.

About the Author

Scott Morgan is a board certified Austin divorce lawyer who regularly blogs on the subject of divorce and family law. You can read his blog at Austin Divorce Specialist.

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Cost of Divorce: Cost of Staying Together

Putting a price on sanity?

There have been so many articles on people who aren’t getting divorced because they “can’t afford it” that it’s making me a little alarmed.

The monetary cost of divorce is one thing. Certainly, divorce mediation is a less costly alternative to fighting it out in court, especially when finances are tight and savings are dwindling.

What people don’t see, and what I do see as a divorce professional, is the toll that staying together when you really should be living separately is taking on couples.  Mediation cases are getting harder to settle because couples are really burning bridges by trying to stay in the same house, so by the time they get to mediation they’ve really used up all the good will that they had for each other. 

And, of course, there’s always the couple that says, “Oh, living together will be fine,” and then I get a call for a criminal lawyer because someone called the police and one or both spouses is in jail.

But this didn’t start with this recession. It’s pretty much always been the case….

It was a crisis, alright.  I didn’t think we would ever make it out.  Mortgages were becoming more expensive than the houses they were paying for and being in debt was the rule, not the exception.  Does this story sound familiar?  It’s a familiar plot, but the setting here is Los Angeles, California, 1988.  There I was, a fresh-faced divorce lawyer, newly admitted to the bar in the midst of a looming recession.  There was no end in sight.  Of course, things did eventually turn around, that is until the economic bubble burst again in the early 2000s, and then again in 2008 leading to the situation we are challenged with today.

Only today is different.  It used to be that couples on the brink of divorce would separate and move into their parents’ homes until the dust settled.  Not anymore.  Now it’s all about staying together and trying to “make do” with changing your living situation being a last resort.

Sure, it sounds like a decent plan

Setting Clear Boundaries in Divorce

Setting Clear Boundaries

Often, your marital or domestic situation does not meet the level of serious violence where you have to flee, but you are subject to consistent intimidation or abuse.

These actions are also a form of violence or battering, and also an indication of the deterioration in your relationship. Understand that when you are being victimized or attacked in some way, your children risk being hurt, too. Furthermore, you are showing them a dangerous model for their own future relationships, a type of behavior they may carry with them throughout their life and repeat as adults when they become involved in intimate relationships.

domestic violence

Establish standards now for how you allow yourself and your children to be treated. Click here for an informative article on boundary setting.

Some indications that your spouse, partner, husband or wife has gone too far include: getting angry at you when you disagree; punching holes in walls; throwing objects (aimed at nothing or at you); destroying belongings; threatening to hurt you or leave you for the purpose of intimidating you; physically preventing you from leaving home; putting pressure on you not to work when you want to; insulting or ridiculing you; becoming jealous of your friends, activities, or hobbies; making you account for your whereabouts at all times; using promises and lies to manipulate you or to get you to forgive their angry or threatening behavior; isolating you from friends or family; making you ask permission to go out or make a career move; and threatening to harm your possessions, pets, or children.

Do not allow behaviors that feel uncomfortable, frightening, or intimidating to become acceptable to you or your children in your home or anywhere. These behaviors are forms of abuse even if you do not fear for your safety.

Make it clear to your spouse that s/he can no longer try to control your life or your actions. If you do fear for your safety, you will need to take additional steps to guarantee your safety. Click here for information regarding protection orders and the protection order process, and here to familiarize yourself with Peace-Talks’ mediation services. Finally, click here to download the PDF version of Peace-Talks brochure that provides a quick visual means to our family law and mediation services.

When Your Children Are Involved and Affected Children can be affected by parental violence in several ways. They can be physically injured during an incident between their parents; they can be traumatized by fear for their mother and their own sense of helplessness in protecting her; they can blame themselves for not preventing the violence or see themselves as causing it; they can be directly abused; and they can be neglected by parents who aren’t caring for their kids properly due to the violence present in the parental relationship.

Studies show that parents fail to understand how often and to what extent children who witnesses parental violence or abuse are affected by it. Both mothers and fathers report that children are aware of abusive behavior less than the children report themselves when given the opportunity to respond.

You can also take advantage of a book I wrote in 2001 that offers a comprehensive outline of the divorce process, Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001).

There are free browsing and top 10 tips sections to help you at : http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com . If you’re seeking divorce or other marital information in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, or the South Bay, visit https://www.peace-talks.com  or call 310-301-2100.

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If you’re not near Los Angeles or Orange County, you can find a mediator near you at http://mediate.com.

For more information, visit http://www.makingdivorcework.com.  Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator, and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, https://www.peace-talks.com.  She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010) http://www.makingdivorcework.com  and Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com  and writes for the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diana-mercer  as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work http://makingdivorceworkblog.com .

Mediation is the New and Improved Litigation

Well, there’s really no improvements on divorce and custody litigation.

But mediation is definitely a better way to go.  Less costly, faster, confidential, on your schedule, tailored to your needs….the benefits of mediation are pretty clear.

When you mediate your divorce, family law, custody, child support, alimony, spousal support or modification issue you don’t have to go to court and waste time and money.  If you’ve spent any time on our mediation website, you already know how passionate we are about mediation and its benefits.

divorce mediation

A new couple came in for mediation recently.  They’d already spent about $100,000 on lawyers’ fees and going to court, and had gotten basically nowhere. That’s not unusual forLos Angelesin terms of divorce lawyers and legal fees in court. It looks like they’ll settle their case with Peace Talks for about $5,000. We’ve accomplished in a few hours what the lawyers didn’t do in four years. That’s the difference Peace Talks can make. 

Of course, as much as I’d like to claim the credit for this breakthrough, it’s because the clients are ready to settle and want to settle (although there is still a ton of conflict) that makes this possible. But still

Creating a Good Divorce

I know it’s an oxymoron:  nobody wants a divorce, so how could one be good? But when you’re faced with divorce, you have lots of opportunties to make it less bad (if not actually good, at least in the long run, in hindsight).

I’ve been a divorce lawyer for 24 years, and expert on what works best for both parties when you’re getting divorced. As a divorcee myself, I perfected a personal “what works” that helps people navigate the often rough waters of divorce.

 When you’re faced with a divorce or other family law case (custody, support, domestic partnership, cohabitation), you have the maximum opportunity for success in resolving everything to the best benefits through mediation.

mediation

 This might sound somewhat self-interested, since I’m a full time family law mediator….but I became a mediator after giving up a very high paying divorce lawyer job because I felt it was more important to be part of the solution, and not encourage the fighting that often characterizes divorce.  I traded my fancy car for a 2002 Honda Accord, and 11 years later it’s still fulfilling helping families through this difficult life transition of divorce.

 Diana Mercer, Mediator

You can work through a lot of the issues you’ll face with our free tools:

free-stuff

 Here’s how it works:

 In mediation, you and your spouse or partner work with a neutral, unbiased professional or team of mediators. This is more often a lawyer, a therapist trained in mediation, or someone with both legal and counseling expertise. The job of the mediator in your family law case is to help you settle your differences,  from cars and furniture to parenting plans for children, financial support and sharing of retirement accounts.

 When considering a family law or divorce mediator,  look around.  Mediator styles vary.  Ask your prospective mediator if a free orientation or initial consultation is available.  Take time to decide what type of mediator might work best for your personal circumstances. This is an intensely personal process,  so you should seek a personal connection with your chosen mediator.

 A mediator’s style might include:

    * Making suggestions

    * Informing you about legal provisions

    * Relating what others have done in your situation

    * Defining your options

    * Helping you consider alternative ways to resolve your problem

    * Facilitating communication

    * Ensuring the divorce discussion is balanced, productive, and respectful

    * Writing down agreements in a cogent, easy-to-follow way

    * Guiding you through court paperwork (or doing it for you)

    * Mentoring your staying on task and finishing discussions, because when discussions grow difficult, it’s tempting to just change the subject.

 Not all mediators do all these things, so use this list as your own list of questions when considering a mediator in a divorce proceeding.

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Is Divorce Failure?

Family Mediation and Failure

Many clients have told me that they viewed getting divorced as a their greatest failure as an adult.  Even their body language told me they weren’t so proud to be in my office speaking with me about it.

When you do take that oath and enter into those sacred bonds of marriage, you believe it will last forever.  You never plan on getting divorced; it’s dictated by circumstances that feel out of your control.  However, you can take that control back in determining how to handle divorce when it happens to you.

Of course, there’s always the famous “going out in a blaze” approach, which may or may not include intense gossiping, rounds of “he-said she-said” and creating a bonfire out of your spouses belongings (not an unpopular route from my experience).

divorce mediation

Fortunately for the rest of us, there is a way that allows you to part in a respectful way that is fair to both parties, and doesn’t drudge up any unecessary drama.  It’s called Family Mediation.   It’s truly divorce made easy.  Or at least easier. Signing up for Family Mediation services is a way to avoid expensive trips to your swanky Los Angeles divorce lawyer.

Even if you feel you have failed as a partner in a marriage, it is still your call whether to fail at being a responsible adult.  Divorce is tricky, so you want to come out of it feeling good about yourself and your history together.  If you care about your relationship, give Mediation Services a shot, it could give you results that you’re looking for.

A spoiled relationship is one of those things that we just can’t control, at least not once it’s happened and it’s beyond repair.  It could start with a small incident and gradually build up to a separation.  It happens all the time.  To call that a failure would be an injustice.  What you can control is how you react to it.  Working things out peacefully through Family Mediation is a way to help eliminate the burden of a drawn out divorce and still keep on good terms with your spouse.

Even the best of us get unlucky.  My mother, the most kind and gentle person I ever knew, succumbed to cancer in 2010.  My friend from here in Los Angeles, adopted a drug-addicted boy who is now stricken with a life threatening illness.  The world is full of happenings beyond our control.

Somebody once said, “it’s not success that makes us great, but how we deal with failure.”  If divorce comes your way, you can greet it with strife and aggression or you can welcome it in and deal with it in a calm way that ensures you will get through it without unnecessary fallout.

Ask yourself these questions:

In Divorce, The Truth Is Not Relevant

The TRUTH IS IRRELEVANT IN DIVORCE.

I know that sounds like crazy talk.

But think about it this way:

When we think of disputes, most of us think that the truth is the key to the resolution of any disagreement.  Get to the truth, and you have the resolution to the conflict. Yet, despite the words of P.D.Q Bach, “Truth is just truth. You can’t have opinions about truth,” how many of us see “the truth” the same way?

Truth is said to be the foundation of the American justice system, yet how many litigants are satisfied with the outcome of the case once the judge makes a ruling?  By its very nature, litigation results in at least half of the litigants being disappointed, and disagreeing with the mandated “truth”.

“I Promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”

divorce mediation

This oath that’s stated by every witness in an American court is designed to bring out the truth.

Honesty and veracity are important virtues— in the courtroom and around the mediation table. A witness who is perceived to be lying on one point—even a small one—may be disbelieved in other parts of his story.

Having credibility and being believed is no less important in mediation—since mediation settlement requires voluntary agreement, you have to gain the trust of your adversary to conclude a deal. Truth is never irrelevant when you’re talking about credibility and trust.

And the truth is….

Does it really matter who downloaded the virus onto the computer system?  Does it really matter how many times President Clinton was with Monica Lewinsky?

Interesting? Yes. But whichever way this testimony came out or was perceived, what truly was important went beyond the truth of this evidence. Could the President regain the trust of Congress, the Cabinet, the American people, and his wife and daughter? Could Monica Lewinsky move on with her life? What happened was that the country’s focus disintegrated into partisan bitterness, when its energy and resources would have been better spent in improving the economy or protecting our citizens from terrorist danger.  That’s what happens when when the focus shifts to the wrong part of the conflict.  The country focused on “the truth” and the past, rather than the bigger picture, and more important goals.

Looking at it a different way, the truth, though important, remains different for each individual and probably can’t be reconciled. What really happened in the White House bathroom was less important than what President Clinton did at the infamous press conference when he pointed his finger and defiantly (and credibly) stated: “I never had sex with that woman.”  His mealy-mouthed attempt to shade the facts did irreparable damage to his credibility.  The truth mattered much less than the country’s trust in his credibility.  By losing focus on the goals

Divorce: Kids and Custody

Kids and Custody

Do you remember being a kid?  At my age it’s a little blurry, but I can tell you that adults often misunderstand how kids behave and think.  Children are often smarter and more creative than we give them credit for. 

As a toddler I distinctly remember being able to understand that my Dad lost his job before my parents told me.  Kids can often pick up the signs of divorce better than adults can.  Being honest about it can work wonders for the whole family, but it’s important to follow some guidelines when dealing with such a sensitive subject.

divorce custody

Don’t get into the gory details about the custody dispute.  Just tell them that it has begun, that you are ready to answer any questions they have.  Always assure them that they can count on both parents unconditional love, however the divorce dispute turns out.

Do not involve your kids in the dispute, meaning don’t use them to spy on your spouse, to act as a messenger or otherwise.  You have to get your information from another source, not your kids.  If no other source is available, perhaps you are blowing up a non-issue.

Never let your child’s feelings stray from your mind.  You want to lower the stress that the custody dispute causes them and be mindful of what they are telling you.  Even with non-verbal cues, your kids can tell you a lot.  They may get upset easily and express their anger to you directly.  If they complain about your spouse, and your spouse reports the opposite, they could be indirectly letting you know that they are caught in a loyalty conflict.

Monitor their progress carefully.  It’s possible that the separation will cause developmental regression.  Mood swings and acting out may result in discipline problems at school or at home.  Sometimes these changes can result after one spouse moves away, or after another significant separation event.  You could also see a slow deterioration into this behavior as the custody battle wears on.

If you do notice negative changes in behavior, it’s important to talk to them openly (assuming they are able to) rather than point fingers.  Get everyone on the same page, whether it be your spouse, your child, divorce lawyers, therapists, etc, to make sure you have a plan to facilitate your child’s positive growth.

If you decide that your child is not giving you all the information you need to adequately care for their well-being, hiring a professional, such as a therapist, for individual or family sessions can be a huge help.  Counseling is not a dirty word.  Health is the number one priority.  That includes the health of your relationships.  Family comes first.

In my experience, parents can be hesitant to involve even more people in their dispute, especially if they are hiring attorneys, accountants and other professionals.  With all these bills to pay, money can be an issue.  It’s vital to not forget your child and make sure they are getting the help they need.  Even getting a neighbor or friend to talk it out can help in a big way.  Having a confidential sounding board can help them let to go of pent-up emotions and enable them to cope.

As a divorce attorney and family law mediator in Los Angeles, and having seen my fair share of custody disputes, I can tell you that they can be heart-rending.  A parent’s love for their child is unmatched.  It’s this love, however, that should allow us to protect them from a long drawn out situation.  The battle doesn’t have to be bloody.  Talking it out in Mediation is a perfect solution.  Divorce Mediation Services and Family Mediation Attorneys are here to help you.  Peace Talks is based in Los Angeles and is ready to help you out through this most difficult period in your family’s life.  Search the site for more details on custody disputes and child protection.

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Cause of Divorce

What Causes Divorce?

When thinking about how marriages end, people often look towards distinct events like affairs or money-related problems.  What we’ve found in our 20+ years of experience is that typically this is not the case.  Divorces follow a more basic form of separation: when partners turn away from one another to seek gratification outside of the relationsip.  In our experience, this “Turning” is the primary cause of divorce.

The partner who files for divorce may have a clear view of the reasons behind their decision.  If you are the other half and disapprove of the split, the picture can be a bit more fuzzy.  Often with reflection one can see a course of events leading up to it.  What at first appears to be an abrupt decision starts to look more like a long-term deterioration.  One tiny misstep or argument may have started a chain reaction that became too much for the relationship to bear.

cause of divorce

Even though there may be a natural resistance to revisiting the past, it is important to make peace with what has happened.  By analyzing the path that brought you here, you gain the peace of mind that is necessary in order to move on.  The partner who intiated the divorce will get a better understanding for why they made the decision.  The partner who didn’t will come to realize that what they may have initially thought was preventable was actually inevitable.  Turning is powerful and can happen long before anyone realizes it.

Participants in a marriage often get a myopic point of view of what is really going on.  They can convince themselves that nothing is wrong when in fact the wheels are already turning against the relationship.  People outside of the marriage looking in are able to see the turns–he started staying late at work, while she endlessly cleaned the house, or he played golf all weekend with his buddies while she took day trips to visit her college roommates.  The turns themselves don’t have to be for salacious reasons like extra-marital affairs and alcoholism.  It’s often something you wouldn’t expect, even something positive, like vying for a promotion or taking care of the kids.

Turning is something that happens over a period of time, not something that comes from out of nowhere.  You may have identified it early on, but didn’t know what it would lead to.  When turning occurs in a marriage–as it often does–neither partner can be held accountable.

This is not to say that arguing and disagreements are something to be avoided in a healthy marriage.  In fact, it can be just the opposite.  Plenty of healthy couples fight.  It can be a way of bringing out issues that otherwise stay under the surface and fester.  Discord on its own is not a warning sign of a looming divorce.  Fleshing out arguments and coming to compromises are important exercises in any marriage.

Some helpful free resources:

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It is a misconception that fighting is a real reason for a divorce.  Fights happen when one partner can’t meet the needs of the other.  In a fight, there can be a lot of blame and shame being thrown around.  Here is an example: “You never want to have sex with me during the week,” he exclaims. “Well, you leave me alone with the kids all day and by night I am exhausted,” is her retort.  The argument and the words used are just symbolic of larger issues.

Let’s break it down for a moment.  His complaint that she doesn’t want to have sex really just means that he is not getting the emotional and physical attention he needs.  Her counter is that she is chasing around the kids all day, but she really means that his career demands have made it impossible for her to pursue her interests.  They are both screaming for attention, but since they don’t realize the impasse they have reached, instead of compromise, they only try to guilt  and shame one another into seeing it their way.  What if he had just said, “I wish I didn’t have to work so much, that way we could regain the spark that has been missing,” to which she would reply “The kids and I miss you during the day, how about taking a day off next week?”  Now there is a helpful dialogue that can lead to compromise and both of their needs being met.

Effective communication is paramount in a healthy marriage.  While it is easy to make mistakes the first time around, by analyzing where the turns happened in your marriage, you can put yourself in a position to move on and prevent them from happening in the future.

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Divorce Sanity: The 8 Peace Practices

There are eight peace practices which are free and easy to stick to every day. They’ll help you stay sane no matter what, and we all know that sanity is at a premium at the moment of any divorce. An excerpt from the 8 Peace Practices chapter of Making Divorce Work, our comprehensive book on cooperative divorce, was published by Mediate.com

Sure, we’ve all felt like screaming at the top of our lungs at times.  But we also know what it does to our blood pressure and ability to think creatively and problem solve.

Using the eight peace practices contained in the 8 Peace Practices chapter will help provide some peace-of-mind even in the most difficult of times.  Sure, they help during your divorce, but they also help when you’re stuck in traffic or in a meeting with co-workers.

divorce sanity

Divorce mediation rather than a divorce lawyer helps maintain the peace in your family–after all, you remain a family even if you’re divorced.  The opportunity to have an uncontested divorce increses, in California or elsewhere, when you mediate instead of litigating.  Mediators in family law help you talk to each other and say what you really mean without getting shut down or intimidated. Most trained mediators will give you sound legal information, and help you make a solid decision that works for you, your spouse, and your children. Just remember, the settlement needs to work for your spouse also, or he or she won’t sign it. And for YOU to get a settlement, your spouse has to sign.

Everyone, divorcing couples and people on the street, sometimes think mediation is all about peace, love and warm feelings, and that mediators spend all their time talking about people’s feelings. That’s only partially true. Feelings between the divorcing couple are important. After all, you’re talking about everything you care anything about when you’re mediating:  your future, your past, your financial security, how you’ll raise your children.  There’s no avoiding it. Divorce includes feelings.

It also includes the legal requirements as mandated by divorce courts, and that needs to be informed, thoughtful, and thorough. 

For you as an individual, you need both:  a successful legal divorce, and a successful emotional divorce.

The 8 Peace Practices will help you get there.

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Insider Divorce Advice

Divorce Advice I Give My Friends

I’ve been a divorce attorney for 24 years (youthful appearance notwithstanding).  As yo might guess, every single one of my friends (including Facebook friends) ask me for my advice when getting divorced.

I’ve written a couple of books about divorce, and that’s where the official advice is.  This is the unofficial advice.

Jedi Warrier, Use This Advice Wisely to Stay Trouble:

Wile E. Coyote Schemes: Your spouse may be plotting and being strategic like some sort of Divorce James Bond. But at the end of the day, it’s a business deal and a parenting plan.  It is what it is. Don’t let your imagination run away with you.

You can keep costs (and suspicion, and plotting) down by:

 1. Be organized. Make a notebook or set of folders with labeled dividers with all your financial records (recent ones, at the very least) and all tax returns you can find.  Get  a comparative market analysis for free from any realtor to estimate the value of your house and include that in your notebook.  Also include a recent pay stub or two.  Make your spouse a notebook, too.

Yes, you heard me right.  Make a 2nd notebook for your spouse.  No playing games. If you don’t organize and copy the financial documents, your spouse’s lawyer will, billing by the hour.  Either you can make the notebook or your marital property will pay for having the notebook made (the attorney’s fee comes from somewhere, and most likely that’s your savings account).  Yes, it sounds crazy. But removing the mystery from the finances will prevent a lot of arguments and legal wrangling.  

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 2. Don’t get paralyzed by your emotions. It’s natural to be upset during your divorce. If you find yourself too upset to make good decisions, ask for help, whether it’s your therapist, best friend, clergy or family member.  And even if you’re feeling numb, it’s easy enough to get a hole punch and a notebook and sit at your kitchen table and get this information together.  You don’t need all your faculties to do that, so it’s a good activity for when you’re feeling lost.  Some really great free resources for keeping your sanity:

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 3. Don’t take the bait: Your spouse will say things just to get you upset. Ignore it. “We aren’t getting anywhere with this fight, so I’m not going to fight about it anymore. I hope we can work all of this out, though, eventually.”  Change the subject. Say that sentence as many times as you have to.

Eventually, your spouse will get bored when it’s clear you aren’t going to fight back. It’s going to be very hard to do, but you must refuse to fight.  When you behave differently than you have in the past, your spouse will wonder what’s up and watching that might be amusing, so enjoy that moment and watch as your spouse adjusts to the fact that the old tricks don’t work anymore.

 4. Stay Sane. Take care of yourself. Exercise. Eat right. Make appointments with your therapist, make extra time for your kids (this is bonding time so don’t talk about your spouse), play soccer or checkers (ideally with your kids), make hang out time with friends.

5. Finding that Special Someone: If you decide you want to meet someone, date or get laid, keep that plan to yourself. Seriously. It’s actually better to wait to get involved in a relationship, but so many people start to date as soon as they can so I’m telling you that your spouse will not take this news lightly. Your spouse will go nuts if you’re with someone else.  I know that makes no sense, but it happens all the time. All the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse who found a new lover first or if he or she moved out and filed for divorce and you wanted to reconcile.  Your spouse will still go bananas when they see you’ve moved on. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying don’t let anyone find out.

 6. My Friend Said: If your spouse talks about other people’s divorces or what the lawyer has planned for you, ask:

  •  How many years did that friend’s divorce take?
  • How much did the divorce cost?
  • How much did your lawyer say that all of this would cost in legal fees?   https://www.peace-talks.com/compare.php
  • Will your lawyer put it in writing their guaranteed result? And that it will be better than what I’m prepared to offer without having to go to court? Net of the legal fees?

 You’re safe with that last question—no sane lawyer will guarantee an outcome or total fee so this will force your spouse and his or her lawyer to have an honest discussion about the pros and cons of pursuing any given legal action.

 7. Legal Advice from Your Spouse:   I love that spouses try and give each other legal advice. Really? Since when did your spouse become a divorce lawyer?  I thought he was a marketing executive

Uncontested Divorce: California Guide

You Want an Uncontested Divorce….but how do you get there?

The concept of divorce mediation is relatively new, but recently it has been getting a lot more attention.  Especially in Los Angeles, more and more people are starting to appreciate the benefits of an uncontested divorce.  Collaborative divorce and other divorce alternatives, once considered fringe, are now coming into the mainstream. 

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Here’s a quick look at some advantages to divorce mediation:

It saves money.

Of course it does!  Think of all those expensive attorney fees you’re a saving.  In fact, in Los Angeles alone, the average price tag on a litigated divorce hovers around $50,000 per person!

It saves time.

Courts are so over-crowded, that some judges hear more than thirty cases per DAY!  The entire process could take weeks if not months and in some cases, years.

Cooperative Co-parenting is the trend.

A very encouraging trend in divorce is cooperative co-parenting.  It happens when both parents see a benefit in sharing custody of their children and being present for their development, even though they have separated.

Who needs enemies?

The basic premise here is that it’s much easier to be friends than enemies with your spouse.  Uncontested and collaborative divorce helps to maintain a pleasant discord with your spouse, and alleviates unnecessary stress.

The trend of collaboration between divorcing parties is certainly a welcome trend.  It signals a shift in values throughout society, not just among divorcing couples.  We are committed to talking things out, and working out our issues rather than letting a third party coldly decide our fate and the fate of our families.  We are starting to see that it’s much harder to fight than it is to get along.  Not only does it sap us of energy, it comes at the expense of our careers, our lives and the health of our children.

There has been a great change in child custody trends over the years as well.  Sharing custody is the rule not the exception.  Both parents want to be involved in the upbringing of their children.  I see this positive trend in my family mediation sessions: parents want to do right by their kids and make the best of a bad situation.

Making the decision to share custody is one thing, but what happens if you don’t get along?  The good news is that you don’t have to be best friends to share custody.  If you could use the positive karma of settling out of court in a collaborative divorce, it could be the difference in maintaining that positive relationship when it comes to sharing custody of your children.

Well, now your saying, of course, I want to settle out of court, but how do I do it?

It’s not a one step process.  But at Peace Talks Mediation we try and make it as easy as possible.  We’ll guide you through the process so that it is easiest on you and your family.

Filling out Paperwork is step one.  You’ll find that hiring a mediator, attorney or paralegal will help you immensely.  We are used to it and can help you make the process a breeze.  There are also helpful kits and forms you can find online.  Every divorce needs the same documents: Petition, Response and lastly Stipulated Judgment.

Next is the Negotiation Phase.  This is where Mediation services can really help.  We foster a cooperative environment where everyone can have their say.  We won’t try and get everything done at once.  In any mediation session it’s important to keep everyone on the same page.  These are delicate issues, but they don’t have to be complicated.  We’ll work with you to get the peace of mind you need.

Next comes the Disclosure of Financials.  This is mandated by law.  The state demands that you be accurate and thorough.  Any over- or under- reporting can get you in deep water, fast.  If you sign up for divorce mediation, we will provide you with the necessary paperwork to fill out.  Remember, your spouse is entitled to see all of your financial records, and vice versa.  In an uncontested divorce, cooperation, both with your spouse and with the law, is paramount.

Which brings us to the last phase: The Agreement.  Assuming that you’ve negotiated with your spouse a settlement that you can both agree on, you’re in the home stretch.  If you decided to negotiate on your own, without the help of a mediator or collaborative divorce attorney, you’ll still have to go out and get the divorce.  Hiring a professional mediator will keep you out of court and give you the freedom to separate on your terms, saving you from the burden of unnecessary cost and stress.

Of course, these guidelines are just here to help you along the way.  Divorce is tough.  No one escapes the emotional toll.  You probably never thought you’d be here.  Especially if you have kids, it was something you never wanted to face.  Having a support system to get you through it is just as important as having a good lawyer or mediator.  Your friends, family, faith and any professional guidance you may seek, all play important roles.  Be honest and forthright, stay confident, and before you know it, it’ll be over.

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Mediate Family Law, Don’t Litigate!

Here at Peace Talks, we love Mediation.  If you’ve spent any time looking through our site and blog posts, you know that already.  It’s an easy sell, because, to us, it’s a no-brainer.

 Just look at a recent example: one couple came into our Los Angeles office looking to get a divorce settlement through mediation.  Divorce in California can be tricky, there are divorce laws and fee schedules that can get complicated, not to mention courts are overcrowded to the point where some Judges are seeing over 30 cases a day!  Their case was particularly bad.  They had been in court for months, to the tune of $100,000 and had made ZERO progress!

 At Peace Talks Mediation Services we want to get your case settled as quick and painless as possible to get you on your way to your new life.  That’s what we care about.

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 Sure we’re a business, but we also have a vision.  We realize divorce is something no one wants to go through.  It’s scary and intimate and can bring out the worst in people.  We understand, but we reject the notion that it has to be this way.

 If we can help people get settled for as little money and hoopla as possible, but be fair and leave you with the confidence to go on with your lives, we’ve done our jobs.

 Oh yeah, and that client?  The one who had $100,000 invested in a litigated divorce and had enough?  In and out of Divorce Mediation to the tune of $4,000.  To get an idea of the cost of divorce mediation vs. litigation, check out the chart on our website. There’s also a great list of pros and cons of mediation vs. litigation.

 So whether you are going through divorce, custody, family law, alimony, child or spousal support, come take part in the Divorce Mediation and ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Revolution.  Here are a few of our favorite reasons why mediation is better than going to court:

 1.  It’s cheaper – Duh.  In real numerical terms, it’s over 90% less expensive, on average, than going through litigation.

2.  You decide the schedule.  It’ll go as quick or as slow as you want it to go.  It’s your decision, not the court’s.

3.  It will preserve your relationship.  Eliminate that added stress and negative energy of a contentious divorce.  You don’t want to always be thinking “what if I run into him?” at the store or at the gym.  Especially if you have kids, it’s important to keep that familial bond.

4.  It’s more child-friendly than any court option.  You care about your kids and so do we.  Mediation will teach them that Mommy and Daddy can work things out with respect and understanding.

 More on kids: I was talking to a child psychologist the other day, and they were telling me how easy it is to avoid behavior problems after divorce.  Her advice: Be An Example.  There is a direct correlation to how kids do after divorce and the amount of conflict between their parents.  Mediation helps you avoid conflict.  Even clients that come into our offices thinking they have it all figured out often have layer upon layer of conflict waiting to rear its head in our sessions.  We help them get through it.  That’s what we’re here for.

 Each session is molded to your specifications and to your unique situation.  We never have a set agenda, it’s what YOU want, not us.  We have even implemented a sliding-fee scale.  Contact us and we will review your case to see if you are eligible.  It’s “Divorce Made Easy.”  We want our services to friendly and affordable, the opposite of what most divorce attorneys in Los Angeles provide.  Remember, don’t litigate…MEDIATE!

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Child Custody Mediation and Contested Custody

Choosing whether to proceed in court with a custody dispute is serious business.  It affects your spouse, who you may be trying to deny custody altogether, but most especially, it affects your child or children, who may be forced to grow up without their birth father or mother as an active player in their on-going development.  These are not simple issues.  They have deep and life-spanning ramifications. 

I have to admit, even as a professional divorce attorney in Los Angeles with years of experience in both divorce law and family mediation, I often am emotionally drained after a family mediation session.  You can’t let emotions sway you in delicate situations like these.  That’s why I’ve included here a short divorce custody self-assessment.  There are a series of questions that you should answer before deciding to go through with any child custody battle.

child custody

It’s probably the most frequently asked custody question I get: should I go through with it?  I can’t tell you yay or nay–each person should decide that on their own–but like any other professional you will talk to, I can give you some information to help you educate yourself and your family to prepare you to make that all-important decision.

Number one: It’s about the children, their security and their safety.  This should be first and foremost on your mind.  This isn’t a self-righteous step, this is one where you need to wield an unbiased authority.  This is a step that must be taken because all other roads lead to a dead end.

Ask yourself these questions:  Have I done everything in my power to resolve this with my family?  Have I tried to resolve this? Have I tried mediation and participated in good faith?  Has the process I have taken been the best and most efficient?  Have I chosen the right professionals to come in and look at our case?  This could include doctors, accountants, attorneys, psychologists, etc.  Will they represent my family’s best interests, and not their own?  Most importantly, do I go into this with confidence and trust?  Am I prepared?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to these, so far, so good.  You are on your way.  You’ve prepared, completed the leg work and done the research.  You’ve documented your concerns on paper, addressed them with the appropriate parties and have so far shown a respectful, yet confident demeanor in and out of the courtroom.  One-by-one these add up to your authoritative stance, one that is not wrought with emotion and self-righteousness, but one that is calm and collected and rooted in what is best for your child.

Some additional free resources for your divorce:

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Have I closely monitored my children throughout this whole process?  Have I been able to gauge their reactions and observe their demeanor for signs of stress, emotional or physical?  Have they been able to keep a good perspective throughout this separation process?  Have I resisted the temptation to bad-mouth my spouse in front of them, or otherwise try to use them to gain favor in this dispute?  As we said before, the child is the most important part of this process.  You have to be sure not to put them in the middle of things: this isn’t their doing.  They deserve to be treated with utmost respect and concern.  If this is a difficult process for you, imagine what it is like for them, having to seemingly choose sides between two people they have loved their whole lives.

Which is why the next questions are difficult:  Have I not lost the reason for why I am doing this?  Have I done anything to undermine the other parent’s authority when dealing with my children?  Am I willing to bear the burden of causing them the pain of separation between them and the other parent?  Am I subsequently willing to work with them every step of the way to ensure that this pain is ameliorated?

If you, as a parent challenging custody, are trying to cut a parent from your child’s lives, you must remember that as a result, you may get more time with them, but you also get less of them, because part of them has also been cut away.

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Divorce Strategy and Divorce Mediation

 

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

That’s a quote attributed to Alexander Graham Bell and couldn’t be more true today.  As a divorce attorney, you’re preparation is a lot different than it is as a Mediator.  I would know, I am currently a Mediator dedicated exclusively to family law, divorce settlements and child custody and I was also a divorce litigation attorney for many years.  Back when I worked at firms like Noyes & Mercer in New Haven, Connecticut, I had a much different preparation strategy than I do now.

 As a divorce attorney, you better believe you need to be prepared.  That includes drafting a strategy for the best possible outcome for your client.  It’s a game with a lot at stake.  As a litigator your job is to win.

divorce attorney

 Boy, am I glad those days are over.  Today I am concerned with strategy and “winning” in a whole different way.

 I’m concerned with helping couples, as a whole, not one side, to reach an agreement that they can both live with equally.  It’s a relief after years of thinking on a one way street.  My job is to make sure both parties have all the information–no trial notebooks, pre-marked exhibits and cross-examinations.  When a couple comes into our office at Peace Talks Mediation Services, I get to greet both sides knowing that when our sessions together are over, they will have the tools and the knowledge to craft a brighter future for themselves, post-divorce.

In the old days, I’d wear out notebooks with notes and scripts for evidence objections and questioning.  I learned from the best, my mentor Carl Porto of Parrett Porto Parese was always the most prepared guy in the room.  He always used to teach us that winning was about preparation, being more prepared than the folks at the other end of the table.

 My record: in twelve years as divorce litigator I “lost” just once, and by “lose” I mean the judgement wasn’t up to my standards.  Not bad.

 I miss those days in some ways, but now as a divorce mediator in Los Angeles, it’s a whole different ballgame, one that can be it’s own reward.

 My preparation these days consists of notes, worksheets and checklists as well, but now everything is more open.  We share our notes and checklists with the clients–both sides.  All financial documents are explained and gone through in detail during our sessions to make certain that everyone is up to speed.  We debrief after sessions, going over bullet points and drawing out a plan going forward.  It’s a more intimate process, with the client in the driver’s seat.

Take advantage of some of the tools we use for free:

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 Sure, divorce mediation can have it’s fair share of pitfalls, but we all work to pick each other up and attack the problem, like players on a team.  We’re in it together.

 In fact, the only strategy we need in Mediation is this: Do whatever is necessary to help people to reach an agreement.  What a pleasant thought!

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Co-Parenting Calendars

*FREE* Online Parenting Calendars

Review by Janae Monroe

Peace Talks Mediation Services

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Juggling soccer practice, violin lessons, tutors, and everything else in between can be extremely difficult to manage for any family, but for divorcing parents it’s all the more challenging.

Using programs like these will help give your children a sense of predictability.  You can even enlist the help of your children to set up the initial information on the website.  It is an opportunity for them to see how you manage time and schedules which is an excellent skill for a child of any age to participate in and observe.  Take a look at all of the options and decide which features you will use given your family’s needs.

These programs are straightforward, easy-to-use and FREE:

  1. Google Calendar

How it works:  Each parent (and/or stepparent or caregiver) will need a g-mail account.  Add each event (you can set them up to be recurring) and then sync both parents’ calendars.

Perks:  Free, easy to sync to any smart phone and/or iCalendar or Outlook and most people are already familiar with how it works. Very easy to use.

co-parenting calendar

   2. Split Schedule

    How it works:  One parent will need to set-up the account (takes less than 5 minutes) and then the other parent will get a link and password to access the account and edit the calendar (Note: The parent who sets the account up does not have any special access to the account).  There is only one calendar so you don’t have to worry about syncing or notifying the other parent.  One potential problem:  You’ll save yourselves a lot of heartache if you  clearly establish that this is your sole method of scheduling and that any last minute changes should include a courtesy phone call or text.

    Perks:  Free. You can send messages and alerts when something is added, removed or edited.  There’s also a Parenting Journal feature that allows you to keep track of any issues or events that you want to record.  Journal entries are personal and not shared with the other party. Many people find it helpful that they are uneditable and time-stamped so that stories cannot be changed later on.

       3. Co-Families.com

    How it works:  Sign-up is easy;  all you need is an email address and the email addresses for everyone who needs access. Every person can add their own dates, color-code by child or by Parent/Caregiver,  and you can choose who gets to see the event. For example, your child’s tutor may not need to know what time your child’s swimming practice is.

    Perks: Free.  Parents can send messages to each other or comment on an event (i.e “I have a meeting until 6, I might be 20 minutes late,” etc.) and it also features a resourceful blog that will help with co-parenting.

         4. Cozi

    How it works:  Similar to the others:  all you need is to register, which will take less than 5 minutes.  After every e-mail user activates their links that person is then able to add to the calendar.

    Perks:  Free. Simple to use, and it can sync with any iCalendar or school calendar. There’s also an iPhone, Android and Blackberry app you can use or you can download a widget onto your computer. You can send reminder text messages and e-mails and the agenda will be emailed to you at the beginning of each week. This program makes it nearly impossible for someone to be uninformed since there are SO many ways to be reminded and to communicate.

     

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    Divorce That Works

     

    If you’re reading this, you’re probably not in such a good place right now.  However it happens, realizing that your marriage doesn’t make you happy and that something has to change is a tough spot.  You might be early on in the process.  Or maybe you’re not looking forward to doing battle with your ex, each of you armed with lawyers. We’re here to tell you that there is an alternative – Divorce Mediation.

    If you’re new to the idea of mediation, or friendly divorce, it may seem like an idea for an improbable family film, but in practice it provides the opportunity for you to and your spouse to come out of your divorce with your dignity and sanity intact.  You have lots of life left.  You want to be able to move on to what’s next. 

    Divorce doesn’t have to leave your family life in tatters and you in a worse place than before you were married.  Divorce mediation offers an avenue to end your marriage and strengthen your own life.  You wouldn’t be looking for divorce options if everything was rosy.  Living in the day-to-day of a bad marriage is no one’s idea of fun and happiness.  You yearn for something better.  You deserve something better.  You’ve likely heard more bad divorce stories than you have good divorce stories.  How is a good divorce even possible?  At Peace Talks Mediation here in Los Angeles, that’s mostly what we see.  Good divorces.  Good divorces for both parties. 

    Your divorce is pedescribe the imagermanent.  The legal process may conclude with signed and witnessed documents.  But your divorce, whether or not you remarry, continues well after the ink is dry.  Marriage changed your life.  Divorce will too.  The details will differ depending on whether you asked for the divorce or if it’s your spouse’s decision, but the impact will affect the both of your lives and most importantly, the lives of your children.

    It is up to you to determine what that impact will be.  In fact, you can have a good deal of control about how your divorce goes.  If you want the divorce, you are looking forward to the day when your next chapter begins.  If divorce is not your decision, you’d like to know more about what went wrong and look forward to better days.  Either way, you’re probably feeling that mix of fear and excitement that accompany most major life decisions.  And divorce certainly fits into the major life decision category.

    If you’re looking for options to the adversarial approach to divorce, an option to fighting it out in the courts, you’re not alone.  Peaceful divorce sounds like an oxymoron but it’s worked for many, many people.  Are you really looking forward to an ongoing, potentially bitter battle with your spouse?  It’s enough that the marriage is over.  You don’t need to suffer the additional emotional bruising that often comes with that approach.  You can come out of all this more prepared for the rest of your life.

    Divorce mediation is truly a learning process. What you’ll learn about you and your spouse, as well as the whys and hows of how you got you here, will affect every aspect of your divorce.  Money and property division.  Your kids.  Your extended family.  And what happens next.  The insight and peacemaking skills you’ll learn from the mediation process will stay with you the rest of your life.

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    Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, peace-talks.com. She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010), Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and 8 Simple Keys to Building and Growing Your Mediation or Arbitration Practice (Peace Talks Press 2011). Diana also writes for the Huffington Post as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work.

                                                       

     

    8 Keys to Resolving Divorce Conflict

    You never thought it would happen to you, yet here you are faced with divorce. Maybe you asked for the divorce. Maybe you’re the one who is being left. Even if it is something you and your spouse both want equally, you are facing a crisis. You may be wondering why we’re talking about resolving family conflict now, when you’re pretty sure you’re getting a divorce.

    If divorce is your reality, why not make the best of it? This may seem impossible right now, given the state of your relationship. It is not. Even if you are not on speaking terms with your spouse today, you can end the conflict in your relationship and uncover peace. We’ve seen this again and again with many, couple talkingmany couples in our divorce mediation practice.

    You can learn how to bring peace into your marriage, even as it is dissolving. Peacemaking is a skill, just like any other, and it starts with understanding and using eight keys to resolving family conflict. Keep in mind that it is actually harder to remain at odds with someone than it is to make peace. Once you learn these skills, you’re sure to reap the benefits in all the other parts of your life.

    The 8 Keys take only a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. Practice makes perfect.

    The 8 Keys to Resolving Divorce Conflict

    1. Be hard on the problem, not the people
    2. Understand that acknowledging and listening are not the same as obeying
    3. Use I-statements
    4. Give the benefit of the doubt
    5. Have awkward conversations real time
    6. Keep the conversation going. Life is a dialogue
    7. Ask yourself “Would I rather be happy or right?”
    8. Be easy to talk to

    Using these eight simple keys will revolutionize your divorce experience as well as your home life — and even life at work. They’re easy to practice and implement once you get started. The more you use these techniques, the better you’ll get. You don’t need to save them just for your divorce process. There is life after divorce.

    When tensions arise, you’ll be operating from a more peaceful baseline and more apt to remember to use these keys to resolving conflict where ever it occurs in your life.

    Free chapter social media for mediation

    Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, peace-talks.com. She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010), Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and 8 Simple Keys to Building and Growing Your Mediation or Arbitration Practice (Peace Talks Press 2011). Diana also writes for the Huffington Post as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work.

    Resolving Divorce Conflict – Be Hard on the Problem, Not the People

    A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict

    Key 1: Be hard on the problem, not the people.

    We made this the first conflict resolution skill because it’s likely the first one you’ll put to use.  Right now, it may be hard not to see your spouse as the problem, as the reason for your divorce.  Or the other way around. That’s why we think it’s such an important skill to learn. 

    Change the nature of the fight and you’ll change the dynamic. Stop throwing stones in arguments.  Using blame, shame, or guilt to get your spouse to do something will become less effective as your relationship ends, because each of you will stop making the little concessions you once made for one another in the relationship. Instead, address the problem rather than laying blame on your spouse.  For example, “Whether or not to sell our house is a tough decision.  We both have a lot of work to do. I would like to work together to figure this out”, works much better than, “If you’d only earned more money while we were married, we wouldn’t have to think about selling our house.”couple

    If you don’t keep the problem separate from your relationship, you risk having the conflict overtake your life (especially after your divorce).When two people who are stakeholders in a relationship are at odds, they sometimes say and do all sorts of irrational things, project, deny and shift blame.

    All this drama has nothing to do with solving your problem. But there are things you can do to focus hard on the problem, not the person. The goal is to work with your spouse, rather than being adversarial.

    • Bite your tongue. Think before you respond. Those few seconds of tongue biting can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

    • Remember that your problem is mutual. You need your spouse in order to solve this problem — and to reach an agreement. You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

    • It takes two to have an argument. If you refuse to take the bait for a fight, the fight can’t happen. 

    • Reframe your problem as a mutual problem and use “we” language.  “We need to decide what to do with the credit card debt” gets a different reception than “You need to deal with your credit card debt or we’ll never have an agreement.”

    • Think about the situation from your spouse’s point of view, even if you think he or she is wrong. Remember, you need this person to sign your agreement.  By only thinking of your own perspective, you’ll never get resolution.

    • Don’t interpret what is going on based only on your fears. Resist the urge to turn everything into a catastrophe.  You will get through this.

    • Don’t blame.  Blame doesn’t get you anywhere, especially not now.

    • Let your spouse blow off steam and don’t take it personally.  Not everything is an invitation to fight, and even if it is, you’re not coming to that party.

    • Listen. Acknowledge your spouse’s feelings without being patronizing.

    • Be direct; don’t play games.  Have your own priorities straight.

    Though many of these points are common sense, when the relationship gets tangled up in the problem, things can get volatile fast

    Resolving Divorce Conflict – Listening Is Not Obeying

    A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict 

    Key 2: Understand that Acknowledging and Listening are NOT the same as Obeying

     

    You may be tempted to issue decrees as you deal with your spouse over your divorce.  It might seem a whole lot easier to lay down the law and have those around you adhere to it.  You may feel you’ve heard enough and all you want is to be heard.  You may really want things to go your way.  The chances of that happening however, go way down if the only way you and your spouse communication is through an argument.

    It may have been a long time since you’ve really listened to one another.  The people who successfully navigate a divorce mediation are those people who’ve learned how to listen.  Even with that seems like the hardest thing to do. When people argue, generally they’re just waiting for their turn to talk

    Resolving Divorce Conflict – Key 3: Use I-Statements

    A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict

    Key 3: Use I-Statements

    When you’ve spent the better part of your working life mediating and finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts, you begin to see patterns of both conflict and resolution.  In our divorce mediation practice, we’re big fans of  “I” statements.  “I” statements are conflict resolution magic. The best part is that they’re simple to incorporate into your habits.  And, for the recipient, the I-statement request is easier to honor.  “I feel sentimental about keeping my grandmother’s pots and pans” makes a much more peaceful case for kecouple talkingeping them than “You can’t take all our kitchen stuff.”

    I-statements create collaboration and build on personal responsibility rather than blame.

    The opposite of the I-statement is the You-statement. You-statements are inherently judgmental. They feel like an accusation (and usually are). A You-statement is your opinion of the other person.

    Imagine your spouse saying any of the following things to you:

    • You are crazy.
    • You can’t do that.
    • You are so lazy.
    • You are loud.
    • You are wrong.

    An I-statement gives your spouse information about you. It doesn’t put your spouse on the defensive because you are the vulnerable one. Imagine your former spouse saying any of the following to you:

    • I am feeling very insecure about having to support myself after so many years.
    • I am so resentful of how much money we are spending on this divorce.
    • I do not want to feel like I am not a part of my kids’ day to day life.
    • I am so angry that you introduced your girlfriend to the kids without letting me know first.

    There is nothing to get defensive about when your spouse is merely telling you something about herself. You are not responsible for how she feels or to help her feel differently. This type of information sharing helps foster communication. It makes no judgments or demands.           

    To create an I-statement, start your sentence with “I” and then use healthy personal disclosure to tell your spouse what is going on with you. Simply saying, “I’d feel so much more financially secure if you could pay off your student loan,” goes a lot further than, “You racked up that debt, not me.”

    I-statements are an easy way to show your spouse you are comfortable expressing vulnerability as you divorce. Since they are clearly your opinion or your feelings, and not a command for the other person, they are much easier for the other person to hear.  They also verbalize a sense of yourself as separate from the “we” you once were and allow you to take personal responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. Practice using them in all your relationships, not just with your spouse, so you can get used to thinking in terms of I-statements all the time.  It’s a valuable lesson with an impact well beyond your divorce.

    Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, peace-talks.com. She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010), Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and 8 Simple Keys to Building and Growing Your Mediation or Arbitration Practice (Peace Talks Press 2011). Diana also writes for the Huffington Post as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work.

    Resolving Divorce Conflict – Giving the Benefit of the Doubt & Having Awkward Conversations

    A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict

    Key 4: Give the Benefit of the Doubt.

    It’s hard to say which of these keys to resolving conflict we like the most. They have all become repeatedly handy with our clients.

    Before, during and after your divorce, you’re going to have lots of opportunities to test your ability to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.  So it’s never too early to make this a part of your conflict resolving skill set.      

    Here’s an example: Your spouse is late for a meeting with the bank to see if you can re-finance your house. Your first inclination is to take it personally. “How dare she be late again! She does this just to drive me crazy!” But there are also thousands of other plausible explanations which have nothing to do with you: the line at the grocery store was long, and the checker was new; the hamster got out of the cage and had to be found before leaving the house; an important phone call came from a family member at an inopportune time and she didn’t have the heart to tell the caller to put a lid on it.

    Maybe these explanations are true and maybe they aren’t. If this is not habitual behavior, then find it within yourself to extend the benefit of the doubt. If it’s just once in awhile, it’s ultimately easier on everyone not to take it personally. Your blood pressure will thank you.

    Any time you feel frustrated, annoyed or mildly irritated, remember that your spouse is human and so are you. We all have our bad days. Also, one day you may be the one asking for the benefit of the doubt, and it helps to pay it forward.     

    Offering the benefit of the doubt helps you practice seeing the best in yourcouple talking spouse. Perhaps you haven’t seen that in awhile. Maybe that’s because you’ve been looking for the worst. Your divorce process can make that even more difficult.  You and your spouse are both good people who are going through a very hard time right now. Allow your spouse to save face and when it’s your turn to ask for the same favor it will be an easier request to honor.

    Key 5: Have Awkward Conversations in Real Time.

    If you’re getting a divorce, you’re likely having difficult conversations with your spouse. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory.  Difficult conversations don’t get easier with the passage of time.  They only get harder, and the difficulty is compounded if it looks like you tried to hide something or be dishonest.  Here at Peace Talks, we’ve seen firsthand the positive impact of having those conversations sooner than later.

    When you need to have an awkward conversation, have it as soon as you can.  And if you can have it preemptively, it’s even less awkward.  Imagine your spouse telling you “I missed the mortgage payment that was due two weeks ago” instead of “I missed the mortgage payment that was due today” and better still “I think I am going to miss the mortgage payment that is due in  two weeks. What do you think we should do?”  

    Before you have an awkward conversation you can prepare yourself with the following exercise:

    • Identify why you feel the conversation will be awkward.
    • Is there anything you can do to make the situation better before you have to have the conversation? If so, do it.
    • Have the conversation as soon as you’re sure you need to have it, not at the last minute.
    • Be honest. Sugarcoating the truth is just going to look deceitful at this point.
    • What do you expect your spouse’s reaction to be?  Is there anything you can do or say to make that situation better?
    • Make an appointment to talk to your spouse to talk about the awkward situation, at a time and place where you can have a real conversation, out of earshot of the kids.
    • Frame your conversation and acknowledge that it’s awkward.
    • Listen to your spouse’s reaction and acknowledge that you’re listening.
    • Ask for help to problem solve.

    For Example:  You are going to be late dropping off the children for the second time this week.  You call your spouse 45 minutes before you’re supposed to drop the children off. “I am so sorry, but I can already tell I’m going to be late. I don’t blame you for being upset with me. I am upset with me, too. Given the situation, should I just take them straight to the sitter? Or what would help you most?  And sometime next week, can we talk about adjusting the drop off time so this doesn’t keep happening?”

    Establishing a pattern of having awkward conversations right away, directly and honestly can reduce a lot of unnecessary anxiety. If your husband knows you’re going to give him bad news as soon as you get it, he doesn’t have to torture himself with his imagination. If he knows you want the same thing from him, he doesn’t have to procrastinate having those difficult conversations.  Dealing with your divorce process is difficult.  Learning and using these conflict resolution skills will go a long way to easing some of that difficulty.

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    Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, peace-talks.com. She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010), Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and 8 Simple Keys to Building and Growing Your Mediation or Arbitration Practice (Peace Talks Press 2011). Diana also writes for the Huffington Post as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work.

     

    The Best Way to Start Your Divorce – A Divorce Mission Statement

    A Divorce Mission Statement

    Have you thought about how you want your divorce to go?  What’s your ideal resolution?  Do you see a clear winner or loser? 

    Divorce is one of those areas where the questions you have now will almost always lead to even more questions.  One thing you can do to exercise control though is write a mission statement.  A divorce mission statement.

    You read it right.  In divorce mediation, a mission statement for your divorce is your compass guiding you away from controversy and toward peace.

    The first step is to decide what you want at the end of this process and to spell it out.  You’ll need to set goals at the outset so you’ll be able to stay on course when things aren’t going your way.  There will be temptation to behave badly during your divorce.  Your mission statement will keep you focused.

    There is a huge distinction between what’s important and what’s urgent.  We’re often drawn toward the next most urgent thing, but often it’s really not important, at least not to the goals you’ve set for yourself.  There will be many tempting distractions during your divorce.  Your mission statement will keep you on track.

    As you move toward your settlement, life can get chaotic.  You could easily end up spending your days with activities that seem to require your immediate attention but which have nothing to do with your short or long term goals.  When you take the time to think about and craft a mission statement that suits you, it reduces stress and suffering.  It points you in the direction of living in a way that you know will make you proud of yourself. divorce mission statement

    Living your mission statement doesn’t necessarily mean a complete overhaul of your personality.  Don’t get bogged down in thinking you could’ve saved your marriage had you done something like this earlier.  You’re doing it now, and that’s what counts.  The past is the past and it doesn’t matter now how you got here.  If how you got here is of real concern to you, consider addressing the issue with a professional counselor, your doctor, or a support group.  This is about moving forward and making sure your thoughts and behavior are in line with what you deeply care about.  This will make it much easier and much less scary to let go of things which pull you off track.    

    You may want to re-write this mission statement periodically and reassess your goals throughout the process.  That’s not only okay, it’s encouraged.  Life is a work in progress.  You will change a lot during this process, and embracing the change in a positive way will help insure that you emerge happy, healthy, and whole.        

    Your divorce mission statement will serve as a reminder of who you want to be at the end of your divorce. Keep it handy. You will need these reminders when things get tough.  The hard work of staying in touch with your mission, and realigning your behaviors to fit with your mission, will be worth it.

    Most everyone we work with in our divorce mediation practice finds  that creating a divorce mission statement had a significant impact on the course of their divorce.  It’s a big first step, so when you’re done, take the time to congratulate and reward yourself. You actually wrote down your core values and are headed toward them. Rally yourself to forge ahead. You can do this.

     

    Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, peace-talks.com. She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010), Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and 8 Simple Keys to Building and Growing Your Mediation or Arbitration Practice (Peace Talks Press 2011). Diana also writes for the Huffington Post as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work.

    Divorce & Holidays: Stay Focused On What Matters Most Holiday Season

    Staying Focused On What Matters This Holiday Season

    For most children, the holidays are an exciting time that they look forward to all year. However for some, especially those whose parents are separated, they can be dispiriting and difficult.

    For tips on how to keep your child happy and upbeat during this season, read the below blog by Christina McGhee, a divorce coach and family therapist.

    Also, contact us here at Peace Talks to help you resolve any parenting disputes with your holiday arrangements. Don’t wait until December 24th to figure out where your children will be spending Christmas morning.

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    Ten-year old Daniel had always loved the holidays.  At least he used to.  Since his parents split up, nothing seemed the same.  Before they always spent Christmas Day with Mom’s relatives. He had lots of cousins to play with, special time with his Uncle Charlie and a huge family celebration.

    One afternoon, Daniechild sad christmasl overheard Mom talking to Dad on the phone. He could tell Mom had been crying. She said something about “Can’t he just spend part of the day with me?”  

    A few minutes later Mom told Daniel this year he’ll be going to Grandma’s house for Christmas with Dad.  Daniel knows going to Grandma’s equals no cousins to play with and a lot of time driving in the car.  While he wants to be fair, Daniel wishes he could tell his Dad he doesn’t want to go.  He hates seeing Mom so upset.  

    Daniel thinks back to past celebrations when Mom and Dad were still married.  They never had to go to Grandma’s before.  Why did everything have to change?

    Instead of talking with Mom and Dad, Daniel just keeps quiet, no point in making things worse.

    For kids like Daniel, the holidays can stir up lots of unspoken worries.  It’s those unspoken worries that inspired filmmaker, Ellen Bruno’s most recent endeavor, SPLIT a film for kids (and by kids) of divorce. Scheduled for release in the fall of 2013, SPLIT offers a candid and revealing look at how kids of divorce feel about family change. Reassuring children they’re not alone, Bruno’s film also offers lots of healing moments as kids from all walks of life open up about heartaches and lessons learned. 

    To see a clip of Bruno’s work in progress or to make a contribution to this very special project, visit their Kickstarter page.

    Until we can tap into the wisdom SPLIT has to offer, here are few tips to help you stay focused on what matters most to your kids this holiday season from divorce coach and Split supporter, Christina McGhee.


    Keep your emotions in check

    This holiday season your children will be taking their cues from you. Make sure you are paying attention to your feelings and needs this holiday season.  Think through where you might need a little extra support and create a plan for how you can meet those needs.

    Talk about it

    Be sure you talk with your children about what the holiday will look like for your family this year. While it may seem like an obvious thing to do, have a discussion about what will be different and what will stay the same.  It can also helpful to discuss with kids what’s most important to them this holiday season but also what will be the hardest parts.  Although you may think you know how your kids are feeling, take time to do a quick check in.  Not only does it give you a chance to learn a little more, it reassures your kids that it’s okay to talk.

    Don’t focus on fair

    When it comes to holiday schedules and special celebrations, dochildren happy christmas your best to stay focused on how it feels for your kids. Remember what may feel fair to you or your Ex may not feel so great for your kids. 

    Whenever possible be flexible and let your kids’ needs guide your holiday planning.

    Map it out

    When the holidays hit, keeping kids informed about plans or last minute changes often get lost in the shuffle.

    To keep things on track, make a color-coded holiday calendar so kids will know how and when they’re spending time with each parent. It also helps to include other significant seasonal events or special days with other important family members.

    Give kids a heads up

    Going back and forth between Mom’s house and Dad’s house can be a real challenge for kids.  Think ahead about how you can help your kids smoothly transition to the other parent’s home.  For example, instead of pulling kids away from a festive family celebration and shuffling out them door to Mom’s or Dad’s house without warning, give your kids a heads up about what the plan is before you arrive.

    Keep it simple

    When you’re sharing time between two households, avoid the temptation to “supersize” your holiday by overdoing or overindulging kids. Keep in mind; if you spend every single minute of your time together on the go, you’re likely to end up with fussy, overwhelmed and unhappy kids.

    Give your holiday balance by creating pockets of down time with your kids. Think about sitting quietly and reading a book together, taking a walk in the park or enjoying a late morning family breakfast in your pajamas. Remember, less can be more.

    Have fun

    Whatever you do this holiday season, don’t forget to have fun and stay flexible. While traditions are important, consider the possibility of changing things up. Instead of re-shaping the whole holiday, think about one thing you could do different that you and your kids will enjoy. Along with strengthening your relationship, breaking away from the “usual” can also create special memories for years to come.

     

    Christina McGhee is a divorce coach and family therapist. For more information on her and some of her work, including her book and iphone app, you can visit her website at http://www.divorceandchildren.com/.

    Divorce Wisdom: A Thank You Note to my Former Husband

    Divorce Wisdom:

    A Thank You Note to my Former Husband

     

    While it’s tempting to just remember the bad parts of your marriage, especially when you’re in the middle of your divorce, it’s also important to remember what you learned from each other, and what you gave to each other when the marriage was good.

    I’ve started reading the Modern Love column in the New York Times Style section. and it got me thinking about my former husband.

    While things ended badly, as they so often do in the demise of a relationship, there’s also plenty to be thankful for.

    I met Bill through a personal ad back when personal ads appeared in print.  He, recently divorced, went to a Learning Annex class on how to meet new people, and the class homework was to do something you’d never think of doing to meet someone. So he answered a personal ad.  Mine.

    We were married 5 weeks later.

    We spent the next 4 years having the time of our lives, renovating our broken down 1730 farmhouse, and growing up together.  Our professional day jobs gave way to creativity with a good dose of mischief when the quitting bell rang.

    So thank you, describe the imageBill, for teaching me how to use power tools.  I never would’ve imagined installing electrical wiring, cedar shingling a roof, or stripping 200 years of shellac off of woodwork.

    Thanks, too for teaching me it’s possible to cook without a cookbook. Your hot dog burritos were excellent, as was your ravioli pizza. And the night you wanted dessert and wowed our housemates with chocolate mousse from scratch was pretty amazing.  We never had much money, but we always ate well, even if the ingredients were organ meats, freezer burned piecrust, instant mashed potatoes and leftover dip.

     

    I’ll always be grateful that our lack of money never ruined anything.   When the refrigerator bit the dust and we had to keep our food in the snow outside the backdoor, it seemed like an adventure, not a hardship.  When our first Christmas gift to each other was $1500 in bounced check fees, we laughed and booked a wallpapering job to pay it back.

    You taught me that no matter what other people are doing, you can be happy.  Remember fastidious Donald, our moonlighting home decorating business’s biggest client?  He could pick out a pinpoint of missed paint behind his armoire at 40 paces. “What happened to Donald’s plant? It looks dead,” I asked. “It probably smothered in Liquid Gold,” you responded as Donald asked us to re-do something else that didn’t need to be redone.

    You taught me that everything is fixable, and everything has a solution. I learned that when you installed a new sink without turning off the water first.  Measure once, cut twice, but it still works out, even if the bathroom turns into Dunns River Falls in the process.

    So there were plenty of good times.  I have a lot to be thankful for during those years. 

    Bill and I got divorced before I even knew what mediation was, but thanks to a sensible friend (thanks, Cliff) we resolved everything in a way that made sense to everyone.  And things have worked out fine.describe the image

    The fight where Bill said, “You’re never going to finish that book!” was exactly what it took to make me finish that book. Your Divorce Advisor was published by Simon & Schuster in 2001.  And I followed that up with Making Divorce Work in 2010.

    You taught me not to let anything stand in my way.  Bill never let something small like not knowing how to play guitar stand in the way of him starting a band, and ultimately being invited to play in a Captain Beefheart festival in Europe.  He now runs an annual art festival in New Haven.   When he ran for mayor, and crashed the debates, the hostile incumbent complimented Bill on his speech, simultaneously appalled and mystified at his eloquence, Bill responded, “I’m crazy, not stupid.”

    And when the newspaper called me for comment, while it was at first tempting to let fly with everything that had gone wrong between us (which is what the paper was after, I’m sure), I realized that the reason Bill was running for mayor is that he believed in local government as a voice for the people, and that the current administration wasn’t listening to its constituents, and that his campaign was meant to bring attention to that.

    So even our post divorce has been pretty good. And Bill’s leaving the marriage allowed me to go on to have the marriage I was meant to have, and which has now lasted 14 years, over twice the length of my marriage to Bill.   So even getting ditched was, in the end, a blessing.

    Now it’s your turn to write your own thank you note.

     

    Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, peace-talks.com. She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010), Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and 8 Simple Keys to Building and Growing Your Mediation or Arbitration Practice (Peace Talks Press 2011). Diana also writes for the Huffington Post as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work.

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    Choose How Confrontational Your Divorce Will Be

    Divorce Resolution Continuum

    By Diana Mercer, Attorney-Mediator, copyright 2013

     

    The decision to divorce is followed by a number of choices for how a case might be filed and later resolved.  Some of the steps are a loop, and others may be mixed and matched, but the general continuum, from least confrontational to most confrontational, is:

     

    • Decision to Divorce
    • No response:  spouse ignores petition, or is missing = proceed by Default
    • Kitchen Table discussion on how to resolve case, do-it-yourself divorce paperwork
    • See a lawyer, get an idea of rights, then resolve around the Kitchen Table and DIY

    choose how confrontational your divorce will be

    • Use a paralegal or one lawyer to draft the papers, no individual representation
    • Unbundled legal services:  one or both parties hire an attorney by the hour to do just the tasks the client needs done
    • Individual representation with lawyer for one party only who helps parties settle informally, without court
    • Mediation
    • Mediation with lawyers involved, to a more or lesser degree  *
    • Collaborative Divorce
    • Start litigation
    • Litigation at first but ultimately settle
    • Litigation at first, but use Private Judge or Arbitrator for final decision
    • Litigation and Trial

     

    *  Referring to collaborative lawyers for independent consultations and representation for individual clients in mediated cases may be a bridge between mediation and collaborative law. There’s also less of a chance that a collaborative lawyer will derail the mediation process.  The collaborative lawyer acting as independent counsel in a mediation might also have a retainer agreement and independent counsel agreement that follows the collaborative law model in that the mediation won’t be derailed in favor of litigation, and that the client will be expected to remain in mediation until settlement is reached.

     

    Personal Property and Divorce: Consignment Offers Solutions

    Personal Property and Divorce:  Family Focused Consignment Offers Solutions

    Guest Blog By Mark A. Roger

    Proprietor; Backroom @ WestClay

    Divorce brings with it upheaval and turmoil; navigating the dissolution of a relationship takes an emotional toll of both parties.  The dissolution and assignment of property; and cost of establishing new residences compound the situation.  Once your discussion moves beyond the legal assignment of property, consignment is a family focused venue for securing the greatest value for your property, done in a timely basis and an affordable way to create a new living space while building your new life.

    Furniture Consignment

     Consignment specialists who are family focused provide tools and knowledge that is valuable throughout the divorce process.  Partnering with a consignment specialist through mediation and assignment of property adds an objective voice to an emotional journey.  Specifically, a consignment specialist will:

    •