What to Ask the Mediator

What to Ask the Mediator - Peace Talks Mediation Services - divorce, divorce mediation, divorce mediator Divorce mediators can make or break a divorce agreement.

In order work with an effective divorce facilitator, you and your soon-to-be-ex need to vet them by asking a series of questions to determine if they can help meet both of your needs without going to court and draft a settlement that will be agreeable to both parties.

Here are several important questions to ask your divorce mediator :

      • How will they remain a neutral facilitator in this process?
      • What will occur if the mediator can no longer remain impartial?
      • What happens is the communication process breaks down and no progress can be made?
      • Is the first consultation free?
      • What is fee structure?
      • Any hidden fees?
      • Invoice by retainer or hourly?
      • How long to do they expect your mediation process to take before an agreement can be met?
      • Remember both you and your spouse have to live with the agreed upon settlement, not the mediator
        • Speak up if you have concerns
      • Mediation is not a walk in the park, it takes effort from both parties, ebbing and flowing with each to find common ground

When you are able to effectively work with a divorce mediator, both parties can make sensible decisions that will be mutually agreeable and benefit your family unit in a positive way!

At Peace Talks, our co-mediation teams of attorneys, therapists, financial professionals can help you and your spouse draft a straight-forward sensible agreement that works for both of you both now and into the future.

Our divorce mediators work with you to explore options, get the information you need to make good decisions, and assist both of you in reaching an agreement, while keeping both parties in control over their future.

Is divorce mediation for you? Get started with our Quick Start FAQ or contact us today to speak with us personally or to schedule a free mediation orientation (310) 301-2100.

Note: This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal/financial/tax advice. You should work with your attorney, financial, or tax professional to determine what will work best for your situation.

Why You Should Hire a Divorce Mediator

Why You Should Hire A Divorce Mediator - Peace Talks Mediation Services - divorce, divorce mediation, divorce mediatorLife is full of twist and turns! Often, we don’t know what road we should go down.

The “divorce” road is filled with enormous potholes that wreak havoc on custody, property, financial and emotional agreements. It’s hard to know how to avoid these potholes.

One of the things that can help keep you on the right road is to work with a divorce mediator during these turbulent times.

An impartial facilitator can help you and your spouse come to a place where both of you can share your needs and concerns in a neutral environment to draft a mutual agreement to end the marriage.

The role of a divorce mediator is to be a neutral facilitator who helps people in conflict explore options, improve communication and find a settlement that works for everyone involved.

Here are several reasons why a divorce mediator should be on your team during a divorce:

      • Utilizing a mediation service is 90% less expensive than litigation
      • Confidential and private
      • Works better with your time restraints, not the courts
      • Tailored to meet your family’s needs
      • You and your spouse can create an agreement over property and parental rights without destroying your family emotionally and financially
      • It is a sane, sensible, and affordable option to a costly divorce

Working with a divorce mediator can be the missing piece of the puzzle to help you navigate the road of divorce.

At Peace Talks, our co-mediation teams of attorneys, therapists, and financial professionals can craft a settlement that works for you and your family.

Our divorce mediators work with you to explore options, get the information you need to make good decisions, and assist both of you in reaching an agreement, while keeping both parties in control over their future.

Is divorce mediation for you? Get started with our Quick Start FAQ or contact us today to speak with us personally or to schedule a free mediation orientation (310) 301-2100.

Note: This information is general in nature and should not be construed as legal/financial/tax advice. You should work with your attorney, financial, or tax professional to determine what will work best for your situation.

Protect Your Children: Get a Will!

Protect Your Children: Get a Will! - Peace Talks Mediation Services - Will, Last Will and Testament, Divorce, Children - Copyright: <a href="https://www.123rf.com/profile_welcomia">welcomia / 123RF Stock Photo</a>While many of us may believe that estate planning is only for the rich or the elderly, you should know that this process is essential if you have children. At Peace Talks Mediation, not only do we help you with divorce mediation, but we also recommend how you can protect your most precious “possessions” your children. As we advocated in our previous blog, “If You Have Children, You Should Get a Trust!”, we now recommend you to get a will too. These two estate planning vehicles, a trust and a will, work together to protect and provide for your children in the event that you come to an untimely demise. Peace Talks Mediation encourages you to do the responsible thing: Get a Will!

Making a will is essential for people with young children because a will is the best way to transfer guardianship of minors. This means that you decide who you wish to raise your children if you are unable to do so, not a probate judge. Once you draw up a will with your estate-planning advisor, you may amend your will at any time. In fact Peace Talks thinks it’s a good idea to review it periodically. This is especially true if your marital status changes which can be peacefully and sanely accomplished through divorce mediation at Peace Talks.

As previously mentioned, a will is usually done at the same time that you create a trust. A trust is a legal mechanism that lets you put conditions on how your assets are distributed after you die, and it often lets you minimize gift and estate taxes. A will is still necessary because most trusts deal only with specific assets such as life insurance or a piece of property, but not the sum total of your holdings, for example distributing your jewelry or family artifacts. Additionally, the most valuable things that you leave for your children may not have any monetary value. These are the traditions and life lessons that define you as part of your own unique family. Peace Talks suggests the use of Ethical Wills, which are non-binding documents that allow you to pass on these intangible treasures to your loved ones.

Peace Talks wants to share some additional tips with you. You may prefer not to keep your original will in your safe-deposit box because some states will seal your box when you die and not allow it to be opened until the estate has been settled. Clearly, settling your estate is much easier with the original will being available. We suggest that you keep a copy of your will in your safe-deposit box, but give the original to your lawyer or place it in a fireproof box at your home or in your office. With the invention of the cloud, you are even able to scan all your important financial paperwork and keep a virtual copy of this material within a secure web site. It’s also essential to share the location of your trust and will as well as access to these documents with close family members, so that in the event of an emergency they will be able to obtain this vital information. Here at the California Peace Talks Office, we know that there is a potential for a disastrous earthquake. If all your estate documents were destroyed, a virtual copy of everything would be helpful to have.

Keep in mind that no one knows and loves your children like you do. By doing the type of estateplanning that Peace Talks has described, you are in control of making the decisions that are in the best interests of your children, especially appointing a guardian for them. And Peace Talks divorce mediation believes, isn’t that the way it should be? So get a will! Please give us a call to explore our mediation services at (310) 301-2100.

Divorce Mediation Primer

I came across a nice synopsis of why mediation for your divorce may be the smartest choice.

It is safe to say that most couples facing divorce expect the experience to be agonizing as well as exhausting. Ending a marriage, and the ensuing divorce, is one of the most emotional events of a lifetime. Since couples anticipate a difficult time, many wish they could find an easier path and if this sounds like your situation, then divorce mediation may be your best solution.

• May benefit children: When kids of divorce see their parents work together to resolve conflicts, it often helps them feel more secure about the breakup.

• More affordable: In nearly all cases, divorce mediation imposes fewer costs than traditional litigation. Mediation may also proceed faster than a courtroom divorce.

• Reduces anxiety: The idea of going to court causes many couples to feel anxious. An out of court solution helps to reduce these feelings of anxiety.

Divorce mediation does not work for everyone, so it is crucial to seek a legal opinion to determine if you and your spouse are good candidates. In the end, anything you can do to make the process of divorcing as easy as possible for you and your children, it is worth the effort. Call the office with any questions you’d like to talk over.

Less Painful Divorces

With just less than half of married partners ending in divorce, therapists over time have developed some suggestions for making the process possibly less painful for everyone.

You will see from these suggestions why PeaceTalks always makes sure a therapist is available for both parties for every session. You can see a thread with these ideas that reinforces the principle that this is between the two of you and nobody else.

It’s always a great thing when a couple gets helpful advice but one of the primary benefits of Divorce Mediation is the fact that you are in control.

Once the decision is made the announcement should be as simple, heartfelt, and brief as possible.

The reaction might seem to call for an explanation but it’s best to let things play out before getting into the “why’s” and “how’s” of your relationship and its new direction.

Unsolicited advice will be one of the first reactions you encounter and remember it’s not your job to justify your decisions or to act upon a loved one’s advice. You can always be grateful but non-committal as you navigate through the well intentioned and the misinformed.

Divorce Mediation Means Talking

In getting to a mutually agreeable divorce settlement we make progress, literally, by getting couples to communicate with each other. Many couples find it difficult to communicate. Our therapist mediator will provide tools to better communication and can also facilitate a “difficult conversation.”Communication is an interactive process, and text messages can be a great way to stay in contact, but too much can be lost in tone for real communication.

At the Peace Talks table we establish a neutral ground for couples to exchange their points of view and identify the goals of their mediation. The questions and answers are the bricks for the foundation of the settlement agreement but not all of the work gets done at the table.

Throughout the process and even after the final decree couples have to deal with a lot of decisions that require cooperation. We set the tone in our mediations that reinforces the idea that a problem needs to be addressed early especially when someone is in distress.  When a person is having difficulty simply asking, “How can I help?” can be a way to start.

If you only reach out when something is wrong and don’t balance that with positive conversations, it will be difficult to communicate in a healthy way. Call just to share some good news. Sharing positive moments can make a difference.

This is a process that you are learning to manage and listening to each other can make things much easier for everybody.Your family can benefit from conversations that are open, and respectful and your relationships will improve as your family learns to feel more at ease.

If you have questions about Mediation please call the office and we will have a chat about your situation.

Should We Try Mediation?

The following was excerpted from an article in the Boston Herald by Wendy Hickey

Should We Try Mediation?

The answer is yes for most people. The majority of couples we see at PeaceTalks have enough common goals to negotiate an amicable and equitable settlement agreement.  Since most people will listen to a neutral third-party guide in more constructive ways, PeaceTalks’ lawyers team with therapists and financial advisors to help navigate some tough decisions for a quicker, peaceful settlement.

Here’s an example of the logic involved as part of why mediation is worth a try for most situations.

I asked my wife for a divorce six months ago. I don’t want a big fight, but we do have kids, and different incomes, so I understand there are some complexities.

She hired a lawyer but also wants to hire a mediator and have the lawyers review things when we agree. This seems like wasted money to me. Why hire both?

Mediation is always worth trying, provided there is no real power imbalance in the relationship. The process saves money, and brings you both to the table to talk about difficult things. Couples find a jointsolution, setting a precedentfor future disputes that might arise involving the children.

The mediator’s job is to help you reach an agreement. Most, if not all mediators recommend hiring counsel for advice during mediation. It is not overly expensive, and your lawyer will make sure you understand your rights and obligations so you are educated going into the mediation. It is easier to reach an agreement when you understand the law and expected norms.

Wendy O. Hickey has since 1994 been involved in and since 2003 been a trial lawyer who concentrates her practice on national and international family law.

Click here for full article

Mediator Tips On Divorce Difficulties

There are a lot of commonalities with divorce and lessons from shared experiences can be extremely helpful when going through extremely stressful situations like divorce negotiations. Some great suggestions were offered by a mediation expert named Oran Kaufman in a series of articles for Mediate.com and I wanted to pass along these very cogent, and insightful pieces of advice to all, and to all a good night.

Give yourself all the time that you need, as hurried decisions are often bad decisions. Maybe you’re contemplating selling a house, buying a house, or which school will your children attend and so on. These are decisions the impact of which will be felt for a long time so take the time necessary to consider all the consequences.  Do your research. Consult with your lawyer, friends, accountants or anyone else who you trust to give you a rational perspective. 

 From the moment the decision is made to engage in mediation with PeaceTalks we start to help the couple form a plan that includes delineating all assets and the decision-based issues that require negotiation. Whenever necessary we provide access to a choice of legal, financial and emotional support professionals, all veterans of the divorce mediation process.

If you are already in court and you feel rushed by the court process, almost any judge I know will gladly give you more time and continue a pre-trial conference or status conference if the judge knows that you are actively engaged in mediation and the additional time will help reach an agreement.

The courts have been very supportive of the growing role that mediation is playing in settling divorce cases and we are very grateful for the cooperation that judges have extended to our clients, particularly this year with the crazy packed court calendars. If you get worried about making the December 31St deadline call the office for possible help with your filing.

Divorce is an anxiety producing process. It is particularly important during this process that you take care of yourself. By that I mean, take care of the basics: get sleep, eat, try and have some fun and exercise. All those things that are important when life is “normal” are doubly important when you are going through the stress of divorce.

PeaceTalks by location has nearby parks for walking, yoga, or just some quiet time before and/or after sitting down with us to get you closer to your settlement agreement. We also have health professionals for tips on diet and special types of exercise developed expressly for stress. All those things that are important when life is “normal” are doubly important when you are going through the stress of divorce.

Oran Kaufman runs Amherst Mediation Services in Amherst, MA and he is a former president of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation. www.amherstmediators.com

Divorce Mediation Misconceptions

I came across an article in Divorce Magazine by Susan E. Guthrie that echoed familiar misconceptions that we come across at PeaceTalks, as do many of our colleagues. Here are a few highlights and I’ve provided a link to the entire article, which makes some excellent points:

Almost any divorce case, or really any family law matter, is suitable for mediation and the parties can successfully resolve their issues without the great expense and emotional costs of litigating.”

“The most common misconception that I hear about divorce mediation it that it is onlysuitable for couples that are very amicable.In fact, mediation is also very well suited for helping high-conflict couples work through their differences and reach a reasonable solution.

It may be true that the couple is too emotional to sit down alone, so they work with their mediator, a neutral third party, trained to help them focus on the issues at hand and work together towards a resolution.

At PeaceTalks we team with a lawyer for the legal information, a financial forensicto work through and optimize the asset division, and a therapistto help manage the emotional stress that comes with high conflict cases.

Legal advice is going to be a necessary part of the process; the mediator does notreplace review and input from a lawyer.

All Mediators suggest using consulting lawyers at certain points during the process to enforce their third-party status.

Because the mediator must remain neutral, they cannot give either party advice specific to their individual best interests. Here, a consulting attorney, on a limited, as-needed basis, can provide that specific legal advice to help a party decide how to best move forward in the negotiations.When a draft Separation Agreement is prepared, it is advisable that both parties review that agreement with their own attorney before they sign it. The use of a consulting attorney will cost far less than full-scale divorce litigation representation and is well worth the expense to ensure that both parties are fully advised and supported.

PeaceTalks has a network of attorneys that we rely on whenever a client has a particular need for a specific resource.

Click here for link to full article

What to Ask the Mediator

For people screening referrals they have received to mediation services some questions are best dealt with at the very beginning of the process. Even couples that may have already made a choice often benefit from getting some issues settled before the start of actual preparation and negotiation.

Is the first consultation free?
PeaceTalks does not charge for an initial session. We think of it as an opportunity for the clients to feel sure they will be comfortable with us as the mediator and for PeaceTalks to make sure that the case is appropriate for the mediation services we offer.

How Long Will The Whole Thing Take?
Most mediation cases are finalized within six months. There are different schedules reflecting the number of issues involved, mainly custody and support especially when there are children involved. After sitting and talking for about forty-five minutes we can usually project a likely outside completion date.

How much will it cost? Is a retainer involved or installments?
We will be able to narrow down a cost for you at our initial meeting and PeaceTalks has found that a lot of potential clients are struggling financially.  Many clients come to us already in debt and now having two households is an additional burden. We find that having clients pay as they go helps to keep them in control of the cost.

When you’re ready to talk give us a call and we’ll find a convenient time for the rest of your questions.

Common Questions About Divorce

Here are a few of the questions that come up most often when people are their evaluating their options in relation to the divorce process. If you have some questions about your own situation please contact the office anytime.

How can I avoid going to court?
If you use a mediation service the court will be provided with what is known as a stipulated judgment, and you never have to appear before a judge. At Peace Talks we use a service to hand deliver all court paperwork to the court.

Does Divorce Mean We Have to Sell the House(s) or Can We Still Own Property Together?
In mediation the parties are free to decide between themselves how they wish to dispose of marital assets. Parties who were once married can continue to own property together as single people. Just the same way that people who were never married can own property together as “partners”. In mediation we will discuss how to continue to co-own.

How Much Dpousal Support Do I Get?
Spousal support is not based on a formula. Spousal support is the result of the careful weighing of the factors set forth in family code §4320. What happens in mediation is that the parties negotiate together so that in light of the applicable resources, income/expenses and needs, a workable, mutually agreeable, solution is arrived at. At Peace Talks we use divorce financial planning software to help you optimize your financial situation.

Can We Provide for Shared Custody of Our Pets?
Yes, although courts of law are traditionally reluctant to get involved in “custody battles” involving animals, parties in mediation are free to make any agreements they choose and that agreement will become the order of the court.
(Note that CA Gov. Jerry Brown just signed Assembly Bill 2274 that affects this process in the court system.)

 

Divorce and the 2018 Tax Law Change Snapshot

I came across this exchange with Jim Tankersley who covers economic and tax policy for The New York Times and Ailsa Chang from NPR. Jim gives a nice summary of the dynamics involved that are driving financial advisors to get a strategy in place for all their clients that are party to a divorce settlement before the end of 2018. He also points out that the men do not have as much to lose with the new deal.

There’s a link at the bottom to the whole conversation but here’s a few examples of how Jim lays it out:

CHANG: So the couples that will be most impacted by this are those wealthiest ones in the top tax bracket.

TANKERSLEY: Absolutely because it means the most for them because they’re getting the biggest break from their taxes ’cause they pay the…

CHANG: Right.

TANKERSLEY: …Highest marginal income tax rates. 

CHANG: And I can imagine most couples that have severely disparate incomes – it’s usually the woman who earns less. So this tax law change will probably have women bearing most of the cost.

TANKERSLEY: That’s what divorce lawyers and tax professionals and financial planners have been telling me – is that, yeah, it’s largely women who receive alimony. And particularly with wealthy couples, it’s largely women who leave the labor force to take care of kids or for whatever reason. And women earn less in the economy for the same work than men do. This is a potentially big loss for women…

CHANG: What was Congress’ rationale for getting rid of the alimony tax break?

TANKERSLEY: This is a way to raise revenue for the government. So by closing this loophole, they’re going to get more money in taxes, and therefore they help offset some of the enormous other costs of the rest of the tax bill.

 It’s also, again, a drop in the bucket of a $1.5 trillion tax cut.

To read the full interview click here

Every Judge Is Not A Solomon

by Stephanie Maloney

Every Judge Is Not A Solomon Copyright: <a href="https://www.123rf.com/profile_stockbroker">stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo</a>There’s a lawsuit filed by the ACLU aimed at preventing families seeking asylum from being separated at the border. It’s a cruel tactic implemented to discourage refugees from coming to America and if you disagree with this decision there is a petition you can sign on their website to stop this practice.

Split Custody, as it is referred to in divorces with children, is very rare in general because of the potential harm but percentage of responsibility comes up in many court-driven divorces. When the judge decides how the financial responsibilities should be divided it is not necessarily done by “cutting them in half”. That court decision can have some seriously negative repercussions for at least one parent and ultimately for the children.

Maintaining control of the settlement process is one of the main reasons for utilizing a mediator and working towards a mutual agreement, rather than leaving it up to the court. You may not be risking custody but you might encounter what you consider to be a slightly “one-sided agreement” and end up in a financial bind. Let’s remember that the judge may also come up with visitation schedules that present logistical nightmares for vacation time and holidays. “Who gets the kids for Christmas?” is a question that you will want to decide when necessary not a third-party adjudicator.

I do encourage you to make your voice heard, if you are so inclined, to stop tearing families apart when they’ve come so far by staying together.

Temporary “Phonelessness” Is OK

by Stephanie Maloney

Co-parenting is tough enough without having to wonder if you’re one text away from that phone call from the Highway Patrol. Nobody wants to be the cop in the family even when it makes sense to everybody else.

We all abuse the privilege of using the phone while driving so it’s tough being tough on the kids without hearing “you both do it and you’re the only one that gives me grief about it”. Just what you don’t need-playing mom & dad off each other.

With 400,000 “distracted driving” related injuries recorded in 2015 the (growing) numbers are too much for parents or teens to ignore and teens are four times more likely to be unlucky.

There are no easy answers but I keep reading about families that set their own guidelines and act on the “honor system” when driving alone-parents included.

The Small Outdoors

by Stephanie Maloney

Here 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

Every 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

It’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

As 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

Every 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.”

Academy Women Rise to the Occasion

by Stephanie Maloney

When Frances McDormand stood asking the “women with projects” in the Academy Awards audience to stand and be seen, with an assist from Meryl Streep, it began the largest “let’s take a meeting” conversation in Hollywood history.

Imagine “women who tell the stories about women” getting an equal opportunity to at least pitch those ideas to the real decision-makers. The fact that those people are mostly men is another conversation.

The #MeToo phenomenon has actually put some cracks in the invisible walls and ceilings of our entertainment institutions-and that’s a good thing-a really good thing.

Go do what you can to show your support for what you believe in and by all means, if you haven’t already; go see Three Billboards and Shape of Water.

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

Don’t Overtax Yourself & Do It Now

by Stephanie Maloney

The new tax legislation will necessitate adjustments for many people dealing with alimony payments-both paying and receiving.

When you start to factor in things like tuition and college debt you get a sense of where your strategy needs to shift in order to maintain sufficient protection for your assets.

Your tax advisor is going to be swamped with requests from people worried about the deductions they have relied upon for some real relief before April 15Th. You can get a head start by assembling whatever (receipts etc.) you posses as well as your various investment and interest 1099’s and charitable contributions.

The more you can do before the tax appointment is more time the accountant can take to make certain you get all the deductions you are entitled to receive. You may even need to change your W-2 status to match the new money dynamics of the altered tax structure.

If you do need to make some changes it might maximize the process to do it as soon as possible. We’ve worked with some great advisors if you need some referrals.

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.

Mediation in the News: The Williams Divorce

Back in June there was a news story about Richard Williams, the father of Venus & Serena, seeking to evict his estranged wife from their Florida home.

A few days ago the lawyer, Sandy Becher, for the wife spoke about the upcoming divorce in terms of new approach.

“What’s next is we’ll take depositions of the parties and witnesses and have hearings. After we fully exchange financial information, hopefully we can settle the matter at mediation. If not, then litigate any open and unresolved issues there still are.”

We’ll follow this story and see how it plays out. It’s interesting that even people with very substantial assets may need to call in a third-party to help them come to a mutually satisfying agreement.

Mediation is a relatively new component in the array of tools available to build a successful settlement. This sort of high profile case may bring this strategy to the forefront of possibilities much sooner in lieu of litigation.

Mediating The Settlement To Qualify For The Loan

As difficult as the divorce process can be there are many subtle financial hurdles that can prove problematic even for an amicable agreement.

What happens after the settlement is reached may not lead to the desired end of the agreement if the planning did not include qualifying for a loan.

I read a story by Michele Martin, a N.Y. Mediator, about a wife’s dilemma in not qualifying for a loan to refinance the husband off the current mortgage. Since they had agreed she should keep the house, particularly for the children, they re-worked the agreement.

“Since it was in both parties interest that the wife would be able to keep the house they agreed to increase the amount of and extend the length of spousal support and pay off a car loan in wife’s name in exchange for the wife receiving a smaller split of the assets.  he ultimate “numbers” remained the same but it allowed the couple to achieve their goal. Additionally, the new deal happened to be more tax advantageous for the husband (while being tax neutral to the wife).”

This is a great example of what mediation can accomplish to the point of making sure that people get what they need the way that it does the most good for everyone.

Collaborative Divorce Mediation: Is it the Right Choice for You?

Divorce scenarios are typically stereotyped as long, drawn-out court battles over children and property. If you’re entering divorce proceedings for the first time, you should know there are other options to settle your divorce. You can opt for a more peaceful divorce through collaborative divorce mediation. We use a team approach to work tog.

What is collaborative divorce mediation?

Unlike typical divorce scenarios, where you hire a lawyer to represent you, collaborative divorce is a solution where you and your spouse are both represented individually by collaborating lawyers. This approach helps you avoid going court, as you both meet with your legal representation to hash out the details of property division and divorce terms until the case is settled.

Collaborative divorce efforts include the advice of professionals who can help you through the process. Both spouses will get individual counseling from a qualified therapist to help with the stress of your divorce. Your therapist will help coach you through the mediation process and provide techniques to communicate effectively with your former partner.

Neutral financial advisors are also available to advise and help you divide up assets, property and personal belongings.

What are the benefits of collaborative representation?

This approach to divorce offers a lot of benefits:

  • It takes less time. With a company like Peace-Talks Mediation, you’ll be able to map out a timeline for all your proceedings when you meet with your mediation attorney.
  • It’s less costly. Paying for litigation can get very expensive, while this type of mediation is much more affordable. Contested divorces with complex custody agreements and business assets can cost up to $40,000, but mediation costs can begin as low as $4,500.
  • Your voice is heard. In a collaborative meeting, you can ask questions and make requests as part of an active discussion. You are in control of the final decisions, instead of being dependent on a judge’s ruling.
  • There’s a more relaxed environment. Appointments can be flexible and you can work around the schedules of your children and employment.
  • You still get legal representation. In a collaborative approach, you have a lawyer who is still looking out for your individual interests, so nothing is left undone and your rights are protected.

You can make it through a divorce without ever experiencing the stress of court. For more information on collaborative divorce mediation proceedings, contact a mediation-based law firm like Peace Talks.

Divorce Mediation vs. Traditional Divorce

Divorce Mediation vs Traditional Divorce

No divorce process is completely stress free, but if you choose mediation to settle your divorce case, you could save on time, stress, and money. While divorce mediation is not as common as traditional divorce litigation, there are many advantages to choosing divorce mediation that can benefit you, your spouse and your children.

What is mediation, and how is it different from typical divorce through the court system?

Mediation divorce is the most cost effective way to manage divorce proceedings. The divorcing couple meets with a mediator — a third-person party acts as a go-between to resolve difficult custody, property matters and financial matters. Through mediation, the couple has the opportunity to decide the final terms and outcomes of the divorce in a peaceful manner that benefits both parties. In many cases it’s best to choose a mediator who has experience in family law and who can make sure that all legal issues are resolved, so an attorney who specializes in mediation is a logical choice.

Benefits of Divorce Mediation:

  • Divorce mediation is significantly less expensive than going through a messy ugly hearing with a judge.
  • Divorce mediation allows you to work on your time schedule instead of being forced to work on the city’s time with scheduled hearings.
  • Divorce mediation gives both parties more flexibility because you can honestly discuss the terms of your parenting plan to ensure that your children are well cared for.
  • Divorce mediation is more humane and peaceful because the mediation sessions normally take place in a conference room instead of in a courtroom with multiple people around.
  • Divorce mediation is confidential and the discussions in divorce mediation do not become a part of public record.
  • Divorce mediation helps couples develop a communication plan that enables you to effectively communicate with each other post-divorce if children are involved.

The most significant difference, however, is that mediated divorces are not subject to arbitration. You and your estranged spouse make the final agreement, and you are not bound by the word or a judge or similar arbiter. Mediation is the method that helps you to create the ideal post-divorce scenario for your family.

What is the difference in cost?

Traditional divorce proceedings involve litigation and court proceedings. Some more complex cases go to full trial. Traditional divorce takes longer, and it can be significantly more expensive. A straightforward mediation costs as low as $10,000 and can go up depending on your assets and the number of children involved. Meanwhile, traditional divorces, complete with court fees, retainers, motions, and discoveries, can cost as much as $40,000 for just basic litigation and uncontested rulings. For many couples, mediation is sufficient for the needs of the family. To understand how divorce mediation works and if this is a good fit for you and your spouse, call Peace-Talks Mediation at (310) 301-2100.

Collaborative Divorce The Best Way To Divorce In California

Collaborative Divorce The Best Way To Divorce In CaliforniaYou have decided your marriage is not working out. You want to divorce, but your friends have told you horror stories about dragging your divorce through the court system. You remember reading an article about Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” and her decision to use mediation instead of litigation. Where do you turn?? To collaborative divorce mediation at Peace Talks!

At Peace Talks, we do collaborative divorce: a non-adversarial approach to dissolution. We avoid the litigation over property, parental rights, and pride that destroy families. Peace Talks’ collaborative divorce is the preferable way to dissolve your marriage because it is 90% less expensive than litigation. It is confidential and private. Your discussions, disagreements and decisions are never public knowledge. Peace Talks makes divorce mediation a sane, sensible, and affordable alternative.

Practically speaking, collaborative divorce mediation involves a series of meetings between your partner and yourself, tailored to help you reach agreements in as amicable a manner as possible. A team of interdisciplinary specialists, an attorney, a therapist, a financial expert, and potentially other experts provide you with information to help you make excellent decisions that are in the best interests of your children and your family.

Collaborative divorce also demands another important factor: complete honest and full disclosure by both sides. A collaborative mediated divorce cannot be successful if facts are hidden from the other person. Thus, one of the first steps at Peace Talks is to voluntarily exchange all financial information. This enables our financial specialist to analyze your economic situation and present you and your partner with an accurate analysis of your financial situation. This information becomes the starting point for discussing the division of your household. An advantage of collaborative divorce is that you do not have to comply with mandated court rules. The two of you can come up with a solution that respects your shared goals.

During divorce, your life can seem chaotic, overwhelming and spinning out of control. At Peace Talks, together we develop a clear and systematic plan to keep the level of emotional strain to a minimum. While the process can be shorter than litigation, approximately 4 to 6 months, we work at your pace.
An additional benefit is that meetings at the Peace Talks’ offices are arranged to fit your time schedule, not an outside party like the civil court’s.

Another significant asset is that our mediators give you an opportunity to develop communication, self-management and negotiation skills that will help you during the divorce mediation process and beyond. The skills you achieve at Peace Talks allow you to be involved in the decision making process each step of the way. It also enables you to create a mediated settlement that attains the goals you mutually designed at your first meeting.

In our opinion, the most important reason to choose Peace Talks is that the well being of your children is protected. At Peace Talks, our team of mediation specialists ensures your children’s needs are paramount. With your input, we work to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your children. Not only do we consider your present situation, we discuss the developmental stages of your children and devise a plan that looks to the future while remaining flexible.

As you can see, at Peace Talks, the cooperative nature of collaborative divorce mediation can reduce the emotional stress caused by a break-up of the family and lead to a settlement that works for you and everyone involved. We believe by selecting this process you are ensuring the success of your future co- parenting and providing a safe family environment for your children to flourish.

Give Peace Talk a call today and schedule your complimentary consultation. See how collaborative divorce mediation can bring peace to your world. Call us at (310) 301-2100.

Divorced or Divorcing – How to have Happy Jolly Holidays!!

At Peace Talks, we know that the divorce process is stressful and creates emotional turmoil. And we also know that experiencing the winter holidays for the first time as divorced or divorcing can spike emotions to a whole other level. Especially if you have children, how can you keep the holiday spirit alive in the midst of this emotional upheaval?

During divorce mediation at Peace Talks, you have the advantage of receiving advice and coping skills to handle sensitively charged holiday situations and decisions. If you have not made the decision to use divorce mediation, or you are recently divorced, we have some recommendations for you to get through the holidays with your sanity and feelings intact.

Nothing will ruin the holidays more for you and your children, than fighting over holiday plans with your ex-spouse. As part of divorce mediation at Peace Talks, we devote an entire mediation session to creating your parenting plan. This plan includes a holiday schedule for your children and your family celebrations. By having a plan in advance, you can greatly reduce potential problems.

If you do not have a plan yet, create a holiday schedule NOW. It gives you and your children an opportunity to work together with a calendar and decide how the holidays will be shared. It is also possible to devise a plan that alternates every other year, so that one year your children are with you and your family, for example, on Thanksgiving and the next year, they are with your ex. Also you may want to maintain traditions that your children have enjoyed and associated with particular holidays, while at the same time being open and flexible to starting traditions of your own.

Basically, it all boils down to the fact that the more planning and arranging of these details that can be done before the holidays, the more time, energy, and desire everyone has for the celebrations. Planning holiday schedules effectively reduces family conflict and tension because everyone involved knows what to expect ahead of time.

Along with having a detailed holiday plan, Peace Talks wants to give you some helpful tips to help make your holidays brighter. If your well laid plans did not go off as scheduled, keep the situation in perspective. Especially if you have young children, flexibility is key to your celebration. Crankiness, illness, or high activity can all interfere with your ability to keep your plans on track. It’s best to try to go with the flow.

Another good tip is to keep your sense of humor. In high stress situations, it’s easy to get your buttons pushed by your kids, your relatives or even your ex. Try to make a joke. Laughter has a calming effect. It’s impossible to be yelling while you are laughing and laughter is contagious. Pass the joy of the season around.

It can’t be said enough that a key to a successful holiday celebrations is good communication between everyone. It’s a smart idea to sit down with your children and talk with them. Let them know you that going back and forth for the holidays between two families is tough, and it creates a lot of stress for everyone. Work as a team to anticipate the bumps that will occur and the possible solutions to resolve them.

One other important thing to keep in mind is to not make the holidays negative by badmouthing your ex. Meditate, self-sooth, talk with a friend, but keep the negative sentiments away from your children. It’s a fact that you are no longer the one family you use to be, but this is an opportunity to create new traditions, perhaps healthier ones for yourself and your children. You can make the season bright with good planning, open communications and a sense of humor –bring on the fun and good times. Happy Holidays from Peace Talks divorce mediation services!! If you would like to learn more about divorce mediation give us a call as (310) 301-2100.

Writing Effective Emails during Divorce – The BIFF Method

During the period of a peaceful divorce and emotional confusion, we sometimes say and write things to our partners that are offensive and inappropriate. Instead of clearly communicating our thoughts and calming down the situation, we respond with critical, judgmental words that inflame passions and throw fuel on the fire. Mr. Bill Eddy, LCSW and Attorney At Law, has developed a method for effectively dealing with hostile email and communications in a high conflict situation. He has entitled it BIFF – be Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. At Peace Talks, we encourage considering this communication style during the course of your mediation sessions. These types of concise messages help us assist you in moving your divorce forward with the goal of a congenial future relationship for the entire family.

In his book, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns, Bill Eddy explains what to do when you receive an email, social media post, or personal attack that is intensively emotional and out of proportion to the problem. In this situation, the hostile commentary blames you instead of the speaker who feels he or she has no responsibility for the problem or solution. The key thing to realize is that these personal attacks are not about you. It is the blamer’s inability to control him or herself that is the trigger. Since the individual is incapable of managing his or her own emotions, lashing out and feeling like a victim are the resulting consequences. In circumstances like this, the only thing you can do is manage your own response.

Mr. Eddy believes the best way to communicate with a high conflict personality is to be Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm (BIFF). A BIFF response is a balanced approach, which is not mean or confrontational, yet helps set limits and focuses on solving problems. The following examines the components of this approach:

BRIEF:

The point is to avoid triggering defensiveness and to shift to focusing on problem solving information. Don’t give too many words for the other person to react to. The more you say, the more likely you are going to generate another blaming response. By keeping it brief, there is less potentially negative information to provoke defensiveness.

Thus, writing a good BIFF email response is more about what you leave out, such as all those possible nasty retorts, than what you put in .

INFORMATIVE:

The next step is to be informative by giving a sentence or two of straight, useful information on the subject being discussed. This shifts the discussion to an objective subject rather than opinions about each of the participants. As you write, try to avoid getting emotionally hooked into defending yourself unnecessarily. Your information should be directed on something positive and future focused.

FRIENDLY:

A list of “do not’s” will provoke almost anyone’s defensiveness. A friendly response provides encouraging words, optimism that problems can be solved, and a sense of connection between the writer and reader. When your tone is friendly, it can calm the person down. This tactic may be able to move the other person back into logical thinking. Mr. Eddy believes that the combination of being friendly and informative seems to help the attacker shift in ways they cannot do for themselves. Ending the correspondence with a friendly comment, such as “I hope you have a nice weekend”, or “Warmest regards,” emphasizes your desire to keep things pleasant.

FIRM:

To create an effective email, use your BIFF response to end a hostile conversation respectfully or to narrow the communication to focus on two choices to solve a problem. Giving the other person a choice of two options is respectful and considerate ways to problem solve. Having only two choices helps eliminate the other person feeling defensive by having no choice or feeling overwhelmed by having too many choices.

In order to be effective, Mr. Eddy believes suggesting positive behaviors and/or providing deadlines for change is the preferred content strategy. It may be useful to educate about possible consequences and set limits. This method avoids threats which are nonproductive in favor of explaining consequences which provides helpful information.

If a person who has communicated with you in a high conflict manner feels respected, calm and focused on neutral information, they may be able to let go of the conflict and get themselves back to calm, logical thought. They can relax and do not feel they have to defend themselves, so they no longer need to attack you. The skills taught by Mr. Eddy are useful to learn to manage relationships with all types of people: bosses, clients, and even family members.

At Peace Talks, we want to help you improve your communication skills and consider incorporating the BIFF email process while you are going through this time of trauma. Hopefully, the lessons you learn will bring you more peace in your relationships and make this mediation process a more peaceful one.

What is a Legal Separation?

In California, there are three ways to end a marriage: divorce, legal separation, and annulment. At Peace Talks we want you to know your options and we will focus on legal separation in this article. The process for a legal separation is similar to filing for a divorce, but there are some distinct considerations you should know. First, a legal separation does NOT end a marriage. Thus, if either of you want to remarry, you cannot. In essence, a legal separation, let’s you separate your finances and property and allows you to “trial” how things will be separated and handled as if it were a divorce.

The grounds for a legal separation are the same as they are for a divorce. However, there is no residency requirement for a legal separation. In other words, you do not need to have been residing in California for 6 months prior to filing with the court, but you must reside in the county where the papers are filed at the time the case commences. The written agreement filed with the court addresses and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the parties while they are living apart. This means the assignment of assets and the division of property and debts. In addition to delineating the finances, if there are children, the court documents will detail child custody and support arrangements, visitation schedules, and all the other issues that are handled in a regular divorce proceeding.

If you decide you want to separate, you also have the option of entering into a separation agreement. This would be a legally binding contract between the spouses that encompasses the same issues as a court ordered legal separation would, but is done without a judge.

There are some benefits for opting for a legal separation versus a divorce. A person’s marital status is preserved which can be important for religious reasons. Especially for couples who are unable to divorce, this alternative allows them to keep their status, yet live their lives as if they are unmarried. As mentioned above, it gives a couple an opportunities to live apart and see if divorce is actually what they want to do. By going through the legal separation process, you are establishing exactly how things would be handled if you were divorcing. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your decisions are what you can live with because usually a judge will look to the terms of your legal separation as the terms of your divorce.

Another benefit is the ability to continue your health insurance under your spouse’s coverage, but you will need to check to see if the policy addresses consequences if a couple separates.

Also, this status may allow you to keep certain military benefits. There is a ten year marriage rule to qualify for certain social security benefits, and if you have not met this anniversary, the time period of separation may allow you to reach this goal. There may also be possible tax benefits. Unlike a divorce that has a waiting time for finality of at least 6 months, a separation takes effect immediately after it is ordered.

If you are considering a divorce, but there is a potential for reconciliation, taking legal action may not be the choice to make. In many circumstances, couples filing for legal separation and going through this exhaustive process ultimately divorce in time. So it’s important to do some serious thinking before this decision is reached. At Peace Talks, we are available for consultation for both of you to consider all of your options and make the best choice for your family. Call us today. We are here to help.

How does Team Mediation Work & Why is It So Effective?

Congratulations! You are considering mediation as the process for resolving your divorce. In contrast to litigation, mediation is the sane, efficient and cost effective way to work through your potentially difficult issues and preserve your family relationships. At Peace Talks, we use the “Team Mediation” approach and we want to share with you why this is so effective.

First, you are entering a process where you and your partner will be in control of the outcome. In other words, you will determine the terms of your property division, the planning for your children, and any child or spousal support. This freedom allows you to design an agreement that works for you and your family’s needs, not one dictated by the court system.

Next, a team will be assembled to facilitate your mediation sessions. Who are the team members and why is each one important to the process? As you are aware, part of the divorce procedure is to divide your community property – that is the property and assets acquired during your marriage. To assist with the financial matters, Peace Talks offers a financial neutral to help you organize, evaluate, budget and divide your property. The financial works with both parties to provide an objective view of your finances. This person is a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFATM) who has had advanced training in the specialization of divorce. By having a financial expert involved, you will have an accurate assessment of your financial picture and be able to make informed choices.

Another valuable team member is the mental health coach. From our experiences at Peace Talks, we have witnessed the traumatic and volatile nature of the divorce process. During mediation, you and your partner may have feelings of anger, hurt, humiliation, loss, abandonment or perhaps powerlessness. All these emotions are normal within the context of this overwhelming event. Our mental health coaches are professionally trained family and child specialists who are present in the room to help you process your emotions and keep the mediation moving as fast or as slowly as you want. If necessary, you may have a separate session with them in their office or request a break to get the mental health support you need.

The final team member is the attorney. This person has background in family law and can answer the “legal” questions that arise in connections with property, parenting or support issues. Having an attorney present also gives you an idea of what potential litigation outcomes could occur if your matter was proceeding in court instead of at Peace Talks. While the attorney is not there to give you specific legal advice, she will provide legal information when it is relevant or requested. You and your partner are always able to seek your own outside legal counsel at any point in the process.

Clearly a team approach ensures that all of your needs, whether financial, emotional or legal, will be met during Peace Talks mediation. Our goal is to make the process as cost effective, efficient and healthful as possible. We know when you have children their best interests are your focus and we want to achieve a successful outcome so that you can continue to interact with each other and your children for a lifetime. Call us so that our team can help make this happen for you!

California’s Cooling OFF Period

While California may be a “hot” state, we experience “cooling off” periods too. In a family law context, this “cooling off” specifically applies to the amount of time that must pass before a divorce is final. The theory behind this “cooling off” period is to prevent couples from rushing to divorce. In California, the law requires a six (6) month period before a divorce may be finalized. This means from the time that your Petition for Divorce is served until the time the clerk stamps you’re Judgment of Divorce, six months must have occurred. However, in reality in California the process actually takes much longer.

This extended time period could occur due to a number of factors. The first factor is the number of issues that the court is requested to resolve. The more issues there are, the longer the process. For example, if you have a short-term marriage (under ten years), no children and little property, your matter could possibly be resolved within the cooling off period (of course that’s assuming no contested matters). In contrast, if you have two children, one spouse self employed with a business to evaluate, the other spouse a stay at home party, a residence with rental property and a demand for extensive spousal support with contested custody, the case could take months, if not years.

The second factor that may complicate things is the personality of the parties. For example, if you or your spouse refuses to accept the inevitability of the divorce and is determined to do anything and everything to delay the divorce process, this can extend the proceedings well beyond six months.

Another factor to consider is the personality of your attorneys. If one of you retains an attorney who is focused on a global settlement and encourages dialogue, while the other attorney hired prefers to litigate about every single potential issue, the opportunity for a quick resolution may evaporate. Attorneys with different styles could create a contentious atmosphere which breeds motions and retaliation. Even if one of the parties does not want to engage in fighting, he or she must respond to the incoming missiles. This can be exacerbated if you or your partner has a large checkbook and can finance exorbitant legal fees.

The next factor is really out of your hands. This has to deal with the court’s calendar; since the judicial budget has been slashed by the legislature, the number of courtrooms and judicial officers has been dramatically reduced. Under these circumstances, matters can be continued several times due to the court’s limited courtroom availability. The reduction of court staff has also increased the turn around time of filed documents of Request and Declaration for Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

Another critical factor in elevating the amount of time divorces can take is the honesty of you and your spouse. The first step in the divorce process is the filing of Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure. Both of you are legally required to disclose your assets and debts –all of them. If either one of you fails to be transparent in your disclosures or provides incomplete information, this will cause undue delay as well as legal fees if motions and court intervention is needed to determine the total picture of your assets.

As you can see, a six-month cooling off period exists, but in reality, it is rare that a couple is able to complete their divorce process within six months. However another alternative is available to you if you want to resolve your divorce in a sane, sensible and fair way at a reasonable cost – try Mediation. Call us and see what mediation is all about.

5 Reasons to Keep Your Divorce Out of Social Media

Today, communication is instantaneous. Like the phrase, “a shot heard around the world”, an online post is sent into the media stratosphere with the potential to surface anywhere, be read by anyone and unfortunately remain forever. You’re getting divorced. You may or may not be happy about this, or perhaps worse case scenario, you had no idea your marriage was in trouble until you saw your spouse’s Facebook page or someone sent you a Snapchat or an Instagram of something you wish you never saw. We can use our imaginations and think of all kinds of compromising positions that could be seen online.

Let’s consider specific reasons to keep YOUR divorce off social media.

First, the divorce process begins. You’re hurt, maybe even devastated. Do you really want to cry your eyes out online? Consider your reputation and your integrity. Do you want potential employers, or your current employer knowing your emotional state of mind and potential thoughts of revenge?

Second, what if you make your case online concerning how you were wronged and disparage your partner’s actions and character. It is highly possible someone who sees this information may not see the situation the same way you do, and an endless back and forth of accusations and counter attacks occurs. And what do you do if you find out that your version of the facts was wrong. Social media is not a giant white board that you can easily erase.

Third, another critical issue to consider is your children and family. Chances are your children are much more social media savvy than you are. Anything that you post online will probably be found and read by them. It may even be re-posted or re-tweeted without your knowing about it. If they find criticisms and attacks of one of their parents, you may be doing irreparable harm to their relationship with you or your partner. It certainly does not make it easy to promote smooth visitations or family holidays. Furthermore, you will have no leg to stand on if you discipline or reprimand your child for his/her social media use.

Fourth, once information is placed on social media, it can be viewed and used by anyone. Consider this before your anger or desire for revenge prompts you to share private business or financial information about your spouse or you online. Unlike the Internal Revenue Service of yesteryear, the I.R.S. is online. They read social media, review court filings, and investigate bank loan applications among other things. When you disclose private information that may not be accurate, or that contradicts a document prepared under penalty of perjury, you run the risk of some very unpleasant results if that material falls into the wrong hands. And you should know that there is a whistleblower’s statute that provides for a third party to receive 30% of the revenue recovered by the I.R.S. based on the disclosed information. So think again when you decide to post your business balance sheets and recognize others may be watching

Fifth, while it is true, you may be going on social media with your divorce woes to solicit condolences and words of wisdom and encouragement that may not be the reaction you get. If your friends read your posts and grief journal, they may rally around you –at least initially. The chaos and turbulence of a divorce has a tendency to sweep everyone and everything overboard in its wake. The recovery from this trauma can be extensive and you may find your friendships on life support instead of being a lifeboat.

These are only a few reasons why your divorce should stay offline. As you can see, the consequences for failure to heed these warnings can be catastrophic for your finances, your job, your friends and most importantly your children. Think and pause before you go online. We are sure you will be glad you did.

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

Divorce Threats: I’ll See You in Court!

There’s often a lot of grandstanding in divorce court proceedings.

A lot of people say, “I’ll see you in court!” not knowing exactly what that means.  In the moment, they don’t like what they’re hearing, whether it’s in mediation or around the kitchen table, so they say, I’m done with this!” not realizing that saying “no” to whatever settlement process you’re engaged in means you’re saying “yes” to something else.

And so before you choose litigation, here are some things we thought you might like to know.

In California divorce courts, many clients think they’re going to get the Atticus Finch style representation in To Kill a Mockingbird in court.  The truth is, however, that if you get 10 minutes to state your case in a divorce court proceeding, you’re lucky.

divorce mediation

Mediation is not just a less expensive and time-consuming divorce alternative; it also lets your whole story be expressed. So don’t think of me as some self-interested Southern California divorce mediator who wants to drum up business (which I am, I suppose, but I’m also interested in helping people get divorced without losing their shirt or their sanity). Think of mediators like me as the moderators in a reasoned debate that will produce the fairest result in your own divorce situation.

California has closed entire courthouses since the recession began. In Los Angeles County, there’s a monthly furlough day that’s mandatory where there’s no court staff and the courthouse is closed.

And these built-in delays are BEFORE you are likely to get two sentences plus a pile of paperwork to hand the judge, and then your “hearing” is over. Over 41,000 couples  go through this divorce process in Los Angeles County every year. Don’t believe these divorce court facts? See for yourself!

Take a court field trip! It’s free and open to the public.

Court Field Trip: At different points during the mediation session, many couples can feel like court would be a good option for resolving some of your divorce or impasse issues.  Before you make a final decision as to whether court would be a good option for you, we suggest that you visit the Superior Court at 111 N. Hill Street, 2nd floor, Los Angeles,CA 90012 (or your local courthouse if you’re not in Los Angeles) and see for yourself what goes on in the family courtrooms.  We think it makes sense for you to have all the information before you make final choices about going to court or choosing mediation as the vehicle to navigate your divorce, and which presents the best choice for you.

Peace-Talks paints a fairly bleak picture of the litigation process, and the pros and cons of using divorce court to resolve your dispute.  It’s based on considerable family law experiences, but you don’t need to rely on our version:  you can go the courthouse and see for yourself.  All court files and divorce 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 in the downtown Los Angeles courthouse.

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 your divorce process, divorce settlement, and pos-divorce issues if you were to choose to go to court for 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 see how much attention the court proceedings give to individuals’ goals, values, common interests, and creative non-judicial solutions regarding child support, visitation and parenting plan mediation and administration.  We think that you’ll agree with Peace-Talk’s divorce mediation service, but it’s important that you witness Los Angeles divorce court for yourself.

If you’re seeking divorce information in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, or the SouthBay, visit https://www.peace-talks.com or call 310-301-2100.  If you’re not near Los Angeles or Orange County, you can find a mediator near you at mediate.com. For more information, visit http://www.makingdivorcework.com.

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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.

 

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What Causes Divorce?

Causes of Divorce

 “Seriously?  You want to end this?  You want a divorce?  I mean, I know we’ve had problems.  I’ve tried to change.  I’ll be better.  Is this really what you want to do?”

 If you’ve said those words or heard those words, it can be crushing either way you look at it.  Divorce happens for all sort of reasons.  And in that moment when you realize your spouse doesn’t want what you want, you search furiously for the one reason, the one thought, the one argument that will change your spouse’s mind.  But it’s not one moment.  It’s not even the past month.  We call it turning.  Turning away from your spouse is what causes divorce.

cause of divorce

 If divorce is your decision, your situation may have finally crystallized to the point where what you had to do became clear.  If divorce is not your decision, you feel compelled to look at your marriage to find the clues you may have missed, the things that at the time, escaped you.  It’s not an easy place for either of you.  Even now, you have that in common.

 In most of the cases we’ve seen in our practice, it’s difficult to find the precise moment when things changed in any particular relationship.  You may be tempted to look back over the course of this turning, this unraveling to find the exact moment when it all started.  But there’s no Big Bang theory available here.  No single moment in time.  Turning doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s been a process.  But it can feel like an avalanche of questions and emotions for both of you.

 “Could I have worked less?  Made more money?  Been more attentive? Spent more time at home? Was it the last fight we had?  The likely answer to most everything is yes. 

 You both have responsibility.  Finding fault is not like setting pieces on a checker board.  Things don’t necessarily fit into boxes.   It’s far more nuanced.  The easy thing at this point is to be black and white.  It’s far harder to be willing to examine the complexities.   What happened, where communication broke down.  The places that each of you didn’t go to reach the other, the things you didn’t say.

 Marriages ultimately end because [at least] one spouse sought passion or comfort or fulfillment outside the relationship with his or her spouse. These outside interests may start innocently enough, and don’t always take the form of another person or another substance.  But when interest and attention is freely given elsewhere outside the marriage, it’s hard to keep up appearances on the home front. More things break down.  More fights.  More misunderstandings. 

 Your relationship didn’t just break like a plate in the sink.  It took time.  The feelings of disconnection evolved.  Too often when we hear words like, “You didn’t” or  “You never”  we don’t hear the “I need” or “I’d like” that’s not said.  We miss the sub-text.  Maybe your situation would be different if you or your spouse had been that clear, that direct.  It would be great to know that every time we spoke we said what we exactly felt.  But we’re human.  And all too often, we figure out the right thing to say well after the moment to say it came and went. 

 Getting your heart and brain around what happened in your marriage, asking those hard questions and dealing with the sometimes harder answers takes courage.  You may be well past the point of fixing things.  But if you approach the end of your marriage with clarity, it can have a positive effect on how you deal with changes in your life that are part of divorce. 

These resources can help you sort things out–and they’re free:

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 Things are what they are.  And what has happened, has happened.  As you examine the arc of your marriage, you may begin to see the where changes started to happen, where turning was slightly more obvious.  Not easy lessons to learn.  As you turn from your spouse now, remember you are also turning into the next stage of your life.  Chapters end.  Chapters begin.  Pages turn.

Arguments are like tennis.  They sometimes start out like a friendly game.  Not counting points or balls outside the service area.  But as it goes on, it’s tough not to want to beat the person you’re playing.  And losing a point only increases your desire to win.  Before you know it, all you want to do is win.  To beat your opponent. 

Is that how you really want your divorce to go?  Remember, this started out as a relationship.  Heck, it still is. You still have a choice:  divorce mediation, instead of litigation.  If you approach this particular moment from the same side of the net, as it were, there’s a good chance you can come out of this with dignity and respect and and a lot less anger.  Calling it a Win Win might seem like a bit too much work by the silver lining crew.  The value here is how you are, long term.

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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

California Divorce

Divorce in California

Divorce law varies state-to-state, and California has the distinction of being one of 9 states that have enacted a Community Property law.

As a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles, this actually simplifies things (at least initially) because California follows the 50/50 rule.

Partners each get 50% of their collective property from the time they tie the knot to the day their separation is official.  This includes all property (cars, houses, pets, even debts).  Doesn’t matter what it is, if it happens the marriage is added to the Community Property (sometimes called “marital property”) and then split equally upon divorce.

 uncontested divorce california

So for that Los Angeles Divorce attorney, now that the percentage has already been decided, all she or he now has to do is to figure out who gets what.  But wait–it doesn’t stop there, they still have to sift through the scores of exceptions to this 50/50 rule.  Not only that, they have to deal with contentious meetings with their client (let’s face it, nobody who’s getting divorce is having a good day) or spouse’s divorce attorney.  So much for being simple.  With each spouse hiding behind their attorney it creates unecessary issues.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client say “if only we could just talk things out.”

Here’s how you can, with Family Mediation Services.  What is Mediation?  Mediation with an attorney-mediator is like “divorce made easy.”  The advantage to Mediation is you can talk things through.  In a mediation session, we answer all of your questions about the laws applying to your case.  We define it from both sides, what each law and exception means to each spouse.  Then we talk about the facts that may sway a case one way or the other.  All this is very open, with all sides participating in the dialogue.  At Peace Talks we make sure nobody is left out of the conversation.

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Being an Attorney-Mediator, I am allowed to facilitate the discussion without taking sides or representing just one spouse. I can talk to you about legal information without giving advice.  Everyone can be in the same room and hear both sides of the story.

From there we can get to the bottom of what’s fair for both sides.  And you, as the participants, decide what “fair” means.

In California and Los Angeles, where these Community Property rules are in effect, divorce mediation is popular because it allows couples to divide their property by talking it out.  Not only that, it ensures that each party has the same information and everyone knows the laws that apply.

The most common knock I hear against other mediationfirms is that “so-and-so mediator is being partial to one side” or “x participant didn’t get to talk.”  The advantage of mediation is open communication.  If someone feels uncomfortable they need to speak up! It’s also part of the mediator’s job to make sure everyone is getting a chance to talk.  It’s important to get everything out in the open.  The mediator does their best to get everyone involved, but sometimes it can be hard to judge whether one participant is uncomfortable.  Most importantly, if you have a question or an issue bring it up in session.  These sessions are for you!  Plus you’ll make our job a lot easier.  We want to help YOU!

Do you live in California or need the help of an experienced divorce mediator?  Try Peace Talks, and check out the resources on this site for more information and helpful links.

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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:

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 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:

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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Low Cost Divorce

In response to the recession, Peace Talks now offers a couple of new services.
I hope you’ll keep us in mind if you come across couples needing either of the following:
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 my paralegal who will do the intake and all the paperwork. She is also a trained mediator and is able to handle minor things that come up, but Plan A is that people already have an agreement.
As a practical matter, an attorney drafts the “important parts” of the Judgment. I also supervise and proofread.
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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

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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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Los Angeles Superior Court Update: Budget Cuts

I went to a meeting today with the Honorable Thomas Trent Lewis at the Los Angeles Superior Court. He wanted to update the family law bar, forensic accountants, and custody expert witnesses about what exactly is going on at the court given all the budget cuts.

los angeles superior court

It was pretty interesting. Infuriating, but interesting.

Background below. Here’s what made me nuts:

The Judge said something to the effect of:  we’ve all made a lot of money off this system and it’s treated us well over the years (NOTE: that is pretty much a quote–seriously).  At the moment, it’s time to try and settle some cases to help us get rid of some of this backlog and to deal with the budget cuts [and go back to making money off the system when some of this is cleaned up].

I thought my head was going to blow off.

Aren’t ethical lawyers supposed to try and settle cases if they can be settled without having to go to court, provided that justice will still be served?

What I interpreted was, “Settle a couple of your money makers and we’ll all get back to normal.”  That is my interpretation–that is not what he said. But it’s what he implied, IMHO.

My colleague said, “I wonder if they’ll refer cases to mediation since they’re so backed up?” 

So I said, “Let’s ask!”  So she very bravely asked the Judge if the court would be referring cases to mediation. And he said “Oh yes!” and named off a bunch of last-minute, knock-heads style “mediation” efforts that will be forced upon litigants who are scheduled for trial to see if they can settle. 

In these “mediations” everyone is being paid except the mediator.  The mediator is a volunteer….who probably isn’t really a mediator, but an experienced litigation attorney who maybe had mediation training and maybe did not, and who maybe has experience mediating and maybe does not.

He wasn’t talking about early intervention mediations.  And I clarified with him, and asked, “We’re talking about private mediations,” to which he responded in a hostile tone, “That is YOUR marketing problem.”

Wow.

I thought maybe the court would finally embrace mediation as a way to help people stay out of court……if only because it would help the court balance its budget.  But no.   Even the judges realize that the true money is to be made when people hire lawyers and go to court, and they’re not going to do anything to jeopardize even $1 of those legal fees in order to help the people who really need to go to court get there?  Wow.

Wow.  I feel so naive.  Usually the judges will at least pay lip service to mediation and other ADR processes which help people stay out of court.  I guess not this time.

Here’s a bit of background:

The Los Angeles Superior Court has had $118 million in budget cuts. They were able to cut $70 million by attrition and other measures which meant they didn’t have to lay off a bunch of people.  But that leaves $48 million still to be cut….and probably an additional $30 million (for a grand total of $78 million still to be cut) given Governor Brown’s budget cut news of just a couple of days ago.

They just canceled every single trial date starting July 2, 2012. So if you’ve been getting divorced for 2 or 3 years and you finally have a trial date….you don’t have a trial date anymore. Here’s the official court order on vacating trial dates.

The Burbank court has been closed, and their cases have been moved to Pasadena.

They’re cutting non-courtroom staff, which means processing paperwork is going to take even longer than the 4 months it currently takes to process stipulated judgments.  That’s not much of a reward for staying out of court and settingling out of court, now is it?

They’re closing 1 courtroom in the downtown courthouse. That’s not too bad, except for the judges who’ll have to take over the 1400 cases assigned to that courtroom (I’m guessing here…but I’m sure it’s quite a few, given that 41,000 divorces are filed in LA County every year and there are about 30 family law courtrooms).   Never mind the backlog of cases.  So maybe that number is more like 2000.  I can’t be sure, and try as I might to find the statistics, the court information office won’t answer my questions and I can’t find it online.

There’s a new trial court and they’re trying to expedite cases through the system….but hey, I used to work there and I witnessed the work environment and push to be mediocre.  If you were outright terrible, you’d get fired (but that didn’t happen very often).  If you were really good, and tried to change things, you also go fired.  Seriously. My supervisor said I was going to get fired because I wrote a book (the manuscript was turned in before I was hired), Your Divorce Advisor, and that was practicing law and I wasn’t allowed to practice law while I worked at the court. Seriously?

Anyway, thanks for listening.

Creating a Good Divorce

I know. It’s an oxymoron–nobody wants a divorce to begin with, so how could a divorce be good?  There are a lot of ways to make the best of the situation when you’re faced with a divorce.

I’ve been a divorce lawyer for 22 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.

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 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.

 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

 Here’s how it works:

 In mediation, you and your spouse or partner work with a neutral, unbiased professional. 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.  Find a mediator anywhere in the United States on www.mediate.com (search by area code).

 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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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. 

mediation

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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Parental Alientation and Divorce Mediation

I get asked a lot about Child Custody. 

It’s not surprising, since a parent’s love for their children is bigger than any financial settlement.  Oftentimes, a parent feels that getting more time with the child is worth more than any divorce settlement can buy.  Unfortunately, as a mediator specializing in divorce and child custody here in Los Angeles, I see a lot of clients who try to manipulate their children into choosing sides.

parental alientation

As a kid I remember seeing my friend’s parents getting divorced and wondering, “who would I choose?”  It’s a terrible thought, but with all the Law & Order-type shows on TV nowadays and with divorce rates sky-high, it’s one that kids think they might have to make.  Fortunately, entertainment is entertainment, and most often it is not the child’s decision.  The legal system in the United States and here in California have it set up so it doesn’t get to that point.

Sometimes, however, a child involved in a custody dispute does verbalize or behave in a certain way that makes their wish known.  This can be tricky.  If they favor your side, you may want to encourage the behavior.  This is irresponsible and only creates further damage.  A child is young enough where they sometimes don’t know the affect that a decision will have on them.  This is why they need to be encouraged (and even forced) to visit both parents.  Stress to them that it is both parents’ wish to share time and that they shouldn’t feel that they are dividing loyalties.  If it is necessary, consult professional help from a therapist or counselor.

In Los Angeles, Major Family Services offers a number of really terrific, high quality programs on how to deal with parental alienation and high conflict parenting.  Co Parenting classes can also be very helpful, and there are many available in most communities.

As a divorce mediator and attorney, I see these delicate situations firsthand.  In a mediation session I can offer my advice based on your unique situation.  Divorce is not easy.  It is tough on everyone, including, and especially, children.  There is a clinical term for what a child faces when they prefer not to visit a parent.  It’s called Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS.  They may disregard the unfavored parent or even express vitriol or hatred towards them.  Even if you may think that you are not expressing it to your child, you may be encouraging it by what you don’t say, or even through small behavioral cues that the child picks up on, for instance when you are answering the phone or when you see your spouse’s car pull up in the driveway.  The behavior of your child often expresses your subconscious desires.

The important part is open communication with your child and your spouse.  Try to get your child to express truly what they feel to get it out in the open.  Talk with your spouse about it too.  That’s one of the things I love about divorce mediation, the ability to sit in a room and talk it out.

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If you feel you are a victim of Parental Alienation Syndrome, you have a few options.  First, talk with your child about it directly.  If that doesn’t help you can have a loved one, someone who you both trust, like a grandparent, talk to them about it.  Above all else, express your love for your child.  Let them know how much rejection can hurt, and how you really want to work on your relationship.  Ask your child what obstacles are getting in the way.  You’d be surprised how honest children can be when confronted directly.

You don’t need me to tell you that dealing with children can be tricky.  Sometimes the best way to get a message to them is through the least amount of intervention.  If, after speaking with them, you don’t feel like your relationship has improved, you do have legal options.  There are motions you can file, such as contempt of a visitation agreement, to get the court to intervene.  Detainment and/or financial sanctions could handed out to the offending parent.  These are last resorts and we can talk about all your options when you meet with a mediator.  Search this website for more details on Family Mediation and Child Custody Laws in California or to set up an appointment.

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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.

mediation

 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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Divorce Lies, Mediation Truths

Truth is a beloved institution.  It’s the cornerstone of our legal system.

“The Truth of the Matter.”  “The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth.”  “I Want the Truth,” says Tom Cruise to a defiant Jack Nicholson.  “You Can’t Handle The Truth,” he snorts back.

 This exchange from the movie A Few Good Men“helps to illustrate an important distinction.  Tom Cruise, like any good lawyer, is looking for the cold, hard facts.  Unfortunately, in the real world, facts are often soft and hot.

 What’s a hot fact?  A hot fact is something that isn’t cut and dry, it’s open to interpretation and it’s multiple interpretations often cause an array of emotional responses from those involved.  Think about the O.J. Simpson case, centered right here in perpetually sunny Los Angeles, California.  The facts involved were too hot to be ignored and suddenly the truth took a backseat.

 In that case, a cold decision had to be made in a hot case, and in its wake came anger from all sides.  That’s what happens when you are forced to funnel an entire history of systematic problems into a simple Yay or Nay.

 In A Few Good Men Jack’s character knew his Truth would be seen as cold, but that, in fact, it touched on a myriad of issues that neither a hot shot lawyer nor our blind legal system would understand.

 Does it really matter that Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky?  It’s interesting, but it’s irrelevant to the bigger picture.  The big picture was whether or not Clinton could regain the trust of Congress, the American people, and even his own family.  Suddenly, in our haste to discover where Monica bought her blue dress, we are distracted from real issues affected our lives, like terrorism and the economy.

 Often we get bogged down with black and white answers when the emotional truth is a shade of grey.  When litigating a divorce, the judgement is cold, and both sides are often disappointed.  That’s why Divorce Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) exists.  It acknowledges that the truth can be irrelevant.  A resolution should not be exact and immediate, but instead represent the best possible scenario on an on-going basis.

 Think about the last dispute you had with someone.  It could’ve been something as simple as fighting over the remote.  Did you use the situation to set up guidelines for future disputes, or to build a foundation for the future of your relationship with that person?  What was more useful, being able to watch your show or being able to use the heat of the moment to talk to your spouse or loved one about underlying issues?  That may be an exaggeration, but you can apply this technique to any dispute.

 That’s what we do in Divorce Mediation sessions.  Often litigated divorces, in their search for Truth, can get lost in petty “he said/she said” talk, rather than look at the big picture.  Research more about Mediation Services and Divorce Mediation to see if it is right for you.

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Family Law Mediation Success

Eleven years ago, I traded in my fancy shmancy car for a used Honda Accord.  It wasn’t just a symbolic act; I knew I was going to need the money I would save on car payments.  You see, I had just made the biggest decision of my professional life.  I had decided to become a full-time mediator and give up my high-paying divorce lawyer gig at an established law firm.  No more swanky office with views of the city, I was on the ground floor, starting from scratch.  After years of arguing for one side, I decided I valued helping families rather than splitting them apart.  (Green Acres? Rollin’ on the River? funny, but true!)

divorce mediation

 Being a divorce attorney for over 20 years, I knew this would be a shock to the system.  Going through countless litigated divorces as a lawyer lets you see the good and the bad.  I also went through my own divorce.  That was a lesson in itself.  I was fortunate that the lesson was on the “what works” side of things, and not the other.

My experience showed me that divorce could be unduly difficult to deal with–the stress and the physical toll.  Seemingly nice people are put into bad situations where they are forced to fight for their property, and sometimes their children.  It’s not a nice thing to see.  I wanted to bring people together to talk things out, in a civilized way, with open lines of communication.

Mediation was the only way.  I had to make the change.  Whenever you are faced with divorce or any other aspect of family law, including child custody, child support, cohabitiation, domestic partnerships, etc, your best option is mediation.

Even though it may look self-interested, I don’t just say that because I am now a full-time mediator, I say that from the heart. Ask any mediator: we all love what we do. And we can all tell you a compelling story of why we gave up big bucks litigation to help people resolve their conflicts.

If you’re unclear on how it works, here’s a quick look:

During a typical mediation session, you and your spouse will meet with a neutral professional to settle your case.  This professional is often a lawyer or a therapist trained in family mediation.  They could even be both.  It’s their job to get both sides to come to an agreement.  When I say a “typical mediation session” it’s actually a misnomer, because there are no typical sessions–you are in control.  If you want to talk about dividing up your coin collections or about the weather, the mediator is there for you, not the other way around.

Mediators will often give a free mediation consultation or equivalent information session.  You should always be confident that your mediator will meet your needs and expectations.  Divorce is intimate and so is the settlement process.  You need to be able to feel comfortable talking about sensitive topics with your mediator.  Make sure you feel you can have a good rapport with them.  Shop around.

Though most divorce mediators’ goal is to facilitate communication, styles can vary.  Will they make appropriate suggestions when necessary?  Tell you about the law?  Give examples?  Create worksheets or checklists?  Give notes?  Write down agreements?  Handle court paperwork for you?  Make sure you stay on task?  Time your sessions?  Help you brainstorm different ways of handling a problem?  Are they open to doing anything you ask?

These are important stylistic choices to consider.  Before you choose your mediator, ask them how they handle any or all of these examples and more.

At Peace Talks Mediation, we make sure that we’re all on the same page from the get-go.  An agenda outlines what we need to accomplish, what decisions must be made by the end of our sessions.  The important thing is that we all contribute to this outline.  The client gets to decide what they want to focus on, what issues are most pressing for them.  After all, they know each other better than we do.

We get some unusual requests, ranging from dividing DVD collections to brainstorming different ways to break the news to in-laws.  Nothing is off-limits, too big or too small.

As a working Family Mediation firm located in Los Angeles, we certainly have best practices that we know we have to live up to, but as for how each session goes, that is completely up to the client.

If you’re unsure about whether you want to mediate your divorce, you should also keep in mind that Mediation is over 90% cheaper than going to court and hiring attorneys.  It’s true.  Mediation, with it’s open communication, lacks the contentiousness and “he said/she said” theatrics of the courtroom.  It alleviates that burden and creates an atmosphere of “we’re in this together.”

That’s not to say Mediation isn’t difficult.  Talking about these very delicate and intimate subjects is hard.  Especially with a mediator you may have only met a couple of times prior.  We understand and are here to work with you to make it easier.  From my experience, Mediation is the best way to minimize the destructive toll a divorce can have on a family.

If you live in Los Angeles, call Peace Talks for a free appointment. If you don’t live in LA, you can search Mediate.com for a mediator in your area.

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Divorce Mediation and Domestic Violence

As a divorce lawyer and mediator here in Los Angeles, California, I get the opportunity to see a lot of clients with varied backgrounds and personalities.  There are common threads you can pick up on as a mediator that can help you diagnose each situation with just a short interview. This initial diagnosis allows me to cater the session to the couples needs and most of the time the sessions go extremely well, with both partners wanting to cooperate.  Those are the good days!  There are however, some show-stoppers: facts in a couples background that can’t be ignored.  Especially in cases where kids and child custody are involved, couples with a history of domestic violence or abuse have to be handled differently.  It’s a fact of life and a fact of our business.  Our local domestic violence expert is Lynn Greenberg.

Divorce is stressful.  Even if the couple seems to be getting along great in our mediation sessions and a husband or wife’s previous arrest for abuse was many moons ago, there’s always a chance that the stresses of the divorce and custody sharing situation will bring out the worst in people.  I’ve been practicing here for over 20 years and I can tell you that even the most mild-mannered of couples can be put to the test during a custody battle.

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Violence and abuse can take on many forms: from simple harrassment and name-calling to homicide.  For our purposes, we will define physical abuse as slapping, punching, shoving, choking, biting, kicking or any restraint or physical touch that invokes fear or causes injury.  Verbal abuse can consist of name-calling, verbal jabs and assaults that are used to attack one’s character or esteem.  This includes any threats levied on one’s safety or the safety of one’s children, friends or relatives.  The key is intent.  The intent of any abuse is to invoke fear or physical pain, and often both.  Abuse could be used to coerce or to restrain someone from acting.  Public humiliation and stalking are also forms of abuse.

As anyone who has experienced physical and/or emotional abuse, it can be devastating, especially when it is committed by someone who you are close to.  When someone knows you inside and out, they can use this knowledge against you to cause you severe emotional stress.  People who habitually perpetrate abuse are referred to by the system as “batterers”.  Their illicit behavior is most often termed domestic abuse, or domestic violence.  Women are far more likely to be abused than men.  In fact, the percentages are striking.  Women are the victim in more than 95% of domestic abuse cases.  The opposite still occurs!  In fact, I have seen cases where the woman is the batterer many times.  Often the man is afraid or is less likely to report this type of abuse, so these numbers could be even higher.

When dealing with child custody, you are dealing with an inherently sore subject.  Emotions are always running high.  The state can have a tough job in determining who is best fit to take care of the children, and working out a visitation plan or custody sharing plan is often a long and drawn out process.  At Peace Talks Mediation Services, we make it our job to promote cooperation.  We want to avoid these drawn out legal battles and keep everyone on the same page.  We promote open discussion in our family mediation sessions.  Divorce Attorneys, especially in Los Angeles, can be high-priced and ruthless.  Mediators make sure that everyone knows everyone else’s motives and ensure that families can talk to each other in an open, non-binding forum.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where domestic violence is a fact of life for a lot of families.  The number one priority in these instances is safety; safety for the children and for the whole family.  Statistics say that almost 40% of all women who are murdered are done in by a boyfriend or spouse.  Many are killed in their own house.  Women who have just separated or announced the intent to separate from their spouse are most at risk.  We may not be able to effectively erase these stats, but we can stay educated.  Look on this site for more information about mediation and decide whether it is right for your situation.

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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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Divorce Mediation: Mediator Styles

I have a 25 hour beginning family law mediation course on DVD which I sell on my web site and Amazon.com.

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As a result, I get questions about how to mediate from some of the “students” of this taped course.  One in particular, a lawyer up north, is my new pen pal of sorts.

I’m delighted he’s using the materials. But I was a little surprised when he said that he feels like the “evaluative” style of mediation is best and helps people reach better agreements faster.

The evaluative style of mediation is how I was originally taught to mediate back in the 90’s in a court sponsored mediation program.  Basically, an experienced lawyer or judge will evaluate your case and tell you what the most likely outcome in court is, and then try and talk you into doing that.

What I found was that this method worked in the moment; parties reached an agreement. But because the parties hadn’t had much input into the process, these agreements tended to fall apart pretty quickly because the outcome was what the lawyer thought (or in the case of this particular mediation program, what I thought) and not what the parties wanted (or at least what they could live with).  And the people landed back in court.

Over the last 13 years in our mediation-only practice, I’ve learned the value of hearing the parties’ perspectives and goals, and I do a lot more listening than I used to do.  The agreement that is reached needs to work for the parties—the people who are living with the outcome—and not necessarily for me or my ego.

So while I’ll offer a suggestion if the parties are stuck, and I’ll educate them about the law, my days of starting the discussion off with “here’s the law and here’s what would happen in court” are over.

And each year that I mediate, I listen more and push less.

I think that the evaluative style is adopted by attorney-mediators, particularly early in their mediation careers, because it’s what we’re used to as attorneys:  back when I represented individual clients, I told them what to do. I told them what I thought would happen in court.  So when I became a mediator, I did the same thing. I just had 2 people in the room instead of one.

This model was comfortable to me. What I was missing is that a mediation is not about the mediator…..it’s about the parties.

When it’s all about the mediator and not about the people involved, it’s easy to alienate one of the parties…the person who’s “wrong,” so to speak. And then what happens? The mediation falls apart. And let’s face it, who likes to be told what to do?

As I’ve gotten more comfortable mediating, I’ve also gotten much less evaluative. 

What I’ve found is that most people are pretty sensible (yes, even the people who are behaving kind of wacky because divorce is a crazy-making time), and that they’ll  make a good decision if they have the right information, time to think about it, and emotional support as well as professional support.

So we do a lot of educating in our office.  We reality-test each of the possible choices people can make.  Is it feasible? Can you afford it? Can you really adjust your schedule to honor the parenting plan you’re thinking about? Does it fit with your short and long term goals? If it doesn’t feel fair, does it feel fair enough?

And if the answer to any of these questions is no, then we keep working.

I miss trial work. Doing trials was fun. It indulged my inner actress and let me show off everything I learned in law school (which was mostly that if you prepare like crazy, you usually win). But it wasn’t so good for clients and their families. Even if your client won, by the time they won they’d alienated their former spouse, spent most of their savings on attorneys fees, and often they’d put themselves and their kids through an emotional wringer.  Not much of a win, huh?

What I’ve learned as a mediator is that couples who are divorcing have more in common than they think they do. Most of the issues that cause trouble aren’t legal questions. They’re relationship issues, or money issues, not so much something I need to research in a law book.  And that given the right kind of information and an opportunity to discuss and think about the situation, they can come up with a solid, sensible, and fair decision that works for everyone.

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Negotiate Your Divorce Settlement

This is an excerpt from Making Divorce Work.  I’m really proud of this chapter….it was difficult to explain in a few pages how to successfully negotiate a divorce settlement.  But I think I did it!  How to Negotiate Your Divorce Settlement is the excerpt published by Mediate.com.  

Mediate.com, by the way, is a great place to find a mediator. You can search by telephone area code as well as topic. They don’t check credentials, so you’ll have to do your own interviewing researching mediators, but it’s a great way to find qualified professionals in your area.

Pretty much every mediator in the country is listed there.

More free resources:

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 Making Divorce Work

Review: HBO’s “Don’t Divorce Me”

REVIEW: HBO’s DON’T DIVORCE ME

 

Review by Janae Monroe

 

Peace Talks Mediation Services

 

peace-talks.com

Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, especially the children. While parents intend to put their children first, sometimes finances and personal needs get in the way.

Using interviews, drawings, songs, photos and handwritten rules, Don’t Divorce Me goes into the mind of children, ages 5-9 whose parents are going through a divorce. The children set “rules” for their parents, such as “Don’t Put Me in the Middle,” and “Don’t Take Your Anger Out on Me” girlto make their point. This candid documentary, directed by Amy Schwatz, allows children to give their parents the Do’s and Don’ts of divorce. It offers parents perspective, while identifying the wants of their children. Don’t Divorce Me does exactly what parents going through divorce sometimes forget to do

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 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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Why Your Kids Will Thank You for Mediating Your Divorce

Why Your Kids will Thank you for Mediating

By Alan Brady, guest blogger

 

Finding a way to share custody of childrenafter a divorce can be an incredibly difficult task. In an ideal situation, each parent will behave with maturity and reason, focusing solely on the needs of the child or children involved and honestly acknowledging the contributions and value of the other. Unfortunately, the ideal is a rarity, and far too often pride and resentment distort our perception of reality, painting our former spouse as unworthy of parenthood.

When a marriage ends and there are children involved, we as parents have a couple of choices. We can go to court, which will be a lengthy, expensive, and hostile process, and the result will be the non-negotiable order of a judge. The alternative is mediation, a process that will encourage both parents to work together to find an effective and healthy agreement that puts the well-being of the child or children first.

child custody

At its core, mediation is a conversation. It is a collaborative decision-making process facilitated by an expert and disinterested third party. A trial or hearing, on the other hand, is by its very nature a confrontation. Representatives from each side of a conflict battle it out, each trying to show that they are on the side of reason and that their opponent cannot be believed or trusted. When this process centers on a child custody dispute, it can become even more cutthroat and desperate, and the person who will suffer most is the child in question.

                During a divorce, it is often tempting for parents to get entirely too focused on their own wants and needs. It’s easy to understand how this might happen. For most people, the end of a marriage is a difficult and painful decision. Hurt feelings, regret, and resentment can overwhelm the best of intentions. Still, it is important to remember that as parents, we have a greater responsibility than ensuring our own happiness or punishing the person who has broken our heart.

                While it may be easy to get wrapped up in the idea of walking away and going back to life as it was before marriage, the unavoidable truth is that you can divorce a spouse, but not a family. As long as there is a child in your life, you will be inextricably bound to this person you’re trying so hard to separate yourself from. The more spiteful and mean you are to each other now, the more difficult it will be adjusting to the new form your relationship and family take going forward.

                In mediation, the goal is always to reach the outcome that will most benefit the child. To that end, there is no blame assigned during mediation and no rehashing of old mistakes and disappointments. The mediator should never take sides or allow the conversation to focus on the past. The intention of this process goes beyond creating a schedule for custody. It should also aid former spouses in creating a functional working relationship that will enable them to communicate effectively and parent consistently.

                No matter how commonplace an occurrence it has become, ultimately, children are affected by their parents’ divorce. The sudden change in family and home life can be difficult and even traumatic for the youngest members of the family. Courtroom custody disputes add a level of uncertainty and helplessness to all parties involved. Choosing mediation keeps the childcare decisions in the hands of the parents and ensures that a conversation and collaboration occurs, rather than a fight.

                We cannot always be the best versions of ourselves. Sometimes we are petty, selfish, or immature. It is important to protect your children from the stress and trauma of watching their parents fight constant, bitter battles over every little thing that come up. Beginning your new life apart with mediation instead of a courtroom dispute will help you and your ex to remain calm and civil during your future interactions, and this will help your children to know that they are still a part of a family, even if it has changed.

 

Author Info:

Alan Brady is a writer who uses personal experience as inspiration to write about family, law, and business practices. He currently writes for Attorneys.com which locates local child custody lawyers.

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Low Cost Mediation Services

Low Cost  Mediation Services


Peace Talks Mediation Services offers a sliding scale for couples who earn less than $100,000 (total) and who have less than $200,000 in net assets.  There is also a “mediator in training” program with significantly reduced fees for couples who can’t afford the sliding scale and who don’t mind working with less experienced mediators.  (310) 301-2100 or PeaceTalksLA@aol.com

Couples can contact Family Court Services for a free mediation appointment by calling (213) 974-5524.  In most cases, they do not need to be involved in a court proceeding to make use of this service. 

Center for Civic Mediation (213) 896-6533. Offices available in Santa Monica as well as downtown.

Jewish Family Services: (877) 275

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.

 

The Very Real Danger of Divorce

http://huffingtonpost.com/diana-mercer

If you’ve watched more than one episode of Dateline, you know that almost all one-on-one, non-gang related shootings are family members shooting other family members.

I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m being dramatic.  I’m not.  We only hurt the ones we love, and sometimes that includes firearms. Particularly during a divorce or separation, or custody battle.

divorce stress

On October 12, 2011, a gunman wearing body armor went into a beauty salon in sleepy Dana Point, California, and shot 8 people.   According to Wikipedia, the suspected shooter was involved in a contested custody battle with his former wife, who worked at the salon.

On October 21, 2011, “a mother in suburban Dallas fatally shot her 7-year-old son and then killed herself… as police waited outside with her estranged husband, who was there to pick up the child after receiving court-ordered custody…. The father had been given sole custody of the boy after an acrimonious and drawn-out divorce.”

December 24, 2008, a man dressed as Santa Claus went to his former in-laws’ home and killed 9 people, including his former wife (they’d been divorced 6 days before) at a Christmas party. He had no record and no history of violence. [I just Googled “Santa Claus shooting” and multiple entries for multiple cities showed up.]

A week before his divorce trial was set to begin, on October 18, 2011, “Samuel Friedlander, by appearances a successful lawyer [in Westchester, New York]… killed his wife and children before shooting himself…. As the trial grew closer, acquaintances told investigators, Mr. Friedlander’s behavior became erratic…. Michael Borg, 47, who went to law school with Mr. Friedlander, said his friend had complained that his wife was controlling and emotionally abusive. ‘He was depressed,’ Mr. Borg said. ‘He was beaten, and his big fear was that she was going to take the kids away.'”

If you don’t get upset about family problems, it seems to me that you don’t get upset.

It’s not a mystery why most courthouse shootings are in family court, not criminal court.

When you’re talking about a divorce, you’re talking about everything that means anything at all in the world to you:  your children, your future, your home, your dreams for your marriage, what you thought you believed about love.

The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s “I don’t care.”  And the intimate partner violence statistics support that statement very vividly.

But getting to the “I don’t care” stage in a divorce is often a long time coming.  Some people never move through the 5 stages of grief:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance to a point where they get to “I don’t care.”  For some, the divorce simply consumes their lives and prevents them from moving productively into the future.   For others, it results in tragedy with much higher stakes.

And the upset and despair that one feels while getting divorced transcends all socio-economic bounds. We suffer alike. No amount of money can soothe the wounds.  The death of a dream of a life together as a happy couple and family hurts us all to the core.

I became a divorce mediator and quit my litigation practice when I saw the death and destruction that litigated divorces caused. And I’m not exaggerating.  I had a custody battle client who killed herself, and client’s estranged wife who attempted suicide after I got a winning Judgment against her in a divorce matter.  If half of the US married population goes through a divorce, I knew there had to be a better way.

They don’t give you a mental exam before you get married (although plenty of people wonder what they were thinking after the ceremony).  We can’t predict how people will react when the going gets tough.  <strong>But we can take better care of ourselves</strong> in a divorce situation. 

We can understand that:

  •  A divorce is not the end of the world
  • A divorce is not a commentary on our character
  • Sometimes marriages just don’t work out, and it’s nobody’s fault
  • You can celebrate the good times in your marriage and remember it was not always a tense battlefield
  • You can focus on your children and their wellbeing
  • You can treat the other person with respect and kindness, even if they don’t deserve it at the moment
  • You can stop blame, shame and guilt, and just move on from here

 And to stay out of legal trouble, you can:

  • Get mental health counseling when you need support
  • Ask for help from sensible friends, family members, and professionals
  • Take a co-parenting class or see a co-parenting counselor or coach if you’re struggling with the adjustment from between being co-parents and marital partners
  • Use a Divorce Mission Statement to stay on the right path
  • Mediate your divorce instead of litigate
  • Work with a collaborative divorce team to resolve issues if mediation doesn’t world
  • Ask for help when you need it

Although the mass murder example is extreme, it’s all too common.  We don’t need to suffer like this, and we don’t need to do this to each other.

 

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Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, . 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.