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

Divorce And Suicide – All Too Related

by Stephanie Maloney

Divorce And Suicide – All Too Related - Divorce Mediation - Los AngelesEven if you don’t shop for “Designer” fashions there’s a good chance the name “Kate Spade” is one you’ve seen somewhere before her recent suicide.

Suicide is still near the top of the list of tough subjects to discuss with the kids. Trying to find the “middle ground” for co-parenting on almost anything can be difficult but explaining “choosing to die” would be tough even for “Papa Freud”. We can only imagine what it’s like for the families that have gone through it and keep talking with each other to keep issues from festering into a toxic situation.

There are several pieces that I recommend for ideas and perspectives about this haunting subject:

NY Times by Vanessa Friedman 

The husband, Andy Spade, said there were no plans to divorce. Mr. Spade was speaking publicly for the first time since her death was announced on Tuesday.

“We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock.


CICERO ESTRELLA

MERCURY NEWS | June 6, 2018, 11:59AM

Kate and Andy Spade were having marital difficulties before she died of an apparent suicide by hanging, according to a number of reports.

“Kate and Andy were having relationship problems,” according to a source who spoke with People.

Law enforcement sources told TMZ that Spade was depressed in the last days of her life because her husband wanted a divorce, and she didn’t want to end the marriage. Andy Spade also wasn’t living in the home, but in a nearby apartment.


Divorceinfo.com

Helping real people move through divorce

Suicide and Divorce

I’ve got bad news for you about suicide. One recent study by the National Institute for Healthcare Research in Rockville, MD indicates that divorced people are three times as likely to commit suicide as people who are married. The Institute says that divorce now ranks as the number one factor linked with suicide rates in major U.S. cities, ranking above all other physical, financial, and psychological factors.

Temporary “Phonelessness” Is OK

by Stephanie Maloney

Temporary “Phonelessness” Is OKCo-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 Good The Bad and The Women

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

The Small Outdoors

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

Unplugging To Connect

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

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

March Against Madness-Madness Actually Responds

by Stephanie Maloney

Imagine Frances McDormand outside your house of white with 500,000 walking, breathing, two-legged billboards demanding action about the killing of her child.

Apparently, if all politics are local, then all school shootings are now personal. Isn’t it about time we all find some unifying spirit through these kids for actually doing something and isn’t a pity that what’s holding us back is people with a “philosophy” like that of Rick Santorum:

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said Sunday that students would be better off “taking CPR classes” than marching for “phony gun laws.

“How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes…so that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that,” Santorum said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’

The onetime presidential hopeful, said participants in Saturday’s nationwide March for Our Lives events were “passing the buck to their representatives when they should be preparing to respond to the next mass shooting”.

This must be precisely what is enraging these “kids,” when they hear the words “…the next mass shooting…” with the same echo of acceptance as if there is nothing that can be done. They are indeed “passing the buck” but it’s going back to people that are supposed to paying the tab for safety not to the people hiding under the desks.

In cities across the globe people marched in support of common sense and as even The Pope had advised they shouted that we’ve had enough of parents burying children and children burying friends. In Denmark, for example, Finnish exchange student Iida Keskinen told CNN the idea that mass shootings have become the norm “…has really shook me…I wanted to make sure I had even a small impact in supporting this cause,” she said.

Maybe if she were Norwegian Mr. Trump would listen.

50 Million People Can be Wronged

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Cleaning

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ides of Marches

­by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully we’re not the only ones listening.

 

Crypto-Scams, or, Old Wolf New Online Sheepskin

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divorce Resource

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

The Kids Are Alright

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Olympics – Teaming Up

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

Make Some Time-Take Some Time

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

info@peace-talks.com

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

Don’t Overtax Yourself & Do It Now

by Stephanie Maloney

Don’t Overtax Yourself & Do It NowThe 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.

Abu Dhabi Lets Expats Bypass Sharia Law For Mediation

Recently Abu Dhabi broke from centuries of tradition and decided to allow non-Muslim expatriates to pursue a divorce through faith-based mediation. Though not a mirror image to western secular mediation, as we know it, it’s another testimonial to the need for a short, less costly path to a mutually satisfying agreement.

The protection of the children was one of main reasons given for the major change in official policy along with a long-standing need to bring some international sense of fairness to a very multi-cultural society.

It’s interesting that the children’s welfare and the wasted time and money are universal elements of concern oblivious to country or faith and agreeing to talk about things is the smartest choice available on the planet.

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.

A Paradigm Shift: Conscious Uncoupling

by Ali Marcelino

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

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

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

But what if it is not?

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

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

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

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

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

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 Makes Divorce Expensive?

Let’s just get this out of the way from the start. There are many ways to get divorced. You can represent yourself – a kind of do it yourself method. You can choose mediation or a collaborative practice process. Or finally, you could select litigation. Obviously (and I hope it’s obvious), litigation is the most expensive way to go.

Numerous factors cause a litigated divorce to be expensive. Proceeding through the court system usually involves using an attorney who requires a retainer and charges an hourly fee. There are various court costs such as the filing of a Petition, a Response, and Motions. If your matter cannot be resolved, then you may choose to have a judge or jury trial, which can exponentially increase your expense. As the case progresses, there may also be a request for a child custody evaluation, in addition to potential adult and/or child therapy sessions. As discussed below, other expenses may come into play such as an asset evaluation, and the potential use of a variety of specialists including tax, accounting or child experts.

Another key factor in determining your fees is how your soon-to-be ex-spouse handles your case. This can escalate your costs, or keep them manageable. If a scorched-earth tack is taken, your entire community assets may be spent on attorneys’ fees, and leave nothing to divide. Even if the other side’s attitude is not hostile, the attorney may have a disagreeable personality and cause everything to be more difficult to accomplish and therefore, more expensive. In essence, an attorney can choose a litigation path that exacerbates the fear and heightens conflict in this situation and escalates costs. Alternatively, an attorney can chose a path, which avoids drama and conflict and make divorce easier, quicker and less expensive.

An additional cost inflator is a divorce that involves complex, unusual, or large amounts of financial assets, whichtypically require financial experts to value the financial assets and a fair amount of negotiation to reach a settlement over how to divide the assets. Some financial assets are difficult to divide in a divorce due to legal issues with who can hold title to the assets or merely finding ways to divide typically indivisible assets. Not all financial assets are easily sold or make sense to sell at the time of divorce, which can add another wrinkle in the property division. With the sale or transfer of financial assets can come tax implications for one or both parties and therefore including a tax professional is often necessary. (Cha-Ching!)

These issues can hold true not only for passive financial investments, but also for active business interests in which one or both spouses have management and/or ownership interests in a business. The business may not only be a source of assets for the marital estate, but also may be a source of income for one or both spouses. Valuing the assets plus analyzing the revenue stream may require expert valuation. If there are other owners in the business then that can create additional problems in negotiating how to deal with the parties’ ownership in the business as the other owners likely do not want to have the business become subject to the post-divorce involvement of both spouses.

Another cost inflator is fighting over custody issues. When the children become a focus of conflict in the divorce there are a number of expenses that may accrue. One or both parents may ask the court to appoint an attorney ad litem, a guardian ad litem, or an amicus attorney. These third parties provide various roles on behalf of the court or the children to advocate for the interests of the children rather than the parents. They can be helpful, but the parties will be the ones financing the costs of that third party. There may also be expenses involved in home studies, therapists, counselors and other professional services related to the children and their role in the conflict.

However, the ultimate sinkhole for money in a divorce is a Trial. Between the waiting for courtroom time, witnesses, experts and jurors, and the presentation of the evidence, you have very little control over the cash flow for this endeavor. Ultimately, the emotional benefit of having your day in court rarely matches the emotional detriment of spending all that time and money. Many people labor under the impression that by having their day in court, the judge will declare them the better spouse and give them a landslide victory on the property and child issues. That is generally not what happens. Judges tend to divide assets 50-50, and do what’s in the best interests of the child using their criteria, not yours. So ultimately bushels full of money are spent and no one is happier, just financially broke.

There are alternatives to litigation and an expensive divorce: mediation. There are no dueling lawyers and expensive court battles. Both parties come together with honesty, transparency and in good faith to reach an agreement, which they can live with and is in the best interests of their children. In this way, you are saving money, time, stress and energy that could be better spent moving on with your new lives.

At Peace Talks, our goal is to keep your costs at a minimum while at the same time to provide efficient, comprehensive, and emotional support and guidance through this family trauma. With excellent financial advice, you are able to strategize an agreement, which works best for your family needs and future. Call Peace Talks, and learn the definition of a “peaceful divorce”, and retain the financial ability to proceed forward with your life.

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.

Spousal Support- How is it calculated and how will I Receive any?

The issue of spousal support is always a part of any divorce case or mediation. The circumstances for an award of spousal support are evaluated individually and there is no automatic dollar determined for each person. The process of calculating spousal support is a process of weighing specific factors, which are provided in Family Law Code Section 4320. According to statute, the judge must consider the following circumstances in establishing permanent spousal support:

(a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:

(1) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.

(2) The extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.

(b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.

(c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.

(d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.

(e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.

(f) The duration of the marriage.

(g) The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.

(h) The age and health of the parties

(i) Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party.

(j) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.

(k) The balance of the hardships to each party.

(l) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court’s discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.

(m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Section 4325.

(n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

You can see from this laundry list of factors some sections may apply to your situation and others may not. It is important to know that during mediation at Peace Talks, spousal support is a topic that is discussed in the context of a negotiated agreement between both parties. Unlike the requirements of the court, we can consider the issues that are important to you and reach a spousal support figure that is specific to your family’s needs.

As mentioned in the long list above, the length of the marriage is considered. In a marriage of less than 10 years, the general rule is that the spousal support will last for half the length of the marriage. For example, if you were married for 5 years, your spousal support will last for two and a half years. However, the exact amount of time is left to the discretion of the court. Usually in longer marriages, the court will not give a definitive cut-off date for support. The burden will be on the party who is paying the support to demonstrate it is no longer needed. If you remarry, your spousal support is terminated.

Once you have separated, you may seek temporary spousal support. In a litigated case, to obtain support a motion for an order is necessary. The purpose of temporary spousal support is to maintain the living conditions and standards of both parties until permanent support has been established. The Superior Courts of Los Angeles and Orange County use a guideline called the Santa Clara Guideline formula for calculating temporary support. This guideline provides that spousal support can be up to 40% of his or her net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income. As with permanent spousal support, there may be extenuating circumstances, i.e. serious health condition of one spouse, that makes an increase (or at times, decrease) available.

If you do go to court to get an order for support, the judge will want to preserve the status quo and provide the requesting spouse with sufficient income for basic needs consistent with the parties’ lifestyle. It should be noted that the court would not order a spouse who has been the primary caretaker at home to seek immediate employment. However, a review of the spousal support factors above does require that an individual become self-supporting in a reasonable amount of time.

Again at Peace Talks, our clients wish to avail themselves of an open, transparent, and trusting mediation process. It is our experience that in most cases our clients are able to work out an amount of temporary support that preserves the status quo until the mediation is complete. We know treating each other with respect and dignity is important and everyone’s best interests will be considered.

Additional information to be aware of is the tax consequences of spousal support. The Internal Revenue Code provides that all spousal support payments are tax deductible by the paying spouse and taxable to the recipient spouse as “ordinary income.” Since we are able to discuss creative solutions at Peace Talks, it is possible that you may decide with your partner to not receive “spousal” support, but be compensated in another way to achieve the assistance that you need. That is the beauty of mediation.

Child Support- How Is It Calculated and How Will I Get It?

The issue of child support is always a part of any divorce case or mediation. The amount of child support you will pay is explained and determined according to the California Family Law Code. In order to ensure that California law conforms to the federal regulations for guideline child support, a complicated formula has been devised which looks mainly at two factors: each parent’s income and the time spent by each parent with the child/children. There are other additional factors which may impact the child support payment such as child care expenses, home mortgage payments, tax filing status and other costs specific to your family situation.

These numbers are inserted into a computer program called a Disso Master to calculate your child support payment. The determined amount is the minimum level of child support for each of your children that a judge will require you to pay. This computer calculation provides uniformity to child support across California.

It is important to know that during mediation at Peace Talks, a DissoMaster figure may be discussed; however, mediation results in a negotiated agreement between both parties. Thus, you and your partner may arrive at a child support figure that perhaps differs from the DissoMaster calculation, but can be acceptable to you based on facts specific to your family’s needs.

The principles behind the child support statutes are based on the belief that parents’ first and principal obligation is to support their children according to the parents’ situation and economic position in life. In translation, this means that children of a television celebrity may receive thousands of dollars of child support a month in consideration of their life style, which may include private schools and specialized lessons. In contrast, the children of two school teachers who attend public school could conceivably be awarded much less money in support.

Additionally, it is important to know that both parents are mutually responsible for the support their children. Furthermore, you should keep in mind that child support continues until your child is 18 years old or if your child is a full-time high school student and not self -supporting, your child support is extended until the child is 19 years old or completes 12th grade.

Additionally, the basic child support guideline amount may be increased by “add-ons”. These are specific expenses that parents may be ordered to contribute for the benefit of their children. Family Code Section 4062 lists two types of child support add-ons: mandatory and discretionary. The mandatory add-ons which the judge is required to order include child care costs related to the employment or to the reasonable necessary education of training for employment skills; and for the reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children. Discretionary add-ons include costs related to the educational or other special needs of the children and potential travel expenses for visitation. Both parents share these additional expenses equally unless this is not reasonable and then they are apportioned based on each person’s net spendable income.

There is a formula that the court uses to determine the parents’ respective net spendable income for the purposes of determining child support add-ons. Family Code Section §4061(b) provides that first the guideline child support amount is calculated. Then the amount of the guideline child support is deducted from the income of the paying parent, but not added to the income of the receiving parent. Finally, if one parent is paying spousal support, the amount of the spousal support is deducted from the income of the paying parent and added to the income of the receiving parent.

All of the above child support criteria are rules that are applied to a case that is in litigation. During a Peace Talks’ mediation all facets of support for your children are discussed and taking care of them both financially and emotionally are our key concerns. We will work with you to find a child support figure that fits for your family.

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.

How to File for a Divorce in California

At Peace Talks, an outstanding divorce mediation office, we feel it is very important that you know the California divorce family law process. Before we embark on explaining the California Family Law Court system, HOW TO FILE FOR DIVORCE IN CALIFORNIA.

At Peace Talks, an outstanding divorce mediation office, we feel it is very important that you know the California divorce family law process. Before we embark on explaining the California Family Law Court system, we want to make sure you know that going to court is not the only way to solve family law disputes. Divorce mediation at Peace Talks is an excellent alternative.

Divorce Mediation in Los Angeles and California is preferable because:
1) You will directly participate in finding solutions;
2) You will be able to resolve your dispute sooner;
3) It will be much less expensive;
4) You will end the process with a better relationship with your former spouse; and
5) It will be less stressful than court hearings.

These are all excellent reasons to choose mediation for your divorce in Los Angeles or in the state of California.

With that being said, it’s important that you are knowledgeable about the Family Law Courts and the role they play in your divorce or divorce mediation. Once you have decided that you want to get divorced either through the court method or divorce mediation, many legal forms have to be filed to begin and complete the process. If you choose to hire an attorney, that professional will file the paperwork for you after learning all of the relevant facts about your case. If you decide to do it yourself, you will need to complete the forms and file them with the court. At Peace Talks, we file these California divorce court forms for you after discussing them with you at your initial mediation session.

All the necessary California divorce forms are available online on the California Courts website (www.courts.ca.gov). The court has provided instructions and videos for every form. Most of the material is comprehensible and the information makes it easier to work through the process; however with divorce mediation at Peace Talks, we explain all the information to you in detail.

While all California courts use the same basic set of forms, there may be additional forms required based on which county you live in. When you go online and select the courthouse you will be filing in, there will be additional links and information to determine which additional forms, if any, are needed. Peace Talks suggests you avoid this potentially complicated process and choose us to file the court forms for your divorce mediation.

In order to begin the divorce process in California, you or your spouse needs to complete a Petition for Divorce Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-100). By completing the Petition, you are now the “Petitioner” or initiator of this case. Along with the Petition, you will need a Summons (Family Law Form FL-110), and Proof of Service of Summons (Family Law Form FL-115).

Divorcing in California requires a six (6) month “cooling off” period before a divorce may be finalized to prevent couples from rushing to divorce. The counting of the California six-month “cooling off” period does not begin until the Petitioner has served the Petition on the Respondent (your spouse, the responding party). While these forms come with instructions, Peace Talks’ team of divorce mediators will take the guesswork out and streamline the process for you through divorce mediation.

If you have children under the age of 18 years old, the court requires additional documents to be filed. By submitting your case to the court’s jurisdiction, the judge now has the power to determine the custody and child support awarded in your case. Therefore, you need to complete the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (Family Law Form FL-105/GC120), the Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (optional Family Law Form FL-311), and the Property Declaration (optional Family Law Form FL-160). Please note that all the declarations and sworn statements must be signed in the presence of a notary. When you fill out these forms with Peace Talks’ mediators, we supply the notary and the filing of these documents is handled quickly and efficiently for you.

After the Respondent, your soon to be ex-spouse, is served with the Petition, he or she must complete the Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-120) and either Proof of Personal Service (Family Law Form FL-330) or Proof of Service by Mail (Family Law Form FL-335) depending on how the Respondent chooses to serve his or her response. Again if there are children, the Respondent needs to complete the Family Law Form FL-105/GC-120 (the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) and the Family Law Form FL -311 concerning custody and visitation. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, these forms are completed simultaneously and filed for you in the proper order.

As the Petitioner, once you have completed the above-mentioned documents, you need to go to your local courthouse. There at the clerk’s office you will file the Summons, Petition, and the relevant forms if you have children. To find your local courthouse, you may enter your zip code on the superior court website for the county within which you reside. It should be noted that in order to obtain a divorce in California, you must have been a resident of the state for the prior six months. Furthermore, you must have lived in the county in which you filed for at least the prior three months. All of these concerns are handled by Peace Talks. You do not need to go to court; your divorce mediator handles the filing of the forms for you and makes sure that you have complied with all of the legal requirements.

There is a filing fee for filing your Petition and other documents. The only way to avoid the fee is to fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), which will be reviewed by the court. If the court agrees that your income information dictates that you cannot afford the fee, it will be waived. The court clerk will take your documents, enter a file stamp and return copies to you. At Peace Talks, the cost of filing the forms is included in the affordable cost of your divorce mediation.

The next step in this process is to serve your Petition on your spouse. Since the Petition is the document that initiates the case, there are special rules to follow. For a fee, you can serve your documents by having a county sheriff or professional process server deliver the documents. If your spouse has an attorney, the service must be done on his or her counsel. If your spouse has not retained a lawyer and is representing him or herself, use the individual’s place of residence. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, all service costs and fees are avoided since we handle everything for you.

Another method of service is to ask a responsible friend or relative over the age of 18 years old who is not involved in the case to hand deliver the papers to your spouse. If your spouse will cooperate, you may use the service by mail option and, along with a stamped copy of the Petition and other relevant documents you filed with the court, provide a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt (Family Law Form FL-117) for your spouse to complete. Your spouse will return this Notice to you for filing with the court. Since Peace Talks divorce mediation is a peaceful and cooperative process between you and your spouse, the service of forms will never be an issue and you can focus on the reorganization of your family.

As described above, the family law court system may seem overwhelming, but the superior court’s website and other online sites offer extensive information on how to file for divorce in California. BUT WHY DEAL WITH THIS? Consider divorce mediation at Peace Talks. Why? Because once a legal action commences, the attorneys and parties usually view the case as a win/loose proposition. Each side will do all it can to “beat” the other side. This may involve piles of discovery, questions and documents that you have to prepare, and quite possibly your deposition, your sworn testimony before a court reporter taken by your spouse’s attorney. Each of these stages of the case is time consuming, expensive, and potentially stressful for you and your family. Call Peace Talks instead and learn how Peace Talks divorce mediation can help you with the peaceful reorganization of your family through mediation. You will be glad you did. Contact us at (310) 301-2100.

e want to make sure you know that going to court is not the only way to solve family law disputes. Divorce mediation in Los Angeles is an excellent alternative.

Divorce Mediation in California is preferable because:
1) You will directly participate in finding solutions;
2) You will be able to resolve your dispute sooner;
3) It will be much less expensive;
4) You will end the process with a better relationship with your former spouse; and
5) It will be less stressful than court hearings.

These are all excellent reasons to choose mediation for your divorce.

With that being said, it’s important that you are knowledgeable about the Family Law Courts and the role they play in your divorce or divorce mediation. Once you have decided that you want to get divorced either through the court method or divorce mediation, many legal forms have to be filed to begin and complete the process. If you choose to hire an attorney, that professional will file the paperwork for you after learning all of the relevant facts about your case. If you decide to do it yourself, you will need to complete the forms and file them with the court. At Peace Talks, we file these California divorce court forms for you after discussing them with you at your initial mediation session.

All the necessary California divorce forms are available online on the California Courts website (www.courts.ca.gov). The court has provided instructions and videos for every form. Most of the material is comprehensible and the information makes it easier to work through the process; however with divorce mediation at Peace Talks, we explain all the information to you in detail.

While all California courts use the same basic set of forms, there may be additional forms required based on which county you live in. When you go online and select the courthouse you will be filing in, there will be additional links and information to determine which additional forms, if any, are needed. Peace Talks suggests you avoid this potentially complicated process and choose us to file the court forms for your divorce mediation.

In order to begin the divorce process in California, you or your spouse needs to complete a Petition for Divorce Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-100). By completing the Petition, you are now the “Petitioner” or initiator of this case. Along with the Petition, you will need a Summons (Family Law Form FL-110), and Proof of Service of Summons (Family Law Form FL-115).

California law requires a six (6) month “cooling off” period before a divorce may be finalized to prevent couples from rushing to divorce. The counting of the California six-month “cooling off” period does not begin until the Petitioner has served the Petition on the Respondent (your spouse, the responding party). While these forms come with instructions, Peace Talks’ team of divorce mediators will take the guesswork out and streamline the process for you through divorce mediation.

If you have children under the age of 18 years old, the court requires additional documents to be filed. By submitting your case to the court’s jurisdiction, the judge now has the power to determine the custody and child support awarded in your case. Therefore, you need to complete the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (Family Law Form FL-105/GC120), the Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (optional Family Law Form FL-311), and the Property Declaration (optional Family Law Form FL-160). Please note that all the declarations and sworn statements must be signed in the presence of a notary. When you fill out these forms with Peace Talks’ mediators, we supply the notary and the filing of these documents is handled quickly and efficiently for you.

After the Respondent, your soon to be ex-spouse, is served with the Petition, he or she must complete the Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-120) and either Proof of Personal Service (Family Law Form FL-330) or Proof of Service by Mail (Family Law Form FL-335) depending on how the Respondent chooses to serve his or her response. Again if there are children, the Respondent needs to complete the Family Law Form FL-105/GC-120 (the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) and the Family Law Form FL -311 concerning custody and visitation. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, these forms are completed simultaneously and filed for you in the proper order.

As the Petitioner, once you have completed the above-mentioned documents, you need to go to your local courthouse. There at the clerk’s office you will file the Summons, Petition, and the relevant forms if you have children. To find your local courthouse, you may enter your zip code on the superior court website for the county within which you reside. It should be noted that in order to obtain a divorce in California, you must have been a resident of the state for the prior six months. Furthermore, you must have lived in the county in which you filed for at least the prior three months. All of these concerns are handled by Peace Talks. You do not need to go to court; your divorce mediator handles the filing of the forms for you and makes sure that you have complied with all of the legal requirements.

There is a filing fee for filing your Petition and other documents. The only way to avoid the fee is to fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), which will be reviewed by the court. If the court agrees that your income information dictates that you cannot afford the fee, it will be waived. The court clerk will take your documents, enter a file stamp and return copies to you. At Peace Talks, the cost of filing the forms is included in the affordable cost of your divorce mediation.

The next step in this process is to serve your Petition on your spouse. Since the Petition is the document that initiates the case, there are special rules to follow. For a fee, you can serve your documents by having a county sheriff or professional process server deliver the documents. If your spouse has an attorney, the service must be done on his or her counsel. If your spouse has not retained a lawyer and is representing him or herself, use the individual’s place of residence. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, all service costs and fees are avoided since we handle everything for you.

Another method of service is to ask a responsible friend or relative over the age of 18 years old who is not involved in the case to hand deliver the papers to your spouse. If your spouse will cooperate, you may use the service by mail option and, along with a stamped copy of the Petition and other relevant documents you filed with the court, provide a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt (Family Law Form FL-117) for your spouse to complete. Your spouse will return this Notice to you for filing with the court. Since Peace Talks divorce mediation is a peaceful and cooperative process between you and your spouse, the service of forms will never be an issue and you can focus on the reorganization of your family.

As described above, the family law court system may seem overwhelming, but the superior court’s website and other online sites offer extensive information on how to file for divorce in California. BUT WHY DEAL WITH THIS? Consider divorce mediation at Peace Talks. Why? Because once a legal action commences, the attorneys and parties usually view the case as a win/loose proposition. Each side will do all it can to “beat” the other side. This may involve piles of discovery, questions and documents that you have to prepare, and quite possibly your deposition, your sworn testimony before a court reporter taken by your spouse’s attorney. Each of these stages of the case is time consuming, expensive, and potentially stressful for you and your family. Call Peace Talks instead and learn how Peace Talks divorce mediation can help you with the peaceful reorganization of your family through mediation. You will be glad you did. Contact us at (310) 301-2100.

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

Causes of Divorce Don’t Matter

Affairs don’t cause divorce. Financial arguments don’t cause divorce.

Marriages break down through erosion.

When you think about divorce, most people think that a divorce is one person’s fault, and that there was a specific cause of the divorce. But the causes of divorce are never just one person’s doing, and the event that triggered the actual divorce filing is never the event that actually caused the divorce.

You’re probably thinking that this doesn’t make much sense. But look at it this way: when you’re in a strong relationship, you’re not tempted to sleep with someone else, or to spend all of your time at work, or to ignore your spouse and only spend time with your kids, or any of the other reasons that people say are the causes of divorce.

Single events don’t cause divorce.

It’s the accumulation of hundreds of smaller events that led to the divorce. When the trouble started, it was such a small thing that happened that nobody recognized where it was going to lead.

Consider this example: Your spouse doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to you, so you start to hang out with a friend at work more and more often. Your spouse, feeling ignored at the same time, looks to others for companionship and friendship instead of you. Trouble started innocently enough–there’s nothing wrong with hanging out with friends. But at some point these people have developed 2 completely different lives and after a few years probably don’t have much in common anymore.

Yes, sometimes it’s more dramatic, like an affair or gambling. But it’s all the same thing, really. Instead of turning to your spouse for sex, comfort, sharing and fun, you turn to something, or someone, else.

This is also why a divorce is not just one person’s fault. Both people contributed, even if their contribution was intended to be positive. For example, consider the henpecked husband who’s been practically nagged to death by his wife (or the wife who’s controlled by her husband–same story, different sex). He puts up with it silently, never responding, and does what she says to keep the peace.

At some point, he’s had enough and he tells her he wants a divorce.

Who’s fault is that? He put up with her behavior for a long, long time, never making much of an effort to change it, and not telling her well in advance that he was about at the end of his rope. If he’d held better boundaries with her and refused to put up with her nagging and insisted that they find a better way to communicate, maybe the marriage could’ve been saved.

So she looks like the person who’s to blame, but the husband played a big role in it, too. He’s the more sympathetic character but he played a part in the demise of the relationship too.

Life is complicated. Stop worrying about causes of divorce, and start worrying about communicating better, holding good boundaries, and creating shared experiences with your spouse and children and extended family, as well as friends.

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Causes of Divorce

Uncontested Divorce California

Uncontested Divorce in California is becoming more and more common.  As more people embrace the idea of mediation, collaborative divorce, and even settling things themselves without going to court, more and more divorces are uncontested.

uncontested divorce california

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It makes sense when you think about it:  

  • Courts are over-crowded and each judge is expected to hear 30 cases a day. Pros and cons of mediation.
  • Lawyer fees are higher than ever. The average cost for a litigated divorce in Los Angeles is about $50,000 per person.
  • More and more people value the idea of being cooperative co-parents once their divorce is over
  • In the long run it’s easier to be cordial than enemies, even if you don’t have kids

I also think it’s a shift in values. More and more people are committed to working things out.  We’ve started to appreciate that it’s easier to get along than it is to fight, and that fighting takes up so much negative energy. When you’re caught up in the fight, you can’t live your life, raise your children, or thrive at work.  And I think people have finally caught onto that notion.

Consider child custody and how it’s evolved over the years:

Nowadays, parents are more and more likely to share custody and appreciate what each parent contributes to the upbringing of children.  In California, the legal presumption is that parents will have joint physical custody and joint legal custody of children–a truly shared arrangement–unless one parent proves that this wouldn’t be good for the children.

To share custody, it’s much, much easier if you get along, at least  as cooperative co-parents. You don’t have to be best friends.  By committing to settle out of court, you have a much better chance of preserving the good parts of your relationship for the sake of the kids.

 So how do you make your divorce uncontested?

 There are several elements:

  • Paperwork and court filing
  • Negotiation
  • Financial disclosures
  • Dealing with the emotional divorce
  • Coming to an agreement

Paperwork:  Most people get help with filing the paperwork, whether they hire a paralegal, use a mediator or lawyer, get the forms online, or use a kit from Nolo Press.  The same paperwork is required for all divorces:  Petition, Response, and Stipulated Judgment.

Negotiation:  Reaching the deal doesn’t have to be complicated.  Make an agenda of everything you need to talk about and then start with the easiest things and work your way up.  Schedule a time when you can be alone together, even if it’s at a public place like IHOP in a quiet booth.  Don’t try and do everything at once. Take it slow and give each person a chance to explain how they feel about each issue. Quit before you get tired. You can always meet again. Resources to get started.

Financial Disclosures:  The law requires you to fill out financial disclosures.  Be honest, accurate, an thorough. You can get in a lot of trouble fast if the court finds out you lied.  No goofing around.  No holding back. Your spouse is entitled to see all your financial records, and vice versa, so it’s easiest to cooperate and simply make copies and exchange them. Worksheets to prepare for divorce

Dealing with the Emotional Divorce:  I’m convinced this is 80% of the process.  While the legal stuff is important, and you want it done right, the emotional divorce is key to moving on in a healthy way.  The court expects you to get divorced as a business deal, but you didn’t get married as a business deal.  The court isn’t going to help you with the emotional divorce, so your support system is really important. Friends, family, spirituality and professionals like therapists are there to help, so reach out. You can return the favor later.

Coming to an Agreement:  Your divorce will get resolved one way or the other

Mediate! Don’t Litigate.

There are huge advantages when you mediate your divorce, family law, custody, child support, alimony, spousal support or modification.  If you’ve spent any time at all on our web site, you already know how passionate we are about mediation and its benefits.

We saw a new couple this week for mediation.  They’d already spent about $100,000 on lawyers’ fees and going to court and had gotten basically nowhere.  I know that sounds like I’m exaggerating, but that’s not unusual for Los Angeles in terms of legal fees.  It looks like we’ll settle the case at Peace Talks for about $5000. We’ve accomplished in a few hours what the lawyers didn’t do in 4 years. Amazing. 

Of course, as much as I’d like to claim all the credit, 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. $100,000? 

And we’ve recently implemented a sliding fee scale, too. We want to help people who want to get through their divorces as peacefully as possible, so please don’t let fees be the barrier.  If you’re struggling financially, let us know and if you qualify for the sliding fee, including some free services, we’re happy to help you.

Peace Talks is a business, but it’s also a vision.

So mediate, don’t litigate. In case we haven’t convinced you, we’ve listed the benefits below.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Less expensive—generally 90% less expensive–than going to court.
  • Faster—mediation is on your schedule, as fast or as slow as you want. You’re not at the mercy of the court’s schedule.
  • Helps preserve what’s left of your relationship. Do you really want to duck and cover every time you bump into a former in-law or mutual friend?  And if you have kids, you’re going to be co-grandparents. You’ve got to figure this out! and mediation can help.
  • Unique to your situation:  the mediation process is designed around your agenda and your needs, not the court’s and not the mediator’s.  You’ll negotiate an agreement that’s tailored to your family and unique situation, not just what a judge you’ve never met before thinks should work for you.

And when you’ve got children, mediation is even more important and effective.  Preserving or creating a good co-parenting relationship is really crucial to your child’s wellbeing.  Mediation can help.

Would you really want your divorce to hurt your child?  We didn’t think so. Our best tips:

Custody Mediation

1. The best predictor of how children do after a divorce is the amount of conflict between parents.  Mediation teaches you how to parent with less conflict.

    2. Mediation lets you create child-focused parenting plans that are tailor-made to suit your schedule as well as your kids’ needs. Mediation puts kids first but doesn’t leave parents behind, either.

        3. A good parenting plan let’s you avoid “He Said/She Said” arguments. The details are already in the plan. No more fighting.

          So mediate! don’t litigate!

          If you’re in the Los Angeles area, we’d be happy to help you through the process.  If you’re not near LA, you can find a mediator near you at Mediate.com.

          book-a-freeappointment-with-a

          And visit our video mediation blog!

          Uncontested Divorce California Style, Part 2

          The path to uncontested divorce in California, or anywhere else, is not always an easy one.

          Let’s face it, the thought of divorce can be pretty upsetting, scary, sad and everything in between.  So sometimes divorces start with a bang–intimidating court paperwork which is sometimes served on the other party (who may be unsuspecting) in a pretty abrupt way.

          So how can this situation be saved?  Is it possible to have an uncontested divorce California style? Or in any other state?  What helps people make the transition from legal battle to a peaceful settlement?

          Here’s an interesting statistic:

          While over 95% of all divorce cases settle before trial, no matter how contested they start out to be, getting to an uncontested divorce can be a challenge. Some divorces start out peacefully, with everyone ready and willing to settle.  Others, not so much.

          contested divorce (don’t let this be you!)

          As painful as divorce is, we always encourage clients to hang in, and to participate with the process.  The way we describe it is:  The plane ride (of your divorce) is turbulent at the moment–it’s uncomfortable, and you’re nervous–but that doesn’t mean the plane is going to crash.

          You’re getting divorced. Not everything is going to go perfectly, and it may take awhile to get resolved. As much as divorce is a “product” (the divorce decree and court papers), it’s a “process” too, as you dissolve the emotional part of your marriage and redefined your relationship with each other, and, if you have kids, your co-parenting relationship.  You are, after all, still a family.

          So what’s the best way to go about having an uncontested divorce in California, or in any of the 50 states?

          You have some choices:

          • Kitchen Table
          • Mediation
          • Collaborative Divorce
          • Litigation

          Kitchen Table: Some people can settle their divorce on their own using the divorce preparation worksheets and divorce mission statement.  Out of 41,000 divorces in Los Angeles County every year, 70% of them don’t have attorneys involved.  It can be done.

          Mediation:  When you mediate your divorce, you use a neutral person (usually a lawyer or therapist, or both) to help you figure out how to settle things.  The mediator is there to give you suggestions, point you in the right direction, help you get organized, talk without fighting, and reach an agreement.  Mediation is significantly less expensive than Collaborative Divorce or going to court.  We’ve found over our 11 years of mediation practice that there are 2 things that dictate whether mediation is successful or not:

          (1) Are you ready to reach an agreement? Or do you want to be ready?

          (2)  Do you want to reach an agreement?  (or do you prefer to keep fighting?)

          Collaborative Divorce:  When you use Collaborative Divorce to resolve your case, you each have your own attorneys and therapist-coaches, but you promise not to go to court.  You commit to working out the terms of your settlement out of court.  It’s more expensive than mediation, since you both have attorneys representing you, but less stressful than going to court, so it’s a great way to resolve things in a confidential manner.

          Litigation:  As courts get more and more over-booked, and lawyers get to be more and more expensive, more couples are choosing either mediation or collaborative divorce to settle their family law cases.  But litigation is always an option, of course.  When you litigate, you go to court, with or without attorneys.  The judge makes a decision for you (or you decide in the hallway while you wait for your case to be called).  It’s stressful, time-consuming, and if you have attorneys, it’s expensive.  Even if you don’t have an attorney, you could make an expensive mistake by not knowing all your rights.

          Remember, just because the ride gets bumpy doesn’t mean you’re going to crash!  You have choices.  Ask for help from sensible family and friends to help you through this process, and consider contacting a therapist or support group.  It’s possible to have an uncontested divorce in California, and anywhere else.  It’s up to you.

          Diana Mercer is an attorney-mediator and the co-author of Making Divorce Work and Your Divorce Advisor. She’s a divorce blogger for the Huffington Post.

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          Mediate for Success

          I’ve been a divorce lawyer for 22 years (youthful appearance notwithstanding!) and I’ve learned a lot about what works and what does not work when you’re getting divorced.

          I also got divorced myself. That was a big lesson, too.  Thankfully it was on the “what works” list as opposed to the “what doesn’t work” list.

          When you’re faced with a divorce or other family law case (custody, support, domestic partnership, cohabitation), you have the best chance for success in resolving everything at stake if you mediate.

          I know, that sounds a little self-interested, since I’m a full time mediator….but I became a mediator by giving up a very high paying divorce lawyer job because I knew it was time to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.  I traded my fancy car for a 2002 Honda Accord and 11 years later I still value helping families through this difficult life transition (divorce).

          Diana Mercer, Mediator (that’s me!)

          Here’s how it works:

          In mediation, you and your spouse or partner will work with a neutral professional, often a lawyer or a therapist trained in mediation, or both (but non-attorneys make good mediators, too).  Their job is to help you settle your case, from cars and pots and pans to parenting plans for children, support, and retirement accounts. 

          Shop around, as mediators’ styles vary greatly.  Ask if there’s a free orientation or initial consultation.  Decide what kind of mediator might work for your situation. This is a very personal process so you want to be able to make a connection with your mediator.

          Mediators’ styles might include:

          • Making suggestions
          • Informing you about the law
          • Telling you what others have done in your situation
          • Outlining your options
          • Helping you think of different ways to resolve a problem
          • Facilitating communication
          • Making sure the discussion is balanced, productive, and respectful
          • Writing down agreements
          • Helping you with court paperwork (or doing it for you)
          • Helping you to stay on task and finishing discussions, because when discussions become difficult, it’s tempting to just change the subject
          • Whatever else you ask them to do

          Not all mediators do all these things, so ask.

          In our practice, we design the mediation to fit the clients’ needs, while following some proven steps we know help mediations be successful.

          For example, we insist that we make an agenda (all together, all ideas count) of everything that needs to be decided. We do this very early in the process. This helps everyone stay organized.

          We insist on making the agenda list—but that list will include whatever the clients want to include, even if it isn’t on our checklist.  And we get some unusual topics sometimes:  pet visitation, dividing Beanie Baby collections, creating a shared story that both parents can tell the children about the divorce, you name it.

          So the agenda is part of the office’s “best practices” but what the agenda includes is completely up to the clients.  We find that this kind of structure makes more mediations successful than if we didn’t follow these procedures (and the agenda is just one of several)…but the topics, timing, discussion, format and priorities belong to the clients.

          Mediation is about 90% less expensive than hiring 2 lawyers and litigating in court. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  And even if your case is very difficult and complicated, it’s still a better process and it results in long term success because the people who are living with the outcome (the couple) have so much input into the final agreement.

          Mediation typically attracts some very nice people who are having an extremely bad day.  Divorce is really stressful and a very sad experience (generally) and we never forget how hard it is to sit in our office and talk about everything you care about in this world:  your children, how they’re raised, your home, your financial security, and the dreams you had for this relationship.  Mediation is the best way to go about dealing with this unfortunate situation.

          If you want to find a mediator near you, Mediate.com will help you find a mediator if you’re not in the Los Angeles area.

          Or, if you’re in the Los Angeles area, call for a free appointment today:

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          Divorce Strategy?

          An accountant is helping one of our clients with some of the required financial documents for the divorce.  “I don’t want to ruin your strategy,” he says, “but I really think the [other party] ought to know about this.”

          Strategy?  How’s this for “strategy?”  How’s about you do whatever is necessary to help people reach an agreement?

          Strategy.  It’s such an interesting concept in divorce.  I told him that my strategy was to tell the truth and share all the financial documentation so that the couple could make good decisions for themselves, and for the two of them as a whole (even if the whole is separating).

          Even when I think back to my days as a divorce litigation attorney at Noyes & Mercer in New Haven, Connecticut, did I really have a strategy? If you consider being prepared and doing your homework a “strategy” then yes, I definitely had a strategy.

          Early on, my mentor and boss, Carl Porto at Parrett Porto Parese, told me, “You will lose very few of these [divorce litigation cases] if you are prepared.”

          He was absolutely right.

          And it rings true today, even if I’m prepared in a different way.

          In the olden days, I’d have a trial notebook, pre-marked exhibits and copies, a draft of my direct examination questions and a bunch of ideas about what I’d do on cross-examination. I’d script out my offers of proof for evidence objections. And much to Carl’s, and my, delight, I didn’t lose any of my litigation cases.  Just once I got a Judgment that wasn’t as good as I thought I’d get.  Once in 12 years.

          These days, my preparation is both different and the same.  We take detailed notes using worksheets and checklists that we’ve developed over time.  We review client files after the mediation sessions and write short memos to the clients about what’s next even though we’ve already given them copies of our notes. 

          Each mediation team de-briefs after each session and anticipates what might happen at the next session and what we will do to help clients get through it.

          We even work on analogies, like “just because the plane flight (mediation) has gotten a little turbulent and bumpy (the mediation is tense) doesn’t mean we’re going to crash (and you’ll get through this).”

          Strategy.

          Such an interesting concept.

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          Insider Divorce Advice

          Divorce Advice I Give My Friends

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

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

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

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

           

          divorce schemes

           

           

           

           

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Divorce and the Economy

          At what price sanity?

          I’m no stranger to divorce during bad financial times.  I was admitted to the bar in 1988, during a huge financial downturn. Pretty quickly after that, there was a huge mortgage meltdown, sort of like what’s happening now, and everyone’s house was upside down (they owed more than it was worth).

          This time is different, however.  Back in the day, most of my clients who were broke simply moved back to their parents’ house. Nowadays, that just doesn’t seem to be happening as much. Instead, people continue to try to live together to save money.

          It sounds like such a good idea–let’s just decide how to divide the bills and stay out of each other’s way, and we’ll just stay in the same apartment or house until the economy improves.  And if you weren’t invovled in a love relationship that’s gone south, it probably would be a good idea.

          What people don’t anticipate is that once you’ve decided that the love relationship is over, and separation or divorce is imminent, it gets harder and harder to live together like roommates.  Because you’re not roommates. You’re former partners. And as much as I’ve gotten into fights with roommates (my freshman dorm roommate who addicted to the Oak Ridge Boys comes to mind) they’re nothing like the kinds of fights we can get into with people we’ve been intimate with, and people with whom we started to build dreams.

          There’s a big difference.

          So in the mediation room, we hear, “Oh no, we’ll be fine living together, don’t worry!” and we respond, “That might be true for you, but I’ve got to tell you, our experience is that one day we’re going to get a call from one of you telling us the other person is in jail because you had a fight and someone called the police.”

          divorce fightmediator or therapist, are you really getting the kind of service that will serve your long term goals?

          If you refuse to spend money on accountants or appraisals the professionals helping you with your case tell you you need, you’re saving money now, but will it save you or cost you in the long run?

          And don’t forget the non-direct monetary costs.

          Do you think it’s random bad luck that a huge percentage of our divorcing clients have recently lost their jobs? Of course, we’re in the middle of a terrible economic time, but if these folks had been less embroiled in their divorce fight and more engaged at their jobs, would they have been the ones laid off? 

          Can your credit score rebound from “I’m not paying the credit card this month, YOU are!” type of fights?

          Can your kids rebound from your fight at their soccer game in front of their friends?

          So when you consider the cost of divorce, also consider your short and long term divorce goals.

          Diana Mercer is a mediator with Peace Talks Mediation Services, Inc., and the co-author of Making Divorce Work (Penguin 2010).

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          Divorce and Graphotherapy

          graphotherapy divorce recoveryDivorce and Graphotherapy

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

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

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

          graphology

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

          Your handwriting is unique to you

          Family Mediation and “Failure”

          A client told me this week, “I think that divorce is one of the great failings of adulthood.” 

          If it was only that simple.

          family mediation

          Let’s face it. We fail a lot of the time. And if we never fail, it means we’re not taking enough chances and not trying enough new things.  People who never fail are failing to challenge themselves.

          Of course, nobody opts into the divorce system on purpose.  When you get married, you think it’s for keeps. Divorce is definitely not Plan A. It’s probably not even Plan B or Plan C.  But when it happens to you, you have a choice of how you handle it. 

          You can scorch the earth, gossip to all your mutual friends, and slash your spouse’s tires.  That’s one way. It’s actually more popular than it should be.

          But as a responsible adult (which this client is) you can choose to deal with divorce and other unfortunate things that happen in a respectful, sane way.  Click to find out how Family Mediation works.  There are so many choices for divorce nowadays that running to a lawyer isn’t necessary.

          As much as he felt he’d failed, or that his spouse had failed, in creating a lasting marriage, ultimately he didn’t fail to be a responsible adult.  

          There are some things in life that we can control and some things we can’t.  What we can control is our reaction, and actions, once these things happen.  And this is where he succeeded.  He could’ve run off to court, but he chose to mediate. And when the discussion was difficult, he didn’t give up. He kept coming back to mediation…and ultimately, this couple figured it out.

          Bad things happen to good people.  They happen all the time.  My mom, the kindest, gentlest person in the world, died of cancer in 2010.  My friend who adopted a drug-addicted baby from foster care has a brain tumor. The bad things that happen are not necessarily because you failed.

          And even if you did fail, the measure of a person’s character is how you deal with that failure, not the fact that you failed.

          • Did you do everything you could to save your marriage? 
          • Did you speak frankly and respectfully to your spouse about your marital problems?
          • Did you seek counseling or outside help?

          And if none of that worked, did you leave your marriage in an honest, honorable, respectful way?

          Family mediation gives you the opportunity to do exactly that.  You can honor the years you spent together and the good things you gave each other when you mediate your divorce.   Sure, the last couple of years probably haven’t been so good, but you got married because you were in love (or at least you thought that you’d be a lasting couple) so surely there were some good times.

          And if you have children, certainly they are part of the gifts you gave each other.

           

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          Divorce in California

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

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

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

          mediation california

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          About mediation

          FAQ about mediation

          Pros and Cons of Mediation

           

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          Shared Custody Schedules

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

          It’s a divorce and separation reality, however.

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

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

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

          joint custody

          Here are some popular shared custody schedules:

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

          Week #

          Monday

          Tuesday

          Wednesday

          Thursday

          Friday

          Saturday

          Sunday

          1

          Dad

          Dad

          Mom

          Mom

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          2

          Dad

          Dad

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          3

          Dad

          Dad

          Mom

          Mom

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          4

          Dad

          Dad

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          What we like about this schedule:

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

          What we don’t like about this schedule:

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

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

           

          Week #

          Monday

          Tuesday

          Wednesday

          Thursday

          Friday

          Saturday

          Sunday

          1

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          2

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          3

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          4

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

           

          What we like about this plan:

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

          What we don’t like about this plan:

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

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

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          Low Cost Divorce

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

          What Causes Divorce?     

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

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

          causes of divorce

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

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

          Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

          Tips for Co-Parenting after Divorce

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

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

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

          Focus on the Positive

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

          Communication

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

          Blended Families

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

          Create a Co-Parenting Plan

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

          free-stuff

          Stay on the Same Page

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

          About the Author

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

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          Mediation vs. Litigation

          More and more people are choosing mediation rather than litigation.  Why it has taken so long to catch on, when the benefits of mediation are obvious, is beyond me, but better late than never.

          There are huge advantages when you mediate your divorce, family law, custody, child support, alimony, spousal support or modification issue.  If you’ve spent any time on our mediation website, you already know how passionate we are about mediation and its benefits.

          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

          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 http://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.

           free-stuff

          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:

          free-stuff

           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

          Setting Clear Boundaries in Divorce

          Setting Clear Boundaries

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

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

          domestic violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Mediation is the New and Improved Litigation

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

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

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

          divorce mediation

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

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

          Creating a Good Divorce

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

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

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

          mediation

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

           Diana Mercer, Mediator

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

          free-stuff

           Here’s how it works:

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

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

           A mediator’s style might include:

              * Making suggestions

              * Informing you about legal provisions

              * Relating what others have done in your situation

              * Defining your options

              * Helping you consider alternative ways to resolve your problem

              * Facilitating communication

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

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

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

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

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

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          Is Divorce Failure?

          Family Mediation and Failure

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

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

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

          divorce mediation

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

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

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

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

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

          Ask yourself these questions:

          In Divorce, The Truth Is Not Relevant

          The TRUTH IS IRRELEVANT IN DIVORCE.

          I know that sounds like crazy talk.

          But think about it this way:

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

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

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

          divorce mediation

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

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

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

          And the truth is….

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

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

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

          Divorce: Kids and Custody

          Kids and Custody

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

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

          divorce custody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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          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.

          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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          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 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.

          domestic violence

          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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          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:

          free-stuff

           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.

          Throttle small

          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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          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.

                                                             

           

          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 – 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.

                                                    free-stuff

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

           

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

          A Divorce Mission Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           

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

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

          Staying Focused On What Matters This Holiday Season

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

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

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

          ****************************************************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


          Keep your emotions in check

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

          Talk about it

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

          Don’t focus on fair

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

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

          Map it out

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

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

          Give kids a heads up

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

          Keep it simple

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

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

          Have fun

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

           

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

          Divorce Wisdom: A Thank You Note to my Former Husband

          Divorce Wisdom:

          A Thank You Note to my Former Husband

           

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

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

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

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

          We were married 5 weeks later.

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

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

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

           

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           

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

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          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.

           

          Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

          Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

          Skirball Center

          Los Angeles, CAmcpg flyer final 2

           

          I’ve had a few people ask if it’s “worth it” to come to the Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013.  I wouldn’t plunk down $895-$1395 (depending on when you register) without asking a few questions, either.

          For Registration Click Here

          Here are the questions which would be on my mind if I wasn’t involved in organizing this training:

          Why does it take 3 days?

          • Day one, you hear the information and learn
          • Day two, you experience how the new information works in practice
          • Day three, you reflect and debrief.  It’s in the debrief that the magic happens, and when you see the power in your role.  It’s on day 3 that the shift takes place

          Why is this training different than the million trainings I’ve already been to? [And never mind that I’ve practiced a zillion years]

          This training is different because of its focus on the team and how each professional can contribute to making the team greater than the sum of it’s parts.

          Let’s face it

          Why This Collaborative Training is Different

          Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

          Skirball Center

          Los Angeles, CA

          mcpg logo white bg

          The Marina Collaborative Divorce Practice Group along with Co-Sponsor, the Southern California Mediation Association, are excited to announce our upcoming Three-Day Collaborative Practice Training June 6-8, 2013  in Los Angeles, California at the beautiful Skirball Center.    

          Why this training is different: This training is one of a kind designed specifically for OUR GROUP (yes, they are tailoring their materials and presentation specifically for our needs!)

          This is not some canned presentation, or a couple of people you’ve heard speak 1000 times.

          It’s designed for previously trained practitioners to learn the new streamlined protocols, practice team building and for practitioners new to collaborative practice.

          Many other collaborative trainings don’t teach the importance of teams. The Team is the magic of collaborative law, and each professional plays an integral and powerful role as a team member.  The team is greater than the sum of the parts. 

          The power for each professional is not in the individual power and control like in a traditionally litigated case

          Why You Should Come to This Collaborative Training

          Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

          Skirball Center

          Los Angeles, CA

          The Marina Collaborative Divorce Practice Group along with Co-Sponsor, the Southern California Mediation Association, are excited to announce our upcoming Three-Day Collaborative Practice Training June 6-8, 2013  in Los Angeles, California at the beautiful Skirball Center.    

          Why this training is different: This training is one of a kind.  It’s being designed specifically for OUR GROUP. The trainers are tailoring their materials and presentation specifically based on what we’ve requested so that this training will be great for everyone interested in Collaborative Practice.

          This training is meant for practitioners new to collaborative practice and especially previously trained practitioners to learn the new streamlined protocols and to practice team building and delineation of the roles and responsibilities of each professional.collaborative

          The collaborative Team is the magic of collaborative law. Too many of us bypass the protocols and collaborative enrollment process thinking that we’re saving clients time and money, when in reality we’re not using Collaborative Practice to its full benefit.

          Many other collaborative trainings don’t teach the importance of teams and how each professional plays an integral and powerful role as a team member.  The team is greater than the sum of its professionals.  The power for each professional is not in the individual power and control like in a traditionally litigated case

          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.

           

          book-a-freeappointment-with-a

          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.