June 30th For Families and MD Shooting

There are thousands of events across the country scheduled for Saturday to give people a chance to make a statement about the administration’s approach to handling requests for asylum.  Here are a couple of familiar names that are encouraging people to add their voices and signs:

America Ferrera
“Seeing thousands of immigrant families torn apart, I am devastated and beyond furious.”

Alyssa Milano
“I believe that what this administration is doing at the border is a “crime against humanity,” and it is on us to stop it.”

Make sure you and everyone you know has signed up to take action this Saturday, June 30th by sharing this image on Facebook:

Join me on June 30 in Washington, D.C., or in a city near you to demand an end to this disgusting family separation policy.

I will pass along any information about special funds for the benefit of the families affected by the MD shootings. Hopefully we will figure out a better way to do things…soon.

Rallies For The Right Thing

Here is some info about the national day of rallies taking place for people that want to be seen and heard about the families being separated at the border.

Let them know that this is no way to run our country.

Thanks to powerful public pressure, the Trump administration has been forced to shift its outrageous treatment of immigrant children. We have momentum—but we’re far from done.

The executive order that Donald Trump signed today is not the solution. It allows the indefinite incarceration of immigrant families in federal prisons, and there is still no plan to reunify the thousands of families that have been forcibly separated. Which is why we must continue to stand together at hundreds of events nationwide on Saturday, June 30, to say that families belong together—and freeClick here to join the June 30 event near you to Keep Families Together and free and reject Trump’s brutal policies.

Add Your Voice for Families

It’s very difficult to watch any family go through separation anxiety, of any kind, just ask anyone that has dealt with Family Law and Divorce Court.

I’m passing along this email in case you’d like to let the policy makers know that you disagree with this policy and they must immediatelychoose a better option.

In no way is this a solicitation for funds for any organization or group; just one way to speak out against something that is wrong.

I you decide to participate just click on the “Not Michael-Click Here” to bring up a fresh request.

Will you click here to add your name and declare that children and their families belong together? The petition says: “Stop tearing children away from their parents. Families belong together.”

Let’s keep raising our voices to stop this tragedy—and show love and support for these children and their families.

—Natalie Portman

Every Judge Is Not A Solomon

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

Unplugging To Connect

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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:


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 .


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.


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.


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.

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.

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.



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.


          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.


          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:


          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).”


          Such an interesting concept.


          Court Field Trip: Mediation

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

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

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

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

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

          Judges getting pink slips? You better believe it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

          The Tale of 2 Blogs: Mediation

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

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

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

          Diana Mercer













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

          describe the image

          Sincerely (and I do mean that),

          Diana Mercer

          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.



          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 #








































          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 #









































          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.


          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.

          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 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.


          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.


          Cost of Divorce: Cost of Staying Together

          Putting a price on sanity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Sure, it sounds like a decent plan

          California Divorce

          Divorce in California

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

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

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

           uncontested divorce california

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


          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.


          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.


          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:


          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.


          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


          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.




          Cause of Divorce

          What Causes Divorce?

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

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

          cause of divorce

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

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

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

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

          Some helpful free resources:


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

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

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


          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.”


          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.

          Divorce Sanity: The 8 Peace Practices

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

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

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

          divorce sanity

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

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

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

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

          The 8 Peace Practices will help you get there.


          Creating a Good Divorce

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

          I’ve been a divorce lawyer for 22 years, and expert on what works best for both parties when you’re getting divorced. As a divorcee myself, I perfected a personal “what works” that helps people navigate the often rough waters of divorce.


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

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

           Diana Mercer, Mediator

           Here’s how it works:

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

           When considering a family law or divorce mediator,  look around.  Mediator styles vary.  Ask your prospective mediator if a free orientation or initial consultation is available.  Take time to decide what type of mediator might work best for your personal circumstances. This is an intensely personal process,  so you should seek a personal connection with your chosen mediator.  Find a mediator anywhere in the United States on www.mediate.com (search by area code).

           A mediator’s style might include:

              * Making suggestions

              * Informing you about legal provisions

              * Relating what others have done in your situation

              * Defining your options

              * Helping you consider alternative ways to resolve your problem

              * Facilitating communication

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

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

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

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

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


          Insider Divorce Advice

          Divorce Advice I Give My Friends

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

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

          Jedi Warrier, Use This Advice Wisely to Stay Trouble:

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Uncontested Divorce: California Guide

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

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


          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.


          Parental Alientation and Divorce Mediation

          I get asked a lot about Child Custody. 

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

          parental alientation

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


          Family Law Mediation Success

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

          divorce mediation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


          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.


          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:


           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!





          Review: HBO’s “Don’t Divorce Me”



          Review by Janae Monroe


          Peace Talks Mediation Services



          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

          Resolving Divorce Conflict – Listening Is Not Obeying

          A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict 

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


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

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

          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

          The Very Real Danger of Divorce


          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.



          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.