Divorce-A Coach Might Help

At Peace Talks we have been doing a lot of “coaching” with the overwhelming process of divorce, from divorcing parents and premaritals as well as legal and psychological practitioners.

Here’s a description of “Divorce Coaching” from the American Bar Association:

“Divorce coaching is a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate, and guide people going through divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs, and concerns. Divorce coaches have different professional backgrounds and are selected based on the specific needs of the clients.  For example, some divorce coaches are financial planners, mental health professionals, lawyers, or mediators who have experience dealing with divorcing clients.”

Here’s some additional feedback about the potential value of a coach from an attorney:

“I love them, and if I had my way, I’d never work without them,” says Brigitte Bell, a Chicago divorce attorney. “They help manage the clients and support them by bringing a different set of skills to the divorce process than we do.”

If you want to explore the “Divorce Coach” idea to see if it’s something you want to pursue, whether as a potential client or certified practitioner please contact me.

 

The Good The Bad and The Women

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

What is a Legal Separation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California’s Cooling OFF Period

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Truth is Irrelevant (all the time, not just in ADR Services)

TRUTH IS IRRELEVANT

All the time. Not just for mediators, and not just for ADR Services.

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 When we think of disputes, most people think that ascertaining the truth is the key to the resolution of a disagreement.  Find the truth, and you have the resolution to the conflict. Yet how many of us see “the truth” in the same way?

Truth is seen 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.

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

            This oath required of every witness in an American court is designed to bring out the truth. Unfortunately, as we saw when former President Clinton took this same oath, truth is not always forthcoming, even from the highest office in the land.

            Honesty and veracity are important virtues—whether in the courtroom or 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. Just look at how Judge Jackson and the American public viewed Bill Gates and the Microsoft position after Gates was cross-examined effectively in the antitrust trial. Once he’d been discredited on one fact, suddenly his whole story seemed suspicious.

            Having credibility and being believed is no less important in mediation—since settlement requires voluntary agreement, you have to gain the trust of your adversary in order to make a deal. Truth is not irrelevant when you’re talking about credibility and trust.

            But The Truth is.

            Does it really matter how many times former President Clinton was alone with Monica Lewinsky? Does it matter whether Monica’s dress had been dry-cleaned or not?

            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 you focus on 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, would remain different for each individual and probably never 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

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.

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          And visit our video mediation blog!

          Uncontested Divorce California Style, Part 2

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

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

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

          Here’s an interesting statistic:

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

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

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

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

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

          You have some choices:

          • Kitchen Table
          • Mediation
          • Collaborative Divorce
          • Litigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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          Mediate for Success

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

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

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

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

          Diana Mercer, Mediator (that’s me!)

          Here’s how it works:

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

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

          Mediators’ styles might include:

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

          Not all mediators do all these things, so ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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          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:

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          Sincerely (and I do mean that),

          Diana Mercer

          Divorce and the Economy

          At what price sanity?

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

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

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

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

          There’s a big difference.

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

          divorce fight

          And most of the time, we’re right.

          It’s really sad. “I didn’t mean to have her arrested!” our client protests. “You can thank OJ Simpson for the automatic arrest rule,” we reply.  Let’s face it. If it’s urgent and important enough to call 911, surely someone ought to be arrested or in an ambulance. Right? 

          It makes sense when you think about it.

          So when you’re pinching pennies in your divorce (which is a good idea) be careful to think about the potential fallout from cutting back on that particular item.  Would you rather couch surf, or spend the night in lockup?

          If you pick a bargain lawyer, mediator or therapist, are you really getting the kind of service that will serve your long term goals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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          Divorce and Graphotherapy

          graphotherapy divorce recoveryDivorce and Graphotherapy

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

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

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

          graphology

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

          Your handwriting is unique to you

          Low Cost Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

          divorce mediation

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

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

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

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

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

          Peace-Talks paints a fairly bleak picture of the litigation process, and the pros and cons of using divorce court to resolve your dispute.  It’s based on considerable family law experiences, but you don’t need to rely on our version:  you can go the courthouse and see for yourself.  All court files and divorce proceedings are public record, which means you can look up anyone’s file in the filing room (room 112), or sit in on anyone’s divorce case in any of the family court rooms (most are on the 2nd floor in the downtown Los Angeles courthouse.

          By going to court, you can observe the litigants, lawyers, bailiffs and judges. You can see and feel what the court experience might be like for your divorce process, divorce settlement, and pos-divorce issues if you were to choose to go to court for your case.  You can get an idea of how much time a judge has to hear each case, as well as the opportunity litigants have to speak to the judge, their lawyers, and the other party.  You can see how much attention the court proceedings give to individuals’ goals, values, common interests, and creative non-judicial solutions regarding child support, visitation and parenting plan mediation and administration.  We think that you’ll agree with Peace-Talk’s divorce mediation service, but it’s important that you witness Los Angeles divorce court for yourself.

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

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

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          What Causes Divorce?

          Causes of Divorce

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

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

          cause of divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          free-stuff

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

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

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

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          In Divorce, The Truth Is Not Relevant

          The TRUTH IS IRRELEVANT IN DIVORCE.

          I know that sounds like crazy talk.

          But think about it this way:

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

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

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

          divorce mediation

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

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

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

          And the truth is….

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

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

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

          Mediate Family Law, Don’t Litigate!

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

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

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

          mediation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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          Divorce Mediation: Mediator Styles

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

          Throttle small

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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          The Very Real Danger of Divorce

          http://huffingtonpost.com/diana-mercer

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

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

          divorce stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          We can understand that:

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

           And to stay out of legal trouble, you can:

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

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

           

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