“Free-Range” Parenting

by Stephanie Maloney

“Free-Range” Parenting - Divorce Mediation - Sherman Oaks, CAIt seems that childcare and its “do’s and “don’ts” keeps coming up as one of the most emotional issues dividing couples that are co-parenting even with only one child in the mix.

I came across an article from the “First 5 California”* website that has some valuable viewpoints about this incredibly difficult and rather constant problem for a lot of divorced parents. *(First 5 California was created in November 1998 when California voters passed Proposition 10 to invest tobacco tax revenues in programs that would help improve the lives of children in California.)

“Recent headlines have prompted the question over what situations a child is considered independent enough to walk home unattended, play outdoors without supervision or be left alone in the home?”

“Free-range” parenting has been highlighted and criticized in recent months, due in part to, a Maryland couple recently cleared of neglect charges in one of two cases after allowing their 10-year-old and 6-year-old children to walk home unsupervised from a local park. 

On the flip side, a father in Tennessee used a drone to keep tabs on his 8-year-old daughter as she walked home by herself.

So, what is considered lenientor overprotectivewhen it comes to raising our children is a question to be openly discussed on a regular basis as they develop.

“We should also allow children the freedom to explore by teaching them to speak up(ensure your child can contact you or an adult at all times) and speak out -with respect and not defiance.”

This question about how much to be involved in parenting can often be a challenge when trying to co-parent. Parents can differ in their parenting style and want to impose it on the co-parent. Our advice is to balance the fight with what you are fighting for.

You can view the whole piece on their website: www.first5la.org/

Women: Separate But Not Equal Pay

by Stephanie Maloney

Women: Separate But Not Equal Pay - Divorce Mediation - Los AngelesSince I get reminded on a daily basis of why a lot of moms are finding it harder to celebrate things sometimes this seemed a bright piece of news. If these bills actually make progress I will pass along the word on what we can do to support their passage. Enjoy the hopeful Senator’s wishes and in the meantime let’s hope that next year we’re a little slimmer and the bank account is a little fatter.

NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says Congress must do more to help working moms and their children so she is sponsoring two bills to address the issues of paid work leave and equal pay for equal work. Here’s how she put it:

In May 1914 Congress created “Mother’s Day” as a celebration but hasn’t done nearly enough with policies to give working mothers the support they need.

“The United States consistently ranks at the bottom among industrialized nations for paid parental leave. Many families spend over 25% of their income on childcare, and that number climbs to over 50% for single parents.

The obvious pay gap between men and women, which is even worse for women with children, means that working moms are getting shortchanged.”  This is important because nearly two-thirds of mothers in the United States are the primary, sole or co-breadwinner.

Her paid leave bill is called the FAMILY Act. The FAMILY Act would guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid leave, with two-thirds of your paycheck.

Her other bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would help end wage discrimination. Right now, on average, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes only 80 cents, and if you’re a woman of color, it’s even worse.

Studies have also shown that there is a “motherhood penalty” in our economy, where having children hurts women’s earnings while working fathers get an increase in pay for every child they have.

It’s that simple.

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.

Apps That Spy on Kids?

by Stephanie Maloney

Apps That Spy on Kids?I’m a technology fan but there are times when we have to pay close attention to “the little man behind the curtain.”

According to researchers, from UC Berkeley, the University of British Columbia and Stony Brook University, Nearly one in five of the most popular free children- and family-oriented apps in the Google Play store improperly collects “identifiers or other personally identifiable information”

The study, which analyzed 5,855 apps, found that 281 — or about 5 percent — collect contact or location data without first seeking parent approval and the apps could be violating 1999’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA.

“This study has just given the FTC hundreds of companies that they could be going after right now,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

“I think that if there was better and more regular enforcement, that it could change the industry,” added.

Twenty-eight percent of the apps studied bypassed Android permissions to access “sensitive data,” the study found, while 73 percent of the apps in question collected “sensitive data.” The worst offenders were apps that collected users’ geolocation information.

“Geolocation data not only reveals where individuals live, but could also enable inferences about their socioeconomic classes, everyday habits, and health conditions, among others,” the study reads.

Golin said he hopes the research spurs parents to think twice before downloading apps for kids.

The study comes a week after a group of privacy and children’s advocacy groups, including the CCFC, filed an FTC complaint against YouTube, arguing that Google’s video platform was illegally collecting personal data from children.

Google, in a statement, said it takes the study seriously.

Temporary “Phonelessness” Is OK

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

The Small Outdoors

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Cleaning

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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Here are some popular shared custody schedules:

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

Week #

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

1

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Dad

Dad

Dad

2

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

3

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Dad

Dad

Dad

4

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

What we like about this schedule:

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

What we don’t like about this schedule:

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

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

 

Week #

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

1

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

2

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

3

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

4

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

 

What we like about this plan:

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

What we don’t like about this plan:

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

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

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Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

Tips for Co-Parenting after Divorce

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

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

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

Focus on the Positive

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

Communication

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

Blended Families

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

Create a Co-Parenting Plan

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

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Stay on the Same Page

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

About the Author

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

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Mediation vs. Litigation

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

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

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

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

Setting Clear Boundaries in Divorce

Setting Clear Boundaries

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

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

domestic violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divorce: Kids and Custody

Kids and Custody

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

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

divorce custody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Co-Parenting Calendars

*FREE* Online Parenting Calendars

Review by Janae Monroe

Peace Talks Mediation Services

peace-talks.com

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

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

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

  1. Google Calendar

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

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

co-parenting calendar

   2. Split Schedule

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

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

       3. Co-Families.com

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

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

         4. Cozi

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

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

     

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    Review: HBO’s “Don’t Divorce Me”

    REVIEW: HBO’s DON’T DIVORCE ME

     

    Review by Janae Monroe

     

    Peace Talks Mediation Services

     

    peace-talks.com

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

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

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

    A Divorce Mission Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

    Staying Focused On What Matters This Holiday Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Keep your emotions in check

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

    Talk about it

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

    Don’t focus on fair

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

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

    Map it out

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

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

    Give kids a heads up

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

    Keep it simple

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

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

    Have fun

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

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

    Why Your Kids Will Thank You for Mediating Your Divorce

    Why Your Kids will Thank you for Mediating

    By Alan Brady, guest blogger

     

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

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

    child custody

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Author Info:

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

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