The PT Blog

Talking About Prenuptial Agreements

It doesn’t matter what you call it:  Prenup, premarital agreement, prenuptial agreement……doesn’t make the discussion any easier.

Honestly, it’s not as much about the written document as it is about the disucssion. I’m convinced that if you have the discussion, and talk about all the topics, that you may or may not need the written document (don’t tell my lawyer colleagues I said that). Premarital Discussion Checklist.

Prenup pros and cons…

I’ve been a divorce lawyer a long time (23 years!), youthful appearance notwithstanding.

I know a lot about what ruins marriages. And while I don’t know everything, I’ve certainly seen some patterns over the years.

Let’s forget the lawyer stuff for a minute.

If you were my BFF , this is what I’d tell you:

Money discussions are hard.  But if you’re going to be married for any length of time, there are going to be lots of hard things that you’ll need to deal with as a couple.

prenuptial agreements

And the tough stuff either brings you closer, or it breaks you apart.

Think the divorce rate is already high?  It’s much higher for parents of special needs children, sick children, and children who are injured in accidents.

Wondering what triggers divorce?  In any marriage that ends in divorce, the seeds of the divorce are planted long, long before the divorce actually happens. Deciding to divorce doesn’t just happen out of the blue (and neither do affairs, being a work-a-holic or addicted to anything and everything).  The breakdown of a marriage is an erosion

But if you want to talk about the ordinary life events that seem to burst the dam on the marriage (after the erosion has been going on awhile) I can tell you that we see a lot of couples in divorce mediation who have been through a re-evaluation process after a big event or change.  Cancer patients in remission who don’t want to spend the rest of their lives in this marriage.  Adult children whose parents have died, and the death of the parent has caused them to re-evaluate their lives.

These are just 2 examples, but I think you get the picture.

So if you can’t talk about money and property and who pays for what before you’re married, how are you supposed to talk about any of this other stuff, these adult rites of passage, which have a 100% chance of happening to you or your spouse at some point?

As someone who’s done 4000 divorces, I know you’ve got to talk about this stuff and either get on the same page with it or agree to disagree (and still get married).

 The folks we see who get into trouble avoid hard discussions, particularly about money and how they feel about property they inherit or owned before the marriage.

They go along to get along…not knowing that what they’re really doing is starting the journey down the slippery slope. Some get lucky, I know, and never run out of money or never face hard challenges. We don’t see those people in our divorce mediation practice. But all too often we see regrets, misgivings, secrets, and “I thought we agreed on this” when they never even talked about it.

You don’t have to agree on everything. But you do need to know how to handle hard discussions and differences of opinions.

As you get older, you’ll weather a lot of storms together—-sick parents, deaths, illnesses, job loss, business downturns (or quick upturns—all stress is stressful, even good stress like dealing with too much success too fast). You need the foundation of we can talk about anything to be able to get through.

So this prenup discussion is really the tip of the iceberg.

And even if you don’t want to do a written agreement, you still need to have the discussion.  It’s the discussion that’s the most important part.

A checklist of premarital issues will get the communication started.

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

 

 

The 411 on Prenuptial Agreements and Premarital Agreements

What You Need to Know About Prenuptial Agreements

Even though prenuptial agreements get a really bad rap, they’re vital documents that protect both people about to enter into marriage. It’s all about your approach. By having a calm and logical conversation before pulling out any documents, you stand a much better chance of keeping things civil and pleasant.

 Discussing Prenups

Let’s face it: talking about money with your significant other (or anyone else, for that matter) is difficult. It can be awkward and uncomfortable. What makes it worse is talking about a prenup means acknowledging the potential of divorcing one day. Not exactly how you want to start a marriage, but the sooner you get it out of the way, the better. Because this isn’t about suddenly falling out of love or something like that. Things that are planted in the relationship years before cause most divorces. Whether it’s unfaithfulness, spouse or child illness, or a family death, divorce can happen for a variety of reasons and is triggered by large life events or changes.

Premarital Agreement Checklist:  this checklist contains very serious potential issues you could face as a couple. They’d be hard to talk about should they arise. So think of it this way: talking about how you’d divide your money and property in case of a divorce doesn’t sound so bad when compared to these major life issues, right? Just try to keep things in perspective.

And let’s face it:  wouldn’t you rather make these decisions while you love each other? 

prenuptial agreement

Avoiding Conflict is the Problem

 Most people naturally like to avoid conflict. If it’s uncomfortable; they avoid discussing it. But this could leave some vital things left hidden until it’s too late to resolve amicably. Sometimes people avoid issues until they become too big and too daunting to face. And if you’re on the verge of divorce, suddenly having to talk about money and who gets what can lead to animosity. That’s why it’s much better to figure out these issues early on, before you’re married.

 And think of it this way: if you can talk about a prenuptial agreement, you’ll strengthen your bond and prepare your relationship to talk about anything that arises during your marriage. Life is stressful and you need to be prepared to talk about it. No matter how difficult. So get the prenup thing out of the way first. You may not even need a legal document to get this squared away. Just talking about it might be enough for you two.

 Then you’ll be ready to tackle the really big issues later on once you’re married.

 book-a-freeappointment-with-a

 

Talking About Prenups

About Prenuptial Agreements

When couples start throwing around those dreaded words “prenuptial agreement” (a.k.a. prenup, prenupt, premarital agreement) the inescapable thought is, “Uh-oh, are we planning on getting a divorce?”  Most people get this feeling that bringing up a prenuptial agreement is bad luck or amounts to dooming your marriage.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A sound business decision and a sound personal decision don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

It’s important to remember that a prenup doesn’t start with drafting papers in a lawyers office.  It starts with a discussion. Who better to facilitate such a discussion than a qualified Family Mediator?  No need to go to an expensive divorce lawyer who is out to take one side.  A Premarital Agreement is a two-sided discussion, one best made when all parties are present and speaking openly about their finances and their feelings.  Remember, a Mediator is there to facilitate discussion.  Having someone to listen who can also give advice is better than going into battle with high-priced divorce attorneys.

This is your relationship.  Wouldn’t you rather have it start out with an open, frank discussion?  One that can set the tone and ensure that both parties will look at divorce as a distant and unlikely scenario?

prenuptial agreement

In any mediation session, I like to relate to the parties as friends.  “If I were you, I’d…”  Nothing binding, just friendly advice.  The idea again is communication.

What I usually tell folks is: Marriages are difficult undertakings.  Sharing yourself with your loved one not only involves physical and emotional love, but there’s also a business angle.  Having that money discussion can be devastatingly difficult, but don’t let it shake you.  You’ll need to have much harder conversations in the future, if you are to have a successful relationship.  From my experience, having these conversations brings people closer.

I’ve been a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles, California for over twenty years.  In that time I’ve seen and heard just about everything.  I am well-versed in the causes of failed marriages.  To me, there is a pattern that is common to many divorces.

So what is this common thread?  As a divorce attorney in Los Angeles, I get this question a lot.  I should start by saying that divorce rarely occurs after an isolated incident, but after a systematic erosion.  Just like the causes of any addiction or affair aren’t usually out of the blue, divorce signals a deeper problem.

However, when we start talking about certain events that can trigger a divorce (the last straw effect), there is a common bond.  In these cases, the couple has undergone a serious life change and are in a re-evaluation process.  Deaths in the family, sickness, car accidents: these are all events that can trigger a life re-evaluation where a divorce is seen as necessary by one or both parties.

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

If your parents die, or if your child gets sick, the toll can wreak havoc and cause people to have serious doubts about their marriage.  But these are all too common events in our lives.  And in order to have a healthy relationship, as adults we need to be able to talk about them.  Unfortunately, with the high divorce rate, we know that this can be extremely difficult, but the point is, if we can’t have a simple discussion about money, how can we expect to be able to deal with these much more difficult conversations?

Couples get into trouble when they start avoiding difficult discussions like these.  Particularly ones that revolve around money and property they owned or inherited before vows were exchanged.

Too often I see people in our Family Mediation Practice who are getting a divorce and the problem was communication.  They were unable to have these frank discussions.  By not talking about your finances at the outset of a marriage, you are embarking on a slippery slope.  Talking about it is the first step and by doing so, years from now you won’t have regrets, saying “I thought we agreed” on this or that.  Get it out in the open.  It’s great practice for a successful, lasting marriage.

Even if you don’t decide to put anything on paper, the discussion is still necessary.  And we’re here to help.  Look on our site for more info about Premarital Mediation.

 book-a-freeappointment-with-a

 

411 on Prenuptial Agreements and Premarital Agreements

What You Need to Know About Prenuptial Agreements

 Even though prenuptial agreements get a really bad rap, they’re vital documents that protect both people about to enter into marriage. It’s all about your approach. By having a calm and logical conversation before pulling out any documents, you stand a much better chance of keeping things civil and pleasant.

 Discussing Prenups

 Let’s face it: talking about money with your significant other (or anyone else, for that matter) is difficult. It can be awkward and uncomfortable. What makes it worse is talking about a prenup means acknowledging the potential of divorcing one day.

Not exactly how you want to start a marriage, but the sooner you get it out of the way, the better.

Because this isn’t about suddenly falling out of love or something like that. Things that are planted in the relationship years before cause most divorces. Whether it’s unfaithfulness, spouse or child illness, or a family death, divorce can happen for a variety of reasons and is triggered by large life events or changes.

prenuptial

 These are very serious potential issues you could face as a couple. They’d be hard to talk about should they arise. So think of it this way: talking about how you’d divide your money and property in case of a divorce doesn’t sound so bad when compared to these major life issues, right? Just try to keep things in perspective.

 Avoiding Conflict is the Problem

People naturally like to avoid conflict. If it’s uncomfortable, they avoid discussing it. But this could leave some vital things left hidden until it’s too late to resolve amicably. People avoid issues until they become too big and too daunting to face. And if you’re on the verge of divorce, suddenly having to talk about money and who gets what can lead to animosity. That’s why it’s much better to figure out these issues early on, before you’re married.

And think of it this way: if you can talk about a prenuptial agreement, you’ll strengthen your bond and prepare your relationship to talk about anything that arises during your marriage. Life is stressful and you need to be prepared to talk about it. No matter how difficult. So get the prenup thing out of the way first. You may not even need a legal document to get this squared away. Just talking about it might be enough for you two.

Then you’ll be ready to tackle the really big issues later on once you’re married.

 book-a-freeappointment-with-a

 

Premarital Agreement Sample

You hear a lot of talk about prenups, but what does a premarital agreement look like?

Where can one find a premarital agreement sample

It’s hard to find a premarital agreement sample because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.  Prenups are drafted based on the individual couples’ needs.  Topics for your prenup might include:

1)  Defining your pre-marital assets.  Most premarital agreements also include provisions for what will happen if you use your pre-martial assets to buy something for both of you, like a house.  Would you get your investment back if something was to happen to your marriage? Or would that be a gift that you made from your pre-marital assets to both of you?

2)  Defining your mpremartial agreement samplearital assets.  Will you each keep your own income and be responsible for your own savings? Or will you create marital assets by putting some of your money in joint names?   And, like the questions above, if you take some of this joint money and use it, say, for a new bathroom in a house one of you owned prior to the marriage, would you reimburse the joint account if you got divorced later?

3)  Spousal Support and Alimony. This is a hot topic.  If you got divorced, would either of you pay spousal support, alimony or maintenance to the other person?  If you might pay spousal support, would you put any limits on the amount or amount of time it would be paid?  Would any of these answers change if you had small children who weren’t in school?

4)  Debt.  Is one of you a spender and one of you a saver?  If so, you’ll want to talk about how you’ll handle borrowing, credit cards, and debts.  You’ll also want to talk about savings and retirement planning.

These are just a few of the examples of things that you’ll want to think about when drafting your own premarital agreement or prenuptial agreement.

Here’s a checklist for premarital agreement topics which we use when discussing this topic with our clients.  And, you can prepare for a premarital agreement discussion by using our free resources.

Why would someone want to have a Premarital Agreement?

  • Start your marriage with a clear understanding of how you’ll handle finances
  • Learn to talk about tough issues
  • Preserve your assets and income
  • Make sure you benefit from your groundwork before you got married:  education, efforts and ideas.  Many prenups include more generous provisions for accomplishments after your marriage, as opposed to before.
  • Protect each other from your old debts and obligations…or new debts and obligations.
  • Protect your new spouse and your children from prior relationships in case you get divorced or predecease them.

At Peace Talks Mediation Services, we help couples negotiate premarital agreements in a confidential, neutral setting.  Our team of attorneys and therapists (who truly work together as a team, right during your mediation session) will help you work through even the scariest issues.

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Prenuptial Agreement Sample?

As a family law mediator who mediates premarital agreements and prenuptial agreements, I’m often asked:

  • What does a prenup look like?
  • Do you have a sample?

I’d love to be able to give out a generic sample prenup, but there really is no such thing. 

Prenups are as individual as the couples themselves (isn’t this blended family photo great?).

prenuptial agreement benefits everyone

 

 

Depending on your priorities, some prenups deal with just one issue, like pre-marital property, family money, or a small business.  Others take on every issue, including support and rights to the house if the couple was to separate.

And those are just the legal issues—often couples come to mediate their premarital agreement at Peace Talks and one spouse is upset and against the whole idea.  They feel like their fiance does not trust them, or that prenups aren’t romantic.

Well, there’s nothing romantic about getting divorced, either.  Or, if you have children from prior relationships, there’s nothing romantic about fighting with your deceased spouse’s children after a premature death.

The way I see it, if we don’t leave our estate planning up to the government (most people do Wills and Trusts), and we don’t let the government’s foster care system raise our children, why would we let the government decide what happens to all of our assets and the way our children will be raised in the event we decide to divorce or separate?

There are a few big advantages to premarital agreements that you may not have thought of:

  • Doing a prenup forces you to talk about big issues, like money management styles and how you’ll share expenses (you’d be surprised, but many couples gloss over money differences as they plan for the Big Day!)
  • You’ll talk about credit and how you manage credit as part of the process
  • You’ll talk about your expectations about career and work, and working once children arrive. How would you feel if your spouse switched careers 10 years into a marriage?  You’ll discuss all of this as part of your premarital mediation
  • You’ll also talk about what happens if one of you dies or becomes disabled, or if you have to support elderly parents.  I know it’s no fun to talk about that sort of thing, but better to be on the same page than to leave it up to chance.

And even if you don’t end up putting it in writing, I think there’s a huge value in having these discussions.

To start the discussion on your own, use the Peace Talks Premarial Checklist to get the discussion started.

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

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 community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Prenup Pros and Cons

Thinking about a prenup? There are pros and cons.

Pros:

  • You sort things out and make your agreement while you’re in love
  • You have important pre-marital discussions about money, children, aging parents, spending vs. saving and all sorts of values. These discussions are critical to a happy marriage
  • If you find out if you have big disagreements, and if you do, you can see a couples’ counselor before your wedding so you start with a clean slate.  No leftover baggage
  • You decide what would happen to your property and children in the event you separate or divorce later on—not the government
  • Private and confidential
  • You can include as many or as few details as you want

prenup solves problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cons:

  • It’s a difficult subject to bring up
  • Are you ready to have heartfelt, honest discussions about life’s most important issues?
  • Will your finace be offended you want to talk about a prenup? If so, how will you handle that?
  • Everyone in your life will have an opinion about prenups and why they are good or bad.  Are you ready to either listen or politely ask them to keep their opinions to themselves?
  • Are you confident enough to let your fiance know your true wishes with regard to the agreement, whether you’re the one who suggested it or not? Or will you be tempted just to get mowed over to keep the peace?

Bottom line:  If any of these points above are an issue for you, isn’t it important to know that before you walk down the aisle, not after?

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

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 community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Talking About Prenuptial Agreements

It doesn’t matter what you call it:  Prenup, premarital agreement, prenuptial agreement……doesn’t make the discussion any easier.

Honestly, it’s not as much about the written document as it is about the disucssion. I’m convinced that if you have the discussion, and talk about all the topics, that you may or may not need the written document (don’t tell my lawyer colleagues I said that). Premarital Discussion Checklist.

Prenup pros and cons…

I’ve been a divorce lawyer a long time (23 years!), youthful appearance notwithstanding.

I know a lot about what ruins marriages. And while I don’t know everything, I’ve certainly seen some patterns over the years.

Let’s forget the lawyer stuff for a minute.

If you were my BFF , this is what I’d tell you:

Money discussions are hard.  But if you’re going to be married for any length of time, there are going to be lots of hard things that you’ll need to deal with as a couple.

prenuptial agreements

And the tough stuff either brings you closer, or it breaks you apart.

Think the divorce rate is already high?  It’s much higher for parents of special needs children, sick children, and children who are injured in accidents.

Wondering what triggers divorce?  In any marriage that ends in divorce, the seeds of the divorce are planted long, long before the divorce actually happens. Deciding to divorce doesn’t just happen out of the blue (and neither do affairs, being a work-a-holic or addicted to anything and everything).  The breakdown of a marriage is an erosion

But if you want to talk about the ordinary life events that seem to burst the dam on the marriage (after the erosion has been going on awhile) I can tell you that we see a lot of couples in divorce mediation who have been through a re-evaluation process after a big event or change.  Cancer patients in remission who don’t want to spend the rest of their lives in this marriage.  Adult children whose parents have died, and the death of the parent has caused them to re-evaluate their lives.

These are just 2 examples, but I think you get the picture.

So if you can’t talk about money and property and who pays for what before you’re married, how are you supposed to talk about any of this other stuff, these adult rites of passage, which have a 100% chance of happening to you or your spouse at some point?

As someone who’s done 4000 divorces, I know you’ve got to talk about this stuff and either get on the same page with it or agree to disagree (and still get married).

 The folks we see who get into trouble avoid hard discussions, particularly about money and how they feel about property they inherit or owned before the marriage.

They go along to get along…not knowing that what they’re really doing is starting the journey down the slippery slope. Some get lucky, I know, and never run out of money or never face hard challenges. We don’t see those people in our divorce mediation practice. But all too often we see regrets, misgivings, secrets, and “I thought we agreed on this” when they never even talked about it.

You don’t have to agree on everything. But you do need to know how to handle hard discussions and differences of opinions.

As you get older, you’ll weather a lot of storms together—-sick parents, deaths, illnesses, job loss, business downturns (or quick upturns—all stress is stressful, even good stress like dealing with too much success too fast). You need the foundation of we can talk about anything to be able to get through.

So this prenup discussion is really the tip of the iceberg.

And even if you don’t want to do a written agreement, you still need to have the discussion.  It’s the discussion that’s the most important part.

A checklist of premarital issues will get the communication started.

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

 

 

The 411 on Prenuptial Agreements and Premarital Agreements

What You Need to Know About Prenuptial Agreements

Even though prenuptial agreements get a really bad rap, they’re vital documents that protect both people about to enter into marriage. It’s all about your approach. By having a calm and logical conversation before pulling out any documents, you stand a much better chance of keeping things civil and pleasant.

 Discussing Prenups

Let’s face it: talking about money with your significant other (or anyone else, for that matter) is difficult. It can be awkward and uncomfortable. What makes it worse is talking about a prenup means acknowledging the potential of divorcing one day. Not exactly how you want to start a marriage, but the sooner you get it out of the way, the better. Because this isn’t about suddenly falling out of love or something like that. Things that are planted in the relationship years before cause most divorces. Whether it’s unfaithfulness, spouse or child illness, or a family death, divorce can happen for a variety of reasons and is triggered by large life events or changes.

Premarital Agreement Checklist:  this checklist contains very serious potential issues you could face as a couple. They’d be hard to talk about should they arise. So think of it this way: talking about how you’d divide your money and property in case of a divorce doesn’t sound so bad when compared to these major life issues, right? Just try to keep things in perspective.

And let’s face it:  wouldn’t you rather make these decisions while you love each other? 

prenuptial agreement

Avoiding Conflict is the Problem

 Most people naturally like to avoid conflict. If it’s uncomfortable; they avoid discussing it. But this could leave some vital things left hidden until it’s too late to resolve amicably. Sometimes people avoid issues until they become too big and too daunting to face. And if you’re on the verge of divorce, suddenly having to talk about money and who gets what can lead to animosity. That’s why it’s much better to figure out these issues early on, before you’re married.

 And think of it this way: if you can talk about a prenuptial agreement, you’ll strengthen your bond and prepare your relationship to talk about anything that arises during your marriage. Life is stressful and you need to be prepared to talk about it. No matter how difficult. So get the prenup thing out of the way first. You may not even need a legal document to get this squared away. Just talking about it might be enough for you two.

 Then you’ll be ready to tackle the really big issues later on once you’re married.

 book-a-freeappointment-with-a

 

Talking About Prenups

About Prenuptial Agreements

When couples start throwing around those dreaded words “prenuptial agreement” (a.k.a. prenup, prenupt, premarital agreement) the inescapable thought is, “Uh-oh, are we planning on getting a divorce?”  Most people get this feeling that bringing up a prenuptial agreement is bad luck or amounts to dooming your marriage.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A sound business decision and a sound personal decision don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

It’s important to remember that a prenup doesn’t start with drafting papers in a lawyers office.  It starts with a discussion. Who better to facilitate such a discussion than a qualified Family Mediator?  No need to go to an expensive divorce lawyer who is out to take one side.  A Premarital Agreement is a two-sided discussion, one best made when all parties are present and speaking openly about their finances and their feelings.  Remember, a Mediator is there to facilitate discussion.  Having someone to listen who can also give advice is better than going into battle with high-priced divorce attorneys.

This is your relationship.  Wouldn’t you rather have it start out with an open, frank discussion?  One that can set the tone and ensure that both parties will look at divorce as a distant and unlikely scenario?

prenuptial agreement

In any mediation session, I like to relate to the parties as friends.  “If I were you, I’d…”  Nothing binding, just friendly advice.  The idea again is communication.

What I usually tell folks is: Marriages are difficult undertakings.  Sharing yourself with your loved one not only involves physical and emotional love, but there’s also a business angle.  Having that money discussion can be devastatingly difficult, but don’t let it shake you.  You’ll need to have much harder conversations in the future, if you are to have a successful relationship.  From my experience, having these conversations brings people closer.

I’ve been a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles, California for over twenty years.  In that time I’ve seen and heard just about everything.  I am well-versed in the causes of failed marriages.  To me, there is a pattern that is common to many divorces.

So what is this common thread?  As a divorce attorney in Los Angeles, I get this question a lot.  I should start by saying that divorce rarely occurs after an isolated incident, but after a systematic erosion.  Just like the causes of any addiction or affair aren’t usually out of the blue, divorce signals a deeper problem.

However, when we start talking about certain events that can trigger a divorce (the last straw effect), there is a common bond.  In these cases, the couple has undergone a serious life change and are in a re-evaluation process.  Deaths in the family, sickness, car accidents: these are all events that can trigger a life re-evaluation where a divorce is seen as necessary by one or both parties.

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

If your parents die, or if your child gets sick, the toll can wreak havoc and cause people to have serious doubts about their marriage.  But these are all too common events in our lives.  And in order to have a healthy relationship, as adults we need to be able to talk about them.  Unfortunately, with the high divorce rate, we know that this can be extremely difficult, but the point is, if we can’t have a simple discussion about money, how can we expect to be able to deal with these much more difficult conversations?

Couples get into trouble when they start avoiding difficult discussions like these.  Particularly ones that revolve around money and property they owned or inherited before vows were exchanged.

Too often I see people in our Family Mediation Practice who are getting a divorce and the problem was communication.  They were unable to have these frank discussions.  By not talking about your finances at the outset of a marriage, you are embarking on a slippery slope.  Talking about it is the first step and by doing so, years from now you won’t have regrets, saying “I thought we agreed” on this or that.  Get it out in the open.  It’s great practice for a successful, lasting marriage.

Even if you don’t decide to put anything on paper, the discussion is still necessary.  And we’re here to help.  Look on our site for more info about Premarital Mediation.

 book-a-freeappointment-with-a

 

411 on Prenuptial Agreements and Premarital Agreements

What You Need to Know About Prenuptial Agreements

 Even though prenuptial agreements get a really bad rap, they’re vital documents that protect both people about to enter into marriage. It’s all about your approach. By having a calm and logical conversation before pulling out any documents, you stand a much better chance of keeping things civil and pleasant.

 Discussing Prenups

 Let’s face it: talking about money with your significant other (or anyone else, for that matter) is difficult. It can be awkward and uncomfortable. What makes it worse is talking about a prenup means acknowledging the potential of divorcing one day.

Not exactly how you want to start a marriage, but the sooner you get it out of the way, the better.

Because this isn’t about suddenly falling out of love or something like that. Things that are planted in the relationship years before cause most divorces. Whether it’s unfaithfulness, spouse or child illness, or a family death, divorce can happen for a variety of reasons and is triggered by large life events or changes.

prenuptial

 These are very serious potential issues you could face as a couple. They’d be hard to talk about should they arise. So think of it this way: talking about how you’d divide your money and property in case of a divorce doesn’t sound so bad when compared to these major life issues, right? Just try to keep things in perspective.

 Avoiding Conflict is the Problem

People naturally like to avoid conflict. If it’s uncomfortable, they avoid discussing it. But this could leave some vital things left hidden until it’s too late to resolve amicably. People avoid issues until they become too big and too daunting to face. And if you’re on the verge of divorce, suddenly having to talk about money and who gets what can lead to animosity. That’s why it’s much better to figure out these issues early on, before you’re married.

And think of it this way: if you can talk about a prenuptial agreement, you’ll strengthen your bond and prepare your relationship to talk about anything that arises during your marriage. Life is stressful and you need to be prepared to talk about it. No matter how difficult. So get the prenup thing out of the way first. You may not even need a legal document to get this squared away. Just talking about it might be enough for you two.

Then you’ll be ready to tackle the really big issues later on once you’re married.

 book-a-freeappointment-with-a

 

Premarital Agreement Sample

You hear a lot of talk about prenups, but what does a premarital agreement look like?

Where can one find a premarital agreement sample

It’s hard to find a premarital agreement sample because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.  Prenups are drafted based on the individual couples’ needs.  Topics for your prenup might include:

1)  Defining your pre-marital assets.  Most premarital agreements also include provisions for what will happen if you use your pre-martial assets to buy something for both of you, like a house.  Would you get your investment back if something was to happen to your marriage? Or would that be a gift that you made from your pre-marital assets to both of you?

2)  Defining your mpremartial agreement samplearital assets.  Will you each keep your own income and be responsible for your own savings? Or will you create marital assets by putting some of your money in joint names?   And, like the questions above, if you take some of this joint money and use it, say, for a new bathroom in a house one of you owned prior to the marriage, would you reimburse the joint account if you got divorced later?

3)  Spousal Support and Alimony. This is a hot topic.  If you got divorced, would either of you pay spousal support, alimony or maintenance to the other person?  If you might pay spousal support, would you put any limits on the amount or amount of time it would be paid?  Would any of these answers change if you had small children who weren’t in school?

4)  Debt.  Is one of you a spender and one of you a saver?  If so, you’ll want to talk about how you’ll handle borrowing, credit cards, and debts.  You’ll also want to talk about savings and retirement planning.

These are just a few of the examples of things that you’ll want to think about when drafting your own premarital agreement or prenuptial agreement.

Here’s a checklist for premarital agreement topics which we use when discussing this topic with our clients.  And, you can prepare for a premarital agreement discussion by using our free resources.

Why would someone want to have a Premarital Agreement?

  • Start your marriage with a clear understanding of how you’ll handle finances
  • Learn to talk about tough issues
  • Preserve your assets and income
  • Make sure you benefit from your groundwork before you got married:  education, efforts and ideas.  Many prenups include more generous provisions for accomplishments after your marriage, as opposed to before.
  • Protect each other from your old debts and obligations…or new debts and obligations.
  • Protect your new spouse and your children from prior relationships in case you get divorced or predecease them.

At Peace Talks Mediation Services, we help couples negotiate premarital agreements in a confidential, neutral setting.  Our team of attorneys and therapists (who truly work together as a team, right during your mediation session) will help you work through even the scariest issues.

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Prenuptial Agreement Sample?

As a family law mediator who mediates premarital agreements and prenuptial agreements, I’m often asked:

  • What does a prenup look like?
  • Do you have a sample?

I’d love to be able to give out a generic sample prenup, but there really is no such thing. 

Prenups are as individual as the couples themselves (isn’t this blended family photo great?).

prenuptial agreement benefits everyone

 

 

Depending on your priorities, some prenups deal with just one issue, like pre-marital property, family money, or a small business.  Others take on every issue, including support and rights to the house if the couple was to separate.

And those are just the legal issues—often couples come to mediate their premarital agreement at Peace Talks and one spouse is upset and against the whole idea.  They feel like their fiance does not trust them, or that prenups aren’t romantic.

Well, there’s nothing romantic about getting divorced, either.  Or, if you have children from prior relationships, there’s nothing romantic about fighting with your deceased spouse’s children after a premature death.

The way I see it, if we don’t leave our estate planning up to the government (most people do Wills and Trusts), and we don’t let the government’s foster care system raise our children, why would we let the government decide what happens to all of our assets and the way our children will be raised in the event we decide to divorce or separate?

There are a few big advantages to premarital agreements that you may not have thought of:

  • Doing a prenup forces you to talk about big issues, like money management styles and how you’ll share expenses (you’d be surprised, but many couples gloss over money differences as they plan for the Big Day!)
  • You’ll talk about credit and how you manage credit as part of the process
  • You’ll talk about your expectations about career and work, and working once children arrive. How would you feel if your spouse switched careers 10 years into a marriage?  You’ll discuss all of this as part of your premarital mediation
  • You’ll also talk about what happens if one of you dies or becomes disabled, or if you have to support elderly parents.  I know it’s no fun to talk about that sort of thing, but better to be on the same page than to leave it up to chance.

And even if you don’t end up putting it in writing, I think there’s a huge value in having these discussions.

To start the discussion on your own, use the Peace Talks Premarial Checklist to get the discussion started.

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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 community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Prenup Pros and Cons

Thinking about a prenup? There are pros and cons.

Pros:

  • You sort things out and make your agreement while you’re in love
  • You have important pre-marital discussions about money, children, aging parents, spending vs. saving and all sorts of values. These discussions are critical to a happy marriage
  • If you find out if you have big disagreements, and if you do, you can see a couples’ counselor before your wedding so you start with a clean slate.  No leftover baggage
  • You decide what would happen to your property and children in the event you separate or divorce later on—not the government
  • Private and confidential
  • You can include as many or as few details as you want

prenup solves problems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cons:

  • It’s a difficult subject to bring up
  • Are you ready to have heartfelt, honest discussions about life’s most important issues?
  • Will your finace be offended you want to talk about a prenup? If so, how will you handle that?
  • Everyone in your life will have an opinion about prenups and why they are good or bad.  Are you ready to either listen or politely ask them to keep their opinions to themselves?
  • Are you confident enough to let your fiance know your true wishes with regard to the agreement, whether you’re the one who suggested it or not? Or will you be tempted just to get mowed over to keep the peace?

Bottom line:  If any of these points above are an issue for you, isn’t it important to know that before you walk down the aisle, not after?

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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 community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

Talking About Prenuptial Agreements

It doesn’t matter what you call it:  Prenup, premarital agreement, prenuptial agreement……doesn’t make the discussion any easier.

Honestly, it’s not as much about the written document as it is about the disucssion. I’m convinced that if you have the discussion, and talk about all the topics, that you may or may not need the written document (don’t tell my lawyer colleagues I said that). Premarital Discussion Checklist.

Prenup pros and cons…

I’ve been a divorce lawyer a long time (23 years!), youthful appearance notwithstanding.

I know a lot about what ruins marriages. And while I don’t know everything, I’ve certainly seen some patterns over the years.

Let’s forget the lawyer stuff for a minute.

If you were my BFF , this is what I’d tell you:

Money discussions are hard.  But if you’re going to be married for any length of time, there are going to be lots of hard things that you’ll need to deal with as a couple.

prenuptial agreements

And the tough stuff either brings you closer, or it breaks you apart.

Think the divorce rate is already high?  It’s much higher for parents of special needs children, sick children, and children who are injured in accidents.

Wondering what triggers divorce?  In any marriage that ends in divorce, the seeds of the divorce are planted long, long before the divorce actually happens. Deciding to divorce doesn’t just happen out of the blue (and neither do affairs, being a work-a-holic or addicted to anything and everything).  The breakdown of a marriage is an erosion

But if you want to talk about the ordinary life events that seem to burst the dam on the marriage (after the erosion has been going on awhile) I can tell you that we see a lot of couples in divorce mediation who have been through a re-evaluation process after a big event or change.  Cancer patients in remission who don’t want to spend the rest of their lives in this marriage.  Adult children whose parents have died, and the death of the parent has caused them to re-evaluate their lives.

These are just 2 examples, but I think you get the picture.

So if you can’t talk about money and property and who pays for what before you’re married, how are you supposed to talk about any of this other stuff, these adult rites of passage, which have a 100% chance of happening to you or your spouse at some point?

As someone who’s done 4000 divorces, I know you’ve got to talk about this stuff and either get on the same page with it or agree to disagree (and still get married).

 The folks we see who get into trouble avoid hard discussions, particularly about money and how they feel about property they inherit or owned before the marriage.

They go along to get along…not knowing that what they’re really doing is starting the journey down the slippery slope. Some get lucky, I know, and never run out of money or never face hard challenges. We don’t see those people in our divorce mediation practice. But all too often we see regrets, misgivings, secrets, and “I thought we agreed on this” when they never even talked about it.

You don’t have to agree on everything. But you do need to know how to handle hard discussions and differences of opinions.

As you get older, you’ll weather a lot of storms together—-sick parents, deaths, illnesses, job loss, business downturns (or quick upturns—all stress is stressful, even good stress like dealing with too much success too fast). You need the foundation of we can talk about anything to be able to get through.

So this prenup discussion is really the tip of the iceberg.

And even if you don’t want to do a written agreement, you still need to have the discussion.  It’s the discussion that’s the most important part.

A checklist of premarital issues will get the communication started.

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The 411 on Prenuptial Agreements and Premarital Agreements

What You Need to Know About Prenuptial Agreements

Even though prenuptial agreements get a really bad rap, they’re vital documents that protect both people about to enter into marriage. It’s all about your approach. By having a calm and logical conversation before pulling out any documents, you stand a much better chance of keeping things civil and pleasant.

 Discussing Prenups

Let’s face it: talking about money with your significant other (or anyone else, for that matter) is difficult. It can be awkward and uncomfortable. What makes it worse is talking about a prenup means acknowledging the potential of divorcing one day. Not exactly how you want to start a marriage, but the sooner you get it out of the way, the better. Because this isn’t about suddenly falling out of love or something like that. Things that are planted in the relationship years before cause most divorces. Whether it’s unfaithfulness, spouse or child illness, or a family death, divorce can happen for a variety of reasons and is triggered by large life events or changes.

Premarital Agreement Checklist:  this checklist contains very serious potential issues you could face as a couple. They’d be hard to talk about should they arise. So think of it this way: talking about how you’d divide your money and property in case of a divorce doesn’t sound so bad when compared to these major life issues, right? Just try to keep things in perspective.

And let’s face it:  wouldn’t you rather make these decisions while you love each other? 

prenuptial agreement

Avoiding Conflict is the Problem

 Most people naturally like to avoid conflict. If it’s uncomfortable; they avoid discussing it. But this could leave some vital things left hidden until it’s too late to resolve amicably. Sometimes people avoid issues until they become too big and too daunting to face. And if you’re on the verge of divorce, suddenly having to talk about money and who gets what can lead to animosity. That’s why it’s much better to figure out these issues early on, before you’re married.

 And think of it this way: if you can talk about a prenuptial agreement, you’ll strengthen your bond and prepare your relationship to talk about anything that arises during your marriage. Life is stressful and you need to be prepared to talk about it. No matter how difficult. So get the prenup thing out of the way first. You may not even need a legal document to get this squared away. Just talking about it might be enough for you two.

 Then you’ll be ready to tackle the really big issues later on once you’re married.

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Talking About Prenups

About Prenuptial Agreements

When couples start throwing around those dreaded words “prenuptial agreement” (a.k.a. prenup, prenupt, premarital agreement) the inescapable thought is, “Uh-oh, are we planning on getting a divorce?” Most people get this feeling that bringing up a prenuptial agreement is bad luck or amounts to dooming your marriage. Nothing could be further from the truth. A sound business decision and a sound personal decision don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

It’s important to remember that a prenup doesn’t start with drafting papers in a lawyers office. It starts with a discussion. Who better to facilitate such a discussion than a qualified Family Mediator? No need to go to an expensive divorce lawyer who is out to take one side. A Premarital Agreement is a two-sided discussion, one best made when all parties are present and speaking openly about their finances and their feelings. Remember, a Mediator is there to facilitate discussion. Having someone to listen who can also give advice is better than going into battle with high-priced divorce attorneys.

This is your relationship. Wouldn’t you rather have it start out with an open, frank discussion? One that can set the tone and ensure that both parties will look at divorce as a distant and unlikely scenario?

prenuptial agreement

In any mediation session, I like to relate to the parties as friends. “If I were you, I’d…” Nothing binding, just friendly advice. The idea again is communication.

What I usually tell folks is: Marriages are difficult undertakings. Sharing yourself with your loved one not only involves physical and emotional love, but there’s also a business angle. Having that money discussion can be devastatingly difficult, but don’t let it shake you. You’ll need to have much harder conversations in the future, if you are to have a successful relationship. From my experience, having these conversations brings people closer.

I’ve been a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles, California for over twenty years. In that time I’ve seen and heard just about everything. I am well-versed in the causes of failed marriages. To me, there is a pattern that is common to many divorces.

So what is this common thread? As a divorce attorney in Los Angeles, I get this question a lot. I should start by saying that divorce rarely occurs after an isolated incident, but after a systematic erosion. Just like the causes of any addiction or affair aren’t usually out of the blue, divorce signals a deeper problem.

However, when we start talking about certain events that can trigger a divorce (the last straw effect), there is a common bond. In these cases, the couple has undergone a serious life change and are in a re-evaluation process. Deaths in the family, sickness, car accidents: these are all events that can trigger a life re-evaluation where a divorce is seen as necessary by one or both parties.

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If your parents die, or if your child gets sick, the toll can wreak havoc and cause people to have serious doubts about their marriage. But these are all too common events in our lives. And in order to have a healthy relationship, as adults we need to be able to talk about them. Unfortunately, with the high divorce rate, we know that this can be extremely difficult, but the point is, if we can’t have a simple discussion about money, how can we expect to be able to deal with these much more difficult conversations?

Couples get into trouble when they start avoiding difficult discussions like these. Particularly ones that revolve around money and property they owned or inherited before vows were exchanged.

Too often I see people in our Family Mediation Practice who are getting a divorce and the problem was communication. They were unable to have these frank discussions. By not talking about your finances at the outset of a marriage, you are embarking on a slippery slope. Talking about it is the first step and by doing so, years from now you won’t have regrets, saying “I thought we agreed” on this or that. Get it out in the open. It’s great practice for a successful, lasting marriage.

Even if you don’t decide to put anything on paper, the discussion is still necessary. And we’re here to help. Look on our site for more info about Premarital Mediation.

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411 on Prenuptial Agreements and Premarital Agreements

What You Need to Know About Prenuptial Agreements

 Even though prenuptial agreements get a really bad rap, they’re vital documents that protect both people about to enter into marriage. It’s all about your approach. By having a calm and logical conversation before pulling out any documents, you stand a much better chance of keeping things civil and pleasant.

 Discussing Prenups

 Let’s face it: talking about money with your significant other (or anyone else, for that matter) is difficult. It can be awkward and uncomfortable. What makes it worse is talking about a prenup means acknowledging the potential of divorcing one day.

Not exactly how you want to start a marriage, but the sooner you get it out of the way, the better.

Because this isn’t about suddenly falling out of love or something like that. Things that are planted in the relationship years before cause most divorces. Whether it’s unfaithfulness, spouse or child illness, or a family death, divorce can happen for a variety of reasons and is triggered by large life events or changes.

prenuptial

 These are very serious potential issues you could face as a couple. They’d be hard to talk about should they arise. So think of it this way: talking about how you’d divide your money and property in case of a divorce doesn’t sound so bad when compared to these major life issues, right? Just try to keep things in perspective.

 Avoiding Conflict is the Problem

People naturally like to avoid conflict. If it’s uncomfortable, they avoid discussing it. But this could leave some vital things left hidden until it’s too late to resolve amicably. People avoid issues until they become too big and too daunting to face. And if you’re on the verge of divorce, suddenly having to talk about money and who gets what can lead to animosity. That’s why it’s much better to figure out these issues early on, before you’re married.

And think of it this way: if you can talk about a prenuptial agreement, you’ll strengthen your bond and prepare your relationship to talk about anything that arises during your marriage. Life is stressful and you need to be prepared to talk about it. No matter how difficult. So get the prenup thing out of the way first. You may not even need a legal document to get this squared away. Just talking about it might be enough for you two.

Then you’ll be ready to tackle the really big issues later on once you’re married.

 book-a-freeappointment-with-a

 

Premarital Agreement Sample

You hear a lot of talk about prenups, but what does a premarital agreement look like?

Where can one find a premarital agreement sample

It’s hard to find a premarital agreement sample because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.  Prenups are drafted based on the individual couples’ needs.  Topics for your prenup might include:

1)  Defining your pre-marital assets.  Most premarital agreements also include provisions for what will happen if you use your pre-martial assets to buy something for both of you, like a house.  Would you get your investment back if something was to happen to your marriage? Or would that be a gift that you made from your pre-marital assets to both of you?

2)  Defining your mpremartial agreement samplearital assets.  Will you each keep your own income and be responsible for your own savings? Or will you create marital assets by putting some of your money in joint names?   And, like the questions above, if you take some of this joint money and use it, say, for a new bathroom in a house one of you owned prior to the marriage, would you reimburse the joint account if you got divorced later?

3)  Spousal Support and Alimony. This is a hot topic.  If you got divorced, would either of you pay spousal support, alimony or maintenance to the other person?  If you might pay spousal support, would you put any limits on the amount or amount of time it would be paid?  Would any of these answers change if you had small children who weren’t in school?

4)  Debt.  Is one of you a spender and one of you a saver?  If so, you’ll want to talk about how you’ll handle borrowing, credit cards, and debts.  You’ll also want to talk about savings and retirement planning.

These are just a few of the examples of things that you’ll want to think about when drafting your own premarital agreement or prenuptial agreement.

Here’s a checklist for premarital agreement topics which we use when discussing this topic with our clients.  And, you can prepare for a premarital agreement discussion by using our free resources.

Why would someone want to have a Premarital Agreement?

  • Start your marriage with a clear understanding of how you’ll handle finances
  • Learn to talk about tough issues
  • Preserve your assets and income
  • Make sure you benefit from your groundwork before you got married:  education, efforts and ideas.  Many prenups include more generous provisions for accomplishments after your marriage, as opposed to before.
  • Protect each other from your old debts and obligations…or new debts and obligations.
  • Protect your new spouse and your children from prior relationships in case you get divorced or predecease them.

At Peace Talks Mediation Services, we help couples negotiate premarital agreements in a confidential, neutral setting.  Our team of attorneys and therapists (who truly work together as a team, right during your mediation session) will help you work through even the scariest issues.

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ADR Services Marketing Book Launch!

 ADR Services marketing book launch May 24, 2011.  Join us in celebrating the launch of our new book!

Jim Davis and I have written a book about marketing your Alternative Dispute Resolution Practice.

It’s called 8 Simple Keys to Building the Growing a Successful Mediation or Arbitration Practice (The Peace Talks Mediation Marketing Book).

It’s full of our tried and true marketing techniques, learned both at business school and through trial and error in our own practices and consulting work.  This book is everything we know about what works (and doesn’t work) in marketing your mediation, arbitration or ADR practice.

Let’s face it, marketing a service business is challenging. How do you promote yourself without sounding like a jerk, braggart, or worse? How do you get the word out in a professional, sincere, and authentic way?

This book is written both for new practitioners as well as seasoned practice owners who wish to learn the latest techniques and social media. It’s also suitable for larger practices who are looking at trimming marketing costs by using more elbow grease and less advertising dollars.

The 8 Simple Keys book is available from Peace Talks as well as Amazon.com

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Marketing Mediation Book

This is very exciting as it’s been in the works for almost a year.

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.

The Very Real Danger of Divorce

http://huffingtonpost.com/diana-mercer

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

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

divorce stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can understand that:

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

And to stay out of legal trouble, you can:

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

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

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

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

Shared Custody Schedules

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

It’s a divorce and separation reality, however.

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

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

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

joint custody

Here are some popular shared custody schedules:

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

Week #

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

1

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Dad

Dad

Dad

2

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

3

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Dad

Dad

Dad

4

Dad

Dad

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

What we like about this schedule:

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

What we don’t like about this schedule:

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

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

 

Week #

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

1

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

2

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

3

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

Mom

4

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

Dad

 

What we like about this plan:

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

What we don’t like about this plan:

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

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

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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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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

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

    Staying Focused On What Matters This Holiday Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Keep your emotions in check

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

    Talk about it

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

    Don’t focus on fair

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

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

    Map it out

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

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

    Give kids a heads up

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

    Keep it simple

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

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

    Have fun

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

     

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

    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.

    free-stuff

    Shared Custody Schedules

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

    It’s a divorce and separation reality, however.

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

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

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

    joint custody

    Here are some popular shared custody schedules:

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

    Week #

    Monday

    Tuesday

    Wednesday

    Thursday

    Friday

    Saturday

    Sunday

    1

    Dad

    Dad

    Mom

    Mom

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    2

    Dad

    Dad

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    3

    Dad

    Dad

    Mom

    Mom

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    4

    Dad

    Dad

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    What we like about this schedule:

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

    What we don’t like about this schedule:

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

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

     

    Week #

    Monday

    Tuesday

    Wednesday

    Thursday

    Friday

    Saturday

    Sunday

    1

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    2

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    3

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    Mom

    4

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

    Dad

     

    What we like about this plan:

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

    What we don’t like about this plan:

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

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

    book-a-freeappointment-with-a

    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.

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

      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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      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:

              describe the image

              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.

               book-a-freeappointment-with-a

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

               free-stuff

              What Causes Divorce?

              Causes of Divorce

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

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

              cause of divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              free-stuff

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

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

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

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              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!

              book-a-freeappointment-with-a

              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.

              book-a-freeappointment-with-a

              The Very Real Danger of Divorce

              http://huffingtonpost.com/diana-mercer

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

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

              divorce stress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              We can understand that:

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

               And to stay out of legal trouble, you can:

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

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

               

              book-a-freeappointment-with-a

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

              Mediation Training: Family Law

              Mediation Training:  Family Law

              Here at Peace Talks we get a lot of questions about how to become a mediator.  For the full story, here’s a link to the “how to become a mediator” blog post.

               We also offer a mediation training program.  It’s a 25 hour program on DVD.  It also comes with a 220 page manual so you will have all of the forms and templates which we reference in the video program.

              preview-the-dvds-free

              This beginning family law mediation training program was edited down from a full week 40 hour training so you get the full experience of a live mediation training without having to leave your home.

              Here’s an exerpt from the DVD set: 5 Sources of Conflict.  Take a look and you can see exactly what the training looks like.

               

              In fact, there are a lot of samples from the DVD set on our Peace Talks You Tube Channel. Plus lots of other interesting stuff.

              It is approved for California MCLE and I can issue a certificate of completion once you notify me that you’ve completed the entire course.

               California does not certify mediators, so this is not a “certification” course but it will satisfy the minimum requirements to sign up for most mediation panels. Here’s the link to join the Los Angeles Superior Court mediation panel: http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/adr/forms/LAADR006.pdf For more information on the Los Angeles Superior Court mediation program, click here:  http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/adr/UI/index.aspx

              Here is a summary of the topics included:

              Why mediation?

                  • What we will do in this training
                  • Value, benefits and results of mediation for mediators and clients
                  • Uses for mediation and mediation skills
                  • Who is a mediator?
                  • Mediation styles and signatures
                  • Other types of ADR

              How mediation works from first contact to agreement

                  • Mediation process overview
                  • Convening
                  • Mediation orientations (link is a video!)
                  • Session structure (joint sessions, caucuses, preliminary appointments)
                  • When the clients arrive
                  • Ground rules and the agreement to mediate: the first agreements
                  • Therapeutic intake
                  • Setting the agenda

              preview-the-dvds-free

              Role Play:  your first mediation session (intake through agenda)

              What is conflict?

                  • Our values surrounding conflict
                  • Moore’s 5 sources of conflict
                  • The nature of family conflict
                  • Conflict resolution strategies

              Negotiation techniques and demonstrations

                  • Interest based negotiations
                  • BATNA and WATNA
                  • Reality testing
                  • Doubt and dissonance
                  • The psycho legal approach
                  • Bias and impartiality
                  • Neutrality redefined:  invested, but not aligned or biased
                  • Getting to Yes
                  • Pacing and transitions

              Mediation Planning

              • Setting up success
              • Case conferencing
              • Evaluation and feedback

              Mediation Planning role play:  the first agenda items

              Communication in Mediation

                  • Mediator goals when listening
                  • Mediator goals when speaking
                  • Communication techniques:
                    • Active listening
                    • Summarizing, reframing and rephrasing
                    • Empathy
                    • Naming, and making the hidden transparent
                    • 10 Tips for asking questions
                    • Using neutral language

              Helping clients through the process

                  • Mediation readiness
                  • Support systems
                  • Setting the intention

              The Emotional Divorce and Mediating Solid Parenting Plans

                  • Ambivalence
                  • Grief
                  • Re-capitulation and Re-traumatization
                  • Anatomy of a parenting plan

              The Legal Divorce

              • Child support,
              • Spousal support
              • Property division                             
              • Drafting agreements

               The Legal Divorce: domestic violence

               Role play: Parenting Plan Mediation

               Hot topics in mediation:  comparison of ethical standards, reporting requirements, mediation confidentiality, professional development, practice development, future trends, career opportunities

              Final Role Play:  from therapeutic intake to agreement

                order-the-9-dvd-set

               

              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.

              book-a-freeappointment-with-a

              Negotiate Your Divorce Settlement

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

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

              Pretty much every mediator in the country is listed there.

              More free resources:

              free-stuff

               Making Divorce Work

              Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

              Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

              Skirball Center

              Los Angeles, CAmcpg flyer final 2

               

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

              For Registration Click Here

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

              Why does it take 3 days?

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

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

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

              Let’s face it

              Mediation Training: Family Law

              Mediation Training:  Family Law

              Here at Peace Talks we get a lot of questions about how to become a mediator.  For the full story, here’s a link to the “how to become a mediator” blog post.

               We also offer a mediation training program.  It’s a 25 hour program on DVD.  It also comes with a 220 page manual so you will have all of the forms and templates which we reference in the video program.

              preview-the-dvds-free

              This beginning family law mediation training program was edited down from a full week 40 hour training so you get the full experience of a live mediation training without having to leave your home.

              Here’s an exerpt from the DVD set: 5 Sources of Conflict.  Take a look and you can see exactly what the training looks like.

               

              In fact, there are a lot of samples from the DVD set on our Peace Talks You Tube Channel. Plus lots of other interesting stuff.

              It is approved for California MCLE and I can issue a certificate of completion once you notify me that you’ve completed the entire course.

               California does not certify mediators, so this is not a “certification” course but it will satisfy the minimum requirements to sign up for most mediation panels. Here’s the link to join the Los Angeles Superior Court mediation panel: http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/adr/forms/LAADR006.pdf For more information on the Los Angeles Superior Court mediation program, click here:  http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/adr/UI/index.aspx

              Here is a summary of the topics included:

              Why mediation?

                  • What we will do in this training
                  • Value, benefits and results of mediation for mediators and clients
                  • Uses for mediation and mediation skills
                  • Who is a mediator?
                  • Mediation styles and signatures
                  • Other types of ADR

              How mediation works from first contact to agreement

                  • Mediation process overview
                  • Convening
                  • Mediation orientations (link is a video!)
                  • Session structure (joint sessions, caucuses, preliminary appointments)
                  • When the clients arrive
                  • Ground rules and the agreement to mediate: the first agreements
                  • Therapeutic intake
                  • Setting the agenda

              preview-the-dvds-free

              Role Play:  your first mediation session (intake through agenda)

              What is conflict?

                  • Our values surrounding conflict
                  • Moore’s 5 sources of conflict
                  • The nature of family conflict
                  • Conflict resolution strategies

              Negotiation techniques and demonstrations

                  • Interest based negotiations
                  • BATNA and WATNA
                  • Reality testing
                  • Doubt and dissonance
                  • The psycho legal approach
                  • Bias and impartiality
                  • Neutrality redefined:  invested, but not aligned or biased
                  • Getting to Yes
                  • Pacing and transitions

              Mediation Planning

              • Setting up success
              • Case conferencing
              • Evaluation and feedback

              Mediation Planning role play:  the first agenda items

              Communication in Mediation

                  • Mediator goals when listening
                  • Mediator goals when speaking
                  • Communication techniques:
                    • Active listening
                    • Summarizing, reframing and rephrasing
                    • Empathy
                    • Naming, and making the hidden transparent
                    • 10 Tips for asking questions
                    • Using neutral language

              Helping clients through the process

                  • Mediation readiness
                  • Support systems
                  • Setting the intention

              The Emotional Divorce and Mediating Solid Parenting Plans

                  • Ambivalence
                  • Grief
                  • Re-capitulation and Re-traumatization
                  • Anatomy of a parenting plan

              The Legal Divorce

              • Child support,
              • Spousal support
              • Property division                             
              • Drafting agreements

               The Legal Divorce: domestic violence

               Role play: Parenting Plan Mediation

               Hot topics in mediation:  comparison of ethical standards, reporting requirements, mediation confidentiality, professional development, practice development, future trends, career opportunities

              Final Role Play:  from therapeutic intake to agreement

                order-the-9-dvd-set

               

              Uncontested Divorce California

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

              uncontested divorce california

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

               

              It makes sense when you think about it:  

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

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

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

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

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

               So how do you make your divorce uncontested?

               There are several elements:

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

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

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

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

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

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

              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.

              Headlock resized 600

               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!

                      8 Peace Practices for Uncontested Divorce California

                      There are 8 peace practices which are free and easy to practice every day. They’ll help you stay sane no matter what, and we all know that sanity is at a premium at the moment.

                      An excerpt from the 8 Peace Practices chapter of Making Divorce Work, our latest book, was published by Mediate.com. Click here for the 8 Peace Practices.

                      screaming doesn't work

                      Sure, we’ve all felt this way at times.  But we also know what it does to our blood pressure and ability to think creatively and problem solve.

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

                      Divorce mediation helps keep the peace in your family–after all, you are still a family even if you’re divorced.  You have the opportunity to have an uncontested divorce, California or elsewhere, when you mediate instead of litigating.  Mediators help you talk to each other and say what you really mean without getting shut down. Most will give you legal information and help you make a solid decision that works for you, your spouse, and your children. 

                      And yes, the settlement needs to work for your spouse or he or she won’t sign it. And for YOU to get a settlement, your spouse has to sign.

                      Sometimes people think mediation is all about peace and love and that mediators spend all their time talking about people’s feelings. That’s only partially true. 

                      Of course feelings are important. After all, you’re talking about everything you care anything about when you’re mediating:  your future, your past, your financial security, how you’ll raise your children.  There’s no getting around it. Divorce includes feelings.

                      It also includes the legal part, and that needs to be informed, thoughtful, and thorough. 

                      You need both:  a successful legal divorce, and a successful emotional divorce.

                      The 8 Peace Practices will help you get there.

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                      Prenuptial Agreement Sample?

                      As a family law mediator who mediates premarital agreements and prenuptial agreements, I’m often asked:

                      • What does a prenup look like?
                      • Do you have a sample?

                      I’d love to be able to give out a generic sample prenup, but there really is no such thing. 

                      Prenups are as individual as the couples themselves (isn’t this blended family photo great?).

                      prenuptial agreement benefits everyone

                       

                       

                      Depending on your priorities, some prenups deal with just one issue, like pre-marital property, family money, or a small business.  Others take on every issue, including support and rights to the house if the couple was to separate.

                      And those are just the legal issues—often couples come to mediate their premarital agreement at Peace Talks and one spouse is upset and against the whole idea.  They feel like their fiance does not trust them, or that prenups aren’t romantic.

                      Well, there’s nothing romantic about getting divorced, either.  Or, if you have children from prior relationships, there’s nothing romantic about fighting with your deceased spouse’s children after a premature death.

                      The way I see it, if we don’t leave our estate planning up to the government (most people do Wills and Trusts), and we don’t let the government’s foster care system raise our children, why would we let the government decide what happens to all of our assets and the way our children will be raised in the event we decide to divorce or separate?

                      There are a few big advantages to premarital agreements that you may not have thought of:

                      • Doing a prenup forces you to talk about big issues, like money management styles and how you’ll share expenses (you’d be surprised, but many couples gloss over money differences as they plan for the Big Day!)
                      • You’ll talk about credit and how you manage credit as part of the process
                      • You’ll talk about your expectations about career and work, and working once children arrive. How would you feel if your spouse switched careers 10 years into a marriage?  You’ll discuss all of this as part of your premarital mediation
                      • You’ll also talk about what happens if one of you dies or becomes disabled, or if you have to support elderly parents.  I know it’s no fun to talk about that sort of thing, but better to be on the same page than to leave it up to chance.

                      And even if you don’t end up putting it in writing, I think there’s a huge value in having these discussions.

                      To start the discussion on your own, use the Peace Talks Premarial Checklist to get the discussion started.

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                      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 community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

                      Uncontested Divorce California Style, Part 2

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

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

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

                      Here’s an interesting statistic:

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

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

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

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

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

                      You have some choices:

                      • Kitchen Table
                      • Mediation
                      • Collaborative Divorce
                      • Litigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                      Mediate for Success

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

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

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

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

                      Diana Mercer, Mediator (that’s me!)

                      Here’s how it works:

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

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

                      Mediators’ styles might include:

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

                      Not all mediators do all these things, so ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                      Divorce Strategy?

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

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

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

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

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

                      He was absolutely right.

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

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

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

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

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

                      Strategy.

                      Such an interesting concept.

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                      Court Field Trip: Mediation

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

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

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

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

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

                      Judges getting pink slips? You better believe it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                       

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

                      The Tale of 2 Blogs: Mediation

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

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

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

                      Diana Mercer

                       

                       

                       

                       

                       

                       

                       

                       

                       

                       

                       

                       

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

                      describe the image

                      Sincerely (and I do mean that),

                      Diana Mercer

                      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

                      Family Mediation and “Failure”

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

                      If it was only that simple.

                      family mediation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                       

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                      Divorce in California

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

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

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

                      mediation california

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                      About mediation

                      FAQ about mediation

                      Pros and Cons of Mediation

                       

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                      Shared Custody Schedules

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

                      It’s a divorce and separation reality, however.

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

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

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

                      joint custody

                      Here are some popular shared custody schedules:

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

                      Week #

                      Monday

                      Tuesday

                      Wednesday

                      Thursday

                      Friday

                      Saturday

                      Sunday

                      1

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      2

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      3

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      4

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      What we like about this schedule:

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

                      What we don’t like about this schedule:

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

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

                       

                      Week #

                      Monday

                      Tuesday

                      Wednesday

                      Thursday

                      Friday

                      Saturday

                      Sunday

                      1

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      2

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      3

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      Mom

                      4

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                      Dad

                       

                      What we like about this plan:

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

                      What we don’t like about this plan:

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

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

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                      Low Cost Divorce

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

                      What Causes Divorce?     

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

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

                      causes of divorce

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

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

                      Mediation Training: Family Law

                      Mediation Training:  Family Law

                      Here at Peace Talks we get a lot of questions about how to become a mediator.  For the full story, here’s a link to the “how to become a mediator” blog post.

                       We also offer a mediation training program.  It’s a 25 hour program on DVD.  It also comes with a 220 page manual so you will have all of the forms and templates which we reference in the video program.

                      preview-the-dvds-free

                      This beginning family law mediation training program was edited down from a full week 40 hour training so you get the full experience of a live mediation training without having to leave your home.

                      Here’s an exerpt from the DVD set: 5 Sources of Conflict.  Take a look and you can see exactly what the training looks like.

                       

                      In fact, there are a lot of samples from the DVD set on our Peace Talks You Tube Channel. Plus lots of other interesting stuff.

                      It is approved for California MCLE and I can issue a certificate of completion once you notify me that you’ve completed the entire course.

                       California does not certify mediators, so this is not a “certification” course but it will satisfy the minimum requirements to sign up for most mediation panels. Here’s the link to join the Los Angeles Superior Court mediation panel: http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/adr/forms/LAADR006.pdf For more information on the Los Angeles Superior Court mediation program, click here:  http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/adr/UI/index.aspx

                      Here is a summary of the topics included:

                      Why mediation?

                          • What we will do in this training
                          • Value, benefits and results of mediation for mediators and clients
                          • Uses for mediation and mediation skills
                          • Who is a mediator?
                          • Mediation styles and signatures
                          • Other types of ADR

                      How mediation works from first contact to agreement

                          • Mediation process overview
                          • Convening
                          • Mediation orientations (link is a video!)
                          • Session structure (joint sessions, caucuses, preliminary appointments)
                          • When the clients arrive
                          • Ground rules and the agreement to mediate: the first agreements
                          • Therapeutic intake
                          • Setting the agenda

                      preview-the-dvds-free

                      Role Play:  your first mediation session (intake through agenda)

                      What is conflict?

                          • Our values surrounding conflict
                          • Moore’s 5 sources of conflict
                          • The nature of family conflict
                          • Conflict resolution strategies

                      Negotiation techniques and demonstrations

                          • Interest based negotiations
                          • BATNA and WATNA
                          • Reality testing
                          • Doubt and dissonance
                          • The psycho legal approach
                          • Bias and impartiality
                          • Neutrality redefined:  invested, but not aligned or biased
                          • Getting to Yes
                          • Pacing and transitions

                      Mediation Planning

                      • Setting up success
                      • Case conferencing
                      • Evaluation and feedback

                      Mediation Planning role play:  the first agenda items

                      Communication in Mediation

                          • Mediator goals when listening
                          • Mediator goals when speaking
                          • Communication techniques:
                            • Active listening
                            • Summarizing, reframing and rephrasing
                            • Empathy
                            • Naming, and making the hidden transparent
                            • 10 Tips for asking questions
                            • Using neutral language

                      Helping clients through the process

                          • Mediation readiness
                          • Support systems
                          • Setting the intention

                      The Emotional Divorce and Mediating Solid Parenting Plans

                          • Ambivalence
                          • Grief
                          • Re-capitulation and Re-traumatization
                          • Anatomy of a parenting plan

                      The Legal Divorce

                      • Child support,
                      • Spousal support
                      • Property division                             
                      • Drafting agreements

                       The Legal Divorce: domestic violence

                       Role play: Parenting Plan Mediation

                       Hot topics in mediation:  comparison of ethical standards, reporting requirements, mediation confidentiality, professional development, practice development, future trends, career opportunities

                      Final Role Play:  from therapeutic intake to agreement

                        order-the-9-dvd-set

                       

                      Divorce Threats: I’ll See You in Court!

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

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

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

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

                      divorce mediation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                       book-a-freeappointment-with-a

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

                       free-stuff

                      Cost of Divorce: Cost of Staying Together

                      Putting a price on sanity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                      Sure, it sounds like a decent plan

                      California Divorce

                      Divorce in California

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

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

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

                       uncontested divorce california

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                      Setting Clear Boundaries in Divorce

                      Setting Clear Boundaries

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

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

                      domestic violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                      book-a-freeappointment-with-a

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

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

                      Mediation is the New and Improved Litigation

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

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

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

                      divorce mediation

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

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

                      Creating a Good Divorce

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

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

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

                      mediation

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

                       Diana Mercer, Mediator

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

                      free-stuff

                       Here’s how it works:

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

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

                       A mediator’s style might include:

                          * Making suggestions

                          * Informing you about legal provisions

                          * Relating what others have done in your situation

                          * Defining your options

                          * Helping you consider alternative ways to resolve your problem

                          * Facilitating communication

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

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

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

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

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

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                      In Divorce, The Truth Is Not Relevant

                      The TRUTH IS IRRELEVANT IN DIVORCE.

                      I know that sounds like crazy talk.

                      But think about it this way:

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

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

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

                      divorce mediation

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

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

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

                      And the truth is….

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

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

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

                      Divorce: Kids and Custody

                      Kids and Custody

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

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

                      divorce custody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                      Cause of Divorce

                      What Causes Divorce?

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

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

                      cause of divorce

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

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

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

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

                      Some helpful free resources:

                      free-stuff

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

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

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

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                      Divorce Sanity: The 8 Peace Practices

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

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

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

                      divorce sanity

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

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

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

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

                      The 8 Peace Practices will help you get there.

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                      Creating a Good Divorce

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

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

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

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

                       Diana Mercer, Mediator

                       Here’s how it works:

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

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

                       A mediator’s style might include:

                          * Making suggestions

                          * Informing you about legal provisions

                          * Relating what others have done in your situation

                          * Defining your options

                          * Helping you consider alternative ways to resolve your problem

                          * Facilitating communication

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

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

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

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

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

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                      Insider Divorce Advice

                      Divorce Advice I Give My Friends

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

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

                      Jedi Warrier, Use This Advice Wisely to Stay Trouble:

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

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

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

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

                      mediation

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

                      free-stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                      TopTips for Choosing your Divorce Mediation Attorney

                      Choosing the right mediator is important.

                      You’re going to be talking with your mediator about everything you care anything about in the entire world:  Your future, your kids, your home, your job…..and so you want to choose someone you feel comfortable with.

                      Mediators are all trained in basically the same way, but each person has a different way that they practice.  So ask if they have a free mediation orientation (or if they charge just to meet them) and do a little research. Click on the link above for our mediation orientation outline and information.  

                      When you talk with the mediator and the office staff, how are you treated? Are they patient and do they answer your questions? Or is it just an answering service without any information and they are slow getting back to you?

                      divorce mediation

                      Are they generous with resources and do they encourage self-help?  The “really useful free stuff” below includes an interactive divorce mission statement you can do in just a minute or two, an interactive divorce journal you can download for free, and worksheets and checklists to get you organized and started. They were written by Peace Talks Mediation Services founder, Diana Mercer, as a supplement to her most recent book, Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life.

                      free-stuff

                      Need a mediator but you’re not in Los Angeles?  Mediate.com lets you search for a mediator by your telephone area code.

                      My colleague Fern Topas Salka came up with a good interview list:

                      Questions to Ask a Mediator

                      If you are interviewing a mediator ask these questions:
                      1. Why did you become a mediator?
                      2. What do you see as your goal for a mediation?
                      3. What kind of commitment do you need form us to agree to mediate?
                      4. Will you want to meet separately with us? If so, why? And if so, would you hold secrets?
                      5. How familiar are you with Family Law?
                      6. Will you tell us how you think a court would decide our case?
                      7. How important is the law to you in mediation?
                      8. How would you deal with stalemates?
                      9. How do you feel about our using consultants, including consulting lawyers?
                      10. Would you talk directly to our lawyers?
                      11. How do you see your role in our communication with each other?
                      12. What is the place of our feelings in this process?
                      13. How do you feel about our talking to each other about our conflicts outside the mediation office?
                      14. What mediation training have you undertaken?
                      15. How much mediating experience do you have?
                      16.  What is your fee? Can you estimate the total cost for my cases, or give me an average cost for cases like mine?
                      17. Do you require a retainer?

                      That’s a lot of questions!  But feel free to ask the ones that are important to you. How your mediator answers questions like these will give you a good idea of how he or she will answer your questions during your actual mediation session.

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                      Uncontested Divorce: California Guide

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

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

                      mediation

                      Here’s a quick look at some advantages to divorce mediation:

                      It saves money.

                      Of course it does!  Think of all those expensive attorney fees you’re a saving.  In fact, in Los Angeles alone, the average price tag on a litigated divorce hovers around $50,000 per person!

                      It saves time.

                      Courts are so over-crowded, that some judges hear more than thirty cases per DAY!  The entire process could take weeks if not months and in some cases, years.

                      Cooperative Co-parenting is the trend.

                      A very encouraging trend in divorce is cooperative co-parenting.  It happens when both parents see a benefit in sharing custody of their children and being present for their development, even though they have separated.

                      Who needs enemies?

                      The basic premise here is that it’s much easier to be friends than enemies with your spouse.  Uncontested and collaborative divorce helps to maintain a pleasant discord with your spouse, and alleviates unnecessary stress.

                      The trend of collaboration between divorcing parties is certainly a welcome trend.  It signals a shift in values throughout society, not just among divorcing couples.  We are committed to talking things out, and working out our issues rather than letting a third party coldly decide our fate and the fate of our families.  We are starting to see that it’s much harder to fight than it is to get along.  Not only does it sap us of energy, it comes at the expense of our careers, our lives and the health of our children.

                      There has been a great change in child custody trends over the years as well.  Sharing custody is the rule not the exception.  Both parents want to be involved in the upbringing of their children.  I see this positive trend in my family mediation sessions: parents want to do right by their kids and make the best of a bad situation.

                      Making the decision to share custody is one thing, but what happens if you don’t get along?  The good news is that you don’t have to be best friends to share custody.  If you could use the positive karma of settling out of court in a collaborative divorce, it could be the difference in maintaining that positive relationship when it comes to sharing custody of your children.

                      Well, now your saying, of course, I want to settle out of court, but how do I do it?

                      It’s not a one step process.  But at Peace Talks Mediation we try and make it as easy as possible.  We’ll guide you through the process so that it is easiest on you and your family.

                      Filling out Paperwork is step one.  You’ll find that hiring a mediator, attorney or paralegal will help you immensely.  We are used to it and can help you make the process a breeze.  There are also helpful kits and forms you can find online.  Every divorce needs the same documents: Petition, Response and lastly Stipulated Judgment.

                      Next is the Negotiation Phase.  This is where Mediation services can really help.  We foster a cooperative environment where everyone can have their say.  We won’t try and get everything done at once.  In any mediation session it’s important to keep everyone on the same page.  These are delicate issues, but they don’t have to be complicated.  We’ll work with you to get the peace of mind you need.

                      Next comes the Disclosure of Financials.  This is mandated by law.  The state demands that you be accurate and thorough.  Any over- or under- reporting can get you in deep water, fast.  If you sign up for divorce mediation, we will provide you with the necessary paperwork to fill out.  Remember, your spouse is entitled to see all of your financial records, and vice versa.  In an uncontested divorce, cooperation, both with your spouse and with the law, is paramount.

                      Which brings us to the last phase: The Agreement.  Assuming that you’ve negotiated with your spouse a settlement that you can both agree on, you’re in the home stretch.  If you decided to negotiate on your own, without the help of a mediator or collaborative divorce attorney, you’ll still have to go out and get the divorce.  Hiring a professional mediator will keep you out of court and give you the freedom to separate on your terms, saving you from the burden of unnecessary cost and stress.

                      Of course, these guidelines are just here to help you along the way.  Divorce is tough.  No one escapes the emotional toll.  You probably never thought you’d be here.  Especially if you have kids, it was something you never wanted to face.  Having a support system to get you through it is just as important as having a good lawyer or mediator.  Your friends, family, faith and any professional guidance you may seek, all play important roles.  Be honest and forthright, stay confident, and before you know it, it’ll be over.

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                      Parental Alientation and Divorce Mediation

                      I get asked a lot about Child Custody. 

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

                      parental alientation

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

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

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

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

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

                      free-stuff

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

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

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                      Mediate Family Law, Don’t Litigate!

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

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

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

                      mediation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                      Divorce Lies, Mediation Truths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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                      Divorce That Works

                       

                      If you’re reading this, you’re probably not in such a good place right now.  However it happens, realizing that your marriage doesn’t make you happy and that something has to change is a tough spot.  You might be early on in the process.  Or maybe you’re not looking forward to doing battle with your ex, each of you armed with lawyers. We’re here to tell you that there is an alternative – Divorce Mediation.

                      If you’re new to the idea of mediation, or friendly divorce, it may seem like an idea for an improbable family film, but in practice it provides the opportunity for you to and your spouse to come out of your divorce with your dignity and sanity intact.  You have lots of life left.  You want to be able to move on to what’s next. 

                      Divorce doesn’t have to leave your family life in tatters and you in a worse place than before you were married.  Divorce mediation offers an avenue to end your marriage and strengthen your own life.  You wouldn’t be looking for divorce options if everything was rosy.  Living in the day-to-day of a bad marriage is no one’s idea of fun and happiness.  You yearn for something better.  You deserve something better.  You’ve likely heard more bad divorce stories than you have good divorce stories.  How is a good divorce even possible?  At Peace Talks Mediation here in Los Angeles, that’s mostly what we see.  Good divorces.  Good divorces for both parties. 

                      Your divorce is pedescribe the imagermanent.  The legal process may conclude with signed and witnessed documents.  But your divorce, whether or not you remarry, continues well after the ink is dry.  Marriage changed your life.  Divorce will too.  The details will differ depending on whether you asked for the divorce or if it’s your spouse’s decision, but the impact will affect the both of your lives and most importantly, the lives of your children.

                      It is up to you to determine what that impact will be.  In fact, you can have a good deal of control about how your divorce goes.  If you want the divorce, you are looking forward to the day when your next chapter begins.  If divorce is not your decision, you’d like to know more about what went wrong and look forward to better days.  Either way, you’re probably feeling that mix of fear and excitement that accompany most major life decisions.  And divorce certainly fits into the major life decision category.

                      If you’re looking for options to the adversarial approach to divorce, an option to fighting it out in the courts, you’re not alone.  Peaceful divorce sounds like an oxymoron but it’s worked for many, many people.  Are you really looking forward to an ongoing, potentially bitter battle with your spouse?  It’s enough that the marriage is over.  You don’t need to suffer the additional emotional bruising that often comes with that approach.  You can come out of all this more prepared for the rest of your life.

                      Divorce mediation is truly a learning process. What you’ll learn about you and your spouse, as well as the whys and hows of how you got you here, will affect every aspect of your divorce.  Money and property division.  Your kids.  Your extended family.  And what happens next.  The insight and peacemaking skills you’ll learn from the mediation process will stay with you the rest of your life.

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

                                                                         

                       

                      8 Keys to Resolving Divorce Conflict

                      You never thought it would happen to you, yet here you are faced with divorce. Maybe you asked for the divorce. Maybe you’re the one who is being left. Even if it is something you and your spouse both want equally, you are facing a crisis. You may be wondering why we’re talking about resolving family conflict now, when you’re pretty sure you’re getting a divorce.

                      If divorce is your reality, why not make the best of it? This may seem impossible right now, given the state of your relationship. It is not. Even if you are not on speaking terms with your spouse today, you can end the conflict in your relationship and uncover peace. We’ve seen this again and again with many, couple talkingmany couples in our divorce mediation practice.

                      You can learn how to bring peace into your marriage, even as it is dissolving. Peacemaking is a skill, just like any other, and it starts with understanding and using eight keys to resolving family conflict. Keep in mind that it is actually harder to remain at odds with someone than it is to make peace. Once you learn these skills, you’re sure to reap the benefits in all the other parts of your life.

                      The 8 Keys take only a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. Practice makes perfect.

                      The 8 Keys to Resolving Divorce Conflict

                      1. Be hard on the problem, not the people
                      2. Understand that acknowledging and listening are not the same as obeying
                      3. Use I-statements
                      4. Give the benefit of the doubt
                      5. Have awkward conversations real time
                      6. Keep the conversation going. Life is a dialogue
                      7. Ask yourself “Would I rather be happy or right?”
                      8. Be easy to talk to

                      Using these eight simple keys will revolutionize your divorce experience as well as your home life — and even life at work. They’re easy to practice and implement once you get started. The more you use these techniques, the better you’ll get. You don’t need to save them just for your divorce process. There is life after divorce.

                      When tensions arise, you’ll be operating from a more peaceful baseline and more apt to remember to use these keys to resolving conflict where ever it occurs in your life.


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

                      Resolving Divorce Conflict – Listening Is Not Obeying

                      A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict 

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

                       

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

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

                      Resolving Divorce Conflict – Key 3: Use I-Statements

                      A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict

                      Key 3: Use I-Statements

                      When you’ve spent the better part of your working life mediating and finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts, you begin to see patterns of both conflict and resolution.  In our divorce mediation practice, we’re big fans of  “I” statements.  “I” statements are conflict resolution magic. The best part is that they’re simple to incorporate into your habits.  And, for the recipient, the I-statement request is easier to honor.  “I feel sentimental about keeping my grandmother’s pots and pans” makes a much more peaceful case for kecouple talkingeping them than “You can’t take all our kitchen stuff.”

                      I-statements create collaboration and build on personal responsibility rather than blame.

                      The opposite of the I-statement is the You-statement. You-statements are inherently judgmental. They feel like an accusation (and usually are). A You-statement is your opinion of the other person.

                      Imagine your spouse saying any of the following things to you:

                      • You are crazy.
                      • You can’t do that.
                      • You are so lazy.
                      • You are loud.
                      • You are wrong.

                      An I-statement gives your spouse information about you. It doesn’t put your spouse on the defensive because you are the vulnerable one. Imagine your former spouse saying any of the following to you:

                      • I am feeling very insecure about having to support myself after so many years.
                      • I am so resentful of how much money we are spending on this divorce.
                      • I do not want to feel like I am not a part of my kids’ day to day life.
                      • I am so angry that you introduced your girlfriend to the kids without letting me know first.

                      There is nothing to get defensive about when your spouse is merely telling you something about herself. You are not responsible for how she feels or to help her feel differently. This type of information sharing helps foster communication. It makes no judgments or demands.           

                      To create an I-statement, start your sentence with “I” and then use healthy personal disclosure to tell your spouse what is going on with you. Simply saying, “I’d feel so much more financially secure if you could pay off your student loan,” goes a lot further than, “You racked up that debt, not me.”

                      I-statements are an easy way to show your spouse you are comfortable expressing vulnerability as you divorce. Since they are clearly your opinion or your feelings, and not a command for the other person, they are much easier for the other person to hear.  They also verbalize a sense of yourself as separate from the “we” you once were and allow you to take personal responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. Practice using them in all your relationships, not just with your spouse, so you can get used to thinking in terms of I-statements all the time.  It’s a valuable lesson with an impact well beyond your divorce.

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

                      Resolving Divorce Conflict – Giving the Benefit of the Doubt & Having Awkward Conversations

                      A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict

                      Key 4: Give the Benefit of the Doubt.

                      It’s hard to say which of these keys to resolving conflict we like the most. They have all become repeatedly handy with our clients.

                      Before, during and after your divorce, you’re going to have lots of opportunities to test your ability to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.  So it’s never too early to make this a part of your conflict resolving skill set.      

                      Here’s an example: Your spouse is late for a meeting with the bank to see if you can re-finance your house. Your first inclination is to take it personally. “How dare she be late again! She does this just to drive me crazy!” But there are also thousands of other plausible explanations which have nothing to do with you: the line at the grocery store was long, and the checker was new; the hamster got out of the cage and had to be found before leaving the house; an important phone call came from a family member at an inopportune time and she didn’t have the heart to tell the caller to put a lid on it.

                      Maybe these explanations are true and maybe they aren’t. If this is not habitual behavior, then find it within yourself to extend the benefit of the doubt. If it’s just once in awhile, it’s ultimately easier on everyone not to take it personally. Your blood pressure will thank you.

                      Any time you feel frustrated, annoyed or mildly irritated, remember that your spouse is human and so are you. We all have our bad days. Also, one day you may be the one asking for the benefit of the doubt, and it helps to pay it forward.     

                      Offering the benefit of the doubt helps you practice seeing the best in yourcouple talking spouse. Perhaps you haven’t seen that in awhile. Maybe that’s because you’ve been looking for the worst. Your divorce process can make that even more difficult.  You and your spouse are both good people who are going through a very hard time right now. Allow your spouse to save face and when it’s your turn to ask for the same favor it will be an easier request to honor.

                      Key 5: Have Awkward Conversations in Real Time.

                      If you’re getting a divorce, you’re likely having difficult conversations with your spouse. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory.  Difficult conversations don’t get easier with the passage of time.  They only get harder, and the difficulty is compounded if it looks like you tried to hide something or be dishonest.  Here at Peace Talks, we’ve seen firsthand the positive impact of having those conversations sooner than later.

                      When you need to have an awkward conversation, have it as soon as you can.  And if you can have it preemptively, it’s even less awkward.  Imagine your spouse telling you “I missed the mortgage payment that was due two weeks ago” instead of “I missed the mortgage payment that was due today” and better still “I think I am going to miss the mortgage payment that is due in  two weeks. What do you think we should do?”  

                      Before you have an awkward conversation you can prepare yourself with the following exercise:

                      • Identify why you feel the conversation will be awkward.
                      • Is there anything you can do to make the situation better before you have to have the conversation? If so, do it.
                      • Have the conversation as soon as you’re sure you need to have it, not at the last minute.
                      • Be honest. Sugarcoating the truth is just going to look deceitful at this point.
                      • What do you expect your spouse’s reaction to be?  Is there anything you can do or say to make that situation better?
                      • Make an appointment to talk to your spouse to talk about the awkward situation, at a time and place where you can have a real conversation, out of earshot of the kids.
                      • Frame your conversation and acknowledge that it’s awkward.
                      • Listen to your spouse’s reaction and acknowledge that you’re listening.
                      • Ask for help to problem solve.

                      For Example:  You are going to be late dropping off the children for the second time this week.  You call your spouse 45 minutes before you’re supposed to drop the children off. “I am so sorry, but I can already tell I’m going to be late. I don’t blame you for being upset with me. I am upset with me, too. Given the situation, should I just take them straight to the sitter? Or what would help you most?  And sometime next week, can we talk about adjusting the drop off time so this doesn’t keep happening?”

                      Establishing a pattern of having awkward conversations right away, directly and honestly can reduce a lot of unnecessary anxiety. If your husband knows you’re going to give him bad news as soon as you get it, he doesn’t have to torture himself with his imagination. If he knows you want the same thing from him, he doesn’t have to procrastinate having those difficult conversations.  Dealing with your divorce process is difficult.  Learning and using these conflict resolution skills will go a long way to easing some of that difficulty.

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

                       

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

                      A Divorce Mission Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                       

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