Working With A Lawyer or Mediator – Find the One That’s Right For You Working with a lawyer or mediator can have a significant impact on your divorce settlement

Working With A Lawyer or Mediator – Find the One That’s Right For You Working with a lawyer or mediator can have a significant impact on your divorce settlement

When you finally decide to seek a divorce, remember, whether you’re working with a lawyer or mediator, it’s important to realize that how you work with that individual will greatly impact the financial outcome of your divorce. You have power in the divorce process and that power lies in your ability to control your emotions and your actions. Doing both will greatly increase your effectiveness, will increase your awareness of what will be going on, and will give you greater control of your own financial well-being.

Hiring a lawyer is a process that should take time and due diligence on your part. During the screening and consultation, check out the attorney’s credentials, his/her past experience, how many divorces has he litigated/negotiated, and his/her experience with the specific divorce issues of your situation. This shouldn’t be his/her first rodeo, for if it is, you need to move on and find counsel who has the specific experience to handle your case.

Contrary to hiring an attorney, if you and your spouse can talk and can reasonably communicate, and you don’t want a long drawn out and expensive divorce, consider hiring a divorce mediator instead. A divorce mediator is someone who will drill down into the issues you and your soon to be ex are having challenges working through. They will then find reasonable alternatives that are agreeable to each of you to work through the process as reasonable and unemotionally as possible, while keeping your expense to a minimum.

Regardless of who you decide to hire, working with a lawyer or mediator has many commonalities and yet has some differences that should be understood.

5 Tips to Keep Billable Hours to a Minimum

  1. When working with your lawyer or mediator, provide all the necessary information when you can. The less time he or she has to spend tracking down records the cheaper it will be for you.
  2. Figure out the worth of your assets. If you can find out and document the full financial picture of your marital estate you will save your lawyer time—which will save you money.
  3. Increase your understanding of the divorce process. Knowledge is power and the more you know the more you can help yourself.
  4. Keep your lawyer or mediator informed with as accurate information as possible. The better the information you give your attorney the more they will understand the situation and be able to develop a winning strategy. When in doubt, go with providing full disclosure. Don’t worry, lawyers are trained to sift through information and evaluate what is useful and what is not. Also, if the information might harm your case, you can prevent your lawyer from being blindsided, giving him or her plenty of time to prepare defensive maneuvers.
  5. Respond promptly to requests for information. Again, time is money so don’t drag out the process by keeping your lawyer or mediator waiting on you to provide needed information. Lawyers are often under very tight deadlines and the more lead time you give your lawyer to go over the materials the better job they can do in preparing for your case. Another good tip is to stick to answering only the questions your lawyer or mediator asks and doing so completely but concisely. If your counsel needs a “yes” or “no” answer on something or a quick synopsis of a situation don’t include a long, verbose document that gives extra information. If you bog down your counsel with useless information they will have to bill you for the time they waste going through materials that are not relevant to what they need to represent your case.

Working With A Lawyer or Mediator

5 Things Your Mediator or Lawyer Needs to Know

Be prepared with the following information to grease the wheels and get your case moving:

  1. The reason you are getting a divorce. This includes: Causes of your breakup, the reasons behind your filing for divorce and the major issues of the failing marriage.
  2. Personal information for yourself, your spouse and your children. This includes: Names, ages, places of birth, home and work addresses and telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, and health information.
  3. Facts related to your marriage. This includes: When and where you were married, any prenuptial agreement (If so, bring a copy of the agreement with you), previous marriages (If so, provide details of your previous divorce(s)).
  4. Any issues involving your children. This includes: Custody arrangements, co-parenting agreements, special needs, etc.
  5. Financial information. This includes: Assets and debts each of you brought into the marriage, your incomes and expenses, employment information, shared property (e.g. home, cars), shared debts (e.g. mortgage, college fund for the kids) and investments (e.g. insurance plans, pension plans).
  6. Legal documents. This includes: copies of lawsuits, bankruptcy suits, judgments, and garnishments.
  7. Your divorce goals. Be specific about what you want from the divorce. Think beyond your current emotional state to long-term goals that include how you will co-parent children (if any) and continue to function as a family post-divorce. Think about the relationship you want with your ex and kids in one year, in 5 years and then 10 years into the future.

3 Things to Remember

  1. When working with a lawyer or mediator, remember, neither is not your psychologist. Do not expect them to be on call 24 hours a day or to listen to you rant about the latest injustice you’ve suffered at the hands of your spouse during an acrimonious divorce. Remember, every time your lawyer takes a phone call or returns an email you are racking a significant  bill. Call a friend or get an actual therapist and you will save money and keep your lawyer or mediator focused on what really matters—the facts of the case.
  2. If your lawyer is giving you advice you disagree with, keep an open mind and consider the guidance carefully. Your lawyer isn’t concerned with your desire for revenge but with getting you the best possible outcome, so take a step back and evaluate whether you’re refusing your lawyer’s advice for purely emotional reasons. Don’t let your settlement suffer because you can’t see past your immediate feelings. You will end up suffering long-term consequences for temporary emotional satisfaction. Also, please remember, a mediator cannot give legal advice. They can only ask to seek a reasonable solution between you and your partner in the conflict.
  3. You will likely go through periods of frustration or disappointment as your divorce progresses, but don’t take it out on your lawyer or mediator. Some things will be out of his or her control. Remember that your attorney is on your side and it’s best to tackle the rough patches as a team. Your mediator, on the other hand, is on neither side. Staying positive and on good terms is your best bet at getting your lawyer or mediator to work their hardest to resolve your case.

While you are expecting the most from your lawyer—that he or she is skilled, hard-working and dedicated to fighting for your case—your lawyer is hoping you’ll be the ideal client: calm, professional, well prepared and easy to get along with.

When a competent client and a capable consultant team up and work well together, the odds are greatly increased for a good outcome. Hold your attorney or mediator to task in putting in the effort your case requires, but do yourself a favor by being a client that makes their job easier and more effective. The ideal client can control his emotions and focus on the logical facts of the case, is organized and prepared, treats his lawyer as a valuable teammate, and is willing to listen to the information that is presented to him.

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Rebuilding Your Marriage After An Affair Building a Stronger Marriage Out of Infidelity

Rebuilding Your Marriage After An Affair Building a Stronger Marriage Out of Infidelity

Cheating, lying and creating family chaos – yeah, that’s infidelity for ya. Nothing is more challenging to a relationship than infidelity. Child rearing, financial strains and interpersonal struggles pale in comparison to the challenges that infidelity dumps on a relationship. Rebuilding your marriage after an affair has shredded the bonds of marriage is possible but it’s one of the most trying and arduous efforts that a couple can face together. The challenge is faced by the couple together, but the really hard work is on the one who has been ‘cheated on’ as he or she attempts to rebuild trust in their partner after its been completely destroyed by the affair.

But we guys are not alone in this infidelity struggle, because we are no longer alone in creating the family chaos. With the emergence of the internet, social media and dating apps, women are quickly catching up to their male counterparts in creating family chaos. In fact, the Kinsley Institute at Indiana University reported that women are cheating at nearly the same rate as men for the first time in history. In fact, 19.2 % of the women in the study had admitted to cheating during their current relationship compared to 23.2% of the men.

And, although rebuilding your marriage after infidelity is possible, the methods to do so may differ depending on who caused the issue.

Rebuilding Your Marriage When You, the Man, Cheated

1.Come clean. The first step toward repairing the rift is to be honest. It’s likely going to be brutal to step up and admit that you have hurt your wife, but if you want to save your marriage, you need to have the courage to face the truth, no matter the anguish it will unleash on you both.

A study of married couples by UCLA and the University of Washington concluded the one proven road back to marital stability and satisfaction was: admitting the affair. The numbers don’t lie. At the end of the 5-year study, 43% of couples who confessed their unfaithfulness were divorced compared with 80% of the couples who hid their adultery when their spouse later discovered it. Honesty was the key distinction in whether the relationships survived.  In fact, when the cheater accepted and acknowledged responsibility for the affair, the marriage could survive and could be rebuilt to sustain the test of time. At the conclusion of the study, couples who survived an affair experienced comparable levels of marital stability and satisfaction as the couples who had not experienced adultery at all.

2. End the affair. It’s just that simple. Maintaining an illicit affair is just damaging beyond belief, mindless, cruel, self serving, disrespectful and selfish. It does nothing in favor of your marital relationship and, if anything, threatens the very existence of your marriage and both of your financial futures. Nothing is more devastating to a woman than to find out that her husband is having an affair. If you’re not suspected of having an affair, STOP. As much as there may be physical attraction and fleeting physical rewards for you personally, it is destroying you and your marriage. The lies, the tardy arrivals, and the missed events will ultimately expose your infidelity and your affair will be discovered if it hasn’t been already. Regardless of how secretive and discrete you think you may be, your infidelity will be found out, and you will destroy your relationship in the process. If there is any hope for rebuilding your marriage, the affair must end. Then and only then can real healing begin.

3. Give her space. If and when you break the news that you’ve been unfaithful your spouse will be devastated and she’ll be blitzed with a storm of raw emotions: shock, rage, betrayal, shame, depression, sadness. Temper your confession with compassion and understanding. As your wife rages and begins to attack you, be kind. Be gentle. Agree with her as much as humanly possible. She’s going through a very difficult time and arguing with her at this point is not in your best interests, not if you have any hope of rebuilding your marriage.  Getting through this torrent of emotions will not be easy. Seek therapy and marriage counseling if at all possible. As financially challenging as therapy and counseling may be, consider it a financial investment into your future with your wife. Getting into deeper issues, like why you strayed, is best done when you are in a safe, counseling environment. You likely didn’t cheat one day out of the blue. There were multiple factors that led to it. And you won’t recover from the infidelity overnight either. It’s a very lengthy process and one that will likely take four to five years to regain some relative normality. Take your time. Eventually you will both come to understand what incited you to begin the affair and how each of you had some level of responsibility for its inception. The good news is that your marriage can emerge rock solid and more gratifying once you grapple with and solve those deeper underlying issues.

4. Consult a marriage counselor. Should you and your wife decide to try and work through the affair and the damage it has caused in your relationship, it is highly advisable that you not try to work out your challenges alone. A marriage counselor or mediator would be an expert guide to get the two of you back on the road to reconciliation. There are likely multiple underlying issues that lead to the betrayal and each of you share some level of responsibility for the existence of those issues. Only a qualified counselor, clergyman or mediator may help get you both to the core of those issues and give rational direction on how to resolve them. An affair is most likely a result of unhappiness that exists on both sides of the relationship. Discovering, facing and resolving the root of that discontent will lead to a healthier and more satisfying marriage than you had before the infidelity.

5. Rebuild trust. Trust is a delicate thing. It is a product of prolonged physical and emotional fidelity.  And while it would be a huge relief to be able to confess and move on right away, that’s just not in the realm of reality. Once your infidelity has been exposed, whether through your wife’s discovery or by your confession, her trust of you and your actions will be gone. Everything you do, everywhere you go, everyone you see or might see will be questioned, over and over again. Her trust in you and your intentions has been lost, gone, and it won’t return anytime soon.  If you’re patient, the seed of trust can grow again. but it’ll take time, patience and endurance on both your parts. Trust can build slowly, over years, by a long series of small commitments and verified successes, each event, each schedule, each meeting, each announcement planned, and each reality checked, challenged and found to be truthful. Through these seemingly endless commitments and successes, its possible to break through the hard, cold distrust of your actions and rebuild trust in your actions.

6. Forgive. While forgiveness may happen, forgetting won’t. But it doesn’t have to: only forgiving matters. Again, this won’t happen overnight, and you can’t impose any kind of definitive deadline on it. But with continued commitment to your marriage and your relationship it is possible to restore trust and intimacy in your marriage.  By facing the issues that led to your urge to stray together, your wife may see that while flawed (as we all are), you are worthy of forgiveness.  If she refuses to forgive, you have run up against a wall to healing and moving forward. Try and convince her to give therapy a shot as professional help may be needed to get over the barricade and back on track to reconciliation.

An affair doesn’t have to be the last chapter in your marriage. Your adultery can be a wake-up call that your marriage is in serious trouble and on a dangerous path to destruction. If you’re upfront and honest, willing to face the consequences and put in the work in rebuilding your marriage and fix the problems, your honesty about your extramarital affair may prove to be a turning point toward a more satisfying relationship and a brighter future for both you and your spouse.

Rebuilding Your Marriage When She Cheated

1. The Discovery.  Well now, since you’re not the one that has to come clean it’s likely that she has already come clean or that her secret was ‘discovered’. If she’s already come clean, then start concentrating your efforts on the other items below.

If on the other hand you are the one that discovered her infidelity, challenges abound for you. Challenges with trust are overwhelming you. You can’t sleep. You can’t think. You want to know where she is every moment of the day. Has she stopped the affair? How do you know? Do you trust her answer if and when she gives you one? The idea of spying on her surfaces and you want to take action. Read her emails? Check her phone logs and text messages? These are all invasions of privacy and are ILLEGAL. DO NOT DO ANY OF THIS. Focus, focus, focus on what you can control. You can only control your own actions. You cannot control hers.

2. Give Her Space Whether she has admitted the affair or she’s been discovered, she’ll need space. Space to collect her thoughts. Space to change course, if that’s still needed. And, space to help bridge the divide of trust that’s been broken. That trust can only be built up slowly over time.

If it’s suspected she’s still involved in the affair, there is nothing you can do about it personally. But you can focus on your actions and IGNORE her actions. To not ignore her actions will only cause you more heartache and dismay. You’ll focus on her whereabouts and what’s she’s likely doing, or at least what you suspect she’s doing. These are only harmful thoughts and will only lead to destroying those parts of your relationship that’re not already destroyed.

Instead, you need to focus on everything else. Focus on your work, on your kids, on their activities, on your hobbies and on your friends. But, ignore your wife and her actions until she decides to end the affair. For help in this and many other divorce related issues, buy and read Michelle Weiner-Davis’ book Divorce Busting. It’s a wealth of time proven tips and assistance for controlling yourself, your emotions, and your actions so as to not chase your wife away with the constant accusations, guilt, anger, fear, rage and frustration that you’re going through.

3. End the Affair. Ok, so you have no control over her ending the affair. But you can talk with your spouse and encourage her to end it. If she refuses, suggest joint marriage counseling. She may or may not be willing to spill her guts to you or to a stranger but you’ve got to try. If she agrees to the counseling and you can afford it, GO. It will do you both a lot of good and it’s is the best chance you have of salvaging your marriage.

4. Consulting a Marriage Counselor. Ok, so assuming she has agreed to go and try to reclaim some of what ‘s been lost in your marriage. There, once each of you has had a chance to yopen up about yourselves to the counselor, you’ll be able to open up about your marriage. What was going right, what was going wrong, what was going sideways in your relationship that may have led to the affair. This is where you dig deep to unveil the secrets and feelings of what has not been expressed, or if it was expressed, what was not acknowledged by one of you or both of you. The challenges in your relationship that led to the infidelity have got to be addressed for there to be any real healing.

Remember, she may have been the one that strayed, but each of you share some of the burden for the affair in some way. Maybe she was telling you all along but you weren’t really listening to her ‘issues’. Maybe you just turned a deaf ear to her rants and bitching. Therein may lie some of the issue.

Maybe she clammed up and said nothing to you, living in desperate silence, not giving in to what was bothering her, and not being honest about her loneliness, her struggles, her issues, and her not feeling loved by you.

This is exactly why a trained professional is so vital to the unveiling of the truth. We as individuals are unwilling or unable to be that brutally honest with ourselves, and certainly not that brutally honest with our spouse without the gentle and non-judgmental encouragement of the counselor. The counselor can help ‘peel the onion’, one layer at a time to get to the root of the despair, and find a way to seek healing from each of you.

5. Rebuild trust. This is a tough one. She cheated on you. And you’re mad as hell. You have every right to be. But, that won’t bring her back and that won’t help rebuild your marriage. Rebuilding trust will take time, lots of time, and there is no guarantee that it’ll be successful. But with guts and determination, on both your parts, you can slowly plant the seeds of trust and water them regularly.

The seeds of trust are just that – seeds. Each event that is planned, each time she is on her own and you have to trust her to arrive on time, each successful event allows the seed to start to take root and grow. One by one, event by event, the seed starts to take root and the trust begins to emerge out of each successful event.

Truth be known, this process will likely take three to five years to have any lasting affect on you and on her. It just takes time, and it is a slow rebuilding process that cannot be rushed.

6. Forgive. We both know that the infidelity is something that will never be forgotten, never. It’ll always be in the back on your mind and you’ll always be mindful of the possibility that it could happen again.

You’ll have to put in a lot of hard work to make your marriage work in a way that it never did before. But, by doing the ‘hard time’, working at rebuilding your marriage after an affair, and with the rebuilding of trust, you have the chance to forgive. And, you have the chance to be more thoughtful, more aware, more sensitive to your partners needs and wants.

And, it is that sensitivity that may be the key to rebuilding a lasting relationship that could endure any challenge and could last a lifetime. With sensitivity, you’ll be better prepared to sense your partners wants and needs, and it’s that sensitivity that can help to make you a more caring and loving partner, maybe the kind of partner she’s wanted all along.

And that is worth fighting for.

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How a Parenting Coordinator Helps With a Horrible Ex Get Help When You Need It

How a Parenting Coordinator Helps With a Horrible Ex Get Help When You Need It

Do you have a former spouse that continues to make your life miserable after divorce? Do you feel as though there is way too much interaction and she believes it’s too little? Did you get divorced so you didn’t have to deal with her and now it feels like all you do is hear from her? A parenting coordinator helps get through this communication impasse. It’s true that the stress of prior relationships can weigh heavily on all of us. When you share children, especially young children, interaction will likely happen for many years. Learning to manage the communication is vital to supporting what’s best for your kids and what’s good for you too.

How a Parenting Coordinator Helps

A parenting coordinator helps people figure out how to support their kids and communicate with their former spouse. Often, it’s important to sit down with both people, as parents of the children, to figure out what went wrong and where it can get better. In my practice, I have found four critical tools to success for parents where communication is non-existent to extraordinarily high conflict. You can make it better, for you and your kids, by using these practical tips, either with the help of a Parent Coordinator, or by trying to implement them on your own. My experience suggests the higher the level of conflict the more necessary a parenting coordinator may be, but getting started somewhere is better than having things continue as they have. Give it a try and reach out as needed.

Manage Expectations Around Communications

Does your Divorce Agreement set out how to plan for your children? Is there already a method in place to do so? If so, this is a great “jumping off point” for your communication. Although quoting your Agreement can sound formal and off-putting, it may be time to suggest it. Often, my clients do much better when a structure is in place for their communication. They do better when they have a framework for success.

If you Agreement doesn’t talk about how to plan, you likely need to create some Agreement about how things will go. If things have not gone well, it’s likely important to consider talking with your spouse with a Parenting Coordinator as a professional is likely able to create a framework to help you begin talking productively again. If you can’t do that, it’s likely you will need to meet, in person, or by email to work together on how to manage what needs to be decided. Remember, most adults don’t like to be told what they must do and how they must do it. If you are starting the communication, use words like “cooperate” and “strategize” to create a collaborative environment. Find out, from your ex, what they need to make the plans for your kids work.

If often makes sense to build in deadlines around when things are decided, and to build in flexibility too. Sometimes one parents gets first choice, and the next year it shifts to the other parent. Whatever you and your ex decide, make certain there is give and take about how it will occur. This step is about how to approach communication and not the actual plan. However, this step is often most crucial to success. Even if you dislike your ex intensely, you love your children. Figuring out how to negotiate with her is crucial to your success. Instead of spending time thinking it can’t be done, figure out how it can!

Develop A Plan

Next, once you’ve opened a chain of positive communication with your Ex about the need to do better, execute on your plan to do so. This is just the beginning so don’t assume just because you want something, and think it’s right, you will get your way. Remember that it wasn’t always easy to convince your intimate partner about parenting issues and it won’t get easier now. However, if you are willing to listen as much as you speak, in email, and give a little to get a little, you and your children may find success. A good plan is the best way to achieve success and prepare for unexpected bumps in the road too.

The most important part of developing a plan is to begin to create a system for decision making that allows you and your ex a voice in what happens. Again, it’s usually fairest to allow taking turns for important holidays or vacation choosing but do what works for you and for your ex too. Remember that BOTH of you need to feel empowered to be good parents to your children and providing that neutral support by creating a framework to allow it will get you much further than making demands.

Also, and this is crucial to planning, try to avoid multiple issue emails and get rid of texting for plans altogether. Limit your communication about an issue to one chain of emails on a particular topic. It’s easy to stay organized this way and to have documentation about what you have agreed to do too. You can easily create folders in your email to save the various threads and they will be a handy referral when you need to check what was said about a particular issue. Keep in mind, too, that email can be an unforgiving medium. Many of my female clients complain their exes are “mean” in email. In some cases, this is true, but in other cases a direct tone, without any softening words, can seem too demanding and stern. You should deal with your ex as you would a business colleague, that is, be direct but also kind. You do not need to express how you personally feel about her, ever, in email to her. Save those words for therapy!

Practice

You will likely need lots of practice with your ex to create the co-parenting relationship you want for you and your kids. This practice happens when you write emails, get the response you hope for, or don’t get that at all. Each communication is an opportunity to learn what works, in general, and in particular for your spouse.

I worked with one couple who seemed at an impasse to plan the yearly calendar. It turned out the mother was overwhelmed by dad sending an excel spreadsheet with calendar suggestions for the entire year. We talked about breaking down the data contained in the spreadsheet to simple lists and, voila, problem solved. Instead of ignoring the info, mom felt she could manage the same material in bite size monthly nuggets. Dad was thrilled and felt he could then plan for the year. Instead of criticizing mom’s aversion to spreadsheets (which he may have internally done), he acted in a way that served him and his kids to get what he and they needed. Mom is much happier too as she doesn’t feel like she’s ignoring critical information.

Inevitably, disagreements will arise. Using your new style of communication, however, you will remember that you do not need to personally criticize the other parent to make your point. Usually, if something can’t be agreed to after three rounds of email, it makes sense to spend a couple hours of mediation so that a parenting coordinator can help figure out if the matter can be resolved. Doing so may save you lots of time and grief in the future too as a new method of approach may be developed in the process.

Don’t Take It Personally

No matter how carefully you choose your words, you may get some unpleasant communication at least occasionally. Remember that you ex isn’t dealing with you in a vacuum and may be having a bad day, month, year for many other reasons. Responding in kind is likely to only escalate conflict so, if you can, don’t respond at all for a period of time. See if a little time allows cooler heads to prevail. Revisit the issue without personal attack and try to get back on track.

In sum, it is possible to manage a situation with even a horrible ex successfully. The key is your mindset towards success and your willingness not to engage, on the same level, as a co-parent who might bring negative energy and intent to your communications. The simple steps above coupled with the help of a parenting coordinator helps to establish open communications. Remember that you bear half of the responsibility for the way the relationship with your ex is managed, for you and your children. You will never control what they think or even say about you, but you can control how you respond and how you communicate directly. Taking the high road may not always feel satisfying in the moment, but keeping your kids from the conflict, and getting support for yourself will reveal success for you and your kids in the long run. It’s a long road when you are co-parenting with an ex, but your kids are worth it. And so is your peace of mind.

You Can Modify a Parenting Plan Without Going to Court Using Mediation to Resolve Co-parenting Disputes

You Can Modify a Parenting Plan Without Going to Court Using Mediation to Resolve Co-parenting Disputes

You’re divorced, child custody was settled, and there is a working parenting plan in place. Life goes on, then changing circumstances affect you and your kids. The good news is that you can modify a parenting plan without going back to court.

Mom Was Moving Out of State

I had the opportunity to help an already divorced couple re-negotiate their parenting plan without having to go back to court and shell out thousands of dollars for litigation.  Here’s how it went down:   The couple, “Ruth” and “Justin” had been divorced for 11 years, sharing custody of their now 13-year-old daughter, “Lexi”.   Their co-parenting of Lexi had its issues; however, Ruth and Justin had been able to compromise most of the time. 

But Ruth recently remarried, and received a job promotion which necessitated relocation across the country.  Both Ruth and her daughter were excited to move to Atlanta.  It was happening just as Lexi was about to start high school and, although she was sad about leaving her friends, she had a good attitude about her new adventure.  So, most of the big decisions had been made:  new house, moving date, school enrollment.  The final remaining stumbling block was obtaining Justin’s permission to move his daughter out of state.

Dad Didn’t Want to Lose Visitation

Understandably, Justin was not immediately on board to consent to his daughter moving 2,500 miles away from him.  His divorce decree and parenting plan prohibited Ruth from taking their minor daughter away from the state for more than seven consecutive days, and Justin was quite adamant about sticking to the plan.   He was also very clear that he was unwilling to lose any of his visitation days with Lexi.

Start by Nailing Down the Issues

When they came to my office for their first mediation session, we quickly identified that there were three issues that needed to be resolved:  permission to move the minor child out of state; modifying the visitation schedule to accommodate the relocation; and who was going to pay for the travel expenses.  Permission to move the minor child required very little discussion.  Although Justin didn’t want his daughter to move across the country, he understood that she would benefit by being in a better school district and, as it turned out, being closer to other members of her extended family.  Permission granted, and onto the next issue:  scheduling.

Baby Steps in Mediation

Everyone took out calendars, and we started talking about school schedules, holidays, vacations, and the complications of air travel.  It was evident to me, as the Mediator, that the parents were becoming overwhelmed.  So, I suggested that we only discuss the upcoming school year.  By limiting the scheduling to nine months rather than five years, both Justin and Ruth visibly relaxed.  After that, it was like trading players on a fantasy football team.  “I’ll take the first week of the winter break and you can have her the second week.”  Or, “I’d prefer that Lexi spend her birthday with me, so she can be with her grandparents.”  You get the picture.

By taking a baby step in mediation, Justin and Ruth were able to focus on establishing a temporary plan, leaving room for flexibility, instead of being forced to follow a Court Order.  Mediation allowed these two parents to focus on the needs of their daughter instead of on their own interests.

Once these two hurdles were overcome, the final issue of who pays for airfare turned out to be relatively easy.  Justin started the negotiation process by offering to pay zero dollars for Lexi’s airfare.  I let them argue for a moment, and then asked Ruth how much she was willing to pay.  Ruth said 50%.  Justin countered back at 1/3, and it was as though the bell signaling the end of the round in a heavyweight fight had been heard.  Ruth agreed to pay 2/3 and they went back to their neutral corners.  The bout had ended, not by knock-out, but by unanimous decision.

A Winning Way to Modify a Parenting Plan

Three issues, three resolutions, two hours total.   I wrote up a document to modify their parenting plan incorporating their decisions; they signed it in front of my Notary, and everyone left feeling like they won.

Mediation Empowers the Parents

You can only imagine how long this might have taken through litigation, not to mention the expense.  And most significant, imagine the risk involved in allowing a Judge to determine what’s best for the family.  A Judge who, although well-intended, has no real knowledge of the family’s dynamic.   By opting to modify a parenting plan through the process of mediation, Justin and Ruth were empowered to craft their own resolution and, in this particular instance, by making a temporary agreement to be revisited later, if necessary.

Naturally, not every divorced couple is a candidate for mediation.  They must come into the process carrying a spirit of cooperation in their pockets.

Mediation After a Bitter Divorce

In another example, “Ben” and “Sara” went through a bitter divorce when their two kids were toddlers.  They each ran up tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees because Ben wanted the divorce and Sara intended to “make him pay.”  And he sure did!

Not only did Ben get his shirt handed to him in Court, but he had minimal visitation with his children and paid the maximum in child support.  They came to me literally 10 years later because circumstances had changed considerably over the decade since their divorce.  The two kids were now teenagers, and were proving to be more than Sara was willing or able to handle.  Not only did Ben want more time with his kids, the kids wanted to live with their dad permanently.

Modify a Parenting Plan to Change Primary Custody

Through the process of mediation, it came out that neither of the teenagers liked Sara’s live-in boyfriend.  And the boyfriend was, evidently, jealous of the attention Sara gave to her own children.  The living situation in Sara’s home was full of conflict, and neither of the kids was happy.   Enough time had passed for Sara to get over her bitterness towards Ben, and both parents were ready to make some changes.  So, they hammered out a new parenting plan, modifying everything including primary physical custody, and child support.  Again, I prepared a written document for them to sign which set forth all of the modifications.

Mediation Reduced Court Appearances and Costs

In Ben and Sara’s instance, a brief amount of attorney involvement was necessary.  Once they signed the agreement I prepared after mediation, Ben’s attorney drafted the necessary paperwork to submit to the Court showing that the parties changed the prior Court Order through the process of mediation.  The fact that a Mediator prepared an agreement reflecting the desires of the parties, and that agreement bore the parties’ signatures, all but guaranteed that the Judge would approve the modification.  In less than a month, Ben and Sara received the Court’s blessing by way of an Order modifying their divorce decree to afford Ben primary physical custody of their teenagers, and considerably reducing the child support payments.

How Mediation Can Work For You

There are many more examples of how mediation can be an effective way of modifying prior Court Orders without the need for expensive and time-consuming litigation.  The one common thread in every such situation is the spirit of compromise.  If you aren’t willing to be flexible, mediation is not for you.  But, if enough time has passed, if you’re willing to put the greater good ahead of your need to be right, if you value your future more than you need to validate your past, I highly urge you to consider mediation.

How to suggest mediation to your ex?  Easy.  Just tell her that you’ve been looking into mediation as an alternative method to litigation, and that mediation is confidential, expedient, and costs a fraction of what attorneys charge.

Finding a Capable Mediator

There are many places to look for a capable Mediator.  When doing so, it’s important to keep in mind that not all Mediators are attorneys, and not all attorneys are Mediators.  I’d suggest that you and your ex interview at least two candidates, check for reviews on Yelp (yes, Yelp), sniff around LinkedIn, and go to subscription services such as Mediate.com.  Most Mediators will offer an initial consultation at no charge.  Then, trust your instincts.  You won’t be disappointed.

Nancy Gabriel is the principal and managing partner of Mediation Around The Table, LLC., a Las Vegas-based private mediation company.  Ms. Gabriel is a founding director of Nevada Mediation Group, a non-profit corporation focusing on the education and training of mediators, a volunteer for the Neighborhood Justice Center of Clark County, Nevada, a member of the divorce panel for MWI, a Boston, Massachusetts firm specializing in alternative dispute resolutions, and a volunteer at Three Square Food Bank.  She is a graduate of UCLA, an avid gourmet cook and NFL fan. She may be contacted through the firm website at www.MediationAroundTheTable.com

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3 Benefits to Ending Your Marriage with Divorce Mediation Why You Should Consider an Alternative to Costly Litigation

3 Benefits to Ending Your Marriage with Divorce Mediation Why You Should Consider an Alternative to Costly Litigation

Think you’re stuck shelling out thousands of dollars to retain an attorney? Well, you’re not. Are you concerned about the risk of allowing a judge to decide what’s best for you and your family?  Well, it doesn’t have to play out that way. Simply stated, there is an alternative:  Divorce Mediation.

You May Be a Candidate for Divorce Mediation

If you and your soon-to-be-ex can be in the same room with each other for an hour, you’re a great candidate to end your marriage through mediation.

A Mediator is a neutral third party who’s trained to help the two of you navigate through the process of ending your relationship in an expedient, dignified and confidential manner, at a fraction of the cost of hiring an attorney.

Valuable Benefits of Divorce Mediation

There are many benefits to choosing divorce mediation.  Here are three of the more significant advantages.

The first benefit of divorce mediation is FREEDOM. 

  • Freedom to make your own choices about the end of your relationship
  • Freedom to use resources the way you want
  • Freedom from having to look back on this chapter of your life with regret or remorse
  • Freedom to move on with your life and enjoy all that the future can be for you
  • Freedom to make your divorce work better than your marriage
  • Freedom to parent your children in the best possible way
  • Freedom from burdensome legal fees

The second benefit of divorce mediation is FAIRNESS.

  • You will meet with a professional mediator who is unbiased, neutral, impartial and non-judgmental. Clients determine their own standard of fairness based on their unique needs.
  • You will be treated fairly and equitably while achieving justice in the process
  • You will avoid the harsh judgments of others
  • You, not the courts, attorneys, or judges, determine your own definition of fairness
  • Those with children will have a role in determining a fair outcome that is in the best interest of your family

The third benefit of divorce mediation is PRIVACY.

  • Your mediation is held in a private, confidential office setting resulting in a private written agreement. Your privacy is maintained through the confidential mediation process.
  • Unlike open court, the mediation process is not a matter of public record
  • You will not be embarrassed or ashamed about personal matters that might be discussed
  • Your friends, relatives and strangers will only know what you decide to tell them
  • You will have a higher rate of compliance since you each contributed to and agreed to how you want to end the relationship

A Civil and Cost-effective Alternative

Divorce mediation is not appropriate when there is a history of domestic abuse, or if one of the parties refuses to cooperate. For couples that agree to divorce, and want to end the marriage in a civil and cost-effective manner, divorce mediation provides a dignified, economical and extremely viable alternative to the hostility of divorce litigation.

nancy-gabriel-picNancy Gabriel is the principal and managing partner of Mediation Around The Table, LLC., a Las Vegas-based private mediation company.  Ms. Gabriel is a founding director of Nevada Mediation Group, a non-profit corporation focusing on the education and training of mediators, a volunteer for the Neighborhood Justice Center of Clark County, Nevada, a member of the divorce panel for MWI, a Boston, Massachusetts firm specializing in alternative dispute resolutions, and a volunteer at Three Square Food Bank.  She is a graduate of UCLA, an avid gourmet cook and NFL fan. She may be contacted through the firm website at www.MediationAroundTheTable.com


(c) Can Stock Photo / designer491

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