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Practical Tips on Co-Parenting After Divorce

A divorce is an extremely stressful, upsetting and disruptive process for all involved. Yet, whatever differences cause a couple to become estranged, there’s one thing upon which they can always agree… Their number one priority is mitigating the effects on their kids. However much enmity can occur at the end of a relationship, this pales in comparison to the parental instinct to do right by one’s children. With this in mind, even those undergoing a bitter divorce are amenable to the notion of effective co-parenting. Let’s take a look at some practical tips on co-parenting after your marriage is terminated... Set your feelings aside We realize that this is far, far easier said than done. However, in order to successfully co-parent, all divorced spouses must, to some extent compartmentalize their emotions. If you don’t have something nice to say to or about your ex, simply don’t say anything. If you have trouble finding the perspective necessary to do this simply focus on your child / children and the love you have for them. Everything else is just a footnote. Don’t put your kids in the middle Kids can get over a divorce pretty easily when both parents demonstrate a willingness to put their differences aside and raise them collaboratively. Putting them in the middle of your feud, however, can only traumatize them. As cathartic as it may be to you to explain to them all the reasons why your ex is a scumbag, they most certainly won’t benefit from that information. Again, if you can’t say anything nice about them, don’t say anything about them. Don’t pass messages through your kids, don’t use them as your spies to find out what your ex is up to and don’t make them feel as though they have to choose between you. You and your ex might not be together, but your kids will always have you both. Keep emotion out of your communication As unpalatable as it may seem, you can’t co-parent effectively without maintaining some level of communication with your ex. And it can be extremely difficult to keep emotion out of your communications. Yet, as satisfying as it may be to start an email to them with the words “Dear Pig,” this can only exacerbate the situation between you and impact negatively on your child’s wellbeing. Keep your written, verbal and personal communications with your ex as business-like as possible. Be polite and amenable where you can, and pare your communications down to the bare minimum where you can’t. If you can’t handle being around your ex, use a mediator If, despite your best efforts, you find it too emotionally difficult to be around your ex, or even to communicate with them over the phone or via email, there’s no shame in admitting that you need a helping hand. A mediator can work collaboratively with both parties towards a common goal… Doing what’s best for your children. How we can help We offer a host of mediation services for newly estranged couples and parents going through divorce. Together we can work towards a peaceful and mutually beneficial resolution and allow time to heal the wounds made in the relationship. Contact us today to arrange a consultation.

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Finding a fair compromise in a divorce through mediation

Divorces are by nature very stressful and painful; however, this stress can be diminished. There are several ways to ease the process for both parties, and one of the most helpful methods is mediation. More and more people are choosing mediation as a way of making their divorce process simpler and much less confrontational; perhaps you should consider mediation as well Active Participation on Both Sides For mediation to be effective both parties need to be committed to honestly search for compromises and fair solutions for all of their issues. The key to your success will be your ability to set aside your resentments and proactively work on addressing every concern of both sides. If you’re both willing to do that and to make this process work, it could be one of the best decisions you make during the divorce process. Put the Children First Putting the children first is a very important commitment that you both need to make going into the mediation process. This will immediately create a common ground and a good starting point. It will also better align your respective priorities. Putting the children first will also help to turn you away from confrontations and steer you towards cooperation and problem solving. Save Time, Money and Stress You can save yourself a whole lot of time, money and stress if you choose mediation over the alternative approaches to divorce. It saves you time because you are communicating with each other directly (instead of through your respective attorneys) and you are in control of the whole process. Without the need of hiring two attorneys, you will also save a lot of money on your divorce process. Most importantly of all, the entire process will be less stressful for you both. Give and Take Mediation is about give and take; you really need to embrace this idea if you want mediation to work for you. Assuming an uncompromising posture will derail the process and will leave you disappointed. Think over your position on the issues that most important to you; prepare to negotiate and compromise for the most fair end result. With such an attitude you will be able to arrive at the results you can live with and move on with your lives. End the Process without Bitterness As you go through the mediation in a good faith, you are focused on finding fair solutions to your issues, rather than trying to hurt each other. Thus, the mediation process takes the inherent bitterness and rancor out of your divorce process. In the end you will have a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that you have acted in the best interest of yourself and your children. Litigated divorces frequently leave people disappointed and resentful, whereas mediated divorces allow for a path into a better future.

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Tips for Preparing for your Divorce Mediation

Choosing to mediate your divorce is always the most peaceable and effective way to settle the end of a marriage. However, a divorce mediation can still be very challenging. Divorce is a very emotional and a difficult process in and of itself; however, it is precisely the time when you need to make very serious decisions affecting all aspects of your lives, discuss and agree upon many issues and learn to move forward with your lives. Here are some tips to help you get through it. Putting the family first If you have children, then it’s important for their sake that you put their best interests first. Learning to co-parent is one of the most common reasons that couples look for a mediation in the first place. Divorce is a trying time for your children. Their world as they knew it, is crushing. Mediation will not only help you to put together a parenting plan that will work for everyone in a family, but it will also teach you to co-parent and give you tools to resolve all the future issues concerning your children. Please bring a picture of them to a mediation session to remind yourself that they are your first priority. Make sure the mediation is reciprocal During a divorce, it can be tempting to want to strong-arm your spouse into accepting something they would later regret. However, while in mediation, it’s important to leave all notions of punishing the other side at the door. In order for mediation to succeed, both spouses will have to honestly seek reasonable compromises and be fully committed to treat each other fairly. As co-parents you will remain in contact with each other for many years to come. Your agreement should be conducive to this goal without leaving either of you full of resentment. Make sure you’ve prepared your paperwork The mediation will go much smoother if you know what you need to bring and what you need to discuss. This includes master list of real estate, personal property, vehicles, retirement accounts, credit cards, and more. It also includes records of all income sources as well as regular expenses. Spend time gathering the information you need, so there are no unwelcome surprises from either side during the mediation process. Knowing all the facts will prevent you from building unrealistic expectations about your future financial situations and your mutual obligations towards each other. Stay respectful and relaxed A divorce can be a very emotionally draining time of your life, regardless of how you handle it. You have to remember that you’ve chosen mediation to make this process as non-contentious as possible. Please try to avoid any negative feelings while in session. When listening to your spouse try not to assume any negative intentions on their part; on a contrary, believe that they have the best interests of all parties at heart, while also trying to understand their side of the story. Mediation only works as a cooperative process, so put any competitive urges to the side. Even with mediation, divorce isn’t easy. However, you have to remember that you have come together to reach an agreement, which may require a lot of flexibility, and a lot of compromise from both sides. NJ Divorce and Family Mediation Services will be here to guide you through every step of the way, so if you ever need advice or have a question during the process, you can reach out to us.

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How Litigation Works

As a proponent of mediation and a mediator myself with over 20 years of experience, I often have to explain to my clients how litigation process works in order to compare it with a mediation process and to underline huge advantages of the latter. In this article I would like to explain to all of my readers, not only to my clients, why litigation is a very expensive, lengthy and extremely emotionally draining process. The break-up of a marriage often involves five issues: property division, spousal support, child support, custody/visitation, and filing for divorce. Let’s take a close look at how does litigation process work in the State of New Jersey. Each of you will be required to obtain a lawyer that will represent you. Once attorneys are retained, all communication between two of you will be channeled through them only. Lawyers must communicate regularly with you and provide periodic updates on your case. Litigation always starts with the filing of a complaint or petition along with a summons by one of the parties. The petition or complaint states the facts of the case and what kind of relief is requested. The summons specifies that the other side has been sued and has a certain time period in which to respond. The other side generally files an answer or a response to these papers. Spouses may need to file additional documents. They may include financial affidavits, stating incomes and expenses of each party, or property inventories, showing what each party claims to be marital or separate property and debts, as well as the value claimed for each item. Sometimes courts will also require parties to file a copy of tax returns, pay stubs, or any other financial documents. Contested divorce cases can take a long time to resolve. While the entire case is pending, temporary, interim, or emergency hearings may be requested by either of the parties. For example, a party may ask for an emergency ruling on issues of custody or visitation, especially when the parents are engaged in a “tug of war” with each other, or when the children are in serious physical or psychological danger. Courts would often consider a need for an interim spousal support or a child support at a temporary hearing in the weeks or months after a case is filed. This is done to protect a financially disadvantaged spouse during a divorce process. After a lawsuit has been filed, a discovery stage of litigation will take place (usually within the first 90 days from filing). A discovery means “finding out information that the other side has.” It is a very time consuming and tedious process to gather the financial information such as documentation of an income, receipts, titles, or deeds from the other side. Here are some examples of a formal discovery: - Document Requests - Interrogatories - Depositions At the end of this long and painful process, should your attorneys finds themselves unable to settle your case through negotiations, four- way settlement meetings, early settlement panel, mandatory economic mediation, or pre-Trial Settlement conference with a judge, a trial will be ordered where a judge will decide your case. Once a decision has been made by a judge, it will be noted in the court records and announced. The next step will be an entry of an order, judgment, or decree. Sometimes a court does this, but more often than not, the attorneys write up a proposed final judgment for a judge to sign. This process can take weeks and often months to finalize. While all these is taking place, both of you are living in a limbo, in a very emotionally charged environment. You can’t go on with your lives until it is over; at the same time you are not communicating with each other to directly address the real issues affecting both of you. The whole process can take months and sometimes even years to complete. You are spending thousands of dollars covering all of your attorneys’ fees and, if your attorneys are not able to settle your case, it will be decided by a judge who is simply not capable of knowing all the important things about you and your particular situation. In mediation you will be totally in charge of your divorce process and will be able to end your relationship with dignity, and a minimum of psychological and financial damage to both of you.

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Your Divorce doesn’t have to be a Disaster

With the statement “I want a divorce” many dreams and plans are destroyed; anger and frustration, guilt and fear, depression and humiliation – these are some emotions that accompany the process of divorce. All of these feelings are normal, for divorce is ranked at the top of the list of stressful events in one’s life. When such strong emotions overpower us, our ability to think straight and make wise decisions is affected tremendously. Unfortunately, this is the time when the most difficult decisions need to be made. The most important one, in my opinion, is the decision on the manner in which to divorce. Will it be bitter or civilized? Will children be suffering the consequences of the divorce for many years or you will be able to minimize the impact of the divorce on them? Will you try to sabotage the process and lose your dignity and sanity or will you handle it gracefully? Will you accomplish your divorce without spending your entire savings or will it be a nasty and expensive battle? Many of you will argue that you do not have such choices, that lawyers decide and impose upon you their decisions, that the process of divorce depends on your lawyer’s experience and aggressiveness. In many instances this is a true statement, as when a couple chooses the path of a traditional divorce. Each year thousands of lives are disrupted and destroyed by the negative effects of a litigated divorce: broken resources, emotionally scarred children, struggling and frustrated parents…Is there any other way to divorce? I believe that divorce mediation is a much better way to negotiate your divorce and in this article I hope to help readers to understand my points on this subject. Family mediation as a profession has emerged in the past decade as a fast-growing alternative expressly designed for the 98% of couples who by statistic will resolve their divorce through negotiated settlement. In the conventional divorce settlement is the by-product of preparation for trial notwithstanding that almost all cases settle. If we assume that the case will settle, it makes little sense to prepare for trial. In mediation settlement is the explicit rather than the incidental objective. Mediation helps a divorced couple to reach an agreement that is the fairest and free of biases to both parties through the guidance and support of an impartial family mediator. The primary objective of a mediation process is a negotiated settlement that meets the real needs of the family. However, before such an agreement is reached, a couple is faced with many issues and concerns that, if handled properly, can be the foundation for a decent end to their marriage. A couple needs to understand how the legal system works in order to make the right decisions, learn how to negotiate fairly and in good faith, learn how to control their emotions, and be responsible for the decisions they are making. Along the way the parties consult their lawyers for information and advice that informs their deliberations. When experts such as accountants, appraisers, or mental health professionals are needed, the couple chooses one neutral expert rather than two adversary experts. It is a process of informed decision-making that leads to genuine agreement rather than concession. Mediation is a process that requires the couple to forego much of the hostile behavior that usually occurs in the early stages of divorce, to separate their emotions form financial and parenting issues – the key issues of every divorce – and to take the responsibility for their own deeds. At first glance, it seems like a burden. Therefore, skeptics of the divorce mediation process ask how it is possible to negotiate with one another in spite of overwhelming feelings of anger, desertion, sorrow, or shame. The answer is simple: a family mediator, a trained professional, will help a couple to restore an emotional balance, help overcome many psychological barriers, get them to focus on their future and facilitate constructive conversation between two of them. What is the benefit of such an arrangement, you may ask, when it is so much easier to hire a lawyer who would take control over your life? It is imperative to understand the following: it appears that, when people are in control of their own lives and making arrangements for themselves and their children, they will not sabotage their own agreements and their conflicts are minimized or eliminated. This situation will allow people to thrive and move on to satisfying and productive new lives after the divorce is completed without unnecessary stress and emotional turmoil. Another very important reason to have your divorce mediated is the amount of time in which the divorce is completed. Traditional divorces usually take up to a year or longer to resolve, depending on how adversarial they become. Most mediated cases, on the other hand, are resolved within a few months because all issues are discussed openly without wasting time on drawing pleadings, making motions, appearing in court, etc. These and many other things that divorce lawyers do have little or no effect on the ultimate outcome of the divorce. They are just part of the legal chess game into which divorce lawyers turn your divorce. Professional fees for divorce mediation are typically a fraction of those for a conventional divorce. Instead of paying a retainer and then an hourly fee to two lawyers, your entire package will consist of the payment of an hourly fee to one mediator, and a fee for drawing a property settlement agreement and filing to court. However, if none of these reasons are impressive enough, you owe your children a decent end of your marriage, for your relationship will not end after the divorce and will be tested again and again. Birthdays, weddings, funerals and other significant events will bring you together and stir up the emotions buried deep inside your conscience. “Good” divorce is a solid base to pass such tests! We have all heard horror stories about divorce battles that have a tremendous effect on the lives of entire families and, especially, the children. Psychological issues vary in scope and intensity and depend on the age group of your child. As a psychotherapist I worked with children of divorce who suffered from depression, anxiety, antisocial behavior, bed wetting as the result of nasty divorces. It is extremely difficult to treat such children, for their trust in adults has been shattered; many of them perceive us as traitors and their anger and frustration is overwhelming. Some blame themselves for their parents’ divorce and with that put great strain on themselves without knowing how to handle it. Some feel betrayed and abandoned and as a result lack the ability to foster their own communication skills and prepare themselves for relationships. I often witness the children of bitter divorces sabotaging their parents’ relationships with new partners. To summarize, I do believe that poor choices we make as adults on this subject poison not only our own lives, but can also handicap our children and create the need for many years of therapy and emotional scarring. On the other hand, if the two of you retain the ability to parent well, research suggests that you will maximize your children’s ability to adjust in time. Most long-term studies suggest that parental cooperation is a critical factor in helping children overcome the devastation of divorce. Thus, if the parents handle the divorce well, the children may react well, too. Mediation, as a process, teaches both parties to make the right choices, communicate to each other, respect each other’s opinions and handle issues fairly without any overwhelming feelings of guilt or shame. During a mediation process a couple will hopefully acquire knowledge not to depend exclusively on professionals, but rather be creative and come up with their own decisions, negotiate fairly and in good faith, learn how to experience and express their anger rather than act it out. Therefore, friction can be avoided, thousands of dollars can be saved, and both of you will be able to enjoy your children’s birthdays together for many years to come.

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