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Mediation Became a Feasible Alternative to Litigation

American matrimonial law is punitive — protracted, expensive, confusing, damaging. Yet a divorce is now an ordinary outcome to a marriage. Over the last two decades, the proportion of failed marriages had held stable at around 50 percent, but (while national data lags) some experts suggest that the rate may be tipping over half. Historically, periods of economic hardship tend to keep couples together; the current economic downturn, however, appears not to have had that effect. A survey by theAmericanAcademyof Matrimonial Lawyers found that 78 percent of divorce attorneys say that their caseloads are steady or increasing. Several studies, according to The Wall Street Journal and others, show that divorce filings have increased in many areas and, moreover, that there is an increase in the number of contentious divorces. Mediation became a feasible alternative to litigation began in the 1970′s, it is now beginning to reach a critical mass. My hope is that someday soon people may look at litigation as a last resort only for unusually contentious divorces (cases in which one partner is abusive or absent), rather than the norm. Litigated divorce inherently fosters enmity. In litigation, dialogue immediately ceases: the first rule a lawyer conveys to the client is literally to not talk to his or her spouse. Mediation, by contrast, relieves couples of the need to badmouth each other. Couples employing mediation have been shown to be significantly happier with both the process and the results than couples using litigation. As an article inSt. John’sLaw Review noted, one study found that 73 percent of those in mediation were satisfied or highly satisfied. Trials yield little satisfaction, and even attorney-negotiated settlements were satisfactory to only 23 percent of divorcees. In mediation, you have the opportunity to tailor the law to your own needs. 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, frictions 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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Financial Advisors Can Help Prevent Divorces

Couples who disagree about money once a week are twice as likely to divorce as those who disagree once a month or less. And there can be added difficulties for couple who are at least $10,000 in debt…and once in which one spouse disapproves of how the other handles money. What to do: Focus on both the financial and relationship issues. On the money side, consider working with a credit counselor-find one through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (www.nfcc.org). On the relationship side, try a marital-education program from PREP (www.prepinc.com) or PAIRS Foundation (www.pairs.com).

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Child Visitation Challenges

There are few problems that can arise with regards to child visitation schedules. Let’s review a few scenarios. 1. Let’s assume that you have successfully mediated your divorce and it seems that everything is in place now. Property Settlement Agreement is signed and filed to court; you have separated and are eager to follow your agreement. All of a sudden on Friday morning you receive a call from your ex-spouse that your child wouldn’t want to see you this weekend. You get the explanation that your child is busy, overwhelmed, tired, etc. and that the custodial parent will not want to push him/her to see you. They will also try to explain to you that your divorce had a very traumatic effect on your child and that you need to give him/her some time/space, etc. All of the above seems like a very reasonable explanation and you might want to let it go this time. Will there be another time like this? Should you give in again next time? Should you let your child to decide whether he/she are to see you or not? What should you do if presented with such a situation? While it is very important to listen to your child and assess his/her emotional wellbeing, both of you need to understand that spending time with non-residential parent should not be optional. Your child needs both of you and, even though he/she might indeed feel tired or just lazy, he/she still needs you. By letting your child to get away with the breaking of the schedule, you are sending them two very dangerous messages. First, your child would understand this as if you don’t miss him/her and don’t care to see them. Second message is that your child would learn how to manipulate you and get from you what they want. It is very important if such situation develops to show the united front and to explain to your child again and again that you both love him/her and care for him/her, you both want to be in their life and in divorce the only way to assure this is to strictly adhere to the established parenting schedule. It is also very important to be consistent and let your child know the schedule well in advance. 2. Let’s consider another scenario: your child calls you and asks not to be picked up by you because he/she was invited to a sleepover party with friends. You are put in a very uncomfortable position. On one hand you would like to spend time with your child; on the other hand you don’t want to ruin a weekend for your child who is clearly looking forward to spending his/her weekend with their own friends rather than with a parent. It could also happen that your ex-spouse has already allowed your child to spend your parenting time with their friends without consulting you. Again as in scenario # 1, your child needs to learn that spending time with a non-residential parent is not optional. There are plenty of solutions to that particular situation, but your child needs to clearly understand that he/she needs to address all their plans for a particular weekend with that parent who has parenting time with them on that particular weekend. Both of you need to help your child and direct him/her, but siding with your child or letting him/her make plans not on your weekend is extremely damaging to your child. One of the messages you are sending to your child is that you don’t respect your ex-spouse and therefore, your child doesn’t have to respect him/her either. You are also teaching your child to manipulate you. Once your child learns this skill, he/she will be using it on both of you. It is very important to understand that, even though you are divorced and you live separately and apart, you have children who love you both and need you both. By co-parenting you will help your children to regain the balance in their lives that was shattered when you were in the painful process of divorce. By co-parenting you will help your children learn that they can rely on you both in difficult situations. By co-parenting you will allow your children to grow into emotionally healthy and productive adults who will maintain relationships with both of you in the future.

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10 Tips For Dealing With Kids While Mediating

1. Remember That It’s Your Mediation, Not Theirs: Just like you didn’t share every up and down in your marriage with your children, you don’t need to share every twist and turn of your divorce mediation with them. Of course, the children should be advised, in age-appropriate terms, of the changes that will directly impact them. Above all, they should know that Mom and Dad will always love them and will always take care of them. 2. Don’t Criticize Each Other In Front Of The Children: Children deserve the opportunity to have strong, positive relationships with each of their parents. Criticizing your spouse in front of them will only cause them needless confusion and anxiety. Ultimately, that hurts the children as well as their relationships. 3. Don’t Use The Children As Messengers: Sure, they are convenient, often effective and often very willing means by which to transfer information to your spouse without having to face them. Resist this urge! If you have difficulty communicating with your spouse, use your mediator, your lawyer or your therapist – not your children. Remember, they are the product of the love you once had for one another. They should not be made into messengers or pawns. 4. You Are Still A Family: It is very easy for children, especially young ones, to believe that their parents’ divorce means that they are no longer part of a family. You need to reassure them that this is not the case. They need to understand that although Mom and Dad may not be married to one another, they are and always will be part of a family, and that Mom and Dad will always be their Mom and Dad. They need to understand that the details have changed, but the love, caring and commitment remain the same. 5. They Didn’t Cause The Divorce: Children need to understand that Mom and Dad’s decision to divorce has nothing to do with them. It is not the result of anything they did or didn’t do. It’s not about them, it’s about the two of you. 6. They Can’t Stop The Divorce: Sometimes children, especially younger children, harbor a reconciliation fantasy in which their actions lead Mom and Dad to get back together. You need to help them understand that your divorce is not something they have power over. 7. Identify Their Emotions and Concerns: Talk with your children, together if possible, about their emotions and concerns regarding your divorce. Try to make if feel safe and o.k. for them to talk about their feelings, which may be sad, angry or confusing. Make sure to be ready to listen when they are ready to talk about it. Stay tuned in, stay accessible to them. 8. It’s Not What You Say, It’s What You Do: Children are usually smarter than we give them credit for. They sometimes listen to what we say, but usually pay closer attention to what we do. If they see Mom and Dad acting civilly towards each other, speaking about each other in positive, respectful ways, and willing to be flexible, compromising and communicative with each, they will feel less insecure about the divorce mediation process. As grown ups, this ball is in our court. 9. Get Them Appropriate Help: A world of resource exists out there to assist children (and parents) with the emotions and processes of divorce. These include school-based counselors, child counselors, support groups, internet-based resources and the like. If you are to err, err on the side of having your child take advantage of these resources. 10. Keep Things In Perspective: Millions upon millions of Americans living today are the product of divorces during their childhood. Perhaps you were one of them. The vast majority of them get through their parents’ divorces without long-term ill effect. The odds of this good that your children will do so as well. The fact that you and your spouse have chosen divorce mediation over divorce litigation, and have thus chosen to make your divorce process faster, more cooperative and less acrimonious, substantially improves these odds.

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