The PT Blog

Collaborative Divorce Mediation: Is it the Right Choice for You?

Divorce scenarios are typically stereotyped as long, drawn-out court battles over children and property. If you’re entering divorce proceedings for the first time, you should know there are other options to settle your divorce. You can opt for a more peaceful divorce through collaborative divorce mediation. We use a team approach to work tog.

What is collaborative divorce mediation?

Unlike typical divorce scenarios, where you hire a lawyer to represent you, collaborative divorce is a solution where you and your spouse are both represented individually by collaborating lawyers. This approach helps you avoid going court, as you both meet with your legal representation to hash out the details of property division and divorce terms until the case is settled.

Collaborative divorce efforts include the advice of professionals who can help you through the process. Both spouses will get individual counseling from a qualified therapist to help with the stress of your divorce. Your therapist will help coach you through the mediation process and provide techniques to communicate effectively with your former partner.

Neutral financial advisors are also available to advise and help you divide up assets, property and personal belongings.

What are the benefits of collaborative representation?

This approach to divorce offers a lot of benefits:

  • It takes less time. With a company like Peace-Talks Mediation, you’ll be able to map out a timeline for all your proceedings when you meet with your mediation attorney.
  • It’s less costly. Paying for litigation can get very expensive, while this type of mediation is much more affordable. Contested divorces with complex custody agreements and business assets can cost up to $40,000, but mediation costs can begin as low as $4,500.
  • Your voice is heard. In a collaborative meeting, you can ask questions and make requests as part of an active discussion. You are in control of the final decisions, instead of being dependent on a judge’s ruling.
  • There’s a more relaxed environment. Appointments can be flexible and you can work around the schedules of your children and employment.
  • You still get legal representation. In a collaborative approach, you have a lawyer who is still looking out for your individual interests, so nothing is left undone and your rights are protected.

You can make it through a divorce without ever experiencing the stress of court. For more information on collaborative divorce mediation proceedings, contact a mediation-based law firm like Peace Talks.

Divorce Mediation Vs. Traditional Divorce

No divorce process is completely stress free, but if you choose mediation to settle your divorce case, you could save on time, stress, and money. While divorce mediation is not as common as traditional divorce litigation, there are many advantages to choosing divorce mediation that can benefit you, your spouse and your children.

What is mediation, and how is it different from typical divorce through the court system?

Mediation divorce is the most cost effective way to manage divorce proceedings. The divorcing couple meets with a mediator — a third-person party acts as a go-between to resolve difficult custody, property matters and financial matters. Through mediation, the couple has the opportunity to decide the final terms and outcomes of the divorce in a peaceful manner that benefits both parties. In many cases it’s best to choose a mediator who has experience in family law and who can make sure that all legal issues are resolved, so an attorney who specializes in mediation is a logical choice.

Benefits of Divorce Mediation:

  • Divorce mediation is significantly less expensive than going through a messy ugly hearing with a judge.
  • Divorce mediation allows you to work on your time schedule instead of being forced to work on the city’s time with scheduled hearings.
  • Divorce mediation gives both parties more flexibility because you can honestly discuss the terms of your parenting plan to ensure that your children are well cared for.
  • Divorce mediation is more humane and peaceful because the mediation sessions normally take place in a conference room instead of in a courtroom with multiple people around.
  • Divorce mediation is confidential and the discussions in divorce mediation do not become a part of public record.
  • Divorce mediation helps couples develop a communication plan that enables you to effectively communicate with each other post-divorce if children are involved.

The most significant difference, however, is that mediated divorces are not subject to arbitration. You and your estranged spouse make the final agreement, and you are not bound by the word or a judge or similar arbiter. Mediation is the method that helps you to create the ideal post-divorce scenario for your family.

What is the difference in cost?

Traditional divorce proceedings involve litigation and court proceedings. Some more complex cases go to full trial. Traditional divorce takes longer, and it can be significantly more expensive. A straightforward mediation costs as low as $10,000 and can go up depending on your assets and the number of children involved. Meanwhile, traditional divorces, complete with court fees, retainers, motions, and discoveries, can cost as much as $40,000 for just basic litigation and uncontested rulings. For many couples, mediation is sufficient for the needs of the family. To understand how divorce mediation works and if this is a good fit for you and your spouse, call Peace-Talks Mediation at (310) 301-2100.

Collaborative Divorce The Best Way To Divorce In California

You have decided your marriage is not working out. You want to divorce, but your friends have told you horror stories about dragging your divorce through the court system. You remember reading an article about Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” and her decision to use mediation instead of litigation. Where do you turn?? To collaborative divorce mediation at Peace Talks!

At Peace Talks, we do collaborative divorce: a non-adversarial approach to dissolution. We avoid the litigation over property, parental rights, and pride that destroy families. Peace Talks’ collaborative divorce is the preferable way to dissolve your marriage because it is 90% less expensive than litigation. It is confidential and private. Your discussions, disagreements and decisions are never public knowledge. Peace Talks makes divorce mediation a sane, sensible, and affordable alternative.

Practically speaking, collaborative divorce mediation involves a series of meetings between your partner and yourself, tailored to help you reach agreements in as amicable a manner as possible. A team of interdisciplinary specialists, an attorney, a therapist, a financial expert, and potentially other experts provide you with information to help you make excellent decisions that are in the best interests of your children and your family.

Collaborative divorce also demands another important factor: complete honest and full disclosure by both sides. A collaborative mediated divorce cannot be successful if facts are hidden from the other person. Thus, one of the first steps at Peace Talks is to voluntarily exchange all financial information. This enables our financial specialist to analyze your economic situation and present you and your partner with an accurate analysis of your financial situation. This information becomes the starting point for discussing the division of your household. An advantage of collaborative divorce is that you do not have to comply with mandated court rules. The two of you can come up with a solution that respects your shared goals.

During divorce, your life can seem chaotic, overwhelming and spinning out of control. At Peace Talks, together we develop a clear and systematic plan to keep the level of emotional strain to a minimum. While the process can be shorter than litigation, approximately 4 to 6 months, we work at your pace.
An additional benefit is that meetings at the Peace Talks’ offices are arranged to fit your time schedule, not an outside party like the civil court’s.

Another significant asset is that our mediators give you an opportunity to develop communication, self-management and negotiation skills that will help you during the divorce mediation process and beyond. The skills you achieve at Peace Talks allow you to be involved in the decision making process each step of the way. It also enables you to create a mediated settlement that attains the goals you mutually designed at your first meeting.

In our opinion, the most important reason to choose Peace Talks is that the well being of your children is protected. At Peace Talks, our team of mediation specialists ensures your children’s needs are paramount. With your input, we work to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your children. Not only do we consider your present situation, we discuss the developmental stages of your children and devise a plan that looks to the future while remaining flexible.

As you can see, at Peace Talks, the cooperative nature of collaborative divorce mediation can reduce the emotional stress caused by a break-up of the family and lead to a settlement that works for you and everyone involved. We believe by selecting this process you are ensuring the success of your future co- parenting and providing a safe family environment for your children to flourish.

Give Peace Talk a call today and schedule your complimentary consultation. See how collaborative divorce mediation can bring peace to your world. Call us at (310) 301-2100.

Protect Your Children: Get a Will!

While many of us may believe that estate planning is only for the rich or the elderly, you should know that this process is essential if you have children. At Peace Talks Mediation, not only do we help you with divorce mediation, but we also recommend how you can protect your most precious “possessions” your children. As we advocated in our previous blog, “If You Have Children, You Should Get a Trust!”, we now recommend you to get a will too. These two estate planning vehicles, a trust and a will, work together to protect and provide for your children in the event that you come to an untimely demise. Peace Talks Mediation encourages you to do the responsible thing: Get a Will!

Making a will is essential for people with young children because a will is the best way to transfer guardianship of minors. This means that you decide who you wish to raise your children if you are unable to do so, not a probate judge. Once you draw up a will with your estate-planning advisor, you may amend your will at any time. In fact Peace Talks thinks it’s a good idea to review it periodically. This is especially true if your marital status changes which can be peacefully and sanely accomplished through divorce mediation at Peace Talks.

As previously mentioned, a will is usually done at the same time that you create a trust. A trust is a legal mechanism that lets you put conditions on how your assets are distributed after you die, and it often lets you minimize gift and estate taxes. A will is still necessary because most trusts deal only with specific assets such as life insurance or a piece of property, but not the sum total of your holdings, for example distributing your jewelry or family artifacts. Additionally, the most valuable things that you leave for your children may not have any monetary value. These are the traditions and life lessons that define you as part of your own unique family. Peace Talks suggests the use of Ethical Wills, which are non-binding documents that allow you to pass on these intangible treasures to your loved ones.

Peace Talks wants to share some additional tips with you. You may prefer not to keep your original will in your safe-deposit box because some states will seal your box when you die and not allow it to be opened until the estate has been settled. Clearly, settling your estate is much easier with the original will being available. We suggest that you keep a copy of your will in your safe-deposit box, but give the original to your lawyer or place it in a fireproof box at your home or in your office. With the invention of the cloud, you are even able to scan all your important financial paperwork and keep a virtual copy of this material within a secure web site. It’s also essential to share the location of your trust and will as well as access to these documents with close family members, so that in the event of an emergency they will be able to obtain this vital information. Here at the California Peace Talks Office, we know that there is a potential for a disastrous earthquake. If all your estate documents were destroyed, a virtual copy of everything would be helpful to have.

Keep in mind that no one knows and loves your children like you do. By doing the type of estateplanning that Peace Talks has described, you are in control of making the decisions that are in the best interests of your children, especially appointing a guardian for them. And Peace Talks divorce mediation believes, isn’t that the way it should be? So get a will! Please give us a call to explore our mediation services at (310) 301-2100.

Divorced or Divorcing – How to have Happy Jolly Holidays!!

At Peace Talks, we know that the divorce process is stressful and creates emotional turmoil. And we also know that experiencing the winter holidays for the first time as divorced or divorcing can spike emotions to a whole other level. Especially if you have children, how can you keep the holiday spirit alive in the midst of this emotional upheaval?

During divorce mediation at Peace Talks, you have the advantage of receiving advice and coping skills to handle sensitively charged holiday situations and decisions. If you have not made the decision to use divorce mediation, or you are recently divorced, we have some recommendations for you to get through the holidays with your sanity and feelings intact.

Nothing will ruin the holidays more for you and your children, than fighting over holiday plans with your ex-spouse. As part of divorce mediation at Peace Talks, we devote an entire mediation session to creating your parenting plan. This plan includes a holiday schedule for your children and your family celebrations. By having a plan in advance, you can greatly reduce potential problems.

If you do not have a plan yet, create a holiday schedule NOW. It gives you and your children an opportunity to work together with a calendar and decide how the holidays will be shared. It is also possible to devise a plan that alternates every other year, so that one year your children are with you and your family, for example, on Thanksgiving and the next year, they are with your ex. Also you may want to maintain traditions that your children have enjoyed and associated with particular holidays, while at the same time being open and flexible to starting traditions of your own.

Basically, it all boils down to the fact that the more planning and arranging of these details that can be done before the holidays, the more time, energy, and desire everyone has for the celebrations. Planning holiday schedules effectively reduces family conflict and tension because everyone involved knows what to expect ahead of time.

Along with having a detailed holiday plan, Peace Talks wants to give you some helpful tips to help make your holidays brighter. If your well laid plans did not go off as scheduled, keep the situation in perspective. Especially if you have young children, flexibility is key to your celebration. Crankiness, illness, or high activity can all interfere with your ability to keep your plans on track. It’s best to try to go with the flow.

Another good tip is to keep your sense of humor. In high stress situations, it’s easy to get your buttons pushed by your kids, your relatives or even your ex. Try to make a joke. Laughter has a calming effect. It’s impossible to be yelling while you are laughing and laughter is contagious. Pass the joy of the season around.

It can’t be said enough that a key to a successful holiday celebrations is good communication between everyone. It’s a smart idea to sit down with your children and talk with them. Let them know you that going back and forth for the holidays between two families is tough, and it creates a lot of stress for everyone. Work as a team to anticipate the bumps that will occur and the possible solutions to resolve them.

One other important thing to keep in mind is to not make the holidays negative by badmouthing your ex. Meditate, self-sooth, talk with a friend, but keep the negative sentiments away from your children. It’s a fact that you are no longer the one family you use to be, but this is an opportunity to create new traditions, perhaps healthier ones for yourself and your children. You can make the season bright with good planning, open communications and a sense of humor –bring on the fun and good times. Happy Holidays from Peace Talks divorce mediation services!! If you would like to learn more about divorce mediation give us a call as (310) 301-2100.

Getting A Trust For The Sake of the Kids

If You Have Children, You Should Get a Trust!

For most of us, our children are our most precious “possessions”. At Peace Talks Mediation, we feel the exact same way and we make their well being the focus of our divorce mediation. However, while we may believe that we place our children’s interests as our highest priority, many of us have not taken the necessary steps to protect and provide for them in the event that we come to an untimely demise. Often we procrastinate believing that estate planning is only for the rich or the elderly. Or perhaps, we wishfully think that our extended family will jump in and take care of our children in case we die. At Peace Talks mediation, we encourage you to do the responsible thing: Get a Trust!

Financial planning is an essential part of protecting your children and creating a family trust is an excellent vehicle to accomplish this.A trust, which is a formal legal document,achieves many important things: It manages your money, and distributes it for you upon your death. It puts conditions on how and when your assets are distributed after you die; it can also reduce your estate and gift taxes. It enables your assets to be distributed efficiently without the cost, delay, and publicity of the probate court. It may also insulate your assets from creditors and lawsuits. Additionally, you are able to name a successor trustee who will manage your trust after you die, and is also empowered to do so if you become disabled. At Peace Talks’ divorce mediation, our financial experts can explain this process in detail to you.

This is the key fact: the truth is that all parents of young children, regardless of their net worth, need comprehensive estate planning. The reason is that if you don’t have an estate plan, you forfeit the opportunity to make many important decisions that you are in the best position to make. In Peace Talks’ opinion, this is the primary reason:You are able to choose a guardian for your minor children. If your children lost both you and your spouse in a tragic accident, would you trust a complete stranger to choose a guardian for them? We at Peace Talks mediation don’t believe you would. But that’s exactly what can happen if you don’t take the time to designate a guardian for your minor children. If you die intestate (without a will or trust), without having designated a guardian, you leave that important decision in the hands of a judge who doesn’t know you or your children. Peace Talks believes that would be a big mistake.

Next, you are able to choose the person who will manage the assets that you will leave for you children.With a trust in place, you can have some say in how your children’s money is spent. Setting up a trust for your children allows you to delay when they get control of assets you leave behind, or even stagger the distribution over a number of years. Otherwise, your children could receive their share of assets at 18 years of age, when they might not have the maturity to manage it.

Without a trust, you leave the decision making to a judge who doesn’t know anything about your financial values and will be required to appoint a guardian of your estate to oversee its management. As we urge at Peace Talks divorce mediation, all this can be avoided by proper advance estate planning. Remember these are important issues for your family. Since trusts are flexible, varied and complex with each type having its advantages and disadvantages, you should discuss your desires and goals thoroughly with your estate-planning attorney before setting one up.

Call us at Peace Talks divorce mediation for further information. (310) 301-2100.

Writing Effective Emails during Divorce – The BIFF Method

During the period of a peaceful divorce and emotional confusion, we sometimes say and write things to our partners that are offensive and inappropriate. Instead of clearly communicating our thoughts and calming down the situation, we respond with critical, judgmental words that inflame passions and throw fuel on the fire. Mr. Bill Eddy, LCSW and Attorney At Law, has developed a method for effectively dealing with hostile email and communications in a high conflict situation. He has entitled it BIFF – be Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. At Peace Talks, we encourage considering this communication style during the course of your mediation sessions. These types of concise messages help us assist you in moving your divorce forward with the goal of a congenial future relationship for the entire family.

In his book, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns, Bill Eddy explains what to do when you receive an email, social media post, or personal attack that is intensively emotional and out of proportion to the problem. In this situation, the hostile commentary blames you instead of the speaker who feels he or she has no responsibility for the problem or solution. The key thing to realize is that these personal attacks are not about you. It is the blamer’s inability to control him or herself that is the trigger. Since the individual is incapable of managing his or her own emotions, lashing out and feeling like a victim are the resulting consequences. In circumstances like this, the only thing you can do is manage your own response.

Mr. Eddy believes the best way to communicate with a high conflict personality is to be Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm (BIFF). A BIFF response is a balanced approach, which is not mean or confrontational, yet helps set limits and focuses on solving problems. The following examines the components of this approach:

BRIEF:

The point is to avoid triggering defensiveness and to shift to focusing on problem solving information. Don’t give too many words for the other person to react to. The more you say, the more likely you are going to generate another blaming response. By keeping it brief, there is less potentially negative information to provoke defensiveness.

Thus, writing a good BIFF email response is more about what you leave out, such as all those possible nasty retorts, than what you put in .

INFORMATIVE:

The next step is to be informative by giving a sentence or two of straight, useful information on the subject being discussed. This shifts the discussion to an objective subject rather than opinions about each of the participants. As you write, try to avoid getting emotionally hooked into defending yourself unnecessarily. Your information should be directed on something positive and future focused.

FRIENDLY:

A list of “do not’s” will provoke almost anyone’s defensiveness. A friendly response provides encouraging words, optimism that problems can be solved, and a sense of connection between the writer and reader. When your tone is friendly, it can calm the person down. This tactic may be able to move the other person back into logical thinking. Mr. Eddy believes that the combination of being friendly and informative seems to help the attacker shift in ways they cannot do for themselves. Ending the correspondence with a friendly comment, such as “I hope you have a nice weekend”, or “Warmest regards,” emphasizes your desire to keep things pleasant.

FIRM:

To create an effective email, use your BIFF response to end a hostile conversation respectfully or to narrow the communication to focus on two choices to solve a problem. Giving the other person a choice of two options is respectful and considerate ways to problem solve. Having only two choices helps eliminate the other person feeling defensive by having no choice or feeling overwhelmed by having too many choices.

In order to be effective, Mr. Eddy believes suggesting positive behaviors and/or providing deadlines for change is the preferred content strategy. It may be useful to educate about possible consequences and set limits. This method avoids threats which are nonproductive in favor of explaining consequences which provides helpful information.

If a person who has communicated with you in a high conflict manner feels respected, calm and focused on neutral information, they may be able to let go of the conflict and get themselves back to calm, logical thought. They can relax and do not feel they have to defend themselves, so they no longer need to attack you. The skills taught by Mr. Eddy are useful to learn to manage relationships with all types of people: bosses, clients, and even family members.

At Peace Talks, we want to help you improve your communication skills and consider incorporating the BIFF email process while you are going through this time of trauma. Hopefully, the lessons you learn will bring you more peace in your relationships and make this mediation process a more peaceful one.

What Makes Divorce Expensive?

Let’s just get this out of the way from the start. There are many ways to get divorced. You can represent yourself – a kind of do it yourself method. You can choose mediation or a collaborative practice process. Or finally, you could select litigation. Obviously (and I hope it’s obvious), litigation is the most expensive way to go.

Numerous factors cause a litigated divorce to be expensive. Proceeding through the court system usually involves using an attorney who requires a retainer and charges an hourly fee. There are various court costs such as the filing of a Petition, a Response, and Motions. If your matter cannot be resolved, then you may choose to have a judge or jury trial, which can exponentially increase your expense. As the case progresses, there may also be a request for a child custody evaluation, in addition to potential adult and/or child therapy sessions. As discussed below, other expenses may come into play such as an asset evaluation, and the potential use of a variety of specialists including tax, accounting or child experts.

Another key factor in determining your fees is how your soon-to-be ex-spouse handles your case. This can escalate your costs, or keep them manageable. If a scorched-earth tack is taken, your entire community assets may be spent on attorneys’ fees, and leave nothing to divide. Even if the other side’s attitude is not hostile, the attorney may have a disagreeable personality and cause everything to be more difficult to accomplish and therefore, more expensive. In essence, an attorney can choose a litigation path that exacerbates the fear and heightens conflict in this situation and escalates costs. Alternatively, an attorney can chose a path, which avoids drama and conflict and make divorce easier, quicker and less expensive.

An additional cost inflator is a divorce that involves complex, unusual, or large amounts of financial assets, whichtypically require financial experts to value the financial assets and a fair amount of negotiation to reach a settlement over how to divide the assets. Some financial assets are difficult to divide in a divorce due to legal issues with who can hold title to the assets or merely finding ways to divide typically indivisible assets. Not all financial assets are easily sold or make sense to sell at the time of divorce, which can add another wrinkle in the property division. With the sale or transfer of financial assets can come tax implications for one or both parties and therefore including a tax professional is often necessary. (Cha-Ching!)

These issues can hold true not only for passive financial investments, but also for active business interests in which one or both spouses have management and/or ownership interests in a business. The business may not only be a source of assets for the marital estate, but also may be a source of income for one or both spouses. Valuing the assets plus analyzing the revenue stream may require expert valuation. If there are other owners in the business then that can create additional problems in negotiating how to deal with the parties’ ownership in the business as the other owners likely do not want to have the business become subject to the post-divorce involvement of both spouses.

Another cost inflator is fighting over custody issues. When the children become a focus of conflict in the divorce there are a number of expenses that may accrue. One or both parents may ask the court to appoint an attorney ad litem, a guardian ad litem, or an amicus attorney. These third parties provide various roles on behalf of the court or the children to advocate for the interests of the children rather than the parents. They can be helpful, but the parties will be the ones financing the costs of that third party. There may also be expenses involved in home studies, therapists, counselors and other professional services related to the children and their role in the conflict.

However, the ultimate sinkhole for money in a divorce is a Trial. Between the waiting for courtroom time, witnesses, experts and jurors, and the presentation of the evidence, you have very little control over the cash flow for this endeavor. Ultimately, the emotional benefit of having your day in court rarely matches the emotional detriment of spending all that time and money. Many people labor under the impression that by having their day in court, the judge will declare them the better spouse and give them a landslide victory on the property and child issues. That is generally not what happens. Judges tend to divide assets 50-50, and do what’s in the best interests of the child using their criteria, not yours. So ultimately bushels full of money are spent and no one is happier, just financially broke.

There are alternatives to litigation and an expensive divorce: mediation. There are no dueling lawyers and expensive court battles. Both parties come together with honesty, transparency and in good faith to reach an agreement, which they can live with and is in the best interests of their children. In this way, you are saving money, time, stress and energy that could be better spent moving on with your new lives.

At Peace Talks, our goal is to keep your costs at a minimum while at the same time to provide efficient, comprehensive, and emotional support and guidance through this family trauma. With excellent financial advice, you are able to strategize an agreement, which works best for your family needs and future. Call Peace Talks, and learn the definition of a “peaceful divorce”, and retain the financial ability to proceed forward with your life.

What is a Legal Separation?

In California, there are three ways to end a marriage: divorce, legal separation, and annulment. At Peace Talks we want you to know your options and we will focus on legal separation in this article. The process for a legal separation is similar to filing for a divorce, but there are some distinct considerations you should know. First, a legal separation does NOT end a marriage. Thus, if either of you want to remarry, you cannot. In essence, a legal separation, let’s you separate your finances and property and allows you to “trial” how things will be separated and handled as if it were a divorce.

The grounds for a legal separation are the same as they are for a divorce. However, there is no residency requirement for a legal separation. In other words, you do not need to have been residing in California for 6 months prior to filing with the court, but you must reside in the county where the papers are filed at the time the case commences. The written agreement filed with the court addresses and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the parties while they are living apart. This means the assignment of assets and the division of property and debts. In addition to delineating the finances, if there are children, the court documents will detail child custody and support arrangements, visitation schedules, and all the other issues that are handled in a regular divorce proceeding.

If you decide you want to separate, you also have the option of entering into a separation agreement. This would be a legally binding contract between the spouses that encompasses the same issues as a court ordered legal separation would, but is done without a judge.

There are some benefits for opting for a legal separation versus a divorce. A person’s marital status is preserved which can be important for religious reasons. Especially for couples who are unable to divorce, this alternative allows them to keep their status, yet live their lives as if they are unmarried. As mentioned above, it gives a couple an opportunities to live apart and see if divorce is actually what they want to do. By going through the legal separation process, you are establishing exactly how things would be handled if you were divorcing. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your decisions are what you can live with because usually a judge will look to the terms of your legal separation as the terms of your divorce.

Another benefit is the ability to continue your health insurance under your spouse’s coverage, but you will need to check to see if the policy addresses consequences if a couple separates.

Also, this status may allow you to keep certain military benefits. There is a ten year marriage rule to qualify for certain social security benefits, and if you have not met this anniversary, the time period of separation may allow you to reach this goal. There may also be possible tax benefits. Unlike a divorce that has a waiting time for finality of at least 6 months, a separation takes effect immediately after it is ordered.

If you are considering a divorce, but there is a potential for reconciliation, taking legal action may not be the choice to make. In many circumstances, couples filing for legal separation and going through this exhaustive process ultimately divorce in time. So it’s important to do some serious thinking before this decision is reached. At Peace Talks, we are available for consultation for both of you to consider all of your options and make the best choice for your family. Call us today. We are here to help.

Spousal Support- How is it calculated and how will I Receive any?

The issue of spousal support is always a part of any divorce case or mediation. The circumstances for an award of spousal support are evaluated individually and there is no automatic dollar determined for each person. The process of calculating spousal support is a process of weighing specific factors, which are provided in Family Law Code Section 4320. According to statute, the judge must consider the following circumstances in establishing permanent spousal support:

(a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:

(1) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.

(2) The extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.

(b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.

(c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.

(d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.

(e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.

(f) The duration of the marriage.

(g) The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.

(h) The age and health of the parties

(i) Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party.

(j) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.

(k) The balance of the hardships to each party.

(l) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court’s discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.

(m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Section 4325.

(n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

You can see from this laundry list of factors some sections may apply to your situation and others may not. It is important to know that during mediation at Peace Talks, spousal support is a topic that is discussed in the context of a negotiated agreement between both parties. Unlike the requirements of the court, we can consider the issues that are important to you and reach a spousal support figure that is specific to your family’s needs.

As mentioned in the long list above, the length of the marriage is considered. In a marriage of less than 10 years, the general rule is that the spousal support will last for half the length of the marriage. For example, if you were married for 5 years, your spousal support will last for two and a half years. However, the exact amount of time is left to the discretion of the court. Usually in longer marriages, the court will not give a definitive cut-off date for support. The burden will be on the party who is paying the support to demonstrate it is no longer needed. If you remarry, your spousal support is terminated.

Once you have separated, you may seek temporary spousal support. In a litigated case, to obtain support a motion for an order is necessary. The purpose of temporary spousal support is to maintain the living conditions and standards of both parties until permanent support has been established. The Superior Courts of Los Angeles and Orange County use a guideline called the Santa Clara Guideline formula for calculating temporary support. This guideline provides that spousal support can be up to 40% of his or her net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income. As with permanent spousal support, there may be extenuating circumstances, i.e. serious health condition of one spouse, that makes an increase (or at times, decrease) available.

If you do go to court to get an order for support, the judge will want to preserve the status quo and provide the requesting spouse with sufficient income for basic needs consistent with the parties’ lifestyle. It should be noted that the court would not order a spouse who has been the primary caretaker at home to seek immediate employment. However, a review of the spousal support factors above does require that an individual become self-supporting in a reasonable amount of time.

Again at Peace Talks, our clients wish to avail themselves of an open, transparent, and trusting mediation process. It is our experience that in most cases our clients are able to work out an amount of temporary support that preserves the status quo until the mediation is complete. We know treating each other with respect and dignity is important and everyone’s best interests will be considered.

Additional information to be aware of is the tax consequences of spousal support. The Internal Revenue Code provides that all spousal support payments are tax deductible by the paying spouse and taxable to the recipient spouse as “ordinary income.” Since we are able to discuss creative solutions at Peace Talks, it is possible that you may decide with your partner to not receive “spousal” support, but be compensated in another way to achieve the assistance that you need. That is the beauty of mediation.

Child Support- How Is It Calculated and How Will I Get It?

The issue of child support is always a part of any divorce case or mediation. The amount of child support you will pay is explained and determined according to the California Family Law Code. In order to ensure that California law conforms to the federal regulations for guideline child support, a complicated formula has been devised which looks mainly at two factors: each parent’s income and the time spent by each parent with the child/children. There are other additional factors which may impact the child support payment such as child care expenses, home mortgage payments, tax filing status and other costs specific to your family situation.

These numbers are inserted into a computer program called a Disso Master to calculate your child support payment. The determined amount is the minimum level of child support for each of your children that a judge will require you to pay. This computer calculation provides uniformity to child support across California.

It is important to know that during mediation at Peace Talks, a DissoMaster figure may be discussed; however, mediation results in a negotiated agreement between both parties. Thus, you and your partner may arrive at a child support figure that perhaps differs from the DissoMaster calculation, but can be acceptable to you based on facts specific to your family’s needs.

The principles behind the child support statutes are based on the belief that parents’ first and principal obligation is to support their children according to the parents’ situation and economic position in life. In translation, this means that children of a television celebrity may receive thousands of dollars of child support a month in consideration of their life style, which may include private schools and specialized lessons. In contrast, the children of two school teachers who attend public school could conceivably be awarded much less money in support.

Additionally, it is important to know that both parents are mutually responsible for the support their children. Furthermore, you should keep in mind that child support continues until your child is 18 years old or if your child is a full-time high school student and not self -supporting, your child support is extended until the child is 19 years old or completes 12th grade.

Additionally, the basic child support guideline amount may be increased by “add-ons”. These are specific expenses that parents may be ordered to contribute for the benefit of their children. Family Code Section 4062 lists two types of child support add-ons: mandatory and discretionary. The mandatory add-ons which the judge is required to order include child care costs related to the employment or to the reasonable necessary education of training for employment skills; and for the reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children. Discretionary add-ons include costs related to the educational or other special needs of the children and potential travel expenses for visitation. Both parents share these additional expenses equally unless this is not reasonable and then they are apportioned based on each person’s net spendable income.

There is a formula that the court uses to determine the parents’ respective net spendable income for the purposes of determining child support add-ons. Family Code Section §4061(b) provides that first the guideline child support amount is calculated. Then the amount of the guideline child support is deducted from the income of the paying parent, but not added to the income of the receiving parent. Finally, if one parent is paying spousal support, the amount of the spousal support is deducted from the income of the paying parent and added to the income of the receiving parent.

All of the above child support criteria are rules that are applied to a case that is in litigation. During a Peace Talks’ mediation all facets of support for your children are discussed and taking care of them both financially and emotionally are our key concerns. We will work with you to find a child support figure that fits for your family.

How does Team Mediation Work & Why is It So Effective?

Congratulations! You are considering mediation as the process for resolving your divorce. In contrast to litigation, mediation is the sane, efficient and cost effective way to work through your potentially difficult issues and preserve your family relationships. At Peace Talks, we use the “Team Mediation” approach and we want to share with you why this is so effective.

First, you are entering a process where you and your partner will be in control of the outcome. In other words, you will determine the terms of your property division, the planning for your children, and any child or spousal support. This freedom allows you to design an agreement that works for you and your family’s needs, not one dictated by the court system.

Next, a team will be assembled to facilitate your mediation sessions. Who are the team members and why is each one important to the process? As you are aware, part of the divorce procedure is to divide your community property – that is the property and assets acquired during your marriage. To assist with the financial matters, Peace Talks offers a financial neutral to help you organize, evaluate, budget and divide your property. The financial works with both parties to provide an objective view of your finances. This person is a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFATM) who has had advanced training in the specialization of divorce. By having a financial expert involved, you will have an accurate assessment of your financial picture and be able to make informed choices.

Another valuable team member is the mental health coach. From our experiences at Peace Talks, we have witnessed the traumatic and volatile nature of the divorce process. During mediation, you and your partner may have feelings of anger, hurt, humiliation, loss, abandonment or perhaps powerlessness. All these emotions are normal within the context of this overwhelming event. Our mental health coaches are professionally trained family and child specialists who are present in the room to help you process your emotions and keep the mediation moving as fast or as slowly as you want. If necessary, you may have a separate session with them in their office or request a break to get the mental health support you need.

The final team member is the attorney. This person has background in family law and can answer the “legal” questions that arise in connections with property, parenting or support issues. Having an attorney present also gives you an idea of what potential litigation outcomes could occur if your matter was proceeding in court instead of at Peace Talks. While the attorney is not there to give you specific legal advice, she will provide legal information when it is relevant or requested. You and your partner are always able to seek your own outside legal counsel at any point in the process.

Clearly a team approach ensures that all of your needs, whether financial, emotional or legal, will be met during Peace Talks mediation. Our goal is to make the process as cost effective, efficient and healthful as possible. We know when you have children their best interests are your focus and we want to achieve a successful outcome so that you can continue to interact with each other and your children for a lifetime. Call us so that our team can help make this happen for you!

California’s Cooling OFF Period

While California may be a “hot” state, we experience “cooling off” periods too. In a family law context, this “cooling off” specifically applies to the amount of time that must pass before a divorce is final. The theory behind this “cooling off” period is to prevent couples from rushing to divorce. In California, the law requires a six (6) month period before a divorce may be finalized. This means from the time that your Petition for Divorce is served until the time the clerk stamps you’re Judgment of Divorce, six months must have occurred. However, in reality in California the process actually takes much longer.

This extended time period could occur due to a number of factors. The first factor is the number of issues that the court is requested to resolve. The more issues there are, the longer the process. For example, if you have a short-term marriage (under ten years), no children and little property, your matter could possibly be resolved within the cooling off period (of course that’s assuming no contested matters). In contrast, if you have two children, one spouse self employed with a business to evaluate, the other spouse a stay at home party, a residence with rental property and a demand for extensive spousal support with contested custody, the case could take months, if not years.

The second factor that may complicate things is the personality of the parties. For example, if you or your spouse refuses to accept the inevitability of the divorce and is determined to do anything and everything to delay the divorce process, this can extend the proceedings well beyond six months.

Another factor to consider is the personality of your attorneys. If one of you retains an attorney who is focused on a global settlement and encourages dialogue, while the other attorney hired prefers to litigate about every single potential issue, the opportunity for a quick resolution may evaporate. Attorneys with different styles could create a contentious atmosphere which breeds motions and retaliation. Even if one of the parties does not want to engage in fighting, he or she must respond to the incoming missiles. This can be exacerbated if you or your partner has a large checkbook and can finance exorbitant legal fees.

The next factor is really out of your hands. This has to deal with the court’s calendar; since the judicial budget has been slashed by the legislature, the number of courtrooms and judicial officers has been dramatically reduced. Under these circumstances, matters can be continued several times due to the court’s limited courtroom availability. The reduction of court staff has also increased the turn around time of filed documents of Request and Declaration for Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

Another critical factor in elevating the amount of time divorces can take is the honesty of you and your spouse. The first step in the divorce process is the filing of Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure. Both of you are legally required to disclose your assets and debts –all of them. If either one of you fails to be transparent in your disclosures or provides incomplete information, this will cause undue delay as well as legal fees if motions and court intervention is needed to determine the total picture of your assets.

As you can see, a six-month cooling off period exists, but in reality, it is rare that a couple is able to complete their divorce process within six months. However another alternative is available to you if you want to resolve your divorce in a sane, sensible and fair way at a reasonable cost – try Mediation. Call us and see what mediation is all about.

5 Reasons to Keep Your Divorce Out of Social Media

Today, communication is instantaneous. Like the phrase, “a shot heard around the world”, an online post is sent into the media stratosphere with the potential to surface anywhere, be read by anyone and unfortunately remain forever. You’re getting divorced. You may or may not be happy about this, or perhaps worse case scenario, you had no idea your marriage was in trouble until you saw your spouse’s Facebook page or someone sent you a Snapchat or an Instagram of something you wish you never saw. We can use our imaginations and think of all kinds of compromising positions that could be seen online.

Let’s consider specific reasons to keep YOUR divorce off social media.

First, the divorce process begins. You’re hurt, maybe even devastated. Do you really want to cry your eyes out online? Consider your reputation and your integrity. Do you want potential employers, or your current employer knowing your emotional state of mind and potential thoughts of revenge?

Second, what if you make your case online concerning how you were wronged and disparage your partner’s actions and character. It is highly possible someone who sees this information may not see the situation the same way you do, and an endless back and forth of accusations and counter attacks occurs. And what do you do if you find out that your version of the facts was wrong. Social media is not a giant white board that you can easily erase.

Third, another critical issue to consider is your children and family. Chances are your children are much more social media savvy than you are. Anything that you post online will probably be found and read by them. It may even be re-posted or re-tweeted without your knowing about it. If they find criticisms and attacks of one of their parents, you may be doing irreparable harm to their relationship with you or your partner. It certainly does not make it easy to promote smooth visitations or family holidays. Furthermore, you will have no leg to stand on if you discipline or reprimand your child for his/her social media use.

Fourth, once information is placed on social media, it can be viewed and used by anyone. Consider this before your anger or desire for revenge prompts you to share private business or financial information about your spouse or you online. Unlike the Internal Revenue Service of yesteryear, the I.R.S. is online. They read social media, review court filings, and investigate bank loan applications among other things. When you disclose private information that may not be accurate, or that contradicts a document prepared under penalty of perjury, you run the risk of some very unpleasant results if that material falls into the wrong hands. And you should know that there is a whistleblower’s statute that provides for a third party to receive 30% of the revenue recovered by the I.R.S. based on the disclosed information. So think again when you decide to post your business balance sheets and recognize others may be watching

Fifth, while it is true, you may be going on social media with your divorce woes to solicit condolences and words of wisdom and encouragement that may not be the reaction you get. If your friends read your posts and grief journal, they may rally around you –at least initially. The chaos and turbulence of a divorce has a tendency to sweep everyone and everything overboard in its wake. The recovery from this trauma can be extensive and you may find your friendships on life support instead of being a lifeboat.

These are only a few reasons why your divorce should stay offline. As you can see, the consequences for failure to heed these warnings can be catastrophic for your finances, your job, your friends and most importantly your children. Think and pause before you go online. We are sure you will be glad you did.

How to File for a Divorce in California

At Peace Talks, an outstanding divorce mediation office, we feel it is very important that you know the California divorce family law process. Before we embark on explaining the California Family Law Court system, HOW TO FILE FOR DIVORCE IN CALIFORNIA.

At Peace Talks, an outstanding divorce mediation office, we feel it is very important that you know the California divorce family law process. Before we embark on explaining the California Family Law Court system, we want to make sure you know that going to court is not the only way to solve family law disputes. Divorce mediation at Peace Talks is an excellent alternative.

Divorce Mediation in Los Angeles and California is preferable because:
1) You will directly participate in finding solutions;
2) You will be able to resolve your dispute sooner;
3) It will be much less expensive;
4) You will end the process with a better relationship with your former spouse; and
5) It will be less stressful than court hearings.

These are all excellent reasons to choose mediation for your divorce in Los Angeles or in the state of California.

With that being said, it’s important that you are knowledgeable about the Family Law Courts and the role they play in your divorce or divorce mediation. Once you have decided that you want to get divorced either through the court method or divorce mediation, many legal forms have to be filed to begin and complete the process. If you choose to hire an attorney, that professional will file the paperwork for you after learning all of the relevant facts about your case. If you decide to do it yourself, you will need to complete the forms and file them with the court. At Peace Talks, we file these California divorce court forms for you after discussing them with you at your initial mediation session.

All the necessary California divorce forms are available online on the California Courts website (www.courts.ca.gov). The court has provided instructions and videos for every form. Most of the material is comprehensible and the information makes it easier to work through the process; however with divorce mediation at Peace Talks, we explain all the information to you in detail.

While all California courts use the same basic set of forms, there may be additional forms required based on which county you live in. When you go online and select the courthouse you will be filing in, there will be additional links and information to determine which additional forms, if any, are needed. Peace Talks suggests you avoid this potentially complicated process and choose us to file the court forms for your divorce mediation.

In order to begin the divorce process in California, you or your spouse needs to complete a Petition for Divorce Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-100). By completing the Petition, you are now the “Petitioner” or initiator of this case. Along with the Petition, you will need a Summons (Family Law Form FL-110), and Proof of Service of Summons (Family Law Form FL-115).

Divorcing in California requires a six (6) month “cooling off” period before a divorce may be finalized to prevent couples from rushing to divorce. The counting of the California six-month “cooling off” period does not begin until the Petitioner has served the Petition on the Respondent (your spouse, the responding party). While these forms come with instructions, Peace Talks’ team of divorce mediators will take the guesswork out and streamline the process for you through divorce mediation.

If you have children under the age of 18 years old, the court requires additional documents to be filed. By submitting your case to the court’s jurisdiction, the judge now has the power to determine the custody and child support awarded in your case. Therefore, you need to complete the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (Family Law Form FL-105/GC120), the Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (optional Family Law Form FL-311), and the Property Declaration (optional Family Law Form FL-160). Please note that all the declarations and sworn statements must be signed in the presence of a notary. When you fill out these forms with Peace Talks’ mediators, we supply the notary and the filing of these documents is handled quickly and efficiently for you.

After the Respondent, your soon to be ex-spouse, is served with the Petition, he or she must complete the Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-120) and either Proof of Personal Service (Family Law Form FL-330) or Proof of Service by Mail (Family Law Form FL-335) depending on how the Respondent chooses to serve his or her response. Again if there are children, the Respondent needs to complete the Family Law Form FL-105/GC-120 (the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) and the Family Law Form FL -311 concerning custody and visitation. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, these forms are completed simultaneously and filed for you in the proper order.

As the Petitioner, once you have completed the above-mentioned documents, you need to go to your local courthouse. There at the clerk’s office you will file the Summons, Petition, and the relevant forms if you have children. To find your local courthouse, you may enter your zip code on the superior court website for the county within which you reside. It should be noted that in order to obtain a divorce in California, you must have been a resident of the state for the prior six months. Furthermore, you must have lived in the county in which you filed for at least the prior three months. All of these concerns are handled by Peace Talks. You do not need to go to court; your divorce mediator handles the filing of the forms for you and makes sure that you have complied with all of the legal requirements.

There is a filing fee for filing your Petition and other documents. The only way to avoid the fee is to fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), which will be reviewed by the court. If the court agrees that your income information dictates that you cannot afford the fee, it will be waived. The court clerk will take your documents, enter a file stamp and return copies to you. At Peace Talks, the cost of filing the forms is included in the affordable cost of your divorce mediation.

The next step in this process is to serve your Petition on your spouse. Since the Petition is the document that initiates the case, there are special rules to follow. For a fee, you can serve your documents by having a county sheriff or professional process server deliver the documents. If your spouse has an attorney, the service must be done on his or her counsel. If your spouse has not retained a lawyer and is representing him or herself, use the individual’s place of residence. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, all service costs and fees are avoided since we handle everything for you.

Another method of service is to ask a responsible friend or relative over the age of 18 years old who is not involved in the case to hand deliver the papers to your spouse. If your spouse will cooperate, you may use the service by mail option and, along with a stamped copy of the Petition and other relevant documents you filed with the court, provide a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt (Family Law Form FL-117) for your spouse to complete. Your spouse will return this Notice to you for filing with the court. Since Peace Talks divorce mediation is a peaceful and cooperative process between you and your spouse, the service of forms will never be an issue and you can focus on the reorganization of your family.

As described above, the family law court system may seem overwhelming, but the superior court’s website and other online sites offer extensive information on how to file for divorce in California. BUT WHY DEAL WITH THIS? Consider divorce mediation at Peace Talks. Why? Because once a legal action commences, the attorneys and parties usually view the case as a win/loose proposition. Each side will do all it can to “beat” the other side. This may involve piles of discovery, questions and documents that you have to prepare, and quite possibly your deposition, your sworn testimony before a court reporter taken by your spouse’s attorney. Each of these stages of the case is time consuming, expensive, and potentially stressful for you and your family. Call Peace Talks instead and learn how Peace Talks divorce mediation can help you with the peaceful reorganization of your family through mediation. You will be glad you did. Contact us at (310) 301-2100.

e want to make sure you know that going to court is not the only way to solve family law disputes. Divorce mediation in Los Angeles is an excellent alternative.

Divorce Mediation in California is preferable because:
1) You will directly participate in finding solutions;
2) You will be able to resolve your dispute sooner;
3) It will be much less expensive;
4) You will end the process with a better relationship with your former spouse; and
5) It will be less stressful than court hearings.

These are all excellent reasons to choose mediation for your divorce.

With that being said, it’s important that you are knowledgeable about the Family Law Courts and the role they play in your divorce or divorce mediation. Once you have decided that you want to get divorced either through the court method or divorce mediation, many legal forms have to be filed to begin and complete the process. If you choose to hire an attorney, that professional will file the paperwork for you after learning all of the relevant facts about your case. If you decide to do it yourself, you will need to complete the forms and file them with the court. At Peace Talks, we file these California divorce court forms for you after discussing them with you at your initial mediation session.

All the necessary California divorce forms are available online on the California Courts website (www.courts.ca.gov). The court has provided instructions and videos for every form. Most of the material is comprehensible and the information makes it easier to work through the process; however with divorce mediation at Peace Talks, we explain all the information to you in detail.

While all California courts use the same basic set of forms, there may be additional forms required based on which county you live in. When you go online and select the courthouse you will be filing in, there will be additional links and information to determine which additional forms, if any, are needed. Peace Talks suggests you avoid this potentially complicated process and choose us to file the court forms for your divorce mediation.

In order to begin the divorce process in California, you or your spouse needs to complete a Petition for Divorce Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-100). By completing the Petition, you are now the “Petitioner” or initiator of this case. Along with the Petition, you will need a Summons (Family Law Form FL-110), and Proof of Service of Summons (Family Law Form FL-115).

California law requires a six (6) month “cooling off” period before a divorce may be finalized to prevent couples from rushing to divorce. The counting of the California six-month “cooling off” period does not begin until the Petitioner has served the Petition on the Respondent (your spouse, the responding party). While these forms come with instructions, Peace Talks’ team of divorce mediators will take the guesswork out and streamline the process for you through divorce mediation.

If you have children under the age of 18 years old, the court requires additional documents to be filed. By submitting your case to the court’s jurisdiction, the judge now has the power to determine the custody and child support awarded in your case. Therefore, you need to complete the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (Family Law Form FL-105/GC120), the Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (optional Family Law Form FL-311), and the Property Declaration (optional Family Law Form FL-160). Please note that all the declarations and sworn statements must be signed in the presence of a notary. When you fill out these forms with Peace Talks’ mediators, we supply the notary and the filing of these documents is handled quickly and efficiently for you.

After the Respondent, your soon to be ex-spouse, is served with the Petition, he or she must complete the Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-120) and either Proof of Personal Service (Family Law Form FL-330) or Proof of Service by Mail (Family Law Form FL-335) depending on how the Respondent chooses to serve his or her response. Again if there are children, the Respondent needs to complete the Family Law Form FL-105/GC-120 (the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) and the Family Law Form FL -311 concerning custody and visitation. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, these forms are completed simultaneously and filed for you in the proper order.

As the Petitioner, once you have completed the above-mentioned documents, you need to go to your local courthouse. There at the clerk’s office you will file the Summons, Petition, and the relevant forms if you have children. To find your local courthouse, you may enter your zip code on the superior court website for the county within which you reside. It should be noted that in order to obtain a divorce in California, you must have been a resident of the state for the prior six months. Furthermore, you must have lived in the county in which you filed for at least the prior three months. All of these concerns are handled by Peace Talks. You do not need to go to court; your divorce mediator handles the filing of the forms for you and makes sure that you have complied with all of the legal requirements.

There is a filing fee for filing your Petition and other documents. The only way to avoid the fee is to fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), which will be reviewed by the court. If the court agrees that your income information dictates that you cannot afford the fee, it will be waived. The court clerk will take your documents, enter a file stamp and return copies to you. At Peace Talks, the cost of filing the forms is included in the affordable cost of your divorce mediation.

The next step in this process is to serve your Petition on your spouse. Since the Petition is the document that initiates the case, there are special rules to follow. For a fee, you can serve your documents by having a county sheriff or professional process server deliver the documents. If your spouse has an attorney, the service must be done on his or her counsel. If your spouse has not retained a lawyer and is representing him or herself, use the individual’s place of residence. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, all service costs and fees are avoided since we handle everything for you.

Another method of service is to ask a responsible friend or relative over the age of 18 years old who is not involved in the case to hand deliver the papers to your spouse. If your spouse will cooperate, you may use the service by mail option and, along with a stamped copy of the Petition and other relevant documents you filed with the court, provide a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt (Family Law Form FL-117) for your spouse to complete. Your spouse will return this Notice to you for filing with the court. Since Peace Talks divorce mediation is a peaceful and cooperative process between you and your spouse, the service of forms will never be an issue and you can focus on the reorganization of your family.

As described above, the family law court system may seem overwhelming, but the superior court’s website and other online sites offer extensive information on how to file for divorce in California. BUT WHY DEAL WITH THIS? Consider divorce mediation at Peace Talks. Why? Because once a legal action commences, the attorneys and parties usually view the case as a win/loose proposition. Each side will do all it can to “beat” the other side. This may involve piles of discovery, questions and documents that you have to prepare, and quite possibly your deposition, your sworn testimony before a court reporter taken by your spouse’s attorney. Each of these stages of the case is time consuming, expensive, and potentially stressful for you and your family. Call Peace Talks instead and learn how Peace Talks divorce mediation can help you with the peaceful reorganization of your family through mediation. You will be glad you did. Contact us at (310) 301-2100.

Divorce Continuum

Divorce Resolution Continuum

By Diana Mercer, Attorney-Mediator, copyright 2003

The decision to divorce is followed by a number of choices for how a case might be filed and later resolved. Some of the steps are a loop, and others may be mixed and matched, but the general continuum, from least confrontational to most confrontational, is:

Decision to Divorce

• No response: spouse ignores petition, or is missing = proceed by Default

• Kitchen Table discussion on how to resolve case, do-it-yourself papers

• See a lawyer, get an idea of rights, then resolve around the Kitchen Table and DIY

• Use a paralegal or one lawyer to draft the papers, no individual representation

• Individual representation with lawyer for one party only who helps parties settle informally, without court

Mediation

• Mediation with lawyers involved, to a more or lesser degree

• Streamlined Collaborative Divorce

• Collaborative Divorce

• Start litigation

• Litigation at first but ultimately settle

• Litigation at first, but use Private Judge or Arbitrator for final decision

• Litigation and Trial

Know your choices. Litigation attorneys have a reputation for determining the total amount of your net assets, dividing by their hourly rate, and then that’s how long your case takes. Some cases cannot avoid litigation, but understand the toll and the cost. https://www.peace-talks.com/compare.php

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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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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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 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

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.

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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.

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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:

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 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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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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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:

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 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

Low Cost Divorce

In response to the recession, Peace Talks now offers a couple of new services.
I hope you’ll keep us in mind if you come across couples needing either of the following:
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 my paralegal who will do the intake and all the paperwork. She is also a trained mediator and is able to handle minor things that come up, but Plan A is that people already have an agreement.
As a practical matter, an attorney drafts the “important parts” of the Judgment. I also supervise and proofread.
divorce mediation
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

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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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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.  

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 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:

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 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.

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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. 

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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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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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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:

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 Making Divorce Work

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:

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Sincerely (and I do mean that),

Diana Mercer

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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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

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:

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 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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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

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.

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 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:

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 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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Is Divorce Failure?

Family Mediation and Failure

Many clients have told me that they viewed getting divorced as a their greatest failure as an adult.  Even their body language told me they weren’t so proud to be in my office speaking with me about it.

When you do take that oath and enter into those sacred bonds of marriage, you believe it will last forever.  You never plan on getting divorced; it’s dictated by circumstances that feel out of your control.  However, you can take that control back in determining how to handle divorce when it happens to you.

Of course, there’s always the famous “going out in a blaze” approach, which may or may not include intense gossiping, rounds of “he-said she-said” and creating a bonfire out of your spouses belongings (not an unpopular route from my experience).

divorce mediation

Fortunately for the rest of us, there is a way that allows you to part in a respectful way that is fair to both parties, and doesn’t drudge up any unecessary drama.  It’s called Family Mediation.   It’s truly divorce made easy.  Or at least easier. Signing up for Family Mediation services is a way to avoid expensive trips to your swanky Los Angeles divorce lawyer.

Even if you feel you have failed as a partner in a marriage, it is still your call whether to fail at being a responsible adult.  Divorce is tricky, so you want to come out of it feeling good about yourself and your history together.  If you care about your relationship, give Mediation Services a shot, it could give you results that you’re looking for.

A spoiled relationship is one of those things that we just can’t control, at least not once it’s happened and it’s beyond repair.  It could start with a small incident and gradually build up to a separation.  It happens all the time.  To call that a failure would be an injustice.  What you can control is how you react to it.  Working things out peacefully through Family Mediation is a way to help eliminate the burden of a drawn out divorce and still keep on good terms with your spouse.

Even the best of us get unlucky.  My mother, the most kind and gentle person I ever knew, succumbed to cancer in 2010.  My friend from here in Los Angeles, adopted a drug-addicted boy who is now stricken with a life threatening illness.  The world is full of happenings beyond our control.

Somebody once said, “it’s not success that makes us great, but how we deal with failure.”  If divorce comes your way, you can greet it with strife and aggression or you can welcome it in and deal with it in a calm way that ensures you will get through it without unnecessary fallout.

Ask yourself these questions:

Low Cost Divorce

In response to the recession, Peace Talks now offers a couple of new services.
I hope you’ll keep us in mind if you come across couples needing either of the following:
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 my paralegal who will do the intake and all the paperwork. She is also a trained mediator and is able to handle minor things that come up, but Plan A is that people already have an agreement.
As a practical matter, an attorney drafts the “important parts” of the Judgment. I also supervise and proofread.
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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

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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:

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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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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:

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 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

Family Law Mediation Success

Eleven years ago, I traded in my fancy shmancy car for a used Honda Accord.  It wasn’t just a symbolic act; I knew I was going to need the money I would save on car payments.  You see, I had just made the biggest decision of my professional life.  I had decided to become a full-time mediator and give up my high-paying divorce lawyer gig at an established law firm.  No more swanky office with views of the city, I was on the ground floor, starting from scratch.  After years of arguing for one side, I decided I valued helping families rather than splitting them apart.  (Green Acres? Rollin’ on the River? funny, but true!)

divorce mediation

 Being a divorce attorney for over 20 years, I knew this would be a shock to the system.  Going through countless litigated divorces as a lawyer lets you see the good and the bad.  I also went through my own divorce.  That was a lesson in itself.  I was fortunate that the lesson was on the “what works” side of things, and not the other.

My experience showed me that divorce could be unduly difficult to deal with–the stress and the physical toll.  Seemingly nice people are put into bad situations where they are forced to fight for their property, and sometimes their children.  It’s not a nice thing to see.  I wanted to bring people together to talk things out, in a civilized way, with open lines of communication.

Mediation was the only way.  I had to make the change.  Whenever you are faced with divorce or any other aspect of family law, including child custody, child support, cohabitiation, domestic partnerships, etc, your best option is mediation.

Even though it may look self-interested, I don’t just say that because I am now a full-time mediator, I say that from the heart. Ask any mediator: we all love what we do. And we can all tell you a compelling story of why we gave up big bucks litigation to help people resolve their conflicts.

If you’re unclear on how it works, here’s a quick look:

During a typical mediation session, you and your spouse will meet with a neutral professional to settle your case.  This professional is often a lawyer or a therapist trained in family mediation.  They could even be both.  It’s their job to get both sides to come to an agreement.  When I say a “typical mediation session” it’s actually a misnomer, because there are no typical sessions–you are in control.  If you want to talk about dividing up your coin collections or about the weather, the mediator is there for you, not the other way around.

Mediators will often give a free mediation consultation or equivalent information session.  You should always be confident that your mediator will meet your needs and expectations.  Divorce is intimate and so is the settlement process.  You need to be able to feel comfortable talking about sensitive topics with your mediator.  Make sure you feel you can have a good rapport with them.  Shop around.

Though most divorce mediators’ goal is to facilitate communication, styles can vary.  Will they make appropriate suggestions when necessary?  Tell you about the law?  Give examples?  Create worksheets or checklists?  Give notes?  Write down agreements?  Handle court paperwork for you?  Make sure you stay on task?  Time your sessions?  Help you brainstorm different ways of handling a problem?  Are they open to doing anything you ask?

These are important stylistic choices to consider.  Before you choose your mediator, ask them how they handle any or all of these examples and more.

At Peace Talks Mediation, we make sure that we’re all on the same page from the get-go.  An agenda outlines what we need to accomplish, what decisions must be made by the end of our sessions.  The important thing is that we all contribute to this outline.  The client gets to decide what they want to focus on, what issues are most pressing for them.  After all, they know each other better than we do.

We get some unusual requests, ranging from dividing DVD collections to brainstorming different ways to break the news to in-laws.  Nothing is off-limits, too big or too small.

As a working Family Mediation firm located in Los Angeles, we certainly have best practices that we know we have to live up to, but as for how each session goes, that is completely up to the client.

If you’re unsure about whether you want to mediate your divorce, you should also keep in mind that Mediation is over 90% cheaper than going to court and hiring attorneys.  It’s true.  Mediation, with it’s open communication, lacks the contentiousness and “he said/she said” theatrics of the courtroom.  It alleviates that burden and creates an atmosphere of “we’re in this together.”

That’s not to say Mediation isn’t difficult.  Talking about these very delicate and intimate subjects is hard.  Especially with a mediator you may have only met a couple of times prior.  We understand and are here to work with you to make it easier.  From my experience, Mediation is the best way to minimize the destructive toll a divorce can have on a family.

If you live in Los Angeles, call Peace Talks for a free appointment. If you don’t live in LA, you can search Mediate.com for a mediator in your area.

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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.

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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.

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Divorce Strategy and Divorce Mediation

 

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

That’s a quote attributed to Alexander Graham Bell and couldn’t be more true today.  As a divorce attorney, you’re preparation is a lot different than it is as a Mediator.  I would know, I am currently a Mediator dedicated exclusively to family law, divorce settlements and child custody and I was also a divorce litigation attorney for many years.  Back when I worked at firms like Noyes & Mercer in New Haven, Connecticut, I had a much different preparation strategy than I do now.

 As a divorce attorney, you better believe you need to be prepared.  That includes drafting a strategy for the best possible outcome for your client.  It’s a game with a lot at stake.  As a litigator your job is to win.

divorce attorney

 Boy, am I glad those days are over.  Today I am concerned with strategy and “winning” in a whole different way.

 I’m concerned with helping couples, as a whole, not one side, to reach an agreement that they can both live with equally.  It’s a relief after years of thinking on a one way street.  My job is to make sure both parties have all the information–no trial notebooks, pre-marked exhibits and cross-examinations.  When a couple comes into our office at Peace Talks Mediation Services, I get to greet both sides knowing that when our sessions together are over, they will have the tools and the knowledge to craft a brighter future for themselves, post-divorce.

In the old days, I’d wear out notebooks with notes and scripts for evidence objections and questioning.  I learned from the best, my mentor Carl Porto of Parrett Porto Parese was always the most prepared guy in the room.  He always used to teach us that winning was about preparation, being more prepared than the folks at the other end of the table.

 My record: in twelve years as divorce litigator I “lost” just once, and by “lose” I mean the judgement wasn’t up to my standards.  Not bad.

 I miss those days in some ways, but now as a divorce mediator in Los Angeles, it’s a whole different ballgame, one that can be it’s own reward.

 My preparation these days consists of notes, worksheets and checklists as well, but now everything is more open.  We share our notes and checklists with the clients–both sides.  All financial documents are explained and gone through in detail during our sessions to make certain that everyone is up to speed.  We debrief after sessions, going over bullet points and drawing out a plan going forward.  It’s a more intimate process, with the client in the driver’s seat.

Take advantage of some of the tools we use for free:

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 Sure, divorce mediation can have it’s fair share of pitfalls, but we all work to pick each other up and attack the problem, like players on a team.  We’re in it together.

 In fact, the only strategy we need in Mediation is this: Do whatever is necessary to help people to reach an agreement.  What a pleasant thought!

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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:

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 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.

Choose How Confrontational Your Divorce Will Be

Divorce Resolution Continuum

By Diana Mercer, Attorney-Mediator, copyright 2013

 

The decision to divorce is followed by a number of choices for how a case might be filed and later resolved.  Some of the steps are a loop, and others may be mixed and matched, but the general continuum, from least confrontational to most confrontational, is:

 

  • Decision to Divorce
  • No response:  spouse ignores petition, or is missing = proceed by Default
  • Kitchen Table discussion on how to resolve case, do-it-yourself divorce paperwork
  • See a lawyer, get an idea of rights, then resolve around the Kitchen Table and DIY

choose how confrontational your divorce will be

  • Use a paralegal or one lawyer to draft the papers, no individual representation
  • Unbundled legal services:  one or both parties hire an attorney by the hour to do just the tasks the client needs done
  • Individual representation with lawyer for one party only who helps parties settle informally, without court
  • Mediation
  • Mediation with lawyers involved, to a more or lesser degree  *
  • Collaborative Divorce
  • Start litigation
  • Litigation at first but ultimately settle
  • Litigation at first, but use Private Judge or Arbitrator for final decision
  • Litigation and Trial

 

*  Referring to collaborative lawyers for independent consultations and representation for individual clients in mediated cases may be a bridge between mediation and collaborative law. There’s also less of a chance that a collaborative lawyer will derail the mediation process.  The collaborative lawyer acting as independent counsel in a mediation might also have a retainer agreement and independent counsel agreement that follows the collaborative law model in that the mediation won’t be derailed in favor of litigation, and that the client will be expected to remain in mediation until settlement is reached.

 

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.

DIVORCE HOTEL CASTING *UPDATE*!

DIVORCE HOTEL CASTING *UPDATE*!

by: Janae Monroe

Peace Talks Mediation Services

A couple weeks ago we blogged about how excited we were about Divorce Hotel, a television show in Amsterdam that was making its way to the west coast. divorce hotel, divorce hotel casting, divorce, casting, separation

The concept is quite genius: a neutral place where couples who want to get divorced can work with top notch mediators, attorneys, therapists and financial professionals to resolve their legal and emotional divorce issues all in one weekend.

Yes. All of this happens in ONE weekend.

MysticArt Pictures is still casting and the requirements are quite simple! If you: are a US citizen, have filed for divorce in the state of California and have no custody issues and are interested contact them for more information by email: divorcehelpcasting@gmail.com or call: (818) 563-4131.

Casting Opportunity for Couples Seeking Separation or Divorce

MAJOR NETWORK CONSIDERING COUPLES CONSIDERING OR GOING THROUGH DIVORCE OR SEPARATION FOR NEW SHOW

Considering separation or divorce? Want to do it on television and get paid? If so, Peace Talks has received a casting opportunity for couples like you.

Peace Talks received an e-mail that a highly sought after attorney will offer FREE legal advice and mediation to divide assets. In addition, she’ll bring in her top notch team of appraisers to verify divorce television showthe value of your assets and help you both get what you want to move forward! All participants will receive FREE appraisal and FREE legal advice worth thousands of $$$. According to the e-mail, their mediator has handled high profile divorces and has helped find a happy median for each side. She is a noted author, law professor and motivation speaker who has appeared on major news networks. She knows how to compassionately take couples through a painful divorce while helping to divide up the most valued of possessions. All this while saving couples THOUSANDS of dollars in court and attorney fees!  Even better, this is a PAID opportunity.

If you are interested and believe you qualify, please e-mail your full story today to jillcasting@gmail.com.

DIVORCE HOTEL CASTING *UPDATE*!

DIVORCE HOTEL CASTING *UPDATE*!

by: Janae Monroe

Peace Talks Mediation Services

A couple weeks ago we blogged about how excited we were about Divorce Hotel, a television show in Amsterdam that was making its way to the west coast. divorce hotel, divorce hotel casting, divorce, casting, separation

The concept is quite genius: a neutral place where couples who want to get divorced can work with top notch mediators, attorneys, therapists and financial professionals to resolve their legal and emotional divorce issues all in one weekend.

Yes. All of this happens in ONE weekend.

MysticArt Pictures is still casting and the requirements are quite simple! If you: are a US citizen, have filed for divorce in the state of California and have no custody issues and are interested contact them for more information by email: divorcehelpcasting@gmail.com or call:

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.


free-chapter-download-of-8-simple

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 – Be Hard on the Problem, Not the People

A Closer Look at Resolving Divorce Conflict

Key 1: Be hard on the problem, not the people.

We made this the first conflict resolution skill because it’s likely the first one you’ll put to use.  Right now, it may be hard not to see your spouse as the problem, as the reason for your divorce.  Or the other way around. That’s why we think it’s such an important skill to learn. 

Change the nature of the fight and you’ll change the dynamic. Stop throwing stones in arguments.  Using blame, shame, or guilt to get your spouse to do something will become less effective as your relationship ends, because each of you will stop making the little concessions you once made for one another in the relationship. Instead, address the problem rather than laying blame on your spouse.  For example, “Whether or not to sell our house is a tough decision.  We both have a lot of work to do. I would like to work together to figure this out”, works much better than, “If you’d only earned more money while we were married, we wouldn’t have to think about selling our house.”couple

If you don’t keep the problem separate from your relationship, you risk having the conflict overtake your life (especially after your divorce).When two people who are stakeholders in a relationship are at odds, they sometimes say and do all sorts of irrational things, project, deny and shift blame.

All this drama has nothing to do with solving your problem. But there are things you can do to focus hard on the problem, not the person. The goal is to work with your spouse, rather than being adversarial.

  • Bite your tongue. Think before you respond. Those few seconds of tongue biting can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

  • Remember that your problem is mutual. You need your spouse in order to solve this problem — and to reach an agreement. You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  • It takes two to have an argument. If you refuse to take the bait for a fight, the fight can’t happen. 

  • Reframe your problem as a mutual problem and use “we” language.  “We need to decide what to do with the credit card debt” gets a different reception than “You need to deal with your credit card debt or we’ll never have an agreement.”

  • Think about the situation from your spouse’s point of view, even if you think he or she is wrong. Remember, you need this person to sign your agreement.  By only thinking of your own perspective, you’ll never get resolution.

  • Don’t interpret what is going on based only on your fears. Resist the urge to turn everything into a catastrophe.  You will get through this.

  • Don’t blame.  Blame doesn’t get you anywhere, especially not now.

  • Let your spouse blow off steam and don’t take it personally.  Not everything is an invitation to fight, and even if it is, you’re not coming to that party.

  • Listen. Acknowledge your spouse’s feelings without being patronizing.

  • Be direct; don’t play games.  Have your own priorities straight.

Though many of these points are common sense, when the relationship gets tangled up in the problem, things can get volatile fast

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.

                                         
free-stuff

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.

DIVORCE HOTEL CASTING *UPDATE*!

DIVORCE HOTEL CASTING *UPDATE*!

by: Janae Monroe

Peace Talks Mediation Services

A couple weeks ago we blogged about how excited we were about Divorce Hotel, a television show in Amsterdam that was making its way to the west coast. divorce hotel, divorce hotel casting, divorce, casting, separation

The concept is quite genius: a neutral place where couples who want to get divorced can work with top notch mediators, attorneys, therapists and financial professionals to resolve their legal and emotional divorce issues all in one weekend.

Yes. All of this happens in ONE weekend.

MysticArt Pictures is still casting and the requirements are quite simple! If you: are a US citizen, have filed for divorce in the state of California and have no custody issues and are interested contact them for more information by email: divorcehelpcasting@gmail.com or call:  (818) 563-4131.

 

Why This Collaborative Training is Different

Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

Skirball Center

Los Angeles, CA

mcpg logo white bg

The Marina Collaborative Divorce Practice Group along with Co-Sponsor, the Southern California Mediation Association, are excited to announce our upcoming Three-Day Collaborative Practice Training June 6-8, 2013  in Los Angeles, California at the beautiful Skirball Center.    

Why this training is different: This training is one of a kind designed specifically for OUR GROUP (yes, they are tailoring their materials and presentation specifically for our needs!)

This is not some canned presentation, or a couple of people you’ve heard speak 1000 times.

It’s designed for previously trained practitioners to learn the new streamlined protocols, practice team building and for practitioners new to collaborative practice.

Many other collaborative trainings don’t teach the importance of teams. The Team is the magic of collaborative law, and each professional plays an integral and powerful role as a team member.  The team is greater than the sum of the parts. 

The power for each professional is not in the individual power and control like in a traditionally litigated case

Why You Should Come to This Collaborative Training

Streamlined Collaborative Practice Protocols Training June 6-8, 2013

Skirball Center

Los Angeles, CA

The Marina Collaborative Divorce Practice Group along with Co-Sponsor, the Southern California Mediation Association, are excited to announce our upcoming Three-Day Collaborative Practice Training June 6-8, 2013  in Los Angeles, California at the beautiful Skirball Center.    

Why this training is different: This training is one of a kind.  It’s being designed specifically for OUR GROUP. The trainers are tailoring their materials and presentation specifically based on what we’ve requested so that this training will be great for everyone interested in Collaborative Practice.

This training is meant for practitioners new to collaborative practice and especially previously trained practitioners to learn the new streamlined protocols and to practice team building and delineation of the roles and responsibilities of each professional.collaborative

The collaborative Team is the magic of collaborative law. Too many of us bypass the protocols and collaborative enrollment process thinking that we’re saving clients time and money, when in reality we’re not using Collaborative Practice to its full benefit.

Many other collaborative trainings don’t teach the importance of teams and how each professional plays an integral and powerful role as a team member.  The team is greater than the sum of its professionals.  The power for each professional is not in the individual power and control like in a traditionally litigated case

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.

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

Divorce Wisdom: A Thank You Note to my Former Husband

Divorce Wisdom:

A Thank You Note to my Former Husband

While it’s tempting to just remember the bad parts of your marriage, especially when you’re in the middle of your divorce, it’s also important to remember what you learned from each other, and what you gave to each other when the marriage was good.

I’ve started reading the Modern Love column in the New York Times Style section. and it got me thinking about my former husband.

While things ended badly, as they so often do in the demise of a relationship, there’s also plenty to be thankful for.

I met Bill through a personal ad back when personal ads appeared in print.

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

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.

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

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.

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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.

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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?

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.

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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.

 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.

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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.

 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.

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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.

 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.

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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

order-a-copy-now

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.

 

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.

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

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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.

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   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