Co-Parenting During the Holidays (mediation can help)

The holidays are coming, and they present a unique challenge for couples who are divorced and separated. The patterns that were established when you were together are still there, and now whose house to go to has even more challenges. That’s why mediation can help. Divorce mediation or post-divorce mediation can make things a lot easier. I have worked with hundreds of couples, so I have a few ideas about child custody that you may not have thought of:

How important is celebrating on the exact day of the holiday?

If you celebrate before or after, it is easier to schedule family time, easier to get food and presents at stores or online because you’re not fighting other people trying to do the same thing. You can breeze through stores in nothing flat. Your young children will not even know when the holiday is. Older kids will generally not care, especially if the holiday is celebrated earlier. They may even get more presents and special meals that way.

How important is it to have ALL the family together?

Celebrating in smaller groups can be less hectic, and enable your loved ones to spend more time with their family one-on-one. games are possible in groups of 4-6 that may not be possible with larger groups. You may even be able to avoid difficult Uncle Ernie the drunk or Great Aunt Susie the cheek-pincher. It is often less expensive, and perhaps more meaningful.

What is the most important holiday for you and your children?

You can often trade holidays that are important to an ex who wants them (Christmas for 4th of July) so you both win.

With these and many other questions I can ask, you can make co- parenting work, even during the holidays. Schedule a free appointment and you’ll see what I mean.

Glen

Fall and Family Disputes Need Mediation

Here we are in fall. The sun is lower and the weather cooler. It is a downer time of year for most of us. We feel cold and dread the coming of winter (all except those who like winter sports: my daughter, for example).

This can affect our ability to manage our feelings with respect to our families. We get irritable and that leads to fights, and even to separations. if you’re already separated and considering divorce, even more so.

What can you do about it? be careful with boundaries. Be careful what you say to your significant other; you can’t take it back very easily. Don’t assume you know what anyone else thinks or feels, because you don’t. Don’t turn disagreements into fights, and fights into something even worse. It will save you a lot of headaches if you work it out or try mediation.

My mediation business can help. Whatever your problem; divorce, never married custody, maybe you need a parenting consultant or custody evaluator. If you can work it out with the help of someone else, it will be better for you, your kids and your finances. Don’t go directly to an attorney, why don’t you try me instead?

Glen

Divorce and Summer Schedules.

Greetings!

I want to talk to you today about divorce, separation, mediation and summer schedules.

The first thing to know is that according to Minnesota law (and I would guess most states), in a divorce the most important concern is the children (if you have any together). That means that if something is helpful for the kids and inconvenient for you, the kids come first. For example, at a young age, it is better for kids to see their father or mother more often for less time than less often for more time. This may seem intuitive, and yet I had a case where the parents were exchanging a baby every other month, and drove 500 miles.That’s crazy. for babies several times a week are most helpful for good bonding with each parent

I urge you to work out a schedule that works for the children as much as possible. Do what you can, even if it means the driving division is not even. Maybe one parent is unwilling or unable to transport the children to an activity. Best for the child to simply do the transportation and understand that you are helping the children move forward and heal. Isn’t such healing worth a little of your time? Yes, it can get annoying when one parent can’t or won’t step up to responsibility and yet you are still helping your kids at a difficult time for them. get help from me to work out visitation schedules and parenting time if you can’t do it yourselves.

Having said that, summer is a usually time of less stress for kids: less (or no) school, less homework, fewer activities etc. So kids can tolerate irregular or late schedules better. Summer is often the best time for longer vacations or for one parent who had less time during the school year to “catch up.” make up your summer schedules carefully and wisely and your kids will thank you for it, and reward you with happy stress-free memories and solid growth.

Happy Parenting!

Glen
Minnesota Qualified Neutral

Comparing Family Mediation Services

Comparing Family Mediation Services: All Family Mediation Services Are Not Equal

When people ask me what I do, and I tell them I do Minneapolis Divorce Mediation or St. Paul Divorce Mediation, people often ask me “Are you an attorney?” The answer is “No.” And that’s in many ways a good thing. You don’t have to be an attorney to do Minneapolis Family Mediation or St. Paul Family Mediation. There is much more to providing Divorce Mediation services than being an attorney, though there are some  good mediator attorneys out there Why only some?.

In law school attorneys are taught how to fight, not cooperate, so it means many attorneys don’t know how to settle a dispute without taking sides. Minnesota divorce mediation services are 80-90% attorneys. Minneapolis mediation services and St. Paul mediation services fit this pattern, especially now since so many people have been  burned by going to court. the truth is, most Minnesota judges don’t want to settle divorce at all- they want parents to settle through discussion and Minnesota family mediation services. That’s because judges don’t know your situation, don’t know your kids, and however they decide, one or both parents are usually unhappy.

I don’t claim to know as much about law as a judge or attorneys. But isn’t Minnesota divorce mediation more about cooperating than fighting? Who decides what’s fair? Shouldn’t it be the parents? I know how to set limits, calm people and support them through the process. People can do what’s best for their kids with full knowledge of who their kids are- not a name and a birth date, but living breathing individuals. I was a chaplain at Mayo before I was a mediator, and the skills I learned in the ICU and ER with families make my mediation services different. With a good agreement, parents can start a pattern of cooperating, no fighting. Kids can see parents cooperating and they can accept the divorce more easily: it’s not the end of their world

Not all Minnesota mediation services are created equal!

Divorce Mediation Expectations

What are your divorce mediation expectations? Mediation is in some ways easy to understand and in other ways difficult. Most people when they think of mediation, they think of negotiation, and that dreaded word “compromise.” Actually, mediation in divorce  or divorce mediation (some call it family mediation) actually means working out a new set of values for the couple post split and esp. for child raising afterwards. Values about the old partner  include respect, fairness and trust. What are the new rules for relating?

Viewed in this way, divorce mediation seems easier. Both people want respect, fairness and trust. The old ways to express those values didn’t work, or else you’d still be together. So you need to find new ways. When you were together, trust may have meant that whenever your partner interrupted you, you at least tried to give him or her attention at that moment. But now that you’re apart respect might mean waiting until a certain time to talk, or to communicate  in a certain way. You might decide that some times and ways of communicating are the best and to use only these is being respectful.

Children can actually make divorce mediation, make family mediation easier. Though permanent separation is very hard on children themselves, it is easier  for couples to cooperate when children are involved. That’s because  each of you have a role post separation that is in someways the same as it was before: you are both parents. Since you are parents, most parents have the common value of wanting what is best for your child. Usually, that value is and should be your top priority. That’s important to remember.

You two may have different ways of express that value  of “best for the kids” i.e. one parent might believe it’s best for boys to play football while the other believes it’s too dangerous. But you both still want your children to learn to play with others and get exercise without getting hurt.  And so you still both understand that getting an agreement in custody mediation is important for your kids; so important, in fact, that you should be willing to accept things to get an agreement ,that you might not otherwise, for their sake, to avoid further pain for your kids. Even a mediocre agreement is usually better than  no agreement, because it avoids the damage to the children by the two of you continuing to fight.  Getting an agreement to ease your kids’ pain is more important than getting almost anything else you want in a settlement.

If you keep the children in mind as most important, that is more helpful than focusing on the turmoil the two of you might have. the state of Minnesota asks judges to focus on the kids’ best interests in divorce and separation, so you should, too. Divorce mediation can even help you understand each other enough so you can co-parent effectively. you may give up your “perfect settlement”. but your kids will thank you for it, both now and in the years to come.

Divorce Mediation and Regrets

Whenever people buy something, there is nearly always a twinge of “buyer’s remorse.” Simply put, buyer’s remorse is the sense that you might have done better if you’d waited, gotten a better price, gotten something different, or done nothing at all. buyer’s remorse is very common whenever a decision is made, mainly because of its finality; there are no more options out there to ponder, no way your choice can bring something better. And most times that “better” option means more heartache, more waiting and maybe even NOT the better option you thought it was. Most often, making a decision , even if it’s not quite perfect, is better than making no decision at all.

This phenomenon is very common in divorce mediation. When people choose mediation, Some options seem gone: getting an attorney, doing divorce yourself, leaving the relationship in limbo or simply moving out and moving on without looking back. people do regret mediation occasionally, though mediation seldom truly blocks off other options. In my experience in hearing about divorces, people are more likely to say things like “Why did we try attorneys first? Now $10,000 is gone, and we’ve both said things through our attorneys better left unsaid”  or “Why didn’t we settle this by mediating years ago?”

Sometimes, too, people regret the decisions they made in mediation to get an agreement. But even if that happens, most people understand that getting an agreement is usually even more important than anything you “give up” to get agreement. And the decision you made is a decision you made, not your attorney, not a judge and not your ex deciding the matter alone. Now occasionally people make decisions in mediation that they regret because they were so eager to push through the mediation , because they were tired. But even if that happens most divorce mediators do not hold people’s feet to the fire for 12 hours straight to get an agreement like people sometimes think mediators do. I personally always let people think about it before they decide once and for all.

So even if you have “buyer’s remorse” in divorce mediation, in family mediation, relax! Expect it. A little regret is normal. and usually simply means you understand emotionally that a decision has finally been made. Most people still decide to continue mediating or not revisit a decision made in mediation. And you can always change an agreement later on, if an even better option comes along. With children, things change all the time, and if they do, you can always make a new agreement to fit the new circumstances.

Divorce mediation, custody mediation, family mediation. It is truly a choice you won’t regret.( or at least more than a little bit).

 

Making the Best Use of Family Mediation

Most family mediation is really divorce mediation or separation mediation, making two household out of one. In Minnesota this is often done by attorneys, but though attorneys can be very helpful, it is often not necessary to retain or hire an attorney for most divorces or separations. Here’s how to do it.

First, find a good mediator- a family mediator. Not all mediators are the same. Some are really good at property division. Attorney mediators are good at details, but often not so good at emotionally charged situations. What many attorneys call mediation is often more negotiation, with pushing to get results. Counselor or pastor mediators (No, not all mediators are attorneys!) are wonderful for interpersonal conflict and working out creative child custody issues but may not have experience with S Corps or LLCs. I do have experience with such things and am happy to refer people to appraisers and accountants: they are generally less expensive than getting an attorney to help. I can get results with most folks.

Second, figure out how and where you cooperate and agree before you come in to see me. Bring a list of your issues and agreements to me, for example, and it can take hours less, saving you hundred of dollars.

Third, understand that mediation means give and take. You will not get everything you want. If you are locked into a position, and can’t think of any other way, you won’t do well in mediation, but you won’t get everything you want in court, either. With mediation you can ponder and try different options. In court you usually have to accept what the judge rules.

Fourth, it is best if you have children to focus on what’s best for them. The more you can cooperate, the better off your children will be. And so will you. Think before you speak and act. Words and actions in divorce can seldom be taken back. The single best indicator of how well kids will do (even grown ones) post-divorce is how well you two can cooperate, even though you may not agree on everything.

Custody mediation, divorce mediation and family mediation are seldom easy. But they are most often the best way to avoid unneeded expense, pain and anguish. Mediation can help you co-parent after separation in a way court battles can’t.

 

 

An Easier Divorce

I recently attended a Minnesota AFCC conference. AFCC is an organization devoted to legal professionals. The speaker, a law prof from Canada, spoke of how broken the Canadian and US court systems are with respect to family law (divorce and custody matters). She believed that it was necessary for family law to be taken out of the court system or remade entirely within the system. Not long ago, a bill was introduced in the Minnesota state legislature that would create a separate system for divorce and family matters.

When it comes to divorce mediation or family mediation, I agree. Minnesota divorce mediation should not be handled by the courts. With a little help, parents can handle their separations better than the court system. And judges would be better off too, because most judges hate deciding family law cases.

In many or even most family law cases, mediation without attorneys can accomplish agreement faster and cheaper than two opposing attorneys arguing back and forth on their own or worse yet, going to court.

At very least, attorneys should offer unbundled services: writing up a divorce agreement, appearing in court or writing letters. It is helpful to have agreements in divorce or custody mediations written up by an attorney so judges will understand what the couple wants. When I help a couple work out an agreement, I can refer the couple to some of the few attorneys who offer such services. Divorce mediation or custody mediation done in this way can be half (or even less) the cost of a traditional attorney aided divorce. There will always be cases (abuse, mental illness, extreme substance abuse) where attorneys will be necessary for divorce, but mediation without attorneys can work for the rest. An easy divorce or at lest an easier divorce. enough said.

Summer and Divorce Mediation

Summer is here and this is an excellent time to get child custody disputes worked out. I know summer is busy, and summertime is short. Yet when there is beautiful weather and lots of sun, it’s a perfect time to work out parenting and divorce issues because most people feel great. We all have more patience, more energy and it’s the time of year for moves and fresh starts. if you have to separate permanently, summer is a good time to move households.

Summer is also a great time to try out different parenting schedules, different child custody arrangements. The kids are out of school so if a new plan doesn’t work out, their grades don’t suffer. In summer is the time to plan for fall and school schedules, so you can have a stress-free fall and school year. The kids may have more time to be active, so they feel better too, and there are fewer child related issues. early summer is the time to work out summer vacations with the kids, if you haven’t already. Summer is a time to make those memories with each parent so the kids understand that you’re not separating from them, but from each other. Your children need reassurance and special time with each of you.

One of the greatest ways to make divorces and separations work well for kids is for parents to get along. One of the best ways for parents to get along is to have an agreement in writing. The agreement should take into account each parent’s schedule and each child’s activity. It should take into account the personalities of each parent, and especially of the kids. One size does not fit all! A poor agreement (or no agreement) almost guarantees more problems in the months and years ahead.but if kids see you, their parents, working things out in an adult way, that gives them hope and even confidence that things will be okay. If you look at it that way, a good mediated agreement worked out by you, not by a judge or attorneys who don’t know your kids, is one of the best things you can do. Good for you and good for your kids. And mediation is a lot cheaper than going to court. Call a mediator today!

Child Custody Is Not Crunching Numbers

In my Minnesota mediation cases, I occasionally run into folks that are concerned about numbers with child custody and child custody mediation. These people could be attorneys or people who mediate with me. The numbers they are concerned with are the number of child overnights (used in Minnesota to calculate parenting time), 45.1 % (the overnight time needed to get child support in Family Mediation cases based only on incomes and not on parenting time) and how much money they’ll have to pay their ex-spouse in maintenance (used to be called alimony).

Now I’m not opposed to using numbers in mediation cases (I was a math major once), as they can tell you lots of things. If one partner or spouse has an monthly income of $3,000, expenses of $4,500 and used to living on 8K, there is a problem even if that person has cut back considerably to pare down the monthly budget to $4500. As a mediator I try to head off problems so people will not need to return to mediation later. If parents agree that one spouse or partner lives in a 7 bedroom house worth $400,000 and the other lives in a one bedroom trailer worth $25,000, there may be problems with their 6 kids being happy living in the trailer. A judge might appropriately ask them “What are the best interests of the children?,” and “How is this fair for them?.” and may tell them that their agreement isn’t. Even if the judge lets the agreement stand sooner or later their kids (your kids) will ask, “How come Mom (or Dad) always has to be careful with money and you, (Dad or Mom) have plenty.

Now there are people who have legitimate concerns about how much they can or should pay for child support and maintenance. All too often, however, people who play the numbers game are more concerned about their money than their kids. When I ask them what they want and they say, I want 45.1% parenting time, I sometimes ask them, “Would you want that much parenting time even if it meant paying more child support?” If they say “yes” then an agreement can be reached. But if they say, “No,” then I ask, “What do you think is best for your kids?” and we continue to mediate. Child Custody is not crunching numbers.