Tradition, Mediation and Church Disputes

So many church disputes are a result of folks forgetting the tried and true ways of doing things. A pastor leaves, a key member moves or passes away. In time, if  a church is not careful, it can slide into a way of doing things that doesn’t work very well. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that many churches can solve conflicts by simply returning to what worked in the past. Not in term of programming (that changes from generation to generation) but in terms of how things get done. Too often, work gets done by a select few while others, intentionally or not, get excluded from service.

In a conflict it is best to return to what once worked, and see if it could still work, or work again. then and only then should you look at major change. It could be that the wisdom that was passed down via constitution works just fine.That will save much effort in trying to “reinvent the wheel.” If it no longer works, however, then you are more likely to engage many church folks who are more traditional, because you tried the old solution. And if you try what once worked and now doesn’t, then you can explain that you tried the past solution, it didn’t work, and why.

When new solutions are needed, there should be a deliberate attempt to slow down, study things, and let overheated emotions cool. Brainstorming and testing a variety of solutions, not just jumping to a conclusion immediately, is key. Use groups that represent as many different viewpoints as possible: often a solution is found by combining several different approaches in new ways. Give the solutions time before discarding. A month or 3 months is not unreasonable for a test period. Many church folks will dislike a solution simply because it’s new.

Emotions and Mediation

Emotions and Mediation

How do your emotions affect the mediation process? Very much. But all too often they are left out of the mediation process. They are ignored. They are discounted. They are despised. Worse yet, they are elevated to the point where they are the only thing that matters.

Emotions and mediation. Emotions in mediation are important. But knowing WHY you are feeling what you are feeling is as important as recognizing WHAT you are feeling. Don’t just automatically assume that you are feeling fear because of your ex. It could be that he or she simply reminds you of someone you really were afraid of. you may have good reason to fear your ex. But if you’re not certain, it may be that there are other reasons you are afraid, and you’re blaming it all on your ex.

A good mediator can help you sort out these issues. He or she may even suggest you consider going to a counselor before you continue mediation. Once emotional issues are clearer, mediation can proceed forward at a much greater pace, with better results. Who wants to pay for a mediator if no decisions get made and emotions get the better of people?

A good mediator can handle many strong emotions. My background in chaplaincy, for example, has been invaluable in my mediation work. Grief, anger and regret, as well as many other emotions, are familiar to me. Emotions in mediation are not a problem unless they get in the way. In fact, proper expression and awareness of emotions can make the process easier. Sometimes if emotions are expressed properly, they can help facilitate an agreement. If emotions obstruct the process, the parties mediating can meet in separate rooms, though “shuttle diplomacy”  makes for a somewhat slower, and more expensive process. Emotions and mediation can help or hinder mediation.

Emotions and mediation. If you appreciate the role of emotion in mediation,  mediation is cheaper, easier and better. The result is better, too.

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.

Divorce Mediation Made Simple

Divorce Mediation can be as difficult as anything you can imagine, but Divorce Mediation can be easier than anything you ever expected. It depends, to a large extent, on the Divorce Mediator you choose and the attorney you choose (if you have one- you don’t always need to). Ideally, if you and your ex are fighting over child custody it makes sense to find a mediator who can understand and work with the strong emotions that such a conflict generates. for such matters, it is often better to find a “non-attorney” mediator, as attorneys are great with logic and adversarial conflicts but usually not as good at emotional ones.

If you feel the need for your own attorney, understand that it often makes the divorce process longer and much more expensive, even if your attorney wants to be collaborative (many aren’t). Many attorneys resist mediation, or believe mediation can be used only in very rare circumstances. To be fair, from an attorney’s background, with an attorney’s skill set, they are correct. But if you choose a “non-attorney” who understand emotions in child custody mediation, a successful agreement can not only be possible, but probable. A mediation that would end in stand-off or trial might well be settled by the right mediator ( a “non attorney”) and often without needing to retain an attorney yourself. But if you play the attorney card too soon, or find an attorney who is overly zealous, problems can develop and big problems can get bigger. I have played “clean-up” for many situations where attorneys had fought long and hard. Whether they reached agreement or no, such situations left a host of bad feelings on both sides, and an inability to co-parent cooperatively. but it doesn’t have to be. Divorce mediation can be simple, often as simple as one or two visits with the right family mediator.

Some folks in my mediation sessions do so well they wonder how they ever could have done it another way.

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.