Holidays and Mediation


The holidays are coming and when they do, lots of family gatherings come, too. The holidays can have an effect on mediation: some folks try to ignore the tension and the coming split, until they can get through the season.

A tense situation in a family can also affect the holidays. It is MUCH harder to eat and celebrate with someone when there is tension just below the surface. Anything, everything, can remind you of the issues yet to be resolved. It is also much harder when your family is quizzing you about what’s happening in your relationship.

That’s when mediation can help. Even though it takes energy to work out differences during the holidays, progress towards a resolution can feel good, and many of my clients will spend some time talking about the holidays, kids and families so it can be less stressful. Mediation during the holidays can make enjoying the holidays POSSIBLE, without a cloud hanging over your head.

My work as an ER chaplain has taught me things. One of the things working with families who are stressed has taught me is this: Even bad news is often easier to handle than uncertain news. We humans hate uncertainty. With uncertainty about the future, your mind dances around and tries to ponder a thousand possibilities, good and bad. When certainty comes, you can begin to make plans about what comes AFTER. Mediation brings certainty. Instead of wondering through the holidays about where the relationship is going and how much it will cost you will know. If someone asks you about your relationship you can say, “We’re in mediation, we want to do what is best for ourselves and for our kids.

Mediation is self-empowering. You are doing something to help your situation, rather than wandering about in a wilderness of pain, hoping for the best outcome, but fearing the worst. You won’t have to have a judge decide your case. You can. Mediation works, especially during the holidays.

Child Custody, Divorce and Joint Custody

When I meet with divorce mediation clients, many of them say that they want joint custody. For most people, that means exactly 50/50 parenting time. Some even want it down to the hour. And though I’m not an attorney, I know Minnesota law for joint custody is not always exactly 50/50. What joint custody means in most of my agreements is that each parent has some time parenting with the child. Joint means “shared.”

What that means with clients is that there is not great need to get 50% parenting time. Getting less than 50% parenting time with your child or children will not mean the other parent has sole physical custody. In fact, recent changes to the Minnesota Child Support calculations means that there is no longer a dramatic shift at 45.1% parenting time. The new calculations are made more gradually, so there is no need to get over that line to pay less child support.

That is good news for the children in divorce and child custody disputes. It is also good news for their parents in divorce or child custody mediation. It means that the children aren’t being fought over for financial reasons. It also means that parents who are short of money can relax and do a schedule that is best for the child and not just one they can pay for. From what lawyers tell me, what is “best for the child” is the way the MN child custody law is written. With the recent changes in the Minnesota Child Support calculator it is even easier to do what is best for the child emotionally and physically.

Divorce Mediation and What’s “Right”

People ask me sometimes, “What is the hardest part of divorce mediation?” I would have to say it’s when one or both people get “locked-in” to a position. If people are absolutely firm and unyielding in their different positions, then mediation is over, because without movement no agreement in divorce mediation can be reached.

Sometimes this happens in divorce mediation when one person has had all the power in the marriage, whether that person knows it or not. Sometimes it’s a person who had no power in the marriage and enough is enough. Sometimes it’s when one or both people are being given advice by others; sometimes these others are professional and some times not. Others are likely to give advice that is agreeable to the one they’re talking with, because few friends and others want to agree with the position of the soon-to-be ex-spouse. But by being supportive, they can also do them a disservice, because the person believes even more strongly that she or he is “right.” If being “right” is more important than reaching an agreement, mediation is doomed. The couple goes on to court, spending thousands, sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands on attorneys. If they win, it’s a hollow victory, because they’ve made an enemy out of an ex-spouse, or even worse, the father or mother of their children with whom they need to co-parent.

What can be done to prevent this impasse in your divorce mediation? One can appeal to a higher value. For most people that value is preserving a parenting relationship for the sake of the children. Or it is minimizing stress, mental and emotional damage, and recovery time from the divorce. For others it is simply getting the cheapest divorce possible, because alternatives like getting the perfect decision in their favor is either impossible or impossibly expensive. To “win” in a divorce usually means to lose in the long run. Compromise for important reasons is better, often much better. Divorce mediation works!

Divorce Mediation, Child Custody Mediation Issues and Courts

Divorce Mediation is getting more and more popular these days. And why not? Many divorces are amiable, and the partners are not out to punish the other person when they separate. Too often in court with attorneys, parents try to prove each other unfit so they can get more time with the children.

In fact, most courts ask that you try divorce mediation before you go to court to try a case. If you do hire attorneys, when you get to court very soon in the process the judge will ask you, “Have you tried mediation?” Since that is the case, why not try mediation first, before the mud-slinging back and forth gets going? If you try mediation first, you stand a much better chance of reaching an agreement. And if you can cooperate first, co-parenting is easier, seeing each other at weddings and births years later is easier. Even more, the emotional pain of divorce, while never fun, can be lessened because you can avoid getting hurt over and over. You can move into the rest of your life and recover more easily.

I know this to be true because I’m divorced, had kids at the time, and went the mediation route. I saved myself tons of grief and pain, and even more money. And I was able to model a valuable lesson for my children that adults can come to an understanding on important things, even if they can’t agree on everything. The children will heal faster with parents like that.

People sometimes ask how much divorce mediation is. That depends on the situation. But generally it’s 1/3 to 1/2 of what traditional divorces cost. Sometimes even less. Divorce mediation is faster, less costly, the results are better. Both partners will generally stick to an agreement they made themselves, instead of having a settlement forced upon them by the judge. The judges don’t have to make decisions in cases that may wind up back before them in a couple years. Mediation is a win for everyone!

Summer is Here And So Is Mediation for Kids’ School Schedules. try Divorce Mediation

When is the best time to mediate out divorced kids’ fall schedule? Summer, of course. Both parents are more relaxed and that makes working out differences much easier. Plus, you have a few months for divorce mediation before you need the schedule to kick in.

I have been helping parents work out custody schedules for many years. Divorce and divorce mediation are much easier with a seasoned professional like me. I know what works for most people and what doesn’t (hint: don’t exchange babies once a month as one couple I helped did). I also can help smooth out communication problems so the two of you can co-parent successfully. If you can’t work out your differences, your kids suffer, and You suffer, too. Not only do you want the best for your kids after a divorce, but kid problems mean even more time together having to work out what is best.

If you don’t want to see your ex on a regular basis, get a professional to help you work things out the right way, first. That way, even though you are divorced you can co-parent successfully. And when you do meet your ex, you can congratulate each other on how well your kids are turning out rather than trying to blame your kids’ problems on the other parent in a shouting match. Divorce mediation (without attorneys, if you can) is the way to go. Not only is it better for you and better for your kids, it’s also cheaper than paying $3000 retainers for each of you. Divorce mediation is simple, and, most often, faster than two attorneys duking it out in court.

When you use me you me for divorce mediation you get to decide what is best for your kids, not a judge who doesn’t know then. Divorce mediation is the way to go.

Spring is Here. Time For a Fresh Start. Divorce Mediation Can Help!

Hello Again!

This is the time of year many people decide to move on after a hard winter, including an April blizzard! If you’re thinking about divorce, or separating from your significant other, divorce mediation or separation mediation can help.

You can mediate with attorneys, but mediation without attorneys is much cheaper. Here’s how it goes:

Meet with me for a free consultation
Sign an agreement to mediate with me.
Solve your problems
Move on.

Now things are not quite that simple, but I can help you if you have worked most of your separation out, or if you haven’t a clue how to start. I can help you with techniques for separating money, possessions, and how to work out schedules for children and even pets. I know what works and what doesn’t work.

If you can’t even talk without arguing, I can help you establish ground rules, meet in separate rooms temporarily and in difficult cases I can shuttle back and forth; you can even meet at different times.

I am available to meet with you at a location near where you are, and I generally meet in easier 1-2 hour sessions, not marathon “do-it-or die” sessions. You get a chance to review what you decided before you agree to anything. I will make certain you understand what you agreed to, and how it may affect you and your relationship with you ex and with the kids if you have any.

I am here to serve. Make things easier on yourself and your kids! Call me! 612 670-7980 or


Anger, Divorce Mediation, Conflict Mediation and Parenting Consulting

This post is about anger and the fight or flight response in particular we often get when we get upset. I was at a mediation class recently, and the presenter was Michael Gregory of Michael Gregory Consulting LLC. Mr. Gregory is a former IRS agent. Mr. Gregory said that there is lots of neuroscience research these days and one of the most interesting findings is how long a fight-or-flight response can affect a person, even after you calm down. I you get the response, you have about 9 seconds to calm down before your body gets flooded with chemicals that help you fight or flee, but are not terribly helpful for people trying to have a discussion. These chemicals stay in your system for 24 hours or until the next time you go to sleep. Not helpful for divorce mediation or parenting consulting!

The upshot of the research for mediation is that once you get this response, you are going to make mediation much harder for at least the rest of the day. We all should think about this in our interactions with others, but it is especially important for those who are in mediation. If you start to get upset for more than a few seconds, often it is better to take a break and calm down than to try to stick it out in session. If it reaches 10 seconds, then break for the day, however inconvenient that might be, or at least separate the parties in different rooms for divorce mediation or parenting consulting.

More Late Winter Musings about Mediation and Parenting Consulting

Greetings from a snowy April 4!

I know on the calendar it’s spring, but with 10 inches of new snow yesterday and a temp of 8 degrees, it’s still winter in Minnesota!

It has been a hard winter, and one which tests the patience of everyone. But if you are considering an end to a relationship it is especially hard. Just when you’d like to move out and move on, the weather makes that more difficult. When the snow melts for good, I get flooded with folks wanting mediation and parenting consulting. Right now, I could get you in for mediation next week, but with calls coming in, soon I may not be able to schedule for mediation or parenting consulting as quickly.

People sometimes ask me how I can mediate or consult with couples who disagree so much. Parenting consulting is easier, because if I have to, I can make a decision and it usually works well. But mediation is trickier, so I have to use ground rules that either I have, or a couple makes up and agrees to. When couples agree on ground rules together, that is the first step toward a successful mediation.

Mediation and parenting is easier with my help. I can help folks and their kids to a better life!

Tension Level, Divorce Mediation and Church Mediation

When people are trying to work out a particularly difficult problem in mediation, whether church mediation or divorce mediation, a couple things happen. Tempers begin to flair, of course, and often cutting and/or sarcastic remarks are exchanged. What else happens?

Often the fight or flight response comes on in your brain.When that happens, people have about 7 seconds to calm down, so experts tell me, before the brain is flooded with biochemicals. Now that isn’t bad when you’re a primitive person trying to deal with a tiger or a fire that might be coming your way. But it’s not very helpful when it comes to civil discussions. After 7 seconds, even if people do calm down, those chemicals stay in your system for 12 hours or until you sleep next. So in a sense, even if you do calm down after being upset, you’ve still lost, because those biochemicals are going to hang out in your brain, making arguments or emotional withdrawal much easier.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is to call it a day for the mediation session. Sometimes you can continue to work if you are in separate rooms, but it’s slower. If you do manage to calm people folks down in those first 7 seconds, then it is still best to take a break or at least work with just one party or group.

This can make divorce mediation or church mediation slow, tenuous and spread over many days. But often doing it this way is the only real opportunity for change in a challenging situation. The only other alternative is court, sad, but true

Spring is Almost Here. It’s Mediation Season!

It’s been a long, snowy winter here in Minnesota and many couples are feeling a bit testy. Or more than a bit. Every couple has issues, and issues don’t always have to lead to divorce and divorce mediation. Many issues can be resolved on your own without a mediator, if you are willing and able to communicate.
Many people in troubled marriages can’t communicate, or at least, not without help. That’s where I come in. I can help couples work things out so they don’t divorce. In cases where folks are simply not compatible any more (if you ever were), I can help you divorce amicably, affordably and relatively painlessly. For you folks who have never married, I can help, too. I can help you work out a child custody agreement that you can get signed into law by a judge or referee.

Conflict in relationships is almost never easy. I can help. Marriage mediation, divorce mediation and child custody issues I have lots of experience with. Do you need a parenting time expediter (PTE) or a parenting consultant, or even a custody evaluator and a full custody evaluation? I can do that too.
I can simply be someone to help you reach decisions with no other help from
me, or I can put my years of drafting agreements to use for you, with dozens of suggestions of what might work well for you, and what won’t work well for you or your children (do not exchange a baby month-by-month and expect him or her to have a good relationship with both parents). I know what works for you, and more importantly, I know what can work for your kids. Call me!612-670-7980 or 507-269-9079.

I can come to you for mediation. And you will get things done!