What to Bring to Mediation

Clients often ask me, “What do I bring to mediation?”

My answer is, eventually you bring everything: anything that proves the amounts of salary, assets, retirement accounts etc. But not right away.

The most important thing to bring to mediation is yourselves, in a reasonable shape to mediate. That means sleeping well (if possible), don’t come in after pulling an all-nighter, and make sure you’re not hungry. Be as calm as you can be. Meditate, exercise, pray and anything else that you can do to get in a good frame of mind. If you react so strongly to anything your ex says that you can’t listen well, it will be a longer, slower process or at worst, unworkable. Staying calm is the key. I can help with that! Be respectful. Not being respectful is a waste of time together, the money you are spending to mediate, and could even “torpedo” the mediation.

The other thing to bring is a list of agreements and issues. Agreements are those things, if any, that you two have already worked out. Issues are problems you have to solve. Don’t come to mediation with solutions to the problems only one of you has worked out or agrees with. The more attached to a particular solution to an issue, the less likely you will look at other possible solutions that will work as well, or perhaps even better. Usually it’s a combination of solutions that solves the problems.

If you have a lot of agreements, great!. If you don’t, don’t despair. Chances are, I can help you get there.


Divorce Mediation and Shortening the Process

Divorce Mediation or Separation Mediation can be a longer process if you have a lot of possessions to divide or have a lot of children, especially with a large age range. It helps you a great deal if you can figure a few things out before you come in to see me. It is fastest to write down anything you have decided and hand the paper to me when you meet me the first time (I have a free consultation). That way, I can look it over quickly and tell you the pros and cons of your proposed Divorce Mediation settlement.

I can tell you whether a judge is likely to accept your proposals. The easier it is for a judge to accept a proposal means the faster your divorce. I can also tell you what are the problems and pitfalls of doing things the way you propose. For example, if you have a baby and plan on exchanging parenting time month by month, that is probably not going to be approved by the judge nor is it healthy for the baby. Babies need time with each parent every day or every other day to bond properly. Don’t laugh too much at this example- it is an actual case I had of two folks who lived 500 miles apart!

If it is not possible for you to meet and discuss face-to-face without a mediator, you can come up with a written list of things you want in a settlement. that way, when we meet we can talk about how well your ideas will work for the court, your children, and each other. Often it’s a combination of several proposals that work the best. Divorce mediation is straightforward at times, and more difficult at other times. My aim at Bickford Mediation is to make Divorce Mediation as easy and rewarding as possible.

Divorce Mediation 2019

This is my first blog post of 2019, so I wish you a happy new year.

Snow is on the ground, it’s cold and there is only a little more light than there was in December. For most people that means hunkering down, doing only what you have to do to get through the winter. For people who are contemplating divorce this is especially true. Most people simply put up with a bad marriage until spring, when they have more energy and it’s easier to move.

I encourage you to be different. Divorce can happen any time of year. This time of year it may be easier, because so few others are getting divorced. That means you can take your time, get things right and use the winter down time to recover from your divorce.

It’s counter-intuitive, I know. but think forward. In the spring, when you really feel like starting afresh, you can, instead of having 3 months of divorce proceedings hanging over your spring and summer. You will have the time to enjoy the warm weather, and work on those plans for the future.

You can’t garden in the winter, but you can plan, and planning makes all the difference. With divoce, you can do more than plan; you can start and finish your divorce now, so that the beauty of the spring can speak to your soul. You can plan now, so that the spring, divorce free, can be free of the pain and struggles you have dealt with in 2018. Seize the day, and be gentle with yourself and your kids. Divorce mediation instead of court is a big help at a tough time.

Heading for a Christmas Divorce? Try Divorce Mediation

Divorce is heart-breaking at any time of year, but especially at Christmas, that most family-oriented of holidays (the same can be said of Hanukkah). What other holiday celebrates the chance to give presents to everyone, and have special holiday meals and parties. Cookies, fudge, popcorn balls and ethnic delights abound. Families have traditions for Christmas that may go back a century or more.

Into the midst of this family celebration comes divorce. At its worst, divorce rears its ugly head and proclaims that all ideas of family are null and void. Family gathering are not only not joyful, but rather intensely painful, as you realize what you’ve lost, and perhaps haven’t had for years.

Is there such a thing as a “family-oriented” divorce? Divorce seems to be the opposite of family oriented, and yet if the essence of family is providing a safe and healthy atmosphere for children, then in some circumstances divorce is the best option for children’s health and safety.

If divorce is sometimes needed, then how best to divorce? Here Divorce Mediation is the best option. Parents figure out together what is best for the children, and not judges (who may be sympathetic but who don’t know your kids). Parents model for kids that even when grown-ups disagree, it doesn’t have to turn into an all-out war. Divorce mediation can teach your children an important lesson as well as preserving a working relationship for successful co-parenting.

Divorce mediation works. You decide what is best, and what works the best for the kids. You start out a divorce with cooperation, not confrontation. Divorce mediation means you know exactly what the divorce agreement means, because you wrote them. Everyone knows what to expect so there are fewer arguments.

Divorce mediation makes the best out of divorce. Parents and children can recover more quickly, and with much, much less emotional damage and baggage. If you must divorce, then divorce mediation is “win-win!”

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