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.

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.

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?


Mediation, Couples and Church Fights

People in churches often say to me, “how can you do divorce mediation or child custody evaluations?”

Isn’t that hard? Well, yes, it can be, but the truth is church mediation is more often harder. Why? because the more people you ave involved in a conflict, the more difficult it is to resolve. The same thing is true of couples. Couples with no children are most often easier than couples with a child. The more children, the more complicated and the longer it takes to resolve things. And if there are guardians, other spouses or grandparents who want rights, then it’s the most difficult of all. even if all those people need to be talked about, it is easier when only two people are in the room doing the mediating. having spouses or significant others in the room means that the mediation process is longer, and unfortunately more expensive. With churches there may be 3 groups with each person in a group having a different idea of what the conflict is all about. And while couples are concerned about the children and money, churches can be concerned about theology or social status in the church or many other issues.

On the other hand, with a couple, if a parenting consultant is needed that takes more time. If there are alcohol or substance abuse issues it takes longer. If there are mental health issues, or children’s health issues it takes longer. the simpler and clearer the issues, the easier things are to get resolved. Then there may be no need of divorce mediation or arbitration or parenting time expediters (PTE) or parenting consultants (PC) or a custody evaluation. There may not even be a need for attorneys to defend your rights if you can come to an agreement in mediation with just the two of you. Divorce mediation can be half (or less) of what attorneys will cost and the results will be much better. You’ll be able to work together as parents rather than tearing each other apart in court.


Spring is Here! So is Divorce.

It’s spring and my phone is starting to ring for help with how to get divorced in Minnesota. I have been helping folks with divorce mediation for about 12 years now, and I’ve been mediating with couples on non divorce related matters for nearly 25 years. I’m happy to offer a free 1 hour divorce consultation. Call me!

Getting divorced is not easy. But using my divorce mediation services it can be done with peace of mind, knowing that your children will be taken care of without the need to go to court; Don’t let a judge decide what happens with your kids. Don’t you want to make those decisions? You are the parents; you know what’s best for your kids.

Next week I will write about what you have to figure out.

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 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.

Minneapolis Divorce Mediation

What do you look for in a divorce professional? There are many, many folks who have Minneapolis divorce mediation services, or Saint Paul divorce mediation services, for that matter. Many are attorneys who have realized that the grind of court litigation is tough on them and their clients. Some attorneys understand most folks aren’t willing to pay $3-5000 to retain an attorney. Most understand that these are not the “Kramer versus Kramer” days of 30 years ago, where there were plenty of Baby Boomers with kids, with lots of money and eager to defend their rights. times are lean for many family attorneys.

Many of the attorneys out there are not mediating because they want to, but because they have to. Fewer folks want full service court battles and attorneys; most want to get by as inexpensively as they can. Some attorneys offer Minnesota mediation services because they don’t have enough paying clients who want to fight it out in court and they have to mediate if they want to stay in business. Many of these think a law degree ensures one can mediate. But Minnesota divorce mediation is tough; it requires more than a law degree. You need a person with head smarts and logic; someone with the creativity to look at situations in new ways and can help couples get there.

You are best off with someone who understands emotion and conflict and has a good track record of helping people cooperate. You are also better off finding a mediator without a huge office and up to $100K of overhead expenses. There are folks like me who offer Minnesota family mediation services or Minnesota divorce mediation services by traveling close to where folks are. Some, like me, do that with no travel charges. I travel up to two hours away from Rochester or Bloomington. Why travel 50 miles to get mediation? Do it close to home! Why not Chaska family mediation or Rochester family mediation, or Mankato family mediation, too, not just Saint Paul family mediation or Minneapolis family mediation?

Get mediators who have a track record in getting folks to cooperate and who have most of their experience in actual mediation, not just law. Minnesota family mediation should be done by folks who don’t take sides for most of their living. Mediation from a caring professional works better!

More Barriers to Mediation: Why You Might Choose a “Non-Attorney” to be Your Mediator

More Barriers to Mediation: Why You Might Choose a “Non-Attorney” to be Your Mediator

More Barriers to Mediation: Why You Might Choose a “Non-Attorney” to be Your Mediator

By Glen Bickford, Minnesota Qualified Neutral and Trained Mediator

In MN, the vast majority of mediators are attorneys. But are attorneys always the best mediators? I would argue no, though for certain cases they are a must. And before signing a final agreement, one is wise to run a settlement past a trusted attorney for her or his opinion.

Attorneys are taught logic in law school, and judges rule mainly on the facts of a case. But mediation, deciding what is best between two or more people, is often about understanding emotions. The emotions between two people in a dispute are often complex. Mediators should understand how best to use that emotion to help, not hinder, settlement. The best, most persuasive attorneys are those who not only make an airtight logical argument for holding a particular position, but can sell why it is important to hold that position. This may involve using not only logic, but emotion, using language the person you are trying to persuade can appreciate.

Even if the people involved are not yelling at each other, badmouthing or showing anger, there are usually good emotional reasons behind the positions we hold in an argument. We may not even realize how emotional we are, but if we continue to disagree, emotions show up sooner or later. For example, one person feels put down, disrespected, or feels he/she is not being listened to.

With most people, the form of the argument you make is as important as the logic of the argument itself. Or put it another way, most people only trust the logic of an argument when they have learned to trust the person making it. Attorneys are great at making arguments, but often not nearly so good at inspiring the trust of both parties at the same time.  This trust factor in mediation is not strictly logical, as arguments should stand or fall on their own merits. But it is most often true.

When interacting with people who are being emotional (and all people are somewhat emotional), it may be wise to consider a person who understands emotions. An attorney who is not skilled in emotions may not be the best choice of mediator, especially if the argument is both emotional and logical. A mediator should have equal parts of head and heart skills, able to use either as the situation requires.