Thursday, January 31, 2013

Making the Most of Mediation

Mediation is an extremely effective means to settle family law disputes.  In mediation, both parties concerns and objectives are put on the "table" to be addressed.  Mediation does not determine who is right or who is wrong-- (and it is almost never a matter of who is right or wrong--) but how to solve the problem.  In the mediation session, the mediator is going to work with you both to help you find a mutual solution to your dispute.  Here are 10 helpful hints to get ready for a successful mediation session.

1.  Bring pictures of your children to the mediation and put them on the mediation table.

2.  Make a list of the reasons why you want the mediation to work.

3.  Make a list of why you chose mediation.

4.  Make a list of why you didn't want to go to court.

5.  Be open to sharing your ideas and opinions in mediation. 

6.  Be willing to listen even if you don't agree.

7.  Keep an open mind-- the first idea or proposal might not work, but it's second, third or even fourth revision might be the middle ground you and the other party CAN agree upon.

8.  Try not to make assumptions.

9.  Focus on the future.  We often don't want to believe in change because we can only think about how things have been in the past.  If we keep looking back for reasons why an idea/plan/schedule, etc., won't work, we will never be open for the possibility that we can make it work.  Instead, bring to the table your concerns so that they can be addressed. 

10.  Be patient.  It takes time to get through all the issues and some take more time than others.  A good agreement may take time to reach. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankfulness for Positive Things-Focusing on the Future

What are you thankful for? It's easy to focus on all of the negative-- it is human nature to list the things we are unhappy about! It takes more patience and focus to really think about what is Good, or even just okay. When you are in divorce there is no question that there is alot of "bad" to look at. It is one of the reasons you are getting a divorce. But the divorce will not last forever (though sometime the length of time it takes can seem like it!) and life will go on. Take the time this week and throughout the holiday season to be thankful for those things that are not wrong!
Maybe some of this sounds familiar?
Your ex and you argue, but maybe you can acknowlege that they are a good parent?
You, your ex and your children are healthy, this is good for you and your children.
You have free time to focus on YOU when your children are with the other parent.
You or your ex's job is secure.
You have a place to live.
You have people who love you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Benefits of a Collaboratively Reached Agreement

I believe that in most cases a resolution of family law issues should not be treated the same as a lawsuit. However, when most family law matters go to court, this is exactly how they are handled. When your issues are resolved in the courtroom, you and the other party are adversaries. After “argument” the court will make a decision that you and the other party must follow. What would this look like if the resolution of the dispute was obtained through the Collaborative Process? Consider an example of two parents with two small children. Both parents want significant time with their children but they have differences about what the children need and what a good schedule is will be. If these parents go to court, they will necessarily have to present arguments to the Judge which pits them against the other parent, by trying to persuade the court why the children should be with them more than the other parent. This requires the parents to position themselves against the other. This frequently causes one or both parents to be negative about the other parent. Often litigation counsel will encourage their client to raise any possible negative history of the other parent, such as prior bad conduct to persuade the judge. Parties become angry and hurt by the statements made by the other, and in defending themselves, seek to bring up “dirt” on the other party. Declarations become clogged with accusations, misunderstandings, and sometimes blatent lies told in order to persuade a judge to agree with them. This kind of litigation can cause a dispute to escalate and change future ability of the parties to work together as parents.
In a Collaborative case, parties will work with attorneys and other professionals, who try to help the parties come to agreements without becoming adversarial. Parties will have assistance to find a way to bridge their differences and find a way to come to a resolution. Old issues and prior conduct which have no direct effect on parenting will not be part of the discussion. Parties will be able to discuss their goals and differences with the other party in a safe and respectful environment. There is opportunity to discuss the “why’s” and “how’s” of what each parent wants. This is a significant change in how families can seek legal resolution because they are not trying to persuade a single decision maker but trying to work together to come to a collaboratively crafted agreement which both parties can support. This difference alone can facilitate the decisions necessary to resolve family law disagreements. Family law disputes can be hard enough without fueling them with litigation tactics and this alone one of the best benefits of the Collaborative Process.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Choosing a Family Law Attorney

It used to be that people found their family law attorney almost exclusively through a personal reference--the attorney name they got from their friend, neighbor, co-worker. Some might use the phone book or the name from an ad on the bus bench, but in my years of practice, most referals have come from people who knew of me. However, with the advent of the internet, it has become extremely common for people to search for their attorney on the Web. Either way, what do you look for and how do you know if the attorney is right for you?
* Comfort Level
I always tell people who call for a consult that choosing a family law attorney is like choosing a personal physician or therapist. You need to feel very comfortable with the attorney. You should feel as though you can easily share your feelings. The attorney is going to delve into personal issues with you just as a doctor or counselor would and if you are not comfortable with the attorney, talking to the attorney about the very personal issues causing your family disputes is going to be very, very hard.
* Experience
You need to know that the attorney you hire knows how to do the work necessary. Family law is a diverse and detailed area of law. I suggest choosing an lawyer who's primary practice is family law as this will let you know that the attorney spends the majority of their time involved in family law matters.
*Style
People asking for a family lawyer often say that they want a real tough litigator or for an attorney who is a "bulldog" or a "shark". Many think that this kind of extreme aggressiveness is a preferable characteristic to have in their attorney. While this style of practice may have it's place in certain types of litigation, in family law matters I believe it is important to be able to do more than aggressively litigate. Family law attorney's also need to be problem solvers and solution makers. Families in dispute will likely continue to fall into dispute unless they obtain skills to resolve conflict. Family lawyers need to help their client's be able to avoid constant litigation while their children are minors. I believe attorney's should also be able to help parties find current resolutions to their family law disputes and also look to the future with clear and specific methods to approach dispute resolution in the future. When evaluating an attorney's style, you should ask yourself what you need to achieve and the tenor in which you want to achieve it. How do you want to approach your family law dispute?
Try to speak to at least two attorney's before making your choice. Don't be afraid to ask questions and make sure that you are comfortable and it is the right fit!