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FAQ – Fall 2016

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • I’m worried that my spouse might not be fair to me in the divorce process. How can we try to work together in a peaceful process but still make sure I am taking care of myself?
Forrest Collins

Forrest Collins, Attorney-Mediator, dedicated to resolving your case outside of court in a respectful, cost-effective way.

Divorce is stressful and scary so your question is a very typical one. You (and your spouse, if he/she is willing) could schedule a consultation with any Bridges professional and learn about your options for working together on a peaceful divorce that takes care of the needs of all family members (especially children). Bridges members are all very experienced in helping individuals and couples find the best option to fit the unique circumstances of their family and, after consultation, will advise you whether it seems like your situation is a good fit for a non-court process.

  • If there has been a major breach of trust (such as an affair) is it even possible for a couple to work together on their divorce?

Yes, it is possible for couples who start with a low level of trust in each other to work together in a process that will be both sale and transparent. While such work is not always easy, it is usually much less stressful and expensive than using the court model.

  • How can we decide whether mediation or Collaborative law fit our situation best?

All of the Bridges professionals are experienced in both mediation and Collaborative law and a consult with them to discuss your family’s specific situation is the best way to determine which of these peaceful options are the best fir for you?

Stories about People Who Chose Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce Summaries:

 

  • A couple who had once been childhood sweethearts could not keep communication civil. Tensions increased as custodial issues regarding their five-year-old son arose. The breaking point for the couple led them to Collaborative Divorce where they learned how to communicate with each other to enable the healthy development of their son. The collaborative process also solved the custodial issues by giving each parent shared custody and arranging a financial plan where both parents contribute to costs relating to their son and both are able to monitor the spending of the money.

    Collaborative Divorce

    Will it work for me?

  • A music executive and his financially dependent wife decide to get divorced. They have a 5-year old daughter. Collaborative Divorce helped the couple navigate a complicated financial arrangement, as well as the tricky issue of the daughter’s contact with the wife’s new boyfriend and the wife’s pregnancy with the new boyfriend.
  • A couple, married for 16 years, entered into a “new” relationship with the help of Collaborative Divorce. Having a team of lawyers, a child psychologist and a financial planner allowed the family to talk through a fair financial arrangement and to meet the needs of the children. Collaborative Divorce helped the couple keep their perspective of what is important. The entire process only took six months and both parents still meet once a week to give each other updates on what has happened the previous week in the children’s lives.
  • It was husband’s second marriage, his first wife had taken off and was out of the picture. His current wife, the stepmother of his children, was the only effective mother his two kids had ever known and due to fertility issues they were the only kids that she would ever have. Ordinarily, she would have had no parental rights, but Collaborative Divorce ensured that she stayed in the kids’ lives.
  • A husband and wife, both ministers and with four kids, were living happily with the husband’s partner as a part of one family and under one roof. The partner wanted to come out, ultimately leading to a divorce trauma for the family. Collaborative Divorce restored the friendship that had been in danger of being lost and allowed the family to reach an acceptable solution.
  • Two parents had a special needs child that was the subject of their financial conflict. Collaborative Divorce not only enabled them to refocus their discussion and come to an agreement, but to continue to work together after the divorce to make sure that both their children receive the care and support that they need.
  • Several years after a rough legal battle, Mary and Stan decided to modify their originally litigated divorce settlement. Collaborative Divorce allowed them to do this so amicably that Stan even offered to help Mary out of a financial rough spot after the divorce modification was over.
  • Five kids from age 5 to 16. Co-owned auto mechanic business. Mom had no intention of recognizing dad’s participation and contribution to lives of children. He was raised Catholic. Dad initiated a Collaborative Divorce and was first to buy into process. Wife had never been a disciplinarian. Father wanted teenage kids to get part-time jobs. Although the parents had very different family philosophies, they finally settled on an “even” parenting plan and equal division of the business. Mom ended up meeting an attorney whom she is marrying.
  • A stay-at-home-mom (very photogenic) was married to a wealthy physician for 30 years. After their adult-daughter went to collage, mother decided on divorce so she could “breathe,” but wanted her daughter to feel as if mother was in no way taking advantage of father in the divorce process. Wife wanted divorce, husband was destroyed and adamant that case be concluded immediately. She wanted to honor husband, including all he had done to build the marital estate and she wanted to conduct the divorce process in the least painful manner possible. Wife was also determined to have no regrets, either about the decision or the process of separation. Wife was liberated on a spiritual level by Collaborative Divorce by maintaining peace and integrity throughout the separation, doing it in the most honorable way possible.
  • Lee Hamilton

    Lee Hamilton, MA, Divorce Coach and Mediator

    The entrepreneurial nature of the father’s work put a lot of drama and stress into the couple’s 28-year relationship. With the children off to college, the wife decided to initiate divorce proceedings. They chose Collaborative Divorce, which helped sort out their confusion and questions regarding the separation after so many years of marriage. Both individuals left the experience affirming the time they were married, respecting each other and understanding their divergent paths.

  • Collaborative Divorce saved the marriage. Wife initiated the proceedings after years of frustration of feeling like the odd-person-out in the family. The collaborative team helped establish a less hostile environment to proceed with the divorce and facilitated communication between the couple that in the end caused them to stay together and work out their problems through counseling.

Collaborative Divorce Video: A safe place

Collaborative Divorce Video

A safe place

Watch this recent video, Collaborative Divorce: A Safe Placeand follow the true-life story of one couple going through their own collaborative divorce.

Video_collaborative-divorce

Microsoft Silverlight required: A free web-browser plug-in that enables interactive media. Windows? Check. Mac? Check. Linux? Check. Silverlight works on all major OS’s plus all major browsers, including Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and yes, even Internet Explorer

 

IACP

Questions & Answers (FAQs) from IACP

Collaborative Divorce: A Safe Place is a twenty minute video produced and hosted by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), used by permission.

What is Co-Mediation?

Many family mediation matters are handled effectively by a single mediator, but there are also situations in which two professional heads working together are better than one.

Tonya Alexander, Collaborative Attorney & Mediator

Co-mediation involves two trained professionals (usually one lawyer and one with a mental health background or financial background) working together with the family as a 4-person settlement team. If the case involves difficult emotions or complex issues, two mediators with different professional backgrounds may assist the couple to reach better, faster and more enduring agreements. For example, financial decisions may be intertwined with emotional or kid-focused issues. Two mediators take turns “in the lead.” and can be better able to observe and keep notes.  Two mediators help ensure that both parties remain engaged and feel heard in the process, even when the circumstances of the case make that a challenge. Co-mediation allows mediators with different backgrounds and varied skills to work together in a complementary way to provide a full range of assistance that many families require. Alternatively, family members may mediate with the professionals in separate sessions, depending on the topic or work needed.

Engaging two mediators will most likely cost more than a session with just one professional.

However, co-mediation can offer tremendous synergy to the family and may result in a more efficient, effective process. Most families using co-mediation remark that the additional expense was value-added and well worth the upfront cost. Families should have access to a full range of peaceful options to help them address their unique challenges. The Bridges professional(s) that you consult with can discuss co-mediation with you and your family to see if this option is one that best fits your needs, or whether another option, such as collaborative method or pure mediation is preferable.

Tips for families to prepare for a peaceful and cost efficient separation.

Finances – Gather information on your monthly expenses, income, and cash flow needs on a monthly basis. To help with this task, there are free sites such as www.mint.com that can categorize spending and help you understand your monthly budget. Many banks and credit unions offer this service as well. It’s also a great time to meet with a financial adviser to better understand your financial situation and how to save and plan for the future.

Kids – Start thinking about your vision for co-parenting and how these new roles will be to help your child or children thrive and minimize the negative impact of divorce. Inquire about parenting classes for divorcing parents offered in each county. Statistics from the court show the earlier each parent completes these courses the greater the likelihood of avoiding litigation and co-parenting with success. I also recommend meeting with a child specialist or parenting coach to optimize communication and ease the transition of your family and children during this difficult transition.

Home – Start thinking about your goals and vision for the future, and whether you agree on selling the family home, buying out your spouse’s share of equity, or continuing to co-own in some manner after divorce. Gather information on value of home, mortgage(s) and any lines of credit attached to the home.

Debts – Run free annual credit reports to better understand any and all debts and liabilities outstanding as well as credit score for possible re-finance or loan. One site that seems user friendly is www.myfico.com but there are many others you can find as well. You may consider closing unused joint accounts and trying to simplify and disentangle debts.

Tonya Alexander

Tonya Alexander, Collaborative Attorney & Mediator

Tip for unemployed spouse looking to transition back into the workforce – I highly recommend meeting with a vocational coach or career services staff at a local college to explore initial steps to develop a plan for re-entry into the workforce and different educational plans and career paths.

Family business – If you have an ownership interest in a family business, it is a good idea to organize your accounting and books to make sure everything is up to date and in order. It’s money well spent to hire a good bookkeeper or accounting firm to help set up QuickBooks accounts or assist in bookkeeping.

Taxes – If you have any past years in which you have not filed taxes, it is crucial to meet with a CPA or other tax professional and catch-up to current year.

Retirement accounts – Try to avoid early distributions or withdrawals from retirement accounts prior to divorce or legal separation. I highly recommend obtaining legal advice for any possible creative solutions to avoid penalties and look at all available options.

Communication – Most importantly, in my opinion, is the ability to maintain open communication and transparency, so there are no surprises or changes from the “status quo” without discussion and agreement. Family coaches and mediators can help facilitate these discussions in a safe and confidential environment. Also, think about using the collaborative team approach if you would like to have more support and advocacy than mediation offers while still staying out of court and meeting family goals. Coaches can be utilized in both mediation and collaborative models.

Bottom line is separation and divorce don’t have to be awful. It takes hard work and compassion to keep the process peaceful, and we have a community of collaborative professionals here to help. We are peacemakers at heart, looking to help families avoid the pain and cost of litigation.

 

Disclaimer: Content of this article is not intended as legal advice and it’s strongly recommended that you consult with an attorney licensed in the state in which you reside if you have legal questions.

How do you “bridge” the chasm between you?

As obvious as they are, the elements of a constructive divorce become obstructed from view by the emotional intensity of the experience. It is all too easy to stop caring about what happens and start justifying destructive behavior. It is easy to get trapped in spiraling hostilities.

Copy this, print it out and paste it on your mirror (from “Between Love and Hate” by Lois Gold,  pp. 55-56).

  • Take responsibility for regulating your behavior regardless of what your spouse does.

  • Separate your emotions from the decision making process.

  • Separate your job as a parent from the conflicts with your spouse.

  • Accept responsibility for your contribution to the divorce.

  • Learn to understand your spouse’s viewpoint.

  • Be willing to negotiate, compromise and cooperate in resolving your differences.

  • Make a commitment to an equitable and non-adversarial settlement process.

Collaborating collaborators….

Your Bridges’ professionals took Veterans’ Day away from their offices to honor vets and learn from and with about forty local collaborating professionals. We spent the day engaged and engaging with our peers.

  • 1111151254 (960x1280)

    “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”

    Tonya started the conference with her presentation on What? Why? How? When? The Essential Questions for Collaboration.

  • Dona was inspirational with her talk on The Power of Purpose.
  • Forrest gave the road map of his changing practice, from full service law firm to strictly collaboration and mediation, all without losing his “lawyer-identity.”
  • Gail spoke about her passion for Vocational Choice in Collaborative Cases.
  • Lee gave her own story, Helicoptering into the Fire (or, My Journey Toward Boldness).

Bridges professionals will always keep honing our skills, so your family can achieve the best possible results.

L-R: Randy, Gail, Tonya, Dona, Lee, Forrest & Kelsey

L-R: Randy, Gail, Tonya, Dona, Lee, Forrest & Kelsey

Divorce Coach

The “divorce coach” is unique to collaborative law.

A divorce coach is a mental health professional – often a psychologist or an LCSW – who assists the client to effectively move through the divorce. There is an emotional component of divorce that must be addressed, in addition to the legal component. In fact, the emotional divorce is often more complex than the legal divorce. In traditional litigation, emotions are legally irrelevant  i.e., ignored. In a proper collaborative divorce,  emotions are fully considered.

The divorce coach does not perform therapy. Rather, the relationship is a short-term intervention aimed at helping a client confront the emotional hurdles involved in divorce. Divorce coaching can involve working on a number of skills needed to navigate the process. A few of these skills include effective listening; effective communicating; learning how to speak-up for oneself; identifying interests; and recognizing how your behavior impacts others. Divorce coaches can help clients address difficult topics too, such as substance abuse issues, infidelity, leaving or having been left and issues related to money.

Lee Hamilton, MA, Divorce Coach and Mediator and Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC, Personal and Career Counselor, Collaborative Divorce Coach

Because Collaborative Law is client-centered, divorce coaching is client-centered as well. Clients can choose to have a divorce coach or not. One coach can work with both clients or each client can have a coach. Rarely only one client has a divorce coach and the other does not. It is important to realize that the entire family benefits, even if only person is receiving coaching. It is beneficial for the whole family because the issues of one person often effect the entire family and the entire collaborative negotiation.

Collaborative Divorce Empowers Stay-at-Home Spouse Re-Entering the Workplace

Increasingly in recent years, couples seeking an amicable divorce have chosen mediation as a way to avoid a nasty escalation into an expensive, attorney-driven legal battle. This works for many families. However, anecdotal research shows that other folks still want more than a neutral mediator: they need an advocate in their corner. In a Collaborative Divorce, a settle out-of-court option, each party has their own specially-trained attorney who advocates for them, but not in direct opposition to their partner. Collaborative Divorce is conducted in the spirit of mediation, with the goal of maintaining mutual respect, safety and hope for the future for both husband and wife throughout the process.

Divorcing has often required financial support for women as they re-enter the workforce, typically after many years at home caring for children. Increasingly, in our modern world, there are stay-at-home dads in the same situation. Unfortunately, fathers may have also experienced a devaluation of their talents and skills, as someone who didn’t receive an outside income for work done during the marriage. This can leave both mothers and fathers feeling vulnerable and “one down” as they enter the negotiation process.

Women and men who are financially vulnerable are supported by the collaborative team, which includes a vocational expert who provides supportive counseling to the stay-at-home spouse, while clarifying their interests, values and skills. The counselor helps the person understand the need for training and evaluates potential earning capacity. The assessment works for both spouses, helping to identity the career path that would be best for the person re-entering the workplace, as well as the amount and duration of financial assistance needed as they transition to being more self-supporting. The thoughts and feelings of the spouse who will be contributing to support payments are also solicited because realistic and feasible arrangements are the goal.

Gail Nicholson, MA, LPC Personal and Career Counselor

In traditional litigation, the stay-at-home spouse is frequently evaluated by a “hired-gun” vocational expert to determine their potential earnings, as both sides prepare to go to court (or typically, settle at the last moment, just before trial). Sometimes, the litigating lawyers for both the husband and wife will pay for an expert to forecast the career path that would be best, or earn the most, for the person re-entering the workplace. These proceedings often do not include the feelings and choices of the person being evaluated and can become quite contentious as the supporting party seeks to reduce their ongoing financial outlay. The vulnerable spouse can experience extreme anxiety, including a sense of having no control over their future.

The vocational coach in a collaborative case seeks to empower the stay-at-home spouse. The client is engaged and supported through career testing, homework and exploratory exercises that develop and reinforce their emerging identity as a newly single person and their choices for the life that is to come. The collaborative process is facilitated by professionals outside the court and usually results in real growth for both sides, compared to the adversarial, litigation system. Personal and career progress is enhanced, as evidenced by a renewed sense of self, self-confidence, purpose, hope and excitement about the options being explored, a true “win-win” for both spouses.

 

 

 

Welcome Portland Monthly readers…

Welcome Portland Monthly readers!

If you saw our little “bluish” ad on page 85 of the November “Best Restaurants” issue, you’re entitled to a free telephone consultation (be sure to leave a message if you miss us).

Please call 503-567-2848Nov 2013 issue

Portland Green Guide to Networking and Jobs

Gail NicholsonA guide to networking your way into the green working world of Portland, Oregon. A broad network created this valuable resource for those who want to make a difference.

 

From an overview of career transition to tips on job search and networking according to your personal style, this 98-page handbook includes over 40 pages of listings on local organizations, web, and print resources to get you moving in the right direction.

 

www.gailnicholson.com/resources