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FAQ – Fall 2017

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?

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?

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Giving Thanks After a Split

When you’re a child of divorce, holiday celebrations can come with a lot of baggage.

Check out this “first-person” article about new Thanksgiving “traditions.”

[click the turkey]


“On a holiday devoted to gratitude, it makes sense to let go of grudges, set aside differences and focus on the positive.” ~Aisha Harris


…or check out these posts:

A Guide to Surviving Thanksgiving with Divorced Parents

The Truth About Thanksgiving With Divorced Parents

For Grown Children Of Divorce, Holidays Are Always Half-Full


Aaron M. Eichenbaum, CPA

Aaron M. Eichenbaum, CPA, LLC
5289 NE Elam Young Pkwy, Ste. 170
Hillsboro, Oregon 97124

Aaron M. Eichenbaum, CPA graduated from Lindfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, with a Bachelors degree in Accounting.  Since that time, he has been engaged in various disciplines within the accounting profession; from auditing mid-sized companies to performing forensic accounting examinations and preparing complex tax returns.

Currently, Aaron serves a diverse range of businesses and individuals as a trusted advisor; assisting with their tax research, planning, and compliance needs. He also has extensive experience working with large and small not-for-profit organizations, manufacturers, wholesalers, expatriate individuals, and persons in a variety of professions.

Aaron is also actively engaged in the greater Washington County community: he is involved with the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Hillsboro program and various business networking groups and civic organizations.

Outside of work, Aaron enjoys spending time with his wife and two children. Some of his hobbies include; travel, fishing, mountain biking, and camping with his family in their vintage Airstream trailer.

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How to divorce without publicizing your private life

How to divorce without publicizing your private life

by Jo Posey, JD

Joanna “Jo” Posey, Attorney at Law / Mediator

Most people don’t realize that everything they or their spouse files during their divorce case becomes a matter of public record.

Every scandalous accusation of past wrongdoing. Every detail about their finances and the finances of their business. Every embarrassing story about their weakest parenting moments. All of those details, if alleged by a party in a court pleading, become part of the court’s file and available to the public at large.

Years ago, when a person had to drive down to the courthouse and pay a fee to make paper copies of court files, this wasn’t such a big deal. But since all Oregon courts switched to electronic filing, obtaining court records is as easy as signing up for a login and doing a quick name search. What this means is that the most intimate details of your private life and the conflicts leading to your divorce are readily available to anyone who cares enough look for them online—including friends, family members, neighbors, employers/employee and children.

The solution to prevent the publicizing of details of a divorcing couple’s private lives is to choose a collaborative divorce process rather than litigating in the public spotlight. At the outset of collaborative divorce cases, parties sign a contract committing to resolving all of their conflicts in a series of meetings outside of the courtroom and before any salacious allegations can be made part of the public record.

Each party is represented by an attorney with specialized training in alternative dispute resolution and interest-based negotiation who advocates on their client’s behalf throughout the process. Only after a complete agreement is reached and tempers have cooled is anything filed with the court. Oregon law requires some minimal income information be recited in judgments involving child support, but the rest of the agreement can be set forth in a confidential marital settlement agreement.

Collaborative divorce has other benefits over litigation:

  • Instead of a judge, the parties control the process, including the timeline and the final decisions made.
  • Parties agree to openly share information with one another without the need for depositions or formal legal requests to produce documents and information.
  • The private details of your divorce remain between you, your ex-spouse and your attorneys.
  • Costs are manageable and typically less than in a litigated case.
  • Parties jointly retain experts as needed (appraisers, actuaries, child specialists) who provide information and guidance to help spouses develop mutually beneficial solutions
  • Lawyers work together to help their clients reach a mutually agreeable settlement rather than using resources that could be put toward achieving settlement toward trial preparation and legal positioning, which drives up costs.
  • The process is voluntary, but the parties are protected from having the content of their collaborative meetings used against them in court proceedings.

Collaborative divorce helps divorcing spouses get the education and legal advice they need to make informed decisions about their own future, rather than leaving those decisions up to a judge who may only be able to spend a few hours learning about the issues before making a ruling that will affect the family for years to come.

The collaborative process works in most types of divorce cases, including legally complicated cases, high asset cases and highly contested cases. It is an effective alternative to litigation that saves the participants from the stress of trial and the embarrassment of having sensitive information made public.


Originally posted at Portland Business Journal Thank 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.
  • 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.


    Compassion, not revenge, right?

  • 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.
  • Will Collaborative Divorce work for us?

    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.

  • 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.
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Child-Centered Parenting During Your Divorce

Child-Centered Parenting During Your Divorce

by Diane Gans, MA, LPC

Diane Gans, MA, LPC

As a Child Specialist, I have great compassion for the impact that the process of divorce has on families.  Parents are not only navigating their own loss and grief, but are intensely protective and concerned for their children’s well being and healing.  In many cases, parents have varied views about the effects on their children, one praising the resilience and happiness they observe and hear from them, while the other fears that irreparable damage has been done throughout the divorce.

When I meet with children, I often learn that it is somewhere in between. Children are not unaffected, but may deal with multiple emotions of guilt, sadness and anger that they are reluctant to share to protect their parent or prevent added conflict. However, they can explore and express these in therapy and/or with their parents as a part of the grieving process. while envisioning new and different ways of being in their family, moving forward.

Below are some helpful ideas written from a child’s perspective for parents to consider as they are creating new ways of interacting with each other and their children during divorce:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Here is a list of helpful ideas to help me manage the divorce:

  • Always remember I love both of you.
  • Even though you may not get along, I feel torn apart when you talk badly about the other parent.
  • Respect that I am grieving. This divorce is a loss for me and I may go through many stages as I adjust to our new family.
  • Create a special place for me at both homes, no matter how long I spend there. I might like a photo of my other parent and me to comfort me when I miss them.
  • Be careful of where you have adult conversations about the divorce and each other. Hearing about fighting and money create more worries for me- about myself and the safety of our family.
  • Ask me questions about my time away from you. Help me not to feel guilty about leaving you and having fun with the other parent.
  • Ask my other parent if you have questions about their new relationships or other private things. Secrets and spying make me feel anxious and disloyal.
  • Encourage me to call or text my other parent when I am with you. Help me schedule a routine at bedtime or before school.  This helps me stay connected to both of you.
  • Keep talking to each other about me! I feel very responsible about your reactions when I carry notes or messages between you.
  • Help me prepare for transitions with routines and special things that comfort me at both homes, such as a journal or favorite stuffed friend.
  • Agree on what rules I have at both homes. It will be much harder for me to fight about bedtime if both of you agree.
  • Attend my school and fun activities with me. It makes me happy that you are both sharing in something that is important to me.
  • Try to create as many opportunities for me to see you! Be flexible if my other parent has occasional requests to change our time together.
  • Protect me from your adult feelings. I am aware that you are often sad and mad too, and I feel very responsible to take care of you.
  • Find caring adults to support and listen to you. When you are healthy and happy, I feel happier too!

Thank you,

Your Loving Child


Collaborative Divorce Knowledge Kit

Is Collaborative Divorce right for you?

Download your free knowledge kit quickly and easily.

This free information packet was created by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) as a tool to educate you both about Collaborative Divorce. The PDF format can safely be downloaded onto your hard drive and emailed, or it can be printed as a portable and easy-to-read “hard copy.”

Knowledge Kit

printable pdf-format

The kit contains the following:

  • A comparison chart: “Collaborative Divorce vs. Litigation Divorce.”
  • Case studies highlighting the flexible, solution-oriented process of Collaborative Divorce.
  • General information about Collaborative Divorce and how it can benefit you.
Download your free Collaborative Divorce Knowledge Kit and discover if collaborative divorce will work for you. Used with permission of the International Association of Collaborative Professionals. The download is a single PDF “kit” file.

Why Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Divorce

Most folks don’t want the typical (usually awful) American divorce. Instead, they want a respectful process that makes one of life’s hardest transitions as smooth as possible for themselves and their families. For some families, mediation won’t work but they don’t want to go to court. A Collaborative Divorce helps participants to be their best selves at this tough time, rather than being dragged down into the whirlpool of anger and sadness that can greatly damage family relationships for many, many years to come, or even forever.

With a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse has their own attorney and the attorneys are committed to working together to come to an agreement. Coaches are usually a good idea. Other specialists (e.g., Child, Financial, Appraiser) are called upon, as needed, in a given situation.


Children are our future…

The idea of a “Children’s’ Bill of Rights” is not new (or legally enforceable). Rather, use this list as a reminder to keep the best interest of the children a top priority.

We the children of the divorcing parents, hereby establish this Bill Of Rights for all children:

  1. The right not to be asked to “choose sides” or be put in a situation where I would have to take sides between my parents.
  2. The right to be treated as a person and not as a pawn, possession or a negotiating chip.
  3. The right to freely and privately communicate with both parents.
  4. The right not to be asked questions by one parent about the other.
  5. The right not to be a messenger.
  6. The right to express my feelings.
  7. The right to adequate visitation with the non-custodial parent which will best serve my needs and wishes.
  8. The right to love and have a relationship with both parents without being made to feel guilty.
  9. The right not to hear either parent say anything bad about the other.
  10. The right to the same educational opportunities and economic support that I would have had if my parents did not divorce.
  11. The right to have what is in my best interest protected at all times.
  12. The right to maintain my status as a child and not to take on adult responsibilities for the sake of the parent’s well being.
  13. The right to request my parents seek appropriate emotional and social support when needed.
  14. The right to expect consistent parenting at a time when little in my life seems constant or secure.
  15. The right to expect healthy relationship modeling, despite the recent events.
  16. The right to expect the utmost support when taking the time and steps needed to secure a healthy adjustment to the current situation.

Mediation as an Option

Is Mediation a good alternative for us?

Mediation is a way of resolving a dispute with the help of an impartial person (the mediator). The neutral mediator helps both of you discuss personal concerns and, if possible, reach a voluntary agreement. The mediator helps you both think about your individual needs and interests, clarify your differences with the other person and find common ground.

In mediation:

  • You are the decision-maker: the mediator has no authority to make decisions.
  • You determine the issues that need to be addressed: the mediator guides the process and maintains a safe environment.
  • Formal, adversarial, public OR thoughtful, cooperative, private: Which approach works for you?

    The mediator uses and helps you to use active listening skills.

  • The mediator does not give legal or other professional advice to either of you. The mediator may help you think of options to consider, possibly with the help and advice of another professional.
  • Mediation is usually private. If not, the reason why is explained before beginning mediation. You have a right to quit mediation at any time.
  • Agreements are reached only when you both agree.

    Mediation is sometimes described as facilitated or assisted negotiation.  This option works best when the parties are able to sit together and, with the mediator’s help, develop problem-solving solutions on their own. Of course, some families will require more support than mediation provides (see “What is Collaborative Divorce?” page).

    Bridges members are available to help parties mediate their family disputes, in a private, neutral and safe process.  We have extensive training in negotiation and conflict resolution techniques. Our role is to ensure that the process remains respectful and works to develop win-win solutions that might not otherwise occur within the families.

Joanna “Jo” Posey

Joanna "Jo" Posey, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Fischer Family Law, PC
385 1st St., Ste. 221
Lake Oswego, Oregon 97034

Why I do this work? Divorce can and should be a respectful and transformative process, not a civil war.

My practice: My primary goal is to help families in transition achieve the best possible results for the least amount of emotional and financial stress. I help families create agreements that are durable, and strive to leave them with the necessary tools to resolve future disputes without going to court. My practice includes Collaborative Divorce, Mediation, Independent Adoptions, and select contested litigation.

Background: I moved to Oregon from my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee to attend Lewis and Clark Law School. In my second year there, I clerked for the Honorable Robert E. Jones of the United States District Court, District of Oregon. I worked at firms with a wide range of practice areas from business advising and strategy to elder law and intellectual property law. My practice has been focused almost exclusively in family law since 2001.

After Hours: I enjoy spending time with friends and family, hosting gatherings at my home, and checking out Portland’s wonderful array of restaurants.

Myah Kehoe

Myah Kehoe, Attorney at Law / Mediator.
Kehoe Law, LLC
319 SW Washington Ste., Ste. 614
Portland, Oregon 97204


Why I do this work? I have seen the toll litigation takes on couples and families so I know firsthand that no one “wins” in those situations. I would much rather focus my energy on helping people resolve their disputes in a respectful way that allows them to continue to be friends and co-parents later.

My practice:  I started my boutique law firm the end of 2008, with a focus on the clients. It is located in downtown Portland (with validated parking). We offer a variety of services such as mediation, Collaborative Law, and support for those who are self-represented.

Background:  After working at various law firms, I worked at the Multnomah County Courthouse. At the courthouse, I first worked as “Family Law Facilitator”, helping people represent themselves. I then worked in the courtroom with several of the family law judges. From there, I started my practice, which has been growing ever since.

After Hours: My husband and I have a young family, with two wonderful kids, who keep us on our toes. We love to go hiking and out to the coast to get out of the city on weekends.

Diane Gans, MA

Diane Gans, MA
Psychotherapist / Child Specialist
1609 Willamette Falls Dr West Linn OR 97068
516 SE Morrison St Ste 810 Portland OR 97214


Why I do this work? I am passionate about supporting children and their families as they navigate the grieving process of divorce and work to create peaceful homes.

My practice: I focus on helping children to express and explore their complex thoughts and feelings about loss and change and to develop strengths to cope with separations and transitions. I encourage parents to create intentional child-centered interactions. I offer parent consultations, brief assessments, and counseling therapy. I work with mediators and parenting coordinators to help clients create plans for their families.

Background: I taught fifth grade for twelve years prior to receiving my Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Lewis and Clark College in 2006. Currently, in addition to my counseling practice, I teach Group Counseling for Children classes at Lewis and Clark College and offer various parent trainings throughout the Portland area.

After Hours: Being in nature and spending time with my family help to rejuvenate and restore me.  I also enjoy traveling adventures, and long meals with my treasured friends.

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IACP Forum, Lake Las Vegas

IACP Forum

17th Annual Networking and Educational Forum

October 27-30, 2016
Hilton / Lake Las Vegas

IACP 2016

What is Collaborative Practice?

Several of your Bridges Divorce professionals are back from the world collaborative conference in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada.

IACP is the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, an international community of legal, mental health and financial professionals working in concert to create client-centered processes for resolving conflict.


Transform how conflict is resolved worldwide through Collaborative Practice.


IACP supports Collaborative Practice as a conflict resolution option worldwide by:

  • establishing and upholding the essential elements, ethical and practice standards of Collaborative Practice;
  • fostering professional excellence by educating and providing resources to Collaborative practitioners;
  • leading and integrating the Collaborative community; and
  • promoting the growth of Collaborative Practice.

Relationships / Feedback

Negotiation requires listening to different perspectives that often conflict with how we see ourselves and our world. This is feedback. It’s hard to give and hard to take.

Why is feedback so hard? Because of our insecurities.

Why is feedback so important? For the mutual benefit of understanding, to make positive changes in how we behave and to grow.

What can we do to overcome the pain of feedback? The only way to face our fear of feedback is to engage in a process that fosters safe dialogue, including both deep honesty and empathy.

How can we safely engage in conflict (including giving and receiving feedback) in order to grow and improve our relationships? Relationships continue after divorce, especially if there are children. Learning to resolve conflict is an ongoing process for us, and our abilities positively or negatively affect our lives and the lives of those around us. People must feel safe to discuss their concerns and interests. Once fear of vulnerability is removed, people can aspire to their higher good and find excellent solutions.

How do we apply this to feedback? What’s required is a change of heart – from negative, evaluative feedback to appreciation. Try to find new truth in what is being said. Know it’s a process of understanding that each person is a culture and sees things differently. Build trust by buffering individual differences with feelings of appreciation, seeing the innocence and insecurity in others and understanding them. Take feedback with a mind open to change, new information, curiosity, and wanting to get better.

What are the tools?

  • Positive Affinity George Pransky in his Relationship Handbook says compassion is our innate, personal lubricant that helps us get along with others. When we feel compassion we are in a healthy state of mind and have the wisdom to know how to respond. It’s a blanket of warm feelings that protects us from the rough edges of personalities. It protects us from harsh self-judgment and raises our spirits. It allows the other person to regain a sense of security. We can bring out the best in others if they feel safe.
  • Trust Trust in oneself. Innate trust is defined by Philip Moffit as “the understanding that if you live mindfully moment to moment and have the intention to act according to your values even in difficult or confusing situations, your life will unfold in the most harmonious manner possible.” Innate trust is unconditional. It allows us to engage in feedback with understanding, empathy and compassion as well as the confidence to express our needs and set boundaries.
  • Non-Defensive Communication We know feedback is important for our relationships, our growth and our development. The key is to be able to deliver and accept feedback in a way that doesn’t provoke defensiveness. Sharon Strand Ellison, author of Taking the War Out of Our Words – The Art of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication, says we reduce defensiveness by using basic communication tools: asking questions, making statements and making predictions.
    • Questions: Asking questions with real curiosity and authenticity for the purpose of gathering information. A “safe question” is one that establishes the subjectivity of each person’s viewpoint and assists us in remaining separate from someone else’s judgment.
    • Statements: Making statements that are open and direct, being vulnerable and unguarded with no hidden agenda. We state our needs, desires and goals directly. A non-defensive statement is subjective, descriptive and lays it all out on the table. We no longer defend ourselves and try to control how the other person is reacting. It encourages accountability and clarification and results in personal growth.
    • Predictions: These are not threats or manipulations. With predictions we foretell what can be the consequences of certain actions or choices. They must be given with neutrality, be definitive and absolute. The function is to create security for ourselves and others through predictability. Predictions protect us and create clear boundaries.

    Mediators and collaborative practitioners strive to create the safety necessary for people to express their interests, listen to the concerns of others and offer common solutions. Compassionate and constructive feedback is what we encourage for ourselves and the families we serve. We would all do well to focus on non-defensive communication and the innate qualities of compassion and trust as a strategy for conflict resolution, personal growth and professional development.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.
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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.

  • 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.
  • Jim shared his personal experience with both a peaceful and non-peaceful divorce. His son remarked about the peaceful case, “Hey, Dad, it wasn’t that bad.”
  • 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.


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.

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.

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Robin Williams on Conflict

Robin Williams (1951-2014) demonstrates CONFLICT with his Sesame Street friends

Collaborative Divorce is so much more than simply negotiating out-of-court. Robin Williams used the collaborative divorce process and is said to have maintained an outstanding relationship with his ex wife. Said Williams during his 2008 divorce, “We will strive to be honest, cooperative and respectful as we work in this [collaborative] process to achieve the future well-being of our families. We commit ourselves to the collaborative law process and agree to seek a positive way to resolve our differences justly and equitably.”

Collaborative Divorce is a holistic approach to the complex process of divorce that can preserve time, money, and the health of the entire family moving forward.

click here to link to the YouTube Sesame Street Channel

T. Boone Pickens Tells How to Save Millions on Divorce

T. Boone Pickens was one of the featured presenters at a collaborative law conference in Texas.

Following his talk with the group, he gave an entertaining and enlightening interview to the Dallas Business Journalit’s written up here.

Mr. Pickens used Collaborative Divorce in his recent parting of ways from his fourth wife, Madeleine. The energy tycoon said the collaborative approach saves both money and emotional wear and tear on families.

“Collaborative law keeps everything on a high level, and everybody cooperating,” Pickens said.

Mr. Pickens is best known as a corporate raider for his runs at Gulf Oil, Unocal, Pioneer and others in the 1980s. In recent years T. Boone Pickens has focused on managing Dallas-based hedge funds and pushing his Pickens Plan to boost adoption of wind, solar, and especially natural gas.


IACP Institute

Welcome back, Dona!

Dona Cullen has returned from Phoenix, Arizona / ASU Mercado, where she took a 2-day course on Facilitation Skills for Collaborative Professionals. Her instructors were Rita Pollak, JD and Catherine Tornbon.

Portland Green Guide to Networking and Jobs

A 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.




2011 Oregon Legislature Repeals 90-day Waiting Period

Prior to January 1, 2012, Oregon law seemed to prevent “a quickie-divorce.” There was a 90-day waiting period between starting a divorce and time of trial or judgment.

The waiting period had been in effect since 1971, when Oregon adopted “no-fault” divorce. I think the legislators included this provision as a sort of “cooling-off” period, but almost no one I know of reconciled during the waiting period. With just a bit more paperwork, folks could reasonably and promptly end their marriage. For years, in appropriate cases, lawyers routinely asked the court to waive (skip) the waiting period, and this request was usually granted.

…so, now Oregon enters the 21st Century: Marriage is serious and divorce is not to be taken lightly. No one I know is ever thoughtless about ending his or her marriage. The waiting period just became an anachronism in modern family matters. The upshot of all of this: Less paperwork (“save-a-tree”) and avoiding unnecessary legal expenses!

IACP Forum, San Francisco

October 27-30, 2011
Westin St. Francis / San Francisco

Your Bridges Divorce professionals are back from the conference in San Francisco.

IACP is the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, an international community of legal, mental health and financial professionals working in concert to create client-centered processes for resolving conflict.


Transform how conflict is resolved worldwide through Collaborative Practice.


IACP supports Collaborative Practice as a conflict resolution option worldwide by:

  • establishing and upholding the essential elements, ethical and practice standards of Collaborative Practice;
  • fostering professional excellence by educating and providing resources to Collaborative practitioners;
  • leading and integrating the Collaborative community; and
  • promoting the growth of Collaborative Practice.

Randall Poff

Randall Poff, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
[Admitted in Oregon and Washington]
1500 NW Bethany Blvd., Ste. 340
Beaverton, Oregon 97006


My primary office is in Beaverton, just off Sunset Highway at Bethany; Appointments at satellite offices throughout Greater Portland or SW Washington are available upon request

Why I do this work? The one constant in family law is that each family is different.

My practice: My primary goal has always been to help my clients get through a difficult time in their lives with the least amount of wasted time, emotional pain and unnecessary expense. I no longer do contested hearings, trials or last-minute settlements because my clients’ goals were not being achieved. I am convinced the “better way” is Collaborative Divorce (and its little sibling, Mediation)!

Background: I was born and raised in Portland, graduating from Portland State University and Lewis and Clark – Northwestern School of Law. Rain doesn’t bother me and I still think the only “pro” sports team in town is the Blazers! [congrats, Timbers: MLS 2015 champions]. I opened my law office in 1978 and have been in solo practice ever since. Over the years, my family practice has grown by word-of-mouth and referrals from colleagues and satisfied clients.

After Hours: Most of my leisure time at present is spent aboard my 80’s-era racing sailboat on the mighty Columbia (we call it “The Ditch”), but my two young granddaughters demand their share of “Grandpa Randy’s” time, too. When my sons were young, I was a Scoutmaster for nearly 20 years (and a good ol’ Eagle, too!). I was also a soccer referee (USSF, adult, youth and NFHS high school) and a USSF referee instructor for about as long.


Jim O’Connor

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212

Why do I do this work? I work as a mediator and Collaborative attorney to assist individuals and couples who are willing to work together to achieve peaceful, respectful solutions to their family issues.

My practice: I provide free consultations that including an overview of the typical issues involved in separation, and the ways couples can work together on win-win solutions. My clients determine how often they wish to meet, how fast they want to proceed and the specific solutions that will work best for their families.

Background: I’ve practiced law for 30 years and mediated for the last decade supported by 750+ hours training in Collaborative skills. As a peacefully divorced father of two, I know firsthand the benefits that we can provide our kids from handling our breakups well.

After hours: I enjoy time outdoors, and try to keep up with my teen age son’s track and other activities.

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC
Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor
1020 SW Taylor St., Ste. 550
Portland, Oregon 97205


Why I do this work?  Being part of a collaborative or mediating team of professionals provides a significantly better way for couples to divorce.

My practice:  I work as a divorce and vocational coach providing support through the process of separation, as well as vocational coaching.  Many of my clients are poised to reenter the workplace or advance economically.  They move from overwhelm and fear to hope and excitement about the future, transforming expectations.

Background:  In practice for 30 years in Portland, offering a blend of personal and career counseling. I received a BS in Business Administration from Lewis & Clark and an MA in Counseling Psychology from Antioch.

After hours:  Away from work, I enjoy friends, family in New York, gardening, walking the neighborhood, the beach, music, reading and writing.

Lee Hamilton, MA

Lee Hamilton, MA
Mediator and Collaborative Divorce Coach
2233 NE Skidmore St.
Portland, Oregon 97211


Why I do this work: Having counseled children and families in public schools for 30 years, I witnessed the devastation and heartache a family suffers going through an adversarial divorce. The adults often experience so much pain, there is very little emotional support left for the children. Both Mediation and Collaborative Law processes offer healthy, supportive alternatives to unproductive conflict and aspire to meet the needs of all family members.

My practice: Whether I work as a communication and parenting coach in the Collaborative Law process or work as a mediator, I am committed to creating a safe environment for couples navigating the often painful experience of divorce. I encourage individuals to understand and express their emotions and assist them to end their marriage in a respectful and honest manner. If they have children, I help couples work together in their new relationship as co-parents. It is my belief and goal that these processes enable individuals to move to a place of hope as they transition into their new lives.

Background: I worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. I have a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Lewis and Clark and am a trained mediator and mental health coach in the Collaborative process.

After Hours: I love to garden, to create art, to spend time with friends and family and hang out with my dog. I have a passion for travel. I have been fortunate enough to travel to many countries around the world which has taught me compassion is the key to healing.

Dona Cullen

Dona Cullen, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
5200 Meadows Rd., Ste. 150
Lake Oswego, Oregon 97035


Why I do this work?  I am passionate about families and peacemaking.

My practice is to create a professional /friendly, efficient/thoughtful, thorough/forward- looking process empowering couples to make the best decisions possible while saving time and money. I emphasize financial clarity with Family Law Software and constructive communication as a peacemaking practice trainer and certified coach in HeartMath resilience training.

Background:  I graduated from Vermont Law School in 1978 with two young children in tow. After 20 years of general practice in Vermont and 8 years in Arizona as a juvenile public defender, pro tem judge, family court mediator and special master, I followed my grandchildren to Oregon. I have since worked tirelessly to train in and promote this new type of legal advocacy.

After Hours:  I am a consummate reader and life-long learner. My joy is in being with my grandchildren and helping them cultivate their passions.

Forrest Collins

Forrest Collins, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
Forrest Collins, PC
5200 Meadows Rd., Ste. 150
Lake Oswego, Oregon 97035

Why I do this work? Divorce is hard, even in respectful situations. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people navigate this challenging process in a way that leaves everyone feeling that the process was fair, that their voice was heard, and that the outcome was constructive.

My practice: My practice focuses on respectful, effective and efficient resolution of family law matters.  I believe clients are in the best position to make decisions for themselves, and that they can do so with some guidance and education. I use technology and my extensive experience to resolve your case quickly and affordably.

Background: I’ve been a lawyer for over 10 years. For over three years, my practice has been limited to mediation, Collaborative law, and uncontested cases.

After Hours: When I’m not mediating, I’m playing with my 3 daughters, all of whom are 5 and under!

Tonya Alexander

Tonya Alexander, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
Conveniently located in the high tech corridor off of Hwy 26:
15220 NW Greenbriar Pkwy., Ste. 235
Beaverton, Oregon 97006

Why I do this work? I love helping families find hope and strength in difficult transitions such as separation and divorce and to show how this can be done peacefully out of court.

My practice: My approach is to provide compassionate, fair and affordable services to Oregon families looking to avoid the litigation process. I am pleased to provide Mediation, Co-Mediation, and Legal Services ranging from hourly “coaching,” or unbundled legal services, to full representation in Collaborative Method cases. I work closely with legal assistant, Cindy Armony, who has over 25 years’ experience in family law. We work together to provide cost savings and efficiency for our clients.

Background: I have been practicing family law for over 16 years in Oregon. Upon graduating law school, I quickly realized I wanted to help families in crisis. I have been through divorce personally, and was three years old when my parents first divorced. Having witnessed a custody/ relocation battle in my own family, and the harmful effect of litigation, I have a passion for helping others find peaceful alternatives to resolve conflict.

After Hours: I am a mother of two active young boys, ages 6 and 9, who are both in sports year-round now. I enjoy outdoor activities like surfing, kite boarding, mountain biking, Nordic and alpine skiing, scuba diving, kayaking, photography, and travel. You also may find me coaching kids’ baseball, soccer, volunteering at school, and mentoring college and law students.