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FAQ – Summer 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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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.

Vision

Transform how conflict is resolved worldwide through Collaborative Practice.

Mission

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.
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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.
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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.

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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.