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More on Negotiation in a Collaborative or Mediated Divorce

 

Jim O’Connor set the stage for negotiation by focusing on the future rather than the past in his recent blog – https://bridgesdivorce.com/negotiating-with-your-partner/

            Let’s carry that forward using the steps of a collaborative or mediation process.

High End Goals

We start with goals for the process and for yourselves.  What matters most to you? Take some time.  Do this in a quiet setting with a quiet mind if at all possible.  To come back to your heart will be an important skill for this exercise.

  • Why did you pick a peacemaking process?  What are your goals for the process?
  • What is it you want for your future relationship together?
  • What do you want for the children? What is most important?
  • What are your values about money? What are your priorities?
  • How about personal and emotional goals? How do you want to feel, during the process and afterwards?
  • What are your concerns about ongoing relationships with family, friends, work?
  • What do you need for self-care? Balance of life?
  • What does a positive future look like for you? How do you want to feel?

Negotiation Is Mindful Listening to Yourself and Others.

Negotiation is shared listening.  That is, listening with attention and without judgment.  Attention generates new, fresh thinking.  Mindfulness deepens the quality of attention.  This type of listening helps coherent intelligence unfold.  So better ideas are the result.

We communicate with ourselves this way to unearth our dreams, wants, needs and what’s important to us.  We express this to the other in an environment of mutual respect met with uninterrupted attention.  This is the ideal.  We can come close to it with intention, awareness and discipline.  It’s not easy to do but will make the divorce easier and more fruitful.  It’s a primary requirement of a peaceful process.

Practices of connecting with the heart, meditation and other activities that balance the nervous system assist in making this type of communication possible.  Working with a divorce coach also helps build tolerance and gives practice in better communication to make negotiation at the table much more productive.

Brainstorming Options

When options are proposed, it’s important to consider the interests and needs of the other person as well as your own.  To do this takes courage and letting go.  Relaxing into a process that is not intimidating is important.  Flexibility to listen to and consider options you don’t think would work or don’t think you could agree to requires moving into our higher selves with dignity, patience and understanding.  To listen and not react.

Deciding

Making decisions requires a lot of the same skills.  Know that everything decided upon will not be comfortable.  Any combination of things that constitutes a settlement will require giving up something.  How flexible are you or can you be to accept what is possible or the best possible scenario for your family?  How strong have you made yourself through taking advantage of practices of the heart and other techniques that lead to acceptance.  Acknowledging that you have done the best you can under the circumstances and accepting the result will make a smoother transition moving forward.  It will be a continual practice of releasing and sharing control.  How flexible are you or can you be?  Longevity and happiness require flexibility, acceptance, forgiveness and letting go.

Committing

What does it take to commit to the result and work towards honoring your agreement with good faith, good nature and willingness to adjust to a new normal?  How much can you forgive the past and look forward to a future of cooperation?  These are all skills that can be practiced and mastered.  It’s what makes a better life for us anyway.  This is an opportunity to make life smoother for ourselves and others.

Negotiating with Your Partner: Look Ahead, Not Backwards

 

A colleague recently shared some training materials from Bill Eddy, founder of  High Conflict Institute.  This article shares some of Bill’s wisdom on how to help resolve conflicts by making effective proposals.

  • Setting the Stage

Most conflicts, from international disputes to divorces, have been percolating for some time. Someone has done something to someone (maybe many things, many times) and finally, one party insists that things must change.  Depending on the type of injury involved, a participant may wish to be heard, acknowledged, and apologized to before any plan for the future can be developed.  Those are crucial steps that must be skillfully handled and ….. that is a subject for a different blog post.   This article is about how former partners can begin to take concrete steps towards a different future, whether or not they have completed their reconciliation efforts.

  • “Any Past Problem Can Be Turned into a Proposal for a Different Future”

In one of many past Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, both delegations were repeatedly getting into arguments about past wrongs their people had suffered at each other’s hands.  Finally, one of the mediators offered the following insight: “If we talk about the past, one side will likely have to be ‘wrong’ for the other to be ‘right’.  If we focus on the future, perhaps we can find a way to both be right.”

 By exchanging proposals meant to achieve the desired change, we may be able to change the focus from a blame game about what’s already happened to be imagining how to go forward from this point.  Either party to a dispute may make a proposal or ask if the other person is ready to make one.  Bill Eddy suggests that, to be effective, proposals should include:

  • Who does:
  • What
  • When? and
  • Where?

Example: “I’d like to propose that we change the day we exchange the kids so that I pick them up on Friday instead of Thursday at your house”.

  • Responding to Proposals: Keep It Simple and Practical

For parties with good faith, the person making the proposal sincerely sees it as a reasonable solution to the problem being addressed, and one that the other might possible agree with.  Even if the receiving party does not view the idea as workable, beginning a diplomatic exchange of ideas (as opposed to a harsh critique) may lead to a dialogue where a different, even better mutual solution emerges.  Toward that goal, the participants should:

  1. Ask questions: to ensure that a clear understanding of the other’s proposal, and how it would work in practice.
  2. Respond with:

– “Yes”

– “No, that won’t work for me because…….”     or

– “I’ll think about it and get back to you by ……”.

Note that there is no editorializing, just a focus on what works for you, and what does not.

  • Attack the Problem, Not Each Other

Especially for disputes with a relational or historical component, our habitual pattern of interacting may lead us to an emotional reaction to a proposal we don’t like: “Are you nuts? There you go again! …. What a selfish or silly idea !”.  But, if we want to “win” (by reaching a solution to the dispute) rather than be “right” (by debating our perspective), then we must keep laser focused on resolving the problem using Bill Eddy’s simple steps: make or receive a proposal, and respond with “yes”, “no” or “I’ll think about it”.

None of this is to suggest that negotiating with our intimate partner is an easy thing just that, with the right help and techniques, it can actually be done effectively.

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Update on Courts Delayed by COVID-19

In Washington County, trials that were supposed to take place in March have been delayed to July and are expected to be rescheduled again.  In Multnomah County, the courthouse has just started allowing trial “assignment” to take place, but the judges have prepared attorneys that those trials will not be happening until January or later.

At just about any courthouse in Oregon or SW Washington, you or a loved one needs to be in immediate physical danger to see a judge. This is because the courthouses are so restricted in what they are able to handle right now with limited staffing and resources thanks to COVID-19. Thus, priority has to go to the extreme emergency issues only.

Yet, some couples are still finding a way to divorce and separate without waiting for a court date. This is because they are settling their cases out of court. If you are able to come to an agreement with your spouse, the paperwork can be filed (electronically), and the judges are still able to sign them, usually in as little as a month.

Settling all of your issues may feel impossible or improbable to some people. They may think this sort of process works if people already have resolved everything on their own; however, Collaborative Law and mediation are not for those who have already figured it out (although we can help them, too). Collaborative processes are for those who need help coming to an agreement. All you need is to have some empathy for one another, and we can help with the rest.

At Bridges, our team of professionals have trained, and continue to train, to be able to help couples resolve their cases through settlement. People do not come in with full agreements, or—quite frankly—they would not need us. Rather, our job is to help people realize their common ground, find creative solutions, and support the parties in reaching agreements that recognize the need for people to move on, while still maintaining a relationship in the future. If this sounds like you, please call one of us today.

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Myah Kehoe, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Kehoe Law, LLC
319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR 97204
503-388-6065

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

 

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COVID-19, Energy Conservation and Divorce Settlement

COVID-19 is guiding us to see inefficiencies and find new ways to help ourselves and others.  We hear a lot about energy efficiency in cars and conserving fuel usage.  But we don’t think as much about energy as our life force and conserving it for times like this when we need it to survive, thrive and evolve.

COVID-19 causes us to share experiences of pain that test our resilience and make us more compassionate. Responding to that pain in ourselves and others takes efficient use of our life energy.

Collaboration is a concept of importance as we move through this phase of growth to make what we do for work effective and efficient.  Changes in the law have been slow but Collaborative practice is cutting edge.  With COVID-19, adaptation to current needs has been swift.  What was started a few decades ago as a new way to practice law and settle cases is accelerating right now.  We at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions are building on a process that is already well established in our collaborative practice group.  We have been together learning, developing and sharing with the broader legal community for over 10 years.

What development has COVID-19 accelerated in collaborative divorce settlement – whether it be collaborative process, mediation or consultation and coaching?

Technology:

Zoom Meetings make communication efficient, focused, personalized and more frequent.  It’s surprising the difference it makes meeting with your lawyer, coach or financial neutral in your home or office without having to take the time and experience the stress of traveling to an office to do the same thing. Going to an office, sitting in a waiting room and around a conference table is impersonal and adds to an already stressful situation.  It saps your time and energy.  Meetings can be more spontaneous, frequent, timely and efficient.

Software makes the “back office” of settlement practice more efficient in time and cost.  These benefits are passed on to the consumer. One of our members, Forrest Collins, has developed a program that helps lawyers draft pleadings more efficiently and thoroughly. Please visit MyPleadings.com

Practice Management Systems provide organization, clarity and security to the tasks of client service.

Cloud based communication products that coordinate email with document and exhibit preparation and storage make a paperless process that can be fully accomplished with only a laptop and access to Wi-Fi.

Electronic signatures and electronic court filings make trips to law offices or the courthouse unnecessary.

Skill Development:

Professional organizations of collaborative professionals are working constantly to help each other develop improvements and skills to bring peacemaking to the law.  They include our local practice group of Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions Bridgesdivorce.com; the statewide group of Oregon Association of Collaborative Professionals collaborativepracticeoregon.org; and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals www.collaborativepractice.com

Resilience, difficult conversations, collaborative career coaching, the cross-generational effect of adverse childhood experiences, visioning for your financial future. These are all things we train in and you will see discussed in our blogs click on this link bridgesdivorce.com/blog These are life changing, evolutionary ideas, methods and  cutting edge approaches to helping families through conflict. We are constantly training.

Teamwork:

It’s all about collaborating with others.  Teamwork reduces stress, improves resilience and results in constant improvement.

That’s “Divorce Evolved” and WE MEAN IT.

         Check out our professionals and give us a call to find out more

Please visit us at the link below

bridgesdivorce.com/professionals

GROWING STRONGER TOGETHER

 

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What Is A Good Co-Parenting Relationship?

The effects of a divorce on the children involved can be detrimental to their development into healthy adults. A 2019 study published in the journal World Psychology revealed that while most children of divorce go on to lead well-adjusted lives, some may face a variety of problems over the course of their lives due to their experiences in the divorce process. A good co-parenting relationship may help mitigate any negative effects from a divorce on children. One of the benefits of the Collaborative Divorce process is that it helps clients work toward that positive co-parenting relationship which ultimately benefits the children.

Co-parenting is the sharing of parenting responsibilities between the parents who are separating or getting divorced.  All families have some framework under which parenting duties are shared and decisions are made, some more functional than others.   When splitting up, some couples get caught up in the animosity of the adversarial process and lose site of what is best for the children.  Dysfunctional parenting frameworks can become even more so when communication breaks down.  Even the best parenting frameworks can become strained by the stress and emotion of a breakup.

How to Achieve a Co-Parenting Relationship

Divorce litigation usually will make an already strained relationship worse. The process of preparing for trial—think lawyers digging into financial records and questioning each partner in costly depositions—encourages each side to become more adversarial and further entrenched in a dysfunctional parenting framework.  The animosity and resentment engendered can affect the relationship for years after the divorce is final.

To better facilitate a co-parenting relationship, Collaborative Divorce fosters an environment conducive to creating a positive co-parenting relationship. Collaborative Divorce encourages the couple to communicate, problem solve, and compromise rather than battle it out in a zero-sum game, building the foundation for a more effective co-parenting relationship when the case is over.

Why Co-Parenting Helps  

 A good co-parenting relationship benefits parents and children alike. If the parents are able to communicate and trust one another, it makes both of their lives easier. Dealing with unforeseen circumstances, like a change in the time to pick up the kids for a holiday visit, can be achieved easily and without acrimony. It may also mean that they are more willing to share time and responsibilities, giving each parent ample time to build a solid relationship with the kids.

Good communication between parents helps keep children from being placed in the middle of parenting decisions or acting as a go-between for their parents.  When they know their parents are on the same page, children are discouraged from trying to play them off one another to meet their own agenda.

As the study in World Psychology notes, children are negatively affected by a bitter divorce.  Ask your friends or colleagues whose parents are divorced, and they will probably back up the psychologist’ findings with anecdotal evidence of their own. Their stories may differ based on whether their parents divorced with hostility and resentment verses those whose parents worked to treat each other with respect and dignity, communicate better, and rebuild some level of trust.  When a child’s needs are truly prioritized by both parents during divorce, they have a much better chance of growing into health, happy adults.

 

 

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How to Avoid an Expensive Divorce

If you want to avoid an expensive divorce, the biggest piece of advice is to figure out a way the two of you can work together. If you go to mediation and or use the Collaborative Divorce process, you can find agreement the issues without the expense of a courtroom fight. Collaborative Divorce attorneys are a vital piece of the puzzle. The Collaborative Divorce process can provide a big savings, as it reduces the attorney’s billed hours for phone calls, email, and the litigation process.

What Makes a Divorce Cost So Much?

Every time an attorney goes into a courtroom on your behalf, your divorce costs rise. For a typical trial assignment, for example, an attorney can be in the courtroom for an hour before finding out what judge will be hearing your trial the following day, or if they even have availability. When you go in for trial, the court may be behind schedule and you could be billed for hours of your attorney’s time before the trial even begins. If you are working with your spouse and not going to court frequently, you can save thousands of dollars. Working on your divorce with the Collaborative Divorce team means no court appearances, fewer arguments between attorneys (which can also be a costly issue!), and a lower level of stress for all involved.  For example, in many traditional litigated divorce cases, one spouse will contact their attorney to call the opposing party’s attorney, to notify the other parent about what time to pick up the child if there is a schedule change. That kind of communication gets very expensive for the entire family. Each attorney has had a conversation with his or her client, a conversation with the other (time billed), and at least an email or phone to his/her client. Each client has now paid for a minimum of three interactions. In the Collaborative Divorce process, by contrast, the parties would address this issue at an already-scheduled meeting, and would entail one parent notifying the other of a schedule change, and that parent saying okay. Furthermore, the Collaborative Divorce process helps parents to develop good communications skills so they would most likely have been able to have this entire communication without any help from their attorneys at all. In this sense, collaborating saves a lot of time, stress, and money.

Tips to Prevent Problems from Escalating

There are many different ways to communicate successfully.  In the Collaborative Divorce process, a mental health professional is part of the team and helps parents to learn better ways to communicate.  The mental health professional in a Collaborative Divorce case is often referred to as a communication coach or divorce coach.

Talking through unmet needs and areas where communication is breaking down will help you get back on the right track quickly. The attorneys in the collaborative process help their clients find ways to communicate well. In this process, clients and attorneys also have the help of a divorce coach, who can help teach ways to engage in a conversation without accusing or becoming defensive. These skills go a long way toward learning to interact in a way that will benefit both parents, and their children, long after the divorce has been finalized.

When you want to avoid an expensive divorce, being open to the idea of working together is the first step. This does not mean you and your spouse have to agree on everything to choose a collaborative process. There will still be some conflict and disagreements, which is completely to be expected. Divorce is never an easy or inexpensive undertaking. What parties need in order to have a successful collaborative process is an experienced team and a willingness to work together and the ability to empathize with one another. If they have that, the divorce can move more smoothly and the level of conflict and cost will be kept to a minimum.

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Myah Kehoe, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Kehoe Law, LLC
319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR 97204
503-388-6065

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

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“So you’re trying to get divorced, and now you’re both working from home.”

Our new life, sheltering in place is in full swing.  Oregonians have been at it awhile and divorcing couples and families are experiencing a wide range of circumstances, challenges and perks.

Maybe you’re both still working, just one of you or neither of you are working. Uncertainly looms and timelines for resolution are hazy.  Who knows what life will be like on the “other side?” In career development counseling we look to our deeper values and interests to guide us through times of change and transition.  We reflect on our personal values like health, family, friendship, spirituality, security, and creativity to help us navigate new terrain. Consider how best to prioritize and live them under sometimes radically different circumstances.

Focusing on your values will help you navigate these challenging days while still getting on with your divorce and working from home; which might include filing for unemployment, searching for a job, going to school on-line or getting that side business off the ground!

Many folks feel stuck and they want to move forward. Let’s find some inspiration, as things appear to be on hold.  If you really think your divorce can’t proceed check out Dona Cullen’s recent blog on Bridges’ web site, “What Should I Know about Divorce During Covid-19 in Oregon?  Some great advice on how we’re using technology and the benefit of doing things collaboratively to settle with minimal court involvement.

So there you are at home with your (soon to be) ex and the sparks are flying.  What to do? The movies, bars, gyms, libraries, coffee shops and friend’s houses are off limits.  Take a walk?  What if it’s raining?  Pick up sushi?

In the Midst of it

Maybe you set a goal to have a peaceful divorce, but here you are in a tiff. Hold on to that commitment and resolve to cool off.  Can you rely on doing something that’s worked for you in the past, to bring your tone down a notch?  Our verbal tone has a huge impact on the way our communication is received.  Try to speak calmly in measured phrases, consciously lower your voice as you back your way out of a squabble.

The old stuff still works; breathe deeply three times, (known to lower blood pressure) count to ten, take a step back and find something else to focus on; a  momentary distraction.  Look out the window or at the inspirational message on your coffee mug, work on a household project, notice art on the wall, your kid’s pic on the fridge or just get back to work.  Do something else! Anything can be an effective distraction if you focus on it for two to three minutes.  Ideally you and your spouse find a way to talk reasonably about the issue later, or agree not to talk about it until a third party is present.  Bring a sense of closure to the moment; show the kids everything’s alright.

Many people find distancing physically and emotionally a key to regaining composure.  Does everyone in the house have access to private space, even on a rotation basis?  It’s so nice to have a place to retreat to in the heat of the moment; a back room, attic, basement, porch, or trail.

Preventing Scuffles through Self Care

Exercise is huge for stress reduction and regaining composure.  Ideally we’d all be walking once or twice a day.  Getting outside can be a safe harbor and a wonderful rejuvenator when cooped up too long inside.  Hey, we’re Oregonians; we know how to get to a park or trail.

To bring ourselves back to a centered and calm place, takes practice.  Do you have a mindfulness-based practice of some kind?  Maybe it’s quietly staring out the window, a bike ride, or just being present with yourself and whatever is going on inside you.  Use all the spiritual gear you have; reflection, prayer, meditation, visualization, setting intentions, showing gratitude, singing, yoga… As you are more able to be present with yourself, notice when you need to do something proactively, because tension is beginning to build.

There are ways to work out the quibbling, even if your partner seems unwilling or ill-equipped. Those ways need to be identified though, named, practiced, tested and the successes savored.  Healthy self-knowledge and awareness, sensitive, thoughtful communication and enhanced mutual understanding are your tickets to resolving issues more productively.

Another helpful perspective from career transition theory is that “the more things change the more they stay the same.”  What’s the same for you?  What hasn’t changed, so much?  Maybe it’s what you have for breakfast, what you wear, being with family, or lifting weights in the basement.  Check in on neighbors, feed the cat or walk your dog.  Pay attention to what’s the same; what you still have access to. It can sooth you and promote a sense of continuity during this time of upheaval and overwhelm.

Keep up with little things you used to do before work, it may sound funny but a work shirt with those jeans gives a sense of “I’m working.”  Make that bed just like you used to and brush those teeth before you prepare to zoom with the world.

Planning, Signals and Aprons on Backwards

An old college professor of mine once told the story of how he knew when to tread lightly when coming home at the end of the day.  His wife would have her apron on backwards.  Without having to say a word, she communicated she needed space, could not talk at the moment and he should disappear for awhile and check back later.  He claimed to have practiced this with gratifying results.

With a little forethought and discussion, what might be your signals to each other that someone needs a trip to the basement or outside to walk for a while?  A wave of the hand?  Turning on or off the radio/TV could become doubly meaningful. Isn’t it helpful to humbly and proactively take care of our selves and allow our partner to do the same, under these totally new circumstances?

Now that we’re slowing down…

We can plan on a larger scale and add a little structure to our newfound terrain.  Begin to tackle questions like how to grow a business start-up that’ll move you toward independence.

Let’s start with the small stuff, as always.  What are things that need a little planning and forethought? Before issues come up because someone feels backed into a corner.  Who’s cooking tonight?  Who’s doing the dishes?  Who’s monitoring the kid’s on-line homework?  Might a weekly schedule of responsibilities be helpful?  Knowing who’s doing what and when ahead of time, can settle the number of decisions that need to be made daily, reducing stress.  Having nearly a week of decisions made ahead of time about shopping, meals, cleaning, laundry, care for kids and their new school arrangements, frees you for home projects, job search and work life—because it’s on the schedule.  Get some systems going that respond to the need for social/family bonding and separation for individual pursuits.

Block out times for working or not working, consider what you might want to save for evenings or weekends.  It’s a huge plus to have created a routine for shutting down at the end of the day.  Share your decision making process with those in your household.  Create a way to signal shift changes easily.  Give your partner and kids your schedule ahead of time.  People need to know when you’re available and when you’re not available.  Try posting signs on your office door or designated workspace, “Back with you by noon.”  These ideas don’t have to be rigid. They can change at anytime, but having guidelines lowers the energy needed to figure things out day to day.  These days are yours to manage now in collaboration with others.  See what you can set up to accommodate the needs of yourself and your family throughout the week.

Lastly, through these difficult times, we are also experiencing perks in line with what my clients often say they want; a flexible schedule to work around family, more control over work flow, casual dress codes, little or no commute and few office distractions.  Working to the smell of roasting, garlic chicken lets us know dinner is on the way. Now that’s something you don’t get working in the office.

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC
Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor
1020 SW Taylor St., Ste. 550
Portland, OR 97205
503-227-4250

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

 

 

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How Children Process Loss During a Divorce

As families begin the process of divorcing, understanding how this loss affects children can help parents prepare to respond and support them.  Psychologists like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and William Bridges have explored grief for decades, hoping to universalize and connect us through these shared experiences. As with all development, these are guidelines from which each child enters and explores the process. It is not linear nor something to “check a box” for completion. The transition to acceptance is circular and ongoing.

In this first article, I’ll explore some initial emotions and typical reactions and how I work with children during these first stages of grief.

Some common terms to describe the first stages of a loss include shock, denial, and confusion. How does this show up in a child?  How might they respond when parents first tell them about the upcoming change in the family?  It’s helpful when parents work with me prior to the conversation to create common language and plans for responding to the questions and what potential challenges they expect. Parents are managing their own strong emotions of loss during this conversation and concerns for their child’s well-being are heightened and natural. We discuss developmental differences with various ages and temperaments. Responses might range from tears and physical clinginess to seemingly disinterested replies: “Cool, can I go play now?”  Denial serves a protective purpose for the mind. It helps create space and time for the safety to emerge in which this unexpected reality can enter…

Parents can create safety in these first moments by addressing questions potentially unasked about the upcoming weeks and months ahead.  How are my daily activities going to change? When are these changes happening? What choices do I have within these family changes? What will stay the same for me?  These responses should be delivered while attuning to the child’s capacity to receive. If a child is in denial and seeking normalcy, chasing them to their room with these overwhelming plans obviously isn’t recommended, rather understanding their potential confusion and offering time and space to respond to expected questions helps to give children control in unfamiliar waters.

When I meet with children during these first weeks, our time together is designed to empower them to be with their unique experience through exploration and validation of feelings and concerns, while reinforcing their strengths and resilience of their families. We work expressively through art, play, and conversations.

Families are creating their divorce story in these first stages. I help parents honor and retain the love that created this family in these moments. This love lives through their children and can help guide and support the loss the children experience.

In the next article, I’ll address bargaining, anger, and anxiety that affect some children during these stormy seas.

 

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What should I know about divorce during COVID-19 in Oregon?

Is it possible to start and complete a divorce during social distancing and “shelter in place?” orders?

Short answer is, yes. 100% of a mediated, collaborative, or uncontested “kitchen table” divorce can be done remotely through phone, email, and video conferencing. Our office has been utilizing Zoom video conference as a resource for almost a decade for families where one or both participants are in a remote location (Costa Rica jungle coffee shop divorce for example!). Several years ago, I participated (along with several other BridgesDivorce.com practitioners) in an intensive six week training held by a company called Wevorce where the platform was designed to have multiple neutral professionals (financial, legal, and mental health/ parenting) working with the families remotely via video conference throughout the entire case.  Through these trainings and subsequent successful virtual co-mediations, we’ve been able to help families who could not participate in person. Virtual co-mediation or collaboration will be especially helpful with our current social distancing requirements.

Fortunately, the court is still “open” for processing and approving legal documents including divorce and family related. This is all done through electronic filing straight to a judge’s computer for signing after initial clerk’s approval. Document signings by clients, court filing, and parenting classes can also be done remotely, but it will likely be difficult for families to navigate the technical hurdles and obtain court approval without help of a mediator or collaborative attorney. For remote signings by clients, it is helpful to have a printer and scanner, or we can use regular USPS mail if needed.

Families in higher conflict situations, however, needing the court’s assistance with hearings, temporary orders, or trial, will unfortunately face delays or logistical challenges until the courts are able to be functional remotely. As of this writing, the courts are closed for all but emergency or restraining order hearings. In the near future for litigation, all participants (attorneys, experts, judges, clients) will likely need to appear by video or phone conference until it’s deemed safe to physically appear in court for a hearing or trial. There are many questions remaining on evidence procedure, exhibits, testimony, and custody evaluations (in person contact usually required). My recommendation for higher conflict families is for clients to obtain legal advice and encourage your attorney to utilize virtual “attorney assisted” mediation or arbitration if needed. There are built in features to web conferencing software for “private meeting rooms” for attorney and client during a collaborative session so it can be productive and still have capability for caucusing or 1:1 discussion during mediation.

What is required for virtual mediation or collaboration to take place?

The only requirements are for each participant to have a smart phone OR computer with internet service and audio (built in speaker or external speakers) and web cam. Most newer computers have built in web cams, or use your smart phone if your computer is not equipped with a web cam. A quiet, private space is also helpful whether it’s a room in your home or vehicle safely parked.  Having a pen and paper nearby is also helpful to take notes, but not required as meetings can be recorded for later playback.

Should we hold off on pursuing a separation or divorce because of COVID-19?

This is a very tough question and deserves much thought and consideration for each family and the multitude of potential impacts on moving forward versus maintaining the family “status quo.” Sometimes, prolonging separation can be even more difficult for families if there isn’t a roadmap or plan in place to move forward toward goals, disentanglement, and healing. However, it’s even more important in these uncertain times that all are mindful of health and safety for the whole family. I recommend families consider talking to a marriage counselor, parenting coach, trusted pastor, or therapist to help navigate the difficult emotional dynamics as well as timing and logistics of any possible changes or decisions impacting the family unit. It can also be helpful to talk through the potential legal topics with a mediator or collaborative attorney in a “planning session” for peace of mind as well as helping to get organized for future decision making.

One option during this stressful, difficult time is to come up with temporary agreements and a family plan to address each person’s needs with ability to modify as changes take place. We can help prepare mediated settlement agreements to track agreements and add accountability if this is a concern. A mediated settlement agreement is a private contract between parties and not filed with the court, except for enforcement or issue of attorney fees if litigation is necessary. We can also “pause” the process at any point and track progress with partial mediated settlement agreements.

One substantial impact of COVID-19 is the recent stock market volatility, and many clients are concerned with proceeding with a divorce with division of retirement or investment assets. One clarification to ease concerns is that divorce related retirement divisions and transfers (if done properly – please consult an attorney) do not liquidate or sell underlying investments or stock. Instead, an agreed upon percentage (50% for example) of the account is separated into the other spouse’s account via Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) or IRA transfer after divorce judgment is signed by the court. Often this segregated portion is rolled into a new or existing IRA, or there are exceptions allowing penalty free withdrawal under certain circumstances. This is a complex area with tax ramifications and requiring specific legal documents, please use caution and consult a divorce professional to learn more about options. There are ways to have early cash disbursements without penalty after divorce, and it’s likely more of these distributions will be needed as COVID-19’s financial impacts worsen for some families.

Do we still have to take required parenting classes in person to get court approval?  

Answers to this question vary by county and information is changing daily. Washington County, for example, has canceled their April classes, but is reaching out to currently enrolled families for possible in person May classes. Some counties already offer an online option post-Covid-19, such as Multnomah County, and we may be able to obtain approval on a case by case basis from judges based on individual circumstances for online parenting classes to satisfy court requirements.

What should I do if I need to modify my divorce or separation judgment that’s already signed by the court?

In Oregon, most spousal support orders are modifiable by statute unless specifically stated in your judgment as “non-modifiable.” Child support is also modifiable if it’s a current order (not past due arrears). It is imperative to seek legal advice if you believe substantial changes have occurred such as a job loss, health status change, income change, parenting plan change, childcare cost change, health insurance availability, etc. As orders cannot be changed retroactively (unless mutually agreed in writing and signed by the court), it’s crucial that anyone impacted by a change requests modification as soon as information is received. Most courts require an attempt at mediation first before having a court hearing, and sometimes this provision is built into a divorce judgment requiring mediation. It is also important to preserve your rights on timing of the changed support obligation in the event mediation is not successful, so please consult an attorney for legal advice as soon as feasible.

~~~

Tonya Alexander
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
1925 NE Stucki Ave Ste 410
Hillsboro, OR 97006
503-531-9103

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

We are in this together and here to help.

 

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Retirement Basics for Divorce in Oregon: Part 1 – Pension Plans

Here are some tips for information gathering and decision making to get started in the area of retirement benefits in an Oregon divorce. It is very important to consult with a family law or financial professional in your area, and this article is meant to raise questions to better understand what to ask. It is not meant as a comprehensive or complete list as companies and plans change constantly. It’s also an extremely complex area of law, so it’s wise to use caution and obtain information from trusted sources in person before making decisions or signing agreements.

Traditional Pension Plan: Have you or your spouse ever worked for a government entity or been a member of a union? Even short periods of time are important due to the way pensions may accrue value, and often pay out over a lifetime, not to mention after death to a former spouse in some cases.

Have you seen a statement that mentions future monthly benefits or the word “pension”? These brief statements can be misleading and vague, and sometimes must be requested from the Plan and not routinely mailed out. The statement dollar figures are NOT representative of value for separation or divorce purposes. The actual value is typically much higher than what is stated, and PERS is a good example. It’s extremely important to understand.

  1. Are you dealing with a defined benefit plan (pension)?
  2. Are there survivor-ship annuity options?
  3. What is the present value with and without the survivor-ship benefits?
  4. Is the pension 100% marital or are there any pre-marital components?
  5. Have you and your spouse been separated for a long period?
  6. When would the pension pay out start and what are both spouses ages and health? Age and health can be a significant factor for planning and decision making.

To answer these starting questions, it’s strongly recommended to have a licensed actuary or pension attorney complete a present value actuarial analysis. This needs to be coordinated through your mediator, CDFA (certified divorce financial planner) or divorce attorney. I often co-mediate or collaborate with a neutral pension expert to help clients value pensions and answer questions for families. These tools help clients decide what makes the most sense to accomplish mutual family goals and to maximize benefits for long term planning. Often, there is a mutually beneficial method of dividing or offsetting a pension that meets both parties’ needs.

Or, once a valuation is done, perhaps the participant decides to retain a pension to keep it intact for future source of income, and instead offset it with another asset. There are tax implications and other factors to consider, so it’s important to evaluate the pros and cons of each alternative along with any risks. We also have software tools such as Family Law Software used in mediation and collaborative cases that can help analyze cash flow and asset allocation to help families make the best decisions.  If done thoughtfully in the mediation or collaborative context, the process can be affordable and be done out of the litigation or court setting very quickly. In mediation and collaborative method, we also use a neutral professional to avoid the “battle of the experts” that litigation attorneys often end up with in court costing both parties far too much money, stress, and time.

Some divorcing couples oversimplify or completely overlook the pension piece, and I have seen PERS pensions worth almost $1 million be inadvertently waived by a party for various reasons. It can be fear of conflict, fear of cost to value or divide, fear of complexity, or just naivety on what a pension consists of. Most pensions (qualified under ERISA) are divisible by stipulated court order due to the separation or divorce in a very simple process called QDRO or COAP depending on the plan.

Your divorce mediator or attorney can help coordinate this piece for your family, so it goes smoothly and affordably. For example, a complete valuation of a pension is typically $400 flat fee. Cost to divide a pension is typically $600, and these fees are often shared by both parties equally.

Lastly, I have seen many instances over years of practicing where a person divorced years ago but did not follow through with the proper court paperwork to complete a pension division and they are completely unaware! This is another caution to work with an experienced family law specialist, whether it be an attorney mediator, collaborative attorney, or specially trained CDFA. Many areas of family law are designed for self-represented parties to navigate fairly easily through the court paperwork, but this is NOT one of them. Military and federal pensions have their own complexities and related benefits that are important to get specialized advice about.

To learn more about how to divide pension plans the Collaborative Divorce process, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Tonya Alexander
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
1925 NE Stucki Ave Ste 410
Hillsboro, OR 97006
503-531-9103

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

Stay tuned next for Part 2 on Intel® Retirement Benefits

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Why I Hated the Movie “Marriage Story” Part 3:

No Common Sense, & No Help  

Here’s my final critique of this movie: a basic lack of common sense exhibited by the various participants.

  • What Were Nicole & Charlie Thinking?
  1. How could such empathetic people possibly allow their family to be hi-jacked into a painful, expensive legal process that neither wanted?
  2. Why were they so darn passive about what was being done to them?
  3. Recognizing how important each other was to their son Henry, how could they be so clueless about how living 3000 miles away would impact their child?

Fortunately, my experience as a mediator and Collaborative attorney is that divorcing couples in real life are rarely so oblivious. The overwhelming majority with kids accept the shared responsibility to put children first as we re-structure our family.

  • Where are the Therapists?

As with most of us who divorce, Charlie and Nicole are trying to survive one ofthe greatest challenges of their lives.  In one scene, Nicole angrily tells her mother (who obviously still cares for her son-in-law) “You can’t love him anymore!”  In another, Charlie melts down and screams that he wishes Nicole were dead.   These poor folks are clearly in an emotional and spiritual crisis.

So…. why did they apparently never consult their own therapists or a child specialist? Did it never occur to either of them, or any of their family or friends, that they should such basic help?

 In Marriage Story, we see lots of potential building blocks that could have helped this couple but were ignored. They showed a lot of care for each other: Nicole helped Charlie choose a sandwich during a tense attorney meeting; Charlie rushed to her home during a power outage and Nicole ended up cutting his hair; Nicole, after agreeing to flex the parenting schedule to provide more “dad time”, tenderly tied Charlie’s shoe while he cradled a sleeping Henry. At the end of the movie, Charlie reads Nicole’s appreciations of him aloud to Henry, reinforcing that this boy is free to love both of his parents fully.  After the lawyers move on to their next case, this family has a long and promising future together.

                             The philosopher Theodor W. Adorno wrote:                          

   Divorce, even between good-natured, amiable, educated people,

is apt to stir up a dust-cloud that covers and discolors all it touches.”

 

What if these nice people had that dynamic normalized for them and were offered the skilled guidance they needed to see through the inevitable emotional haze of their breakup? What if peaceful divorce professionals had committed to helping Charlie and Nicole recognize their strengths instead of their weaknesses? What if they had been reminded of the decades, they had ahead of them as a re-structured family?

  • Conclusion

What’s most frustrating to me about Marriage Story is that it ignores all that we’ve learned in the last 40 years about helping divorcing families.  It unnecessarily scares couples into thinking that, should they be among the almost 50% of us who divorce, they will be inevitably sucked into a vortex of recrimination, expense and pain.  And, as I’ve had to reassure frightened clients over the few months since the movie’s release, that’s simply untrue.  Peaceful divorce is not only possible, it’s becoming the norm in our society through mediation and Collaborative Law.  I just wish this film had offered that good news instead of the unrealistic horror story it portrayed.

~~~

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212
503-473-8242
Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Why I Hated The Movie “Marriage Story” Part 2:

It Ignored Current Options for Peaceful Divorce

In my first installment, I gave a synopsis of the film and noted the bad, and even unethical lawyering that was shown. Now, I’ll describe more ways the movie failed to show the peaceful processes that are currently being used by a majority of divorcing couples.

Collaborative Law vs. the Adversarial Legal System.

As kindly attorney Bert explains to his confused client Charlie, “We have to prepare to go to court so we don’t have to go to court.” This is akin to the idea of preparing for war to avoid war. Yet, that is the essence of traditional legal practice: in nearly 100% of cases, advocates prepare for a trial (at great emotional and financial costs to their clients) when less than 10% will actually end up before a Judge.

The crucial game-changer in the Collaborative process is that both lawyers commit that neither will ever appear in court. This frees the attorneys to focus all their efforts, skills and experience on achieving win-win, family-centered solutions.  As a foundation for this work, the parties list their goals from the process. When kids are involved, the reality is that the divorcing adults will necessarily have an ongoing relationship as co-parents, probably for the rest of their lives. Peaceful divorce professionals recognize the need to assist our clients in managing their current pain so they may maintain the bridges that will continue to connect them with their children, and all family members with their soon-to-be former in laws. Our job is to help folks navigate the rough waters of their break-up, to a better future on the other side.

Mediation in Real Life.

Marriage Story provided only a very limited, unflattering look at mediation. We never learn how Nicole and Charlie chose the process and only one very brief session is shown. The mediator was presented as a sort of hippie-ish stereotype. While I loved his homework for these parents to write appreciations of each other, he completely fails to effectively tap that rich resource of good will. Several times, the mediator pushes Nicole to read her comments about Charlie (which we know from the opening voice-overs to be very sweet). Yet it is absolutely clear that she is simply not ready to do so right then. What a terrible box this unskilled mediator puts her in: ready or not, be vulnerable enough to list all the wonderful things about the husband and co-parent whom you have decided to divorce.

It was both disrespectful and ineffective for the mediator to pressure Nicole in this way. Why not table the appreciations and just ask both to keep in mind the many wonderful things they like about the other during the ongoing work of re-structuring their family? Maybe they could have emailed their comments to each other to be read and absorbed in a safer, more private way. Instead, this treasure trove of mutual love and respect was wasted when it could have helped transform the experience of their divorce.

Well-trained mediators accept and support their client wherever they happen to find them. Generally, over time, as the pain and stress levels decrease, things often soften between partners. In Marriage Story, the mediator’s failure of empathy essentially ends that peaceful process and sends the family to the battlefield of litigation. I’m frustrated at the film’s failure to offer a more realistic and hopeful portrayal of mediation which in 2020 is the most common method that couples are choosing to divorce.

Stay tuned for the final installment of my review of Marriage Story: Nicole and Charlie’s many missed opportunities for an easier family transition.

~~~

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212
503-473-8242
Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Why I Hated the Movie “Marriage Story” Part 1

Marriage Story is an excellent film with a tremendous cast, including Scarlett Johansen (Nicole), Adam Driver (Charlie), Laura Dern (attorney Nora Fanshaw), Ray Liotta (attorney Jay Morotta) and Alan Alda (attorney Bert Spitz). Now, I want to explain why I absolutely H-A-T-E-D this movie’s presentation of what divorce looks like in 2020.

First, a brief synopsis: Nicole and Charlie are married with a young son, Henry (maybe about nine years old). The movie opens with their voice overs offering very sweet appreciations about why they love and respect each other as partners and parents. Only later do we realize that this was an assignment from their divorce mediator. They initially promise each other to avoid lawyers, but their attempt at mediation quickly collapses. Nicole hires shark lawyer Nora. After briefly consulting older, amiable Bert, Charlie is served with papers and eventually retains his own alpha-attorney, Jay. These litigators enthusiastically lead this caring couple into a street fight of mutual recrimination – at great cost to their dignity, mental health, finances and, of course, their ability to co-parent effectively while at war with each other. In three installments, I’m going to describe why I think Marriage Story showed a terrible model of divorce to the almost 50% of us who will someday go through that transition.

 

PART 1:  THE LAWYERS

Kindly Bert explains that “criminal lawyers see bad people at their best; divorce lawyers see good people at their worst.” Even if that’s a oversimplification, it raises a crucial question: what should the roles of family law attorneys be? This question is especially important when the clients clearly care for and respect each other and have many years of co-parenting ahead of them. My answer: family law attorneys’ contributions should be the exact opposite of what these cinema litigators offered.

 

Rather than ameliorating the pain of their clients, the lawyers (especially Nora) offers a theme of mutual outrage, pouring salt into the wounds of each, until they are in an escalating legal war that neither wants nor can possibly benefit from. Both attorneys re-frame their clients’ life together into a barely recognizable litigation story that seeks to exploit each partner’s human foibles. Nowhere in these dueling narratives is there any appreciation that these folks had many years of shared love, a home and a beautiful son. Nora in particular remakes Nicole’s legitimate frustrations from the marriage into a larger morality tale of victimization. As Nicole describes her experience, it seems that her dreams and ambitions may well have been neglected by Charlie in the pursuit of his own career, leading to the end of their marriage. But, instead of referring Nicole to a therapist to process her hurt, Nora weaponizes it for a possible courtroom victory.

At times, both spouses seem bewildered to hear the story their respective lawyers tell about their partner and the marriage they shared. After a tough court session, Nicole asks Charlie why he switched to a more aggressive attorney. His reply: “I needed to get my own a**hole.” What if neither had chosen such an advocate?

Perhaps the most galling example of bad, even unethical, lawyering is when Nora proudly explains the details of the final settlement to Nicole, which includes a schedule that gives her the majority of parenting time. Nicole asserts that she had only asked for a 50-50 plan, but Nora smiles and says, “I just didn’t want him to win!” This lawyer who will likely never meet little Henry has decided that he should be a notch in her belt, regardless of her client’s wishes.

These cinematic lawyers never seem to ask what is right about the other parent, only what is wrong. In one scene, Nicole coerces her sister into serving divorce papers on Charlie at a family gathering; yet a few hours later, they are able to lie down together to read to their son. How would this family’s experience have been different if the lawyers had built from their many positives (as we do in Collaborative Divorce)? In real life, there’s a truism that peaceful divorce practitioners follow in domestic disputes, “All family members will win or lose together.” It was maddening to watch my profession portrayed doing what it did to all three of these family members.

In my next BLOG installment, I’ll cover the film’s portrayal of an adversarial legal system and how it missed the mark on the true value of divorce mediation.

~~~

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212
503-473-8242

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Money and Divorce ~ Working with a Financial Neutral

What is a Financial Neutral?  A financial neutral is a member of a collaborative divorce team or a mediator who helps couples find, organize and understand their financial information and facilitates a process of educating, visioning and creating a plan for settlement. They often have the designation “Certified Divorce Financial Analyst” (or CDFA).

What are the Benefits? 

  • Under the best of circumstances gathering financial information is complex, tedious and fraught with emotion, negative habits and fear. This gives a neutral, calm and supportive environment for that task.
  • Helps the couple understand their finances in a comprehensive, integrated way without denial or avoidance. Look at it, shine a light on it, organize it and understand it.  These are tasks many of us spend a lifetime avoiding and yet are skills that can begin a process of transformation.
  • Helps the couple understand assets, financial issues and the impacts of their decisions, short and long term.
  • Helps them identify interests, the elements of a plan and how to assess it.
  • Helps them come to reality from the magical thinking we all engage in from time to time, which can be so destructive.

What are the Qualities of Financial Professionals?

  • They are trained in Collaborative practice and/or mediation.
  • They have a breadth of knowledge in financial matters pertaining to families, including asset valuation, tax, cash management, budgeting, investments and retirement.
  • They have a knowledge of fundamental legal concepts regarding financial issues in family law matters including marital and non-marital property, equitable distribution, spousal support and child support.
  • They have facilitative skills, are neutral, open minded, creative and are team players.
  • They have an ability to educate persons who have an insufficient knowledge or understanding of the relevant financial concepts and present financial information in a clear and meaningful format.

What are the Tasks of a Financial Neutral?

  • To help you identify your high-end goals. Do you want each of you to have enough money to live comfortably? Own a home? Have your respective lifestyles be approximately equal?  Retire early?  Get some education and start a new career?
  • To create accurate reports of budgets, cash flow, asset and liability property division reports that are easily adjusted and recalculated for consideration of different options and ideas, including tax ramifications.
  • To do long term projections for different options considered for support and property division, including retirement planning.

How Financial Neutrals Benefit Attorneys and Mediators

  • They create reports to work with that get the case moving quickly.
  • Save staff time and expense collecting and entering client information.
  • Save money for clients. One financial neutral gathers information rather than two lawyers doing the same thing.
  • Runs reports to show the effect of different settlement options in real time at negotiation meetings.
  • Helps guide clients with reality checking as a neutral.

At Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions, we have many different skilled individuals to balance what is needed for a thoughtful, intelligent and well-planned divorce settlement. You use only what you need in terms of professional help. It’s delivered with care and compassion. Share this Blog article with others and save it for yourself. You don’t have to get divorced to benefit: These services can also be used for prevention.

To learn more about working with a financial neutral, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

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

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

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What is Preventive Law and Legal Health?

 

In the medical field we hear a lot about preventive medicine. Have you heard of preventive law? The term was first coined by Louis Brown in the 40’s and 50’s. The idea is that through teaching and conditioning, legal problems may be averted and health in that area maintained.

We, at Bridges, have the knowledge and tools to help the public this way. As a professional group we provide legal, financial, emotional and relational support for the purpose of settling disputes. But that same knowledge and skill, applied early enough, can prevent legal entanglements altogether.

How early is early enough?

  • Taught to children in school through tools for emotional regulation to improve relationships, learning and the challenges of maturing.
  • Taught to families for issues that come up at certain ages and developmental stages in personal and relational growth- from teaching dispute resolution and mediation skills to financial check-ups to understanding consequences of actions, legal rights, entitlements and things to watch out for.
  • Client Education by lawyers so clients learn ahead of time, when not in crisis, about the consequences of courses of action and options available. To learn these things before crisis hits may prevent problems that turn into legal action and allay fears of the unknown, so people can relax and enjoy life.
  • Before Symptoms. In medicine there are distinctions between symptomatic and asymptomatic conditions.  It is best to avoid illness by addressing habits before you get sick and symptomatic. In law it is best to address life events with proactive awareness and intelligent planning at a time when minds are calm and capable of taking in information for optimal use of executive functioning, planning and decision-making. Once there are symptoms that becomes more difficult. Either way there is a need to develop awareness of and an ability to use emotional regulation for clear thinking. This is just much harder when in crisis.

What questions might be addressed?

  • Questions can include parenting issues, financial planning and legal planning.
  • Contexts might be planning for children. Who will stay home? Will both parents work? At what point would the caretaking parent go back to work? What would be the professional and financial implications of different options?
  • What are your visions for your future? Your children? Your family?

What can be learned?

  • Awareness to spot and define legal issues.
  • To normalize conflict and address it with knowledge, understanding, communication and negotiation skills.
  • More information than advice.

How can we help?

  • We are knowledgeable and caring lawyers who do not exacerbate conflict. We are interested in the overall well-being of clients and families.
  • We are coaches skilled at personal and interpersonal skills and resolution.
  • We are child specialists passionate about helping families identify and heal the effects of trauma and prevent it with proactive awareness.
  • We are financial neutrals who can help you vision and plan for predictable stages in the life of a family or individual.
  • We have referral sources for other professionals who might help assess, prepare for and address known or possible future needs.
  • Setting up the framework for awareness and mastering executive functioning for a family or relationship.


Where do you start?

  • Look through our website at https://bridgesdivorce.com/ and the links and websites of our professionals.
  • Call for an initial consultation with one of our professionals to see the range of services and the unique approach of both preventive law and active conflict resolution.
  • Consult with one of our professionals before deciding how to approach a current crisis.
  • Learn the value of a team approach, whether an actual team of different professionals or the skills of any one of our practitioners who, from their extensive collaborative training, have a full sense of your needs.

Make it your New Year’s Resolution to learn about Conflict Resolution by contacting or at least bookmarking Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.  We do way more than divorce.  We might just even help prevent it.

Credit to Forrest S. Mosten and Lara Traum who brought forward the idea of Preventive Legal and Conflict Wellness at the 2019 IACP Annual forum in Chicago, Illinois.

 

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Communicating with a Collaborative Divorce Team

 

Effective communication with your Collaborative Attorney is crucial to the successful completion of your case.  In order for your attorney to successfully advocate on your behalf, you must be able to clearly communicate your goals, and provide the factual details your attorney needs to help you reach a settlement.

  • Agree on a Communication Protocol.  At your initial consultation or soon thereafter, have a conversation with your attorney about how you will be communicating with them.  Let them know if you have a preference for email, phone calls, or office meetings.   Ask about the best way to schedule a call or meeting, either through your attorney directly or through an assistant who manages their calendar.   Some clients prefer to keep a running list of questions for their attorney and schedule a meeting or phone call to go over all of them at once.  Others prefer to send questions to their attorney via email as the questions arise.  Email can be very efficient, especially if you are able to organize your thoughts succinctlyConsider using bullet points or numbered lists if you are writing about several different issues. Depending upon the complexity of the issues, your attorney may ask to schedule a call or meeting to advise you.  If you don’t check your email regularly, let your attorney know to contact you by phone if they need a response quickly.
  • Keep Your Attorney Informed of the Facts. Over the course of your Collaborative Divorce case, you should keep your attorney updated about the facts of your case.   I like to check in with my clients before each Collaborative Four-Way Meeting to find out how things are going, what is working, and what is not working.  Identifying problem areas in advance of the Four-Way Meeting allows me to ensure the issue is on the next meeting’s agenda, to brainstorm possible solutions in advance, and to check in with your spouse’s Collaborative Attorney on the issue when appropriate.  If an urgent issue arises, you should let your attorney know right away.  Generally, I want my clients to keep me informed of the following:
    • Job changes for you or your spouse
    • Significant income changes for you or your spouse
    • Change of address, telephone number, or email address
    • Identifying an asset or debt that was not previously discussed, including the receipt of an inheritance or sizeable gift
    • Whether bills or support are being paid as agreed
    • How your children are responding to the parenting schedule
    • Whether you are having trouble producing documents requested for your case
  • Keep Your Attorney Informed of Your Goals. One of the first conversations you will have with your Collaborative Attorney will be to determine your goals—what you want at the end of your divorce case; where you want to be in five or ten years after your case is concluded.  It is not unusual for a client’s goals to change over the course of a case, but it is important to let your Collaborative Attorney know when this happens.
  • Use Legal Staff. If your Collaborative Attorney has a legal assistant, paralegal, or other legal staff, learn how to use that person effectively. Legal staff cannot give you legal advice, but they have a wealth of knowledge about the procedural aspects of your case.  Many attorneys prefer clients to copy their paralegal on all correspondence into the office so that the paralegal can maintain records for the client file.  Paralegals often manage the document gathering phase of a case (known as “discovery”) and can answer questions you have about that process at a lower hourly rate than your Collaborative Attorney.  Work with them to determine the most efficient way for you to send in your financial and other documents.  More and more attorneys are going paperless and may prefer to receive documents electronically rather than hard copies, and are able to receive them via email, memory stick, or file-sharing program.  Be sure to promptly respond to questions from legal staff and always treat them professionally.
  • Respond in a Timely Fashion. Try to respond to emails or phone calls from your attorney reasonably quickly.  Your case cannot progress without you, and the Collaborative process can fail if you are unresponsive for too long.
  • Confidentiality.  Everything you communicate to your Collaborative Attorney or their legal staff is protected by attorney-client privilege and cannot be disclosed without your permission.  However, you should always let your attorney know if you are not ready for them to disclose something to the other side.   Remember that the Collaborative Divorce process is centered around transparency, and that if you are unwilling to allow your attorney to disclose certain material facts, they may have to terminate the case.  For example, if tell your attorney about something your spouse needs to be aware of in order to make informed decisions regarding settlement, that fact will need to be disclosed to your spouse in a timely manner or your attorney will be forced to terminate the Collaborative case.   Note that your attorney will never disclose privileged information without your permission, but that you may need to choose between maintaining a secret versus maintaining a Collaborative Divorce process.
  • Communication with Additional Team Members. If your case involves an allied professional, such as a child specialist, financial neutral, or divorce coach, be sure you understand how best to communicate with that individual and the team as a whole.  Remember that anything you disclose to an allied professional remains confidential to the Collaborative Divorce process but is not protected by attorney/client privilege and may be disclosed to your spouse at any time.
  • Ask for Help. Your attorney and their staff are there to guide you through the divorce process.  When in doubt, ask them for help.  For example, if you don’t have the time or technology needed to download financial statements, your attorney or their staff may be able to take care of that for you.  If you are unable to locate a particular document or piece of information, let your attorney know right away so they can help find a way to obtain it.

Setting ground rules about how you will communicate with your attorney, their staff, and other allied professionals in a Collaborative Divorce case early on ensures that everyone stays in the loop, and that your case can continue to progress forward in a timely manner.

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Total Eclipse of the Heart

On August 19, 2017, portions of Oregon and the U.S. experienced the once in a generation experience of a total solar eclipse. I had reservations at a state park on the path of totality and then a month or so before the event, a friend suggested I come to rural Idaho which was also on the path. I tried to give away my camping reservation to my teen son and friends, as well to several other friends, but I could not find a taker. I assumed that this prime camping spot was going to go to waste.

I’ve been mediating with a divorcing couple for more than 3 years. They have been separated that entire period and the husband had re-partnered already. Their case has been the most unusual of the 500+ I have handled. They have assets spread literally across the globe, lived overseas for many years with business and investment ties there, have assets that are very difficult to value and while they clearly have great support and affection for each other, they bicker almost every time in our 10+  meetings. Sometimes one of them has failed to show up for meetings or appeared an hour late. One or both has been unprepared at times, or suddenly changes his/her mind. Yet, they do basically trust each other and put they teen-aged kids first at all times.

This feisty, unusual couple has been one of my more challenging cases, and one of the most fun. Despite their periodic tension, there is a core of love that they share from their amazing life together. They switch from arguing, to joking, to laughing together very easily. They are fun, super interesting people stuck in a marriage that they needed to end. Our meetings feel more like a connection with old friends than clients at this stage.

Then, finally, they suddenly and relatively quickly resolved their remaining issues with a compromise that fit them and that, we all joked, would drive lawyers crazy for being too vague, and relying too much on their sense of humor and mutual trust. We had one final meeting to sign the documents, which included a little bit more bickering, some tears, shared memories, jokes and a really sweet poignant end to the process. I gave them both orchids to mark the end of our work together. True to form, they insisted on taking selfies together with their flowers. And, I mentioned to them that I was heading off to see the eclipse and could not give away my reserved campsite. A few days later, Husband emailed asking if he could have the campsite, to which I easily agreed. I assumed he would be going with his new partner.

The eclipse was amazing from my Idaho mountain and I shared photos with friends and family and got a few in return. Including . . . a wonderful, fun photo of my eclectic clients and their kids all together in a big pile on a hammock at my Oregon campsite. They looked like the happy family they will continue to be, divorced but still connected, forever.

~~~

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212
503-473-8242

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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The Energy of Money and Divorce

Many people are paralyzed by fear when contemplating a divorce. Most often the fear is about money. It’s either a fight, flight or freeze response. But there is another possibility, and that’s empowerment. That’s the power created by two autonomous people with a shared vision for the future. I’m calling it the Third Power (1+1=3) and it’s possible to achieve in a facilitated process. I’ve seen it happen.

Energy is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “power derived from physical or chemical resources.” Money is energy. So is positivity. Learning about your resources and visioning what you want in your future can inspire and propel you forward. That capacity is increased if you do it together with a shared purpose.  A financial neutral, either as your mediator or as part of a collaborative team, can lead you there. It’s a journey that requires preparation.

As I see it there are 3 stages to work through, in the following order:

  • Emotional Regulation;
  • Information Gathering; and
  • Visioning.

Emotional Regulation

Focus must be on calming the mind and body. It’s important to practice neutrality in whatever way is comfortable for you. You will be offered tools to relax the nervous system so you can think clearly and make good decisions. You will be urged to consider your higher purpose, your long -term goals for yourselves and the family and your needs. It’s good to think about what you do have and find appreciation where you can. This is all energy savings. Anger, fear, doubt and other understandable but unhelpful emotions drain your energy and reduce the cortical function of that part of the brain needed to make good decisions. Negative emotions generate cortisol overload in the body which threatens health, well- being and the prospect of peace for all of you.

So, whether it’s meditation, prayer, a walk around the block, candles at the meeting or visits to the divorce coach, practice neutral as much as possible to build your resilience and capacity for getting to a calm place within yourself. Finding and maintaining that kind of attitude will make a world of difference.

Information Gathering

The core of the work of the financial neutral is to gather relevant information, put it in order and help you educate yourselves on asset/liability and budget formats and issues. The information must be provided voluntarily and completely.

Assets and liabilities are listed in a property statement and cash flow, present and future, will be developed in a series of budget reports. Present and future income and the intricacies of support are discussed. The reports are explained, questions are answered, and further information is added or corrected to get them right. At that point you have a very good idea about your resources and needs for cash flow. You build this information together, both understanding the information, the possibilities and the process. By the time this stage is complete you will be empowered with the knowledge of all aspects of your financial life in the past, present and possibilities for the future.

This information gathering is done efficiently, inexpensively and is empowering in itself. Even if you eventually go on to a different process, you will be prepared and have mutual understanding of the financial facts.

Visioning

You will also be encouraged to create a vision for your future in detail. This will include what you want in your life and what you want the next chapter to look like. In most cases, the life you will envision is simpler and less stressed. It becomes reasonable and has to be. There is no tugging at a position. It’s a creative process from an open mind and heart. What’s really important to you? Once that future vision is in your mind’s eye you begin to see an opening to the light, and that opening gets bigger and bigger. It will include new things and activities. You will have the resources you need through mutual planning assisted by the professionals. The most helpful perspective is to work toward a good future for both of you and your family. You will have the help of a vocational coach, realtors, mortgage lenders and the research done on your own about the possibilities. There is time and support for this. Your energy is put into creating a future rather than resisting or fearing.

When you have made these preparations, there is a synergy that creates that Third Power moving you forward and not looking back. It runs on its own. Positivity does that. Continuing to care about the best interests of all concerned is what will make the process smooth and a better result for your health and heart.

To learn more about Money and Divorce, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

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

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

 

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There’s Only One Side in a Collaborative Divorce

As a Mediator and Collaborative attorney, I only work with clients who want to avoid court and resolve their issues themselves, on a mutually fair basis. This gives me a window from which to see and hear many interesting, touching stories of couples who are determined to be their best selves, while at the same time struggling with broken hearts, stretched finances and the many practical challenges of separating. Divorcing parents have the added task of managing their kids’ emotional adjustment to the family’s restructuring.

Here’s one impressive example I’d like to share:

In a Collaborative Divorce, each spouse has an attorney but agrees that neither lawyer will under any circumstances take the matter to court; if the process breaks down (which is rare), the attorneys are disqualified, and new litigation counsel must be retained. The Collaborative process looks and feels much like a co-mediated case, with the clients and both lawyers working together in group meetings as a “settlement team” to find the best possible win-win-win solutions for the family.

A while back, I was representing a wife in a Collaborative case with a very close colleague representing the husband.  Before we began, each spouse had developed some very beautiful goals to guide their work together. One of wife’s goals was that there would be no “sides” in the case, since she felt that everyone should be on the same side – that of caring for the whole family (especially their kids).

Our first meeting was at the other lawyer’s office, which has a rectangular table.  Husband was already seated on one side when we arrived. I sat across the table from him and wife sat down next to me.  After settling in, she then looked up, and realized that she was now on one side of the table, while husband was on the other. Without a word, she got up and moved across so that she could sit next to husband before we began our work. From that point on, the couple sat together for all of our team meetings. Wife had literally walked the walk to stick to her important family goal of avoiding taking sides.

This couple promised each other that they and their kids would always remain a family, now and in the years to come, despite their choice to divorce. That commitment required that, in addition to resolving their finances, these partners had to keep in mind this important relational piece of their work together. This sweet couple continued to hug, fist-bump, and occasionally bicker as they successfully worked through the issues of their separation and divorce in a series of team meetings. At the end, they laughed and cried in appreciation at what they’d accomplished together.

They taught me something very important:  In a family-centered divorce, there really, truly is only one side.  I’ll continue to share their important insight with all those I have the honor of helping divorce peacefully.

~~~

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212
503-473-8242

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Maintaining Privacy During Divorce

When someone consults an attorney about getting a divorce, anything that person tells the attorney is private and protected by the attorney-client privilege. On the other hand, any written document that is filed with the court is open to the public and readily discoverable by anyone, stranger or friend. At Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions, we work with our clients so that your privacy is protected during the divorce process.

 

How Privacy is Protected in a Collaborative Divorce

In the traditional setting, the parties file documents with the court without regard to privacy. They do not consult with each other about what information is included in those documents. One or both spouses may want some information to remain private, but since the process is adversarial, private information is often shared with the court. This means it is also shared with the public.

In a collaborative divorce, documents are filed at the end of the case. Both parties sign off on the paperwork and give their okay about the information that is included. Attorneys and their clients do it together. Nothing becomes public record unless both parties have agreed to it. In some instances, settlement agreements can be signed off by both parties, but the document itself is not filed with the court.

Some examples of issues that the parties may want to keep private include:

  • Events that may have led to the divorce. In Oregon, we can state irreconcilable differences without including any specific behavior by one party or the other. With that said, if there have been mental health or substance abuse issues, one of the parties may disclose damaging details of those occurrences into the public court record, which could have a number of consequences for the other party.
  • Financial information, including assets owned and the value placed on each one, how real property is distributed, who maintains which bank accounts, how debt is divided and other sensitive information.
  • Parenting decisions such as where the children will live and what schools they will be attending.

The only people privy to all of the information are the attorneys and other professionals working with the parties in the collaborative process. This includes the certified divorce financial analysts, child psychologists, and others. They all have a duty not to share this information with anyone without the express permission of both parties.

Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions will work with you so that you and your spouse part in the most positive way possible and keep private information private so that the information is not discoverable by the public. Contact us for more information.

~~~

Myah Kehoe, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Kehoe Law, LLC
319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR 97204
503-388-6065

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

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Collaborative Career Coaching Can Change Your Divorce

Attitudes about searching for career satisfaction have shifted dramatically in the last few decades. A meaningful and viable career path, one that integrates well with family life has gained broad appeal. The clients I see as a collaborative divorce coach and vocational expert share these views. As they engage divorce and career coaching, they become stronger, more flexible and reasonable. Self-confidence increases. The possibility of growing in ways that matter reduces fear and uncertainty about the future and enhances the ability to negotiate in good faith.

A divorcing client who had found her direction recently said, “I feel more settled, like I have something to hang onto, even though everything else in my life is turned upside down. I have something that is giving me hope for my future and my children’s future.”

Collaborative-style vocational experts engage clients beyond the superficial evaluation and report on marketable skills conducted in some traditional divorce cases.  These reports can be used to lock people into jobs worked fifteen plus years ago that no longer suit or feel relevant. Perhaps never felt relevant.

An outline of the role played by a vocational expert in collaborative and mediated cases includes:

  • Divorce coaching and coordination with the team;
  • Holistic career assessment and support to explore options;
  • Incorporating the special needs and school schedules of children;
  • Career and educational plans drawn up to highlight best options, costs, income projections and expected timelines;
  • Learning the views and opinions of the earning spouse that will influence the settling of spouse’s support and career planning;
  • Modification proposals where potentially helpful in support of educational and career planning;
  • Self-employment options considered, which can protect employment for aging adults.

The transformative case, where people emerge with better communication, a good parenting plan and hopeful about what’s to come, is facilitated by both parties feeling some degree of confidence in their future. The energy and focus generated by beginning to discover a purposeful and viable career direction is life changing. It typically leads to higher levels of commitment and discipline when it comes to training, study and/or job search. This benefits the already earning spouse by limiting their financial exposure.  It ensures children will be well provided for and have positive role modeling from two working parents.

Finding a meaningful and viable career path brings solace, peace of mind and a positive connection to the future: A place to picture oneself on the other side of divorce.

~~~

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC
Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor
1020 SW Taylor St., Ste. 550
Portland, OR 97205
503-227-4250

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

 

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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” (it’s older, but still appropriate).

[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 divorced parents’ guide to surviving Thanksgiving without your kids

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

~~~

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

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Collaborative Strengths

Strengths of Collaborative Divorce

One of the strengths of Collaborative Divorce is that it permits ownership and control of settlement process by the people most impacted by the settlement – the couple! The process responds to YOUR agenda, not the agenda of a lawyer or a judge or some other third party.

So – with that in mind, this Blog will not be a “lecture” on how I, as a lawyer, will tell you “how it is” or “how it should be.” Rather, this Blog is a place for you, the reader, to tell us “how it is” or “how it should be”.

Please post comments, thoughts, or questions and we’ll try to respond – in hopes of making our process better and more responsive to the people who really matter: the clients.

To learn more about the Collaborative Divorce process, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Randall Poff
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
1500 NW Bethany Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97006
503-241-3141

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

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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.”

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.

~~~

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212
503-473-8242

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Video ~ Collaborative Divorce : A Safe Place

A Safe Place

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

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

 

To learn more about the Collaborative Divorce process, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Randall Poff
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
1500 NW Bethany Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97006
503-241-3141

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

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Preparation for Divorce – Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Finding and Working from our Higher Selves

That’s the part of ourselves that’s more relaxed and less fearful. It’s where we make our best decisions creating outcomes that are highest and best for ourselves and the whole.   We find that part of ourselves by getting quiet, through prayer and meditation, exercise, being in nature, doing something we love.  Even thinking about these experiences helps to calm the emotions, opening us to intuition and higher forms of thought.  It’s important to take care of yourself. This goes for inside and outside of the negotiating space.  Taking care of yourself inside the negotiation space requires taking time before the meetings to figure out what is really important to you, what you must have from this process to move forward into your future as you envision it.  If you had those things, how would it feel? Sit with that and ideas will come showing how that picture will be made manifest in your life. We all do this – the professionals and the families.  It creates a safe container. We become mindful when we veer from our higher selves.  We remind each other. We are all in this together. We can keep the peace if we are all accountable.

High End Goals

We start with goals for the process and for yourselves.  What matters most to you? Take some time. Do this in a quiet setting with a quiet mind if at all possible.  

  • Why did you pick a peacemaking process? What are your goals for the process?
  • What is it you want for your future relationship together?
  • What do you want for the children? What is most important?
  • What are your values about money? What are your priorities?
  • How about personal and emotional goals? How do you want to feel, during the process and afterwards?
  • What are your concerns about future relationships with family, friends, work?
  • What do you need for self -care? Balance of life?
  • What does a positive future look like for you? How do you want to feel?

Negotiation Is Mindful Listening to Self and Other

Negotiation is shared listening.  That is, listening with attention and without judgment to the needs and goals for yourself and the other.  Attention generates new, fresh thinking. Mindfulness deepens the quality of attention.  This type of listening helps coherent intelligence unfold. Better ideas are the result.

We communicate with ourselves this way to unearth our dreams, wants, needs and what’s important to us.  We express this to the other in an environment of mutual respect met with uninterrupted attention. This is the ideal.  We can come close to it with intention, awareness and discipline. It’s not easy to do but will make the divorce easier and more fruitful.  It’s a primary requirement of a peaceful process.

Practices of connecting with the heart, meditation and other activities that balance the nervous system assist in making this type of communication possible.  Working with a divorce coach also helps build tolerance and gives practice in better communication to make negotiation at the table much more productive.

Brainstorming Options

When options are proposed, it’s important to consider the interests and needs of the other person as well as your own.  To do this takes courage and letting go. Relaxing into a process that is not intimidating is important. Flexibility to listen to and consider options you don’t think would work or don’t think you could agree to require moving into our higher selves with dignity, patience and understanding.  To listen and not react.

Deciding

Making decisions requires a lot of the same skills.  Know that everything decided upon will not be comfortable.  Any combination of things that constitutes a settlement will require giving up something.  How flexible are you or can you be to accept what is possible or the best possible scenario for your family?  How strong have you made yourself through taking advantage of practices of the heart and other techniques that lead to acceptance?  Acknowledging that you have done the best you can under the circumstances and accepting the result will make a smoother transition moving forward.  It will be a continual practice of releasing and sharing control. How flexible are you or can you be? Longevity and happiness require flexibility, acceptance, forgiveness and letting go.

Committing

What does it take to commit to the result and work towards honoring your agreement with good faith, good nature and willingness to adjust to a new normal?  How much can you forgive the past and look forward to a future of cooperation? These are all skills that can be practiced and mastered. It’s what creates a better life for us anyway.  This is an opportunity to make life smoother for ourselves and others.

Do not hesitate to contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

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

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

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Divorce Coach

A divorce coach is a mental health professional – often a psychologist or an LCSW – who assists the client to effectively move through the divorce.

The “divorce coach” is unique to collaborative law.

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.

THREE REASONS WHY YOU NEED A DIVORCE COACH

  1. Divorce Coach will help you get clear and get you out of the “stuckness” you may be feeling.
  2. A Divorce Coach will listen, then help you set goals and plan for the future.
  3. A Divorce Coach will hold you accountable and keep you moving forward, even when it feels too difficult and you want to say ‘enough!’

“A Divorce Coach works for YOU!”

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.

VIDEO: NBC’s Today Show on Collaborative Divorce (older, but still accurate!)

Because Collaborative Divorce Solutions 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.

~~~

Lee Hamilton, MA
Mediator & Collaborative Divorce Coach
2233 NE Skidmore St.
Portland, OR 97211
503-703-0528

Lee’s Website
Email Lee

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Choosing a Child Specialist for your Child During a Divorce

Families often ask about the role of a child specialist in collaborative divorce cases and how this support is similar and dissimilar to therapy.  Following are some helpful guidelines to assist parents in choosing the best suited professional to support their child during a divorce.

A child specialist’s role is targeted to address the child’s needs during the divorce process.  It is clearly stated to the child that the conversations and experiences with me will focus on helping them express their thoughts and feelings about the divorce. Children understand that I’ll will be talking with their parents about the content of the sessions.  This work is limited to a recommended number of sessions. Therapy, on the other hand, involves building a relationship with the child over time to support in the development of a child’s sense of themselves and to help them navigate adjustments in multiple contexts, including family and friendship dynamics, as well as school experiences.

A child specialist will meet with parents to help them understand possible effects and behaviors during a divorce.  Parents will learn about developmental differences and coping styles a child may show at different ages.  Parents will be given helpful guidance about ways to support their child, highlighting the strengths and possible challenges that lie ahead. Parents are encouraged to make child centered decisions with each other and to minimize conflict and unpredictability during this stressful time.

Child Specialists do not make recommendations about parenting time or custody.  They do, however, consult with other collaborating professionals to assist them in supporting the family’s plan.

Children often feel a lack of control during the divorce, and by offering these specialized sessions, children are given a voice and a chance to express themselves in a safe and neutral place.

 

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that’s mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we’re not alone.” ~Fred Rogers

~~~

Diane Gans, MA, LPC
Psychotherapist & Child Specialist
1609 Willamette Falls Dr.
West Linn, OR 97068
503-704-3759

Diane’s Website
Email Diane

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Child-Centered Parenting During Your Divorce

Dian Gans, Child Specialist

Dian Gans, Child Specialist

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

~~~

Diane Gans, MA, LPC
Psychotherapist & Child Specialist
1609 Willamette Falls Dr.
West Linn, OR 97068
503-704-3759

Diane’s Website
Email Diane

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Find Meaning in Work Life and Rebuild Your Confidence Mid-Divorce

Whether you’ve initiated your divorce or vice versa and you need a job now or down the road, “What job?” can seem as unclear as the nature of your projected earnings. The way you approach thinking and making decisions about jobs during or post divorce can dramatically affect how the process unfolds for you.

There can be many related questions and feelings that need settling and support as you seek the right employment and lifestyle. It’s a time of uncertainty, everything, or almost everything seems up in the air. In the middle of this most difficult life transition asking questions about what’s really important, brings us closer to understanding how to choose.

A building-block bridge.We need quality guidance. At the heart of career assessment or testing, interests and values clarification exercises offer powerful facilitation as we transition to a new life. To know what you really think and feel gives you something to navigate by in life and work life. It’s the basis for finding and creating meaningful direction. Give yourself time to reflect, drift off and space out on the subject of you.

Consider what you care about when it comes to pinning down what things should revolve around now, and next. It’s a way to pick up and begin writing the next chapter of “You.” How do you want to grow and relate to family, friends and community?

Look at your innate and developed skills as well, character strengths and learning goals, personality and work setting preferences. Before determining potential job and career matches, review your financial goals, need for benefits, employment location and commute tolerance. “It’s not rocket science,” but it is a complex process with more than a few moving parts, creating a meaningful life and work life post-divorce. It may also include co-parenting and caring for children, their needs and educational dreams.

Actively explore what matters job wise and discover a meaningful and doable path. Find what you can immerse yourself in because you care, and begin to feel that you matter again. Recovering from time with a partner who negated your interests and/or abilities is challenging. Chins up! Meeting people who share your passions is validating. Doing the thing you thought you might enjoy and do enjoy is intrinsically rewarding and requires no outside approval to sustain.

When you act on your deeper values you engage the highest part of yourself and nurture your inner self. Over time you’ll emerge stronger, happier and more confident as you build a life of meaning and purpose that also pays the bills.

~~~

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC
Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor
1020 SW Taylor St., Ste. 550
Portland, OR 97205
503-227-4250

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

 

 

 

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FAQ – Fall 2019

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


  • I’m worried that my partner 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 partner, if willing) should schedule a consultation with a Bridges Divorce 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). “Bridgers” 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.

  • FAQIf 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 Divorce fit our situation best?

All Bridges Divorce professionals are experienced in both Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. A consultation (by phone, email or in-office) to discuss your family’s specific situation is the best way to determine which of these peaceful options is the best fit for your family.

Bridges Divorce Professionals

 

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Myah Kehoe, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Kehoe Law, LLC
319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR 97204
503-388-6065

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

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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 partner does.
  • Separate your emotions from the decision making process.
  • Separate your job as a parent from the conflicts with your partner.
  • Accept responsibility for your contribution to the break-up.
  • Learn to understand your partner’s viewpoint.
  • Be willing to negotiate, compromise and cooperate in resolving your differences.
  • Make a commitment to an equitable and non-adversarial settlement process.

To learn more about peaceful divorce, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

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

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

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Divorce Options – 4 Different Ways to Divorce

Once a couple has made the decision to part, they have different divorce options available. Which one they choose depends on their own personal situation.

The Do-It-Yourself-Divorce

A do-it-yourself-divorce is also known as the “kitchen table divorce.” The divorcing couple does all the paperwork themselves and files the documents with the court. This may work when a couple has no unresolved issues between them and can easily make their parting decisions together. They should consider having individual attorneys look over the agreement before it is filed with the court to make sure they did not miss any key issues and that they understand their rights and obligations.

 

Mediation

In Oregon, mediation is when a neutral third party sits down with the couple and helps them negotiate the issues that need to be resolved. The mediator can cannot give legal advice to either party. The mediator can tell the couple what other divorcing couples have done in similar situations, but the couple must ultimately make their own decisions.

 

When the settlement has been committed to paper, some mediators with a legal background will draft the paperwork. They will suggest that each party have their own attorney review the paperwork before it is filed with the court. If the mediator does not have a legal background, they will refer the couple to a lawyer who can draft the paperwork for them or the parties will draft the documents themselves (see DIY, above). Couples may also hire attorneys to attend mediation sessions with them.

 

Litigation

Just a frustrated judge....

Just a frustrated judge….

Litigation is an adversarial process, which also results in more antagonism than other divorce options. Each party hires his or her own attorney and attempts to resolve all issues through back-and-forth negotiations. Sometimes, a mediator is called in to help. If the issues cannot be agreed upon by the parties, the case goes to trial. Then, the parties have no control over the final decisions; instead, the judge will make the decisions for them, and they must abide by all court orders. Because the parties have no control over the outcome, this can result in the parties continuing to fight long after the trial is complete.

 

Collaborative Divorce

A collaborative divorce is a non-adversarial process. The goal is for the parties to come to mutually agreed resolutions of their issues as amicably as possible. When children are involved, the attorneys assist parents in making a parenting plan that accommodates the needs of both the children and the parents.

 

Each specially-trained Collaborative Attorney is still an advocate for their client, but the attorney is more like a diplomat, there to help the parties’ sort through the issues and come to solutions that are best for their family. Neutral parties are called in to assist when necessary. For example, a third person with a financial background may assist with asset division. And a mental health coach is often an automatic party to the Collaborative team to assist with challenging emotional roadblocks.

 

A Collaborative divorce is a method that is the most efficient for most divorcing couples and families. The parties do not need to have everything figured out before entering the process. They can add in any additional professionals as needed. And, they can still have the advocacy of their own attorneys, without feeling the pressure of the courtroom.

 

For information on divorce options, or to discuss any aspect of your need for assistance for your divorce, contact us at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

 

~~~

Myah Kehoe, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Kehoe Law, LLC
319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR 97204
503-388-6065

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

 

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How Can I Better Understand Child Support In Oregon?

Child support is an important topic when divorcing couples have children under age 21. Parents have a lot of questions about why it must be paid and what the funds will be used for. One of the advantages of the Collaborative Divorce process is how we assist our clients so that they have a better understanding of the many facets of child support. First, we try to better understand a family’s goals, needs, and budgets. We can then collaborate to create an individual plan that will work for the entire family and that will be approved by the court.

Oregon Law, Child Support, and Creative Solutions

According to Oregon law, it is mandatory for parents to fill out a child support worksheet with the Uniform Child Support Guidelines formula attached to their paperwork. If a child support order is left up to a trial court judge, it will be limited to considering only incomes, spousal support (if any), work-related childcare, percentage of time-sharing with kids, health insurance premiums, and the base amount of child support itself. This does not always meet a family’s needs or goals.

Understanding child support

There are ways we can personalize the plan and provide the court with more details. We talk about the children’s specific needs and family budgets. There are different categories of expenses to consider when working to establish a monthly child support sum. For example, we take into account:

  • Special interests of the children, like swimming lessons, piano lessons, and other extracurricular activities.
  • Whether private school tuition is desired.
  • How sharing flexible time with the children might impact child support in a way that honors co-parenting, with a customized plan that fits both parent’s budgets.
  • What the long-term goals of parents and children are ~ Are they interested in establishing a college fund, or continuing to fund an already established plan?
  • Whether they want a more comprehensive healthcare plan than one required by the court.
  • Whether they agree that one parent should stay home to care for young children.

Determining resources and routine expenses (including tuition which may only come up once a year)

Our collaborative teams often use budget-based software called Family Law Software that has a lot of tools for us to use in assisting families who will now have two households to run on the same income they used to use for just one household. We want to be sure the plan we settle on is one that is going to meet the needs of the parents and the children.

To learn more about how to structure your child support agreement through the Collaborative Divorce process, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Tonya Alexander
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
1925 NE Stucki Ave Ste 410
Hillsboro, OR 97006
503-531-9103

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

 

 

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Oregon Child Support Tips

Child support can be a confusing and sometimes contentious issue between parents who are faced with the termination of their marriage. Often, divorcing parents confuse child support with spousal support, which is a very different issue. The two topics should not be discussed together as one lump sum but addressed separately. One reason is that modifications of each issue are handled differently and there may be legal ramifications to mixing the issues together. Here are some child support tips for parents who are attempting to work out this issue:

 

Child Support for Children Ages 18 to 21 (child attending school):

Oregon law concerning children ages 18 to 21 who are in school more than half time is somewhat complicated and governed by statute. Consulting a licensed attorney and working with a collaborative team is important to understand how to meet the child or children’s needs as well as the agreement being approved by a judge. If you just utilize the presumed guideline formula online (https://www.doj.state.or.us/child-support/calculators-forms/child-support-calculator/), it will presume both parents shall pay the college age child cash child support each month. This is not typically what parents desire in my experience. The Collaborative divorce team works with parents, along with a financial advisor when helpful, to construct a written agreement that will meet the child’s recurring and periodic needs. This agreement must be structured in a way that will get the court’s approval as well.

Consider the Specific Needs of Each Child:

Our list of child support tips includes looking at the different categories of the individual child’s needs. This includes considering costs of healthcare, school related, childcare, (where applicable), and extracurricular needs. For example, if a child is involved in sports, takes music lessons, has special needs that require tutoring, or other needs that require funds, we recommend having a list of those items before sitting down to discuss child support. The meeting can be more productive if those costs have been determined prior to the settlement meeting.

Childcare related issues:

When filling out the Oregon child support worksheet, some parents will put in a specific amount for daycare cost. I don’t typically recommend doing that unless parents are not able to communicate or cooperate well. Daycare needs tend to fluctuate, especially in summer months, or with infants, toddlers, or preschoolers, and the amount ordered by the court at one time may be modified when the needs change later. We can discuss alternate ways to apportion childcare costs between parents in a way that meets the family’s goals with less restrictions.

Parenting Time Credit:

One area frequently asked about is how to calculate time a child or children spend with each parent as these ties into the child support guideline amount. I usually start with the question of how much time a child typically spends with each parent when not at school or childcare and try to better understand actual costs the parents are incurring while caring for the child or children. It’s important to better understand the goals and nuances of the family’s parenting plan when talking about this issue instead of going straight to a positional discussion of “how many overnights” does a parent have with a child. The Oregon statute also allows parents (or the court) to look at shorter blocks of time (such as 4 hours) if a better fit to analyze what’s equitable in parenting time percentage.

Modification Process:

When a support agreement is modified, that modification must be approved by the court to be enforceable.

Parents do not need to appear in court to have court approval, but they must file the modification legal documents with the court for an enforceable agreement related to child support.

Meeting with a Financial Analyst:

We recommend meeting at least once with a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA). We include a financial professional on our collaborative divorce team. This professional will work with both parents to discuss tax implications, budgeting, or other financial issues that they have not yet considered.

If you have questions about child support settlements, or any other issue concerning divorce or separation, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Tonya Alexander
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
1925 NE Stucki Ave Ste 410
Hillsboro, OR 97006
503-531-9103

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

Why Do You Need a Prenup? 7 Good Reasons

It’s wedding season and there are many preparations for the joyous day. Have you thought about a prenuptial agreement? It’s becoming more and more relevant for reasons you probably haven’t thought of.

Here are 7 good reasons for a Prenup

1) Prenups Strengthen Relationships:
A prenup is an agreement about things that will come up in the relationship that are best understood and talked about now. In the glow of love and desire to be together happily ever after, entering into a discussion about a contract is not that appealing. However, if the practice of raising difficult issues and resolving them starts early, it will bode well for durability and happiness in the long run for the union.

2) Talk About What Is Important To You:
By identifying what is important to you and expressing it to each other you can work out the differences at a positive time and in a joyful light. To fulfill your dreams you will need to focus on practical matters, like financial planning, understanding money habits and disclosure of assets, debts and income. It’s better if the relationship is not based on vague illusions but on understanding and supporting each others’ dreams.

3) Talk About Money:
It’s an economic and emotional partnership. Disclosing present financial realities, making a plan and ground rules creates possibilities for bonding and security. Raise consciousness and confront issues, starting the practice of making intentional decisions now and in the future. Then the difficult issues are out of the way and you can relax and enjoy each other and the ride.

4) Protect Rights for Each of You:
You wouldn’t enter into a business partnership without an agreement laying out rights and responsibilities, conflict resolution strategies, assurances of being heard, having a measure of control – and, perhaps most importantly, a process for dissolution if it doesn’t work. Divorce is a $50B a year industry, largely due to the fact that these things haven’t been dealt with in the most important of partnership relationships. Family breakup is random and then left to lawyers and the courts with no predetermined, understood and predictable process or outcome.

5) Things to Discuss Up Front:
What kind of lifestyle do you want? How many children, if any? If having children – who will continue to work? If one stays home, what will be the compensation for time and opportunity lost in the job market in the event of divorce? What are your money personalities? Savers or spenders? What is the financial story for your family of origin?

All of these things can be made known, discussed and worked with from the beginning. Agreements can be made before you are married and modified as you go along to keep behavior in check so your future goals are met. You can work with mediators, attorneys, financial professionals, coaches and therapists as needed.

6) Develop Financial Plan:
Are you going to have HIS, HERS and OUR accounts? Is there a reason why some assets should be kept separate? Reasons might include other party in debt, threat of lawsuit, guarantee of business debts, high risk business situation, receiving assets from family, estate planning, keeping assets distinct for children from prior relationship, consistency for the prenup.

Adjust income tax withholding, determine contributions to retirement, insurance coverage (medical, dental, life, disability, long term care, car, homeowners or renters, umbrella or professional liability, selecting beneficiaries of life insurance policies, 401(k), pension, profit-sharing, 403(b) annuities and IRAs, registering assets in individual or joint title, writing a new will, health care proxy, living will, durable powers of attorney. Discussion of plan with adult children and providing a copy of the prenuptial agreement to third parties.

7) Empowering Women:
Having these issues discussed prior to marriage with agreements, advances women’s rights and ability to negotiate for themselves. Frankly it’s hard to get justice in the courts later, so claiming your power now is important. Things that come up include the financial consequences of staying home with children, supporting spouse through professional school, leaving your home for the home of a new spouse or not having an interest in the business because it’s hard to value.
There is opportunity for agreement for payouts in the event of divorce, equalized power at the table and legal, binding agreements. Having legal requirements for full disclosure and a more deliberative process at the beginning will begin to close the economic gap. You have more leverage before the marriage than after. You know what you’re getting in terms of the other person because the beliefs have all been brought out. It’s a positive atmosphere to get a fair agreement.
There is also an opportunity to talk about balancing other tasks like household and child-rearing responsibilities, freeing you to make more money.

Share This With Friends.

It takes more than love to make a marriage. It takes dispute resolution skills consciously developed over time. Work with collaborative professionals who can help you from the beginning, for the best chance at a lasting relationship or a lasting peace.

Click the image below to grab an Easy-to-Print comprehensive Premarital Checklist with more questions and ideas. If nothing else, it’s good for thought and discussion.

Printable Premarital Checklist

Premarital Checklist

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

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

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.

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Joanna “Jo” Posey
Attorney at Law / Mediator
Posey Legal, PC
3115 NE Sandy Blvd., Ste 222
Portland, OR 97232
503-241-0818

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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.

~~~

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

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

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Help Create a Caring Workplace and Economy

As a psychotherapist and career counselor starting out in the mid-80’s, my biggest surprise has been how many people come in my office and complain not about their work, but about their dysfunctional workplace. They’ve talked and still talk about a lack of vision and organization among managers resulting in chaos and confusion, distrust among employees at all levels and cultures of toxicity that lead to high stress and health problems. A focus on productivity alone is behind decision-making that ignores a worker’s need for respect, to believe in what they do, manageable deadlines and a chance to speak out when problems occur.

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said, “My company used to feel like family, it doesn’t anymore. I never see my manager and it seems I’m expected to do three jobs now.” Since I began my career, our country has seen the steady incorporation of management styles with an eye on short-term profits and efficiencies over quality. Not only has quality of life for employees suffered but it has wrecked havoc across industries from retail and health care to the manufacture of airplanes. Beginning in the early 1970’s a focus on paying profits to shareholders shifted the view of managers who were increasingly trained in MBA programs that emphasized financial gain for investors over benefits to customers, employees and community. Instead of creating full time jobs with health benefits, employee training, contributing to retirement funds and giving back to the community, we saw a trend to send good jobs overseas to increase short term dividends for shareholders.

My hope for future business dealings in Oregon and elsewhere stems from the way I see my clients and others put their deeper values and interests on the line in the workplace. From my socially oriented clients who prioritize wanting to “help people” to folks who want to “make something useful and beautiful for others,” I see many who want to care about what they do for a living. It seems to come naturally, as a part of a need to be our true selves in relation to the larger community.

“The promise of business is to increase the general well-being of humankind through service, creative invention and ethical philosophy. Business is the only mechanism on the planet today powerful enough to produce the changes necessary to reverse global environments and social degradation.” Paul Hawken

I agree with Paul Hawken, visionary, environmentalist, activist and entrepreneur; work is a place where we can change the world. But given the “eroding and precarious state of employment” (a phrase coined by Dr. David L. Bluestein,) as the impact of bean counters led by greed over the last several decades is felt more and more, it is the workplace itself that now needs our help.

Dr. Bluestein, an expert in the changes our economy is experiencing and author of soon to be published “The Impact of Work in an Age of Uncertainty: The Eroding Work Experience in America,” says a good way to keep a job today is to make caring and creativity your focus. He says this in part to steer those of us whose jobs are being taken over by robots into work that will always be around. But now there is another imperative, we must care and think at work if we are to maintain our very humanity and not turn into robots ourselves. David Graeber, in “Bullshit Jobs,” warns people negatively affected by their lack of meaning and purpose at work suffer from “depression, anxiety and a warped sense of values” and also points to “caring and creativity” as a way through our present dilemmas.

In closing I ask you, “What do you care about? What do you want to create?” And what might it look like if you were doing this at work? As I’m fond of saying, meaningful direction in career often starts as a small feeling, a feeling of caring, of being interested in something or falling in love with an idea. Trust your subjective experience. It is crucial to the process of discovering and growing your passions. As Barbara Sher, a well-known career author, says, “We are what we love.” You’ll soon notice a side benefit to caring and feeling more connected to others, a boost in self-confidence and a decrease in anxiety. So tune out any negative self-talk about your little idea not being important or good enough and get to work! The world is waiting.

~~~

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC
Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor
1020 SW Taylor St., Ste. 550
Portland, OR 97205
503-227-4250

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

Why 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.

If you have questions about child support settlements, or any other issue concerning divorce or separation, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Tonya Alexander
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
1925 NE Stucki Ave Ste 410
Hillsboro, OR 97006
503-531-9103

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

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We, at Bridges, are Peacemakers

What Does That Mean?

Peacemaking means processing differences in a way that results in resolution. It’s not the absence of conflict. It’s an appreciation of conflict as an opportunity to rise to a higher level of function and satisfaction.

Conflict comes up naturally within ourselves and in relationship to others. It’s caused by unexamined habits, unmet needs, differences of opinion, personalities, perspectives, interests and values. It arises because of expectations and things that happen in life we can’t control or understand.

Inner conflict manifests as anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety and other conscious or unconscious emotions. Failure to resolve inner conflict results in ways of being that create discomfort for others and dysfunction in relationships.

The coming together in marriage is a time of peace and confidence. We expect to live happily ever after. But this peace is short-lived and is predictably disturbed by life and living in relationship.

Facing conflict is how we learn and grow. Not processing it properly means ongoing personal and relational dysfunction and pain. Learning and using peacemaking skills to resolve conflict results in ongoing growth, harmony and happiness.

In peacemaking, differences are expressed, heard and integrated into a higher peace. This higher peace is based upon new perspectives that are more inclusive. It transcends the personal to larger goals and deeper satisfaction.

How Is a Peacemaking Process Different?

Problem Solving Approach

Mediation and collaborative processes use a method of negotiation called “interest based” problem solving. It’s not the usual thought of bargaining, outwitting, overpowering, puffing, threatening and even bullying.

Interest based negotiation has these steps:

  1. Information gathering in a neutral way with full and voluntary disclosure
  2. Each party being able to express their own interests and listen to the concerns of the other in a safe, confidential environment without reaction or criticism.
  3. Together creating options to meet the interests of each as closely as possible.
  4. Choosing the best option after analyzing the strengths, weaknesses and feasibility of each.
  5. Committing to the option chosen.

Getting Help from Other Professionals:

Family issues are emotional, relational and financial as well as legal. Peacemaking processes take all of this into account. We work with families through each of these areas in a targeted and efficient manner, seeking to meet the needs of each situation.
The natural complexity of issues, concerns and experiences for our families is recognized and validated. Coaching is available for each aspect.

Dona

Dona Cullen, Attorney at Law, Mediator, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA)

Unbundled Services:

Lawyers can now provide what is called “unbundled” services. With informed consent on your part, we can assist where you need help. A high percentage of people choose to go through a court process unrepresented, particularly in family law. This is due to expense and the fear lawyers will unnecessarily polarize and/or complicate matters. That being said there are things a lawyer or other divorce professional can help you with. We can now coach, share information and encourage on an as needed basis.

What Makes Us Different?

Peacemaking being our passion is what makes us different. We have worked together for a long time to build this potential and make this service available. We regularly meet, share and support each other in improving our skills and have for the past 10 years. We believe in peacemaking, in ourselves and in your potential to choose a process that can have enduring positive consequences for your future.

Call one of our professionals to see the difference for yourselves.

~~~

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

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

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.

    https://bridgesdivorce.com/why-mediation/

    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.

~~~

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212
503-473-8242

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Pro Bono Spotlight

James O’Connor
Pro Bono Spotlight

From the Multnomah Lawyer, January 2019 Volume 65, Number 1

Multnomah Bar Associationby Anthony Blake
YLS Pro Bono Committee

Early in life, James O’Connor realized he had an overarching desire to help people. He went to Georgetown Law School with the intent of using the law as a tool for change. After graduating in the Ronald Reagan era, O’Connor found himself searching for a job that allowed him to assist individuals and couples in finding solutions to the issues that many families face. So, he traveled to a rural part of Arkansas where he worked as an attorney for Legal Aid of Arkansas. His next stop was Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati. At each of these locations, he had the freedom to combine his education and personal experience to brainstorm new ways of approaching old problems. “My early positions allowed me to attack the cause of problems instead of just spotting the symptoms,” O’Connor said. The on-the-fly experience he gained as a budding legal aid attorney would stick with him for the rest of his career. Eventually, O’Connor walked away from the family law arena and worked as general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers in Washington, DC. There, he provided various services to the union and its 4,000 members.

In 2006, he opened his own firm, Jim O’Connor LLC , in Northeast Portland where he works as a mediator and collaborative divorce attorney. After opening his firm, O’Connor wanted to re-connect with his family law roots in a way that he does not always get to experience in his daily practice. Thousands of miles away from the Arkansas Delta where he started, O’Connor became a volunteer at Legal Aid Services of Oregon. Since then, he’s found a way to volunteer at LASOLegal Aid Services of Oregon at least once a month for the last 12 years. This commitment has allowed him to provide family law assistance to almost 200 clients. “Jim’s long-term dedication to assisting low income clients is truly remarkable. Jim provides critical legal help with family law legal issues and goes above and beyond to ensure low income individuals receive assistance,” said Jill Mallery, Staff Attorney/ Pro Bono Coordinator at LASO ’s Portland office. When asked why he continues to volunteer at LASO each month, O’Connor responded, “Family is everything to the people who come through the doors of LASO. They have the same issues we all have. Their feelings are real and they’re extremely appreciative of the services volunteers provide.”

Despite decades of helping hundreds of families, O’Connor remains grateful for every opportunity, “It’s a privilege to use your education to help people.” Without dedication from volunteers like O’Connor, a majority of the families at LASO would have to face the legal system on their own. He’s a great example of what it means to remain committed to finding a way to help the less fortunate, regardless of one’s career path. “On behalf of the hundreds of clients Jim has assisted, we thank him for his commitment to increasing access to justice,” said Mallery. Our local community is lucky to have him.

 

To learn more about the Collaborative Divorce process, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Randall Poff
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
1500 NW Bethany Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97006
503-241-3141

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

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IACP Forum, Seattle

International Academy of Collaborative Professionals ~ Forum

19th Annual Networking and Educational Event

October 25 to October 28, 2018
The Westin Seattle, WA

Several of your Bridges Divorce professionals are back from the world collaborative conference in Seattle, Washington.

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.

More than 450 lawyers, mental health professionals, financial professionals and other Collaborative practitioners from several countries attended the Forum at the Westin Seattle.

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.

To learn more about choosing Collaborative Practice for YOUR peaceful divorce, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Randall Poff
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
1500 NW Bethany Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97006
503-241-3141

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

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Moms and Dads don’t give up on your other career dreams!

As a divorce coach and vocational expert in collaborative and mediated cases that are settled out of court, I have the privilege of supporting moms and dads needing to go back to work, as a result of their divorce. Typically the stay at home spouse has spent several years, often more than fifteen, out of the workplace. Much has changed technically and culturally since they last worked or went to school. They often feel afraid, overwhelmed and lost as they begin to take stock. It’s a lot to face; find a viable direction in today’s market, upgrade technical skills and financial savvy, prepare to attend school or job search, all while making the adjustment to single life.

…20 years later

There is often huge resentment and anger. Particularly for someone who with their spouse made the decision to give up/put on hold career or education, in order to raise children, only to find themselves on their own twenty years later. It may now be impossible to gain parity with the working spouse in terms of income and retirement savings. Divorce attorneys and financial experts can address this, and do a great job for you and your soon to be ex, but the fact remains there’s often considerable catching up to do.

Clients, who stayed in touch with former employers, worked part time or seasonally, volunteered in their community, took classes and kept up with technology and finances do better. Divorce is not something people typically plan on. Still it happens in half or more of all marriages. Don’t be blindsided or allow yourself to be put in a compromised position at any life stage. Stay involved in the working world at some level; cultivate resources, contacts and experience to draw on should you unfortunately need to. Despite the challenges, with a little time, support and actively taking steps, the transition to a new life can be inspirational and positively transformative.

~~~

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC
Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor
1020 SW Taylor St., Ste. 550
Portland, OR 97205
503-227-4250

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

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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

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.

~~~

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212
503-473-8242

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

How to divorce without publicizing your private life

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.
Can't we just get along?

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.

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.

Courtesy of Portland Business Journal

Thank you!

~~~

Joanna “Jo” Posey
Attorney at Law / Mediator
Posey Legal, PC
3115 NE Sandy Blvd., Ste 222
Portland, OR 97232
503-241-0818

 

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What is Co-Mediation?

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

Co-mediation involves two trained professionals (usually one lawyer and one with a mental health 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 marginal 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 will best fit your needs, or whether another option, such as collaborative method or pure mediation is preferable.

If you have questions about co-mediation, or any other issue concerning divorce or separation, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Tonya Alexander
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
1925 NE Stucki Ave Ste 410
Hillsboro, OR 97006
503-531-9103

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

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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.

Balancing ActFamily 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.

If you have questions about peaceful separating, or any other issue concerning family or divorce, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Tonya Alexander
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
1925 NE Stucki Ave Ste 410
Hillsboro, OR 97006
503-531-9103

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

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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.

~~~

Jim O’Connor, Collaborative Attorney / Mediator
3939 NE Hancock St., Ste. 309
Portland, OR 97212
503-473-8242

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Collaborative Divorce Empowers Stay-at-Home Spouse Re-Entering the Work Place

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.

~~~

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC
Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor
1020 SW Taylor St., Ste. 550
Portland, OR 97205
503-227-4250

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

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Robin Williams on Conflict

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

Robin and the Two-Headed Monster

Play video of Robin and the Two-Headed Monster

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.

or View the video at the YouTube Sesame Street Channel

 

To learn more about choosing Collaborative Practice for YOUR peaceful divorce, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Randall Poff
Mediator and Collaborative Attorney
1500 NW Bethany Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97006
503-241-3141

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

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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 503-567-2848

~~~

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

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What’s a “Bonusfamily,” anyway?

Bonus Families ® is the only international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.

Their goal? To support YOU. Now, that’s a real bonus…

Get Help

Bonus Families® has many options available for you and your family… Help is available online or by telephone, (925) 516-2681

If you have questions about peaceful separating, or any other issue concerning family or divorce, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Tonya Alexander
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
1925 NE Stucki Ave Ste 410
Hillsboro, OR 97006
503-531-9103

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

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.

To learn more about choosing Collaborative Practice for YOUR peaceful divorce, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Randall Poff
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
1500 NW Bethany Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97006
503-241-3141

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

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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!

 

To learn more about choosing Collaborative Practice for YOUR peaceful divorce, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

~~~

Randall Poff
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
1500 NW Bethany Blvd.
Beaverton, OR 97006
503-241-3141

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

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.

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.
    IACP-Logo

    Will it work for me? FAQs

     

    To learn more about the Collaborative Divorce process, contact one of our Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

    ~~~

    Randall Poff
    Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
    1500 NW Bethany Blvd.
    Beaverton, OR 97006
    503-241-3141

    Randall’s Website
    Email Randall

This American Life

Let no court put asunder….
Originally aired 8.24.2007

339: Break-Up

Act Three. Let No Court Put Asunder.

Ira talks with divorce mediator Barry Berkman about why it’s bad when the justice system gets involved in a break-up. (8 minutes) Barry is a member of The New York Association of Collaborative Professionals.

~~~

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