During times of transition and grief, parents often expect sadness and anxiety as the news of a divorce is shared and daily activities and homelife changes. We practice empathizing and soothing our children, creating structures and plans to help them feel safe and loved during the changes.  And, still, despite the well thought out plans, disruptive anger and aggression often present themselves in the picture. Today’s article will describe the developmental purpose of anger, as well as offer some strategies for meeting and managing these feelings together as a family.

At every developmental stage, there is a need to have influence and control of our environment, from cradle to grave. We seek a secure base from which to take multiple risks to grow. Children do not have control in a divorce. They don’t decide to separate. For many, the awareness of this and the uncertainties that lie before them, evoke a forceful resistance to maintain a known experience. There is power in anger, a fierce “no” to protect themselves. Children can feel and touch their influence in a real way, as others respond to them. Anger is a normal response to unexpected change. With that said, it is not a desired state to reside within, but move through toward a balanced acceptance of a new reality.

Following are a few ideas to help manage and work with anger and aggression:

  • Acknowledge the truth about the lack of control while creating opportunities for them to have influence. What are some elements of the transition that they can make choices about? Some examples that families have tried are choosing the times of transition “Would you like to go to the other house in the morning or afternoon?” or helping to decorate the new home, “I’d like you to choose the color of dishes for our new kitchen.”
  • Allow for healthy expressions of anger and create a plan, “What are some things you can do when you’re angry?”  Belly breathing doesn’t always work then! What activities can release the physical energy? Jumping on the trampoline, running around the yard, yelling into a pillow, creating a “punching” object are all examples of ways children can direct this emotion. Just as important, establish boundaries around the expressions of anger that are not allowed such as yelling at or punching a sibling. This co created plan creates a safe place to move through the unpleasant feeling.
  • Lastly, help your child to accept this as an understandable response. Many children feel guilt and shame that their anger affects their family, too. “Our family is going through many emotions together, and we’ll get through this together.”  Read books or tell stories to help them understand that other children have felt similarly, too. Anger is a normal response in the grieving process and can lead them to a healthy adjustment within the new family dynamic.


“All of us, from the cradle to the grave, are happiest when life is organized as a series of excursions, long or short, from the secure base provided by our attachment figure(s).”-Bowlby, 1988




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

Diane’s Website
Email Diane


Talking to children about divorce is overwhelming. You might choose to work with a professional to develop a personalized plan that meets the needs of your unique family. If this is not possible, or if you want to learn more as you prepare for your appointment, here are 10 Tips for Talking to Kids about Divorce and Separation.


TIP 1: Tell Them Together

Whether you are married or separated, your children need to see you as a parenting team. It can feel impossible to set aside hard feelings when you are grieving the end of a marriage, but it is important to stay focused on something you have in common – your amazing children. If it’s not possible to tell them together, you can work with a professional to develop an alternative plan.

TIP 2: Keep It Short

You get 30-45 seconds to deliver your initial message and then give your kids time to absorb it. Let them know you have decided to divorce, separate or for younger children, “live in two homes”. Provide a general, non-blaming explanation like  “We couldn’t love each other in the way married people need to.” “We want to stop arguing.” “We work better when we’re living in two homes.” Assure them that parents divorce each other but not their children and you both will always love them and take care of them.

You can then share some brief details about what might happen in the near future. “You’ll have two homes now, one with Mommy here at the house, and one with Mama in a new apartment near your school” or “The guinea pig will live at Dad’s new house” or “You’ll still get to play on your soccer team and see all of your friends”.

Reassure your children that even though “a family change like this can be sad and hard, we are all going to be okay”.

TIP 3: Avoid the WHY

Avoid sharing why your marriage ended with your children, especially who decided to leave and why. These are grown-up parent issues. When kids ask why, they often really want to know who to blame and who to take care of. It is your job as parents to make sure they know they don’t have to do either of those things.

Some parents feel dishonest not sharing all the details of the divorce with their kids or not answering all of their questions in full. I assure you, it’s not dishonest to set healthy, developmentally appropriate boundaries. If you do feel compelled to share some of the “why” with your kids, it is a good idea to work with a professional for guidance prior to this conversation.

TIP 4: Practice

Practice can help you send clear messages to your kids in a tone that decreases anxiety. After you have decided on a common narrative together, write down what you want to say and practice saying it. If you have different communication styles, account for that in your planning to make space for both parents to talk. Your tone should let your kids know “We’re going to get through this. We’ve got this. We will be the grown-ups and you get to be kids”.

Of course after all that talk about practice, please know that you do not need perfection. There are three things that matter above all else: 1. Being on the same page  2. Creating the groundwork for open ongoing conversations and  3. Connecting with your kids.

TIP 5: Plan Ahead for Questions

Children need to know they can ask questions openly. They might talk to one parent more than another, and that’s completely normal but they need to know you are both available to them. Brainstorm what questions each child might ask and how you agree to answer them in a developmentally appropriate way. Kids won’t always ask questions right away, so it’s helpful to be prepared for future, impromptu questions.

It’s also okay to say “That’s a great question, we’ll let you know when we have an answer.”

TIP 6: Prepare Yourself Emotionally

Take care of yourself so you can take care of your children. Do your own emotional work so you can avoid burdening your children with your “stuff”. It’s okay for your children to know you’re sad, but it’s not helpful for them to bear witness to your big feelings about the end of your marriage or their other parent’s behavior.

Avoid putting kids in the caretaker role and instead, take this opportunity to model how to manage emotions appropriately. “We feel sad, too. And we have lots of grown ups (or a great therapist, a professional team) we can talk to to help us get through this. Our family is strong and we can get through hard stuff.”

TIP 7: Listen

Keep the focus on your children and their experiences. Listen to their concerns and hold space for their big feels. Each child will go through their own unique process.You do not need to rescue them from the loss and grief that is an inevitable part of divorce; just be present and supportive and help them maneuver this difficult time in the healthiest way possible.

TIP 8: Minimize Conflict

Conflict between parents is the number one indicator of negative  outcomes for children with divorced parents. If you do nothing else, commit to minimizing conflict so it does not come out in front of or within earshot of your children. Be aware that children also pick up on energy and non-verbal cues. Ask your friends or family members to help hold you accountable.

One parent I worked with was determined not to allow their current anger to impact the kids. So they made a plan to ask close friends for some accountability. First, they were asked to do a “kid check” to ensure no kids were home before discussing the divorce or their co-parent. Next they were asked to only allow angry divorce complaining for 5 minutes, at which time they would change the subject.

If ongoing conflict is a major issue between you, co-parent coaching can be a life-long gift to give your children.

TIP 9: Be Kind

Imagine your child as half you and half your co-parent. When you dismiss or criticize your co-parent, you are dismissing or criticizing half of your child. You don’t have to be friends, but your children will be healthier and happier if you are kind and show each other respect.

TIP 10: Get support if you need it

A family divorce professional such as a family mediator, co-parent coach or child specialist can help you create an initial message or “narrative” that is customized for your family, decide how and when to share it, brainstorm how to answer your children’s questions and help you lay the groundwork for future conversations. They can also help you develop a healthier co-parent relationship in the process.

Remember, these early interactions are chapter one of the story your children will tell about the time their parents divorced. You get to help them write that story.


Meg Merrill is a Family Mediator, Family Transition Specialist and Co-parent Coach and a member of Bridges Collaborative Divorce in Portland, Oregon.


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


Meg Merrill, MSW
Family Mediator, Family Transition Specialist and Co-Parent Coach


Meg’s Website
Email Meg

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

Diane’s Website
Email Diane

Collaborative Divorce

  • Empowers you to resolve your legal disputes without judges, referees or court personnel making decisions for you.
  • Provides you with specially trained Collaborative lawyers, mental health and financial professionals to educate, support and guide you in reaching balanced, respectful and lasting agreements.
  • Offers you a safe and dignified environment to reduce the conflict and minimize its impact on you, your children, your family and your life.



To learn more about Collaborative Divorce,

contact any of the Professionals at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.




Randall Poff, Retired Collaborative Attorney and Family Mediator


First, a couple of definitions:


Amiable Divorce:

You discuss, you negotiate, and you agree about children/parenting, support and finances/property.


Difficult Divorce:

You tried, but you can’t agree on some or all of the key issues.


Emotionally, psychologically, socially ending a marriage or domestic partnership can be very difficult indeed. Add the hot-button topics of child custody, strained finances and division of property to the mix and it is no wonder divorce is probably one of the most challenging life events you’ll ever experience. So, “No!” it is not easy, but from one point of view, there are (at least) two different approaches. One, especially, is a lot easier than the other.

Two approaches in divorce:

  • Doing it by agreement

    Many people are able to agree with their partner and this makes the process of separation and divorce a lot easier. Not easy, but easier.

  • Going to court

    Unfortunately, many people are living in the difficult world of divorce litigation. Sure, if you could agree on things you might not be getting divorced in the first place. Ultimately, if you are unable to agree, you will need the court to make the decisions for you.

A pet-peeve:
Many of my clients read or hear about the phrase, “no-court-divorce,” and wonder . . .
I can say without hesitation (at least in Oregon and Washington), there is no such thing as “no-court-divorce.” To end your marriage and become a single person, it can only happen in court with a judge signing legal papers! Historically, that’s how litigating divorce lawyers came to be: If you gotta go to court, the thinking was, they (and the media, to a great degree) convinced folks they need to engage in a court-battle to “win-it-all” from their former partner. Yes, some folks will need a judge to give them their answers ~ I don’t expect courthouses will be torn down or become obsolete anytime soon. I do believe most folks are able to find their own comprehensive divorce agreements, sometimes on their own but usually with the help of a caring, trained professional.

Finances & Property
It’s not only a matter of who will get what, there are also issues of child support and perhaps even spousal support (alimony) to consider. Typically, there is a lot at stake for both partners. Will you get to keep most of your hard earned assets?

Child Custody & Parenting
Children are the future. Will joint custody be workable? How will parenting-time be established? Will you be able to be there for your children when it matters most? Will you be involved enough to really be a part of their lives as the years go on?

Consider Your Alternatives : Exercise Your Judgment

Nobody looks forward to divorce: It’s hard! When you decide it’s over, you do have options to the tired old refrain, “See you in court!” Mediation or Collaboration are usually better choices for most couples. The vast majority of my clients “get ‘r done” without a contested court case (especially in these COVID-19 trying times).

Contact me (or any “Bridger”) to learn how to “invite” your partner to an amiable divorce. I am convinced the better way is Collaborative Divorce (and its little sibling, Mediation)!

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


Randall Poff, Retired Collaborative Attorney and Family Mediator

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, Retired Collaborative Attorney and Family Mediator


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.



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 trans-formative.


Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC
Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor
1020 SW Taylor St Ste 350
Portland, OR 97205

Gail’s Website
Email Gail



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

Diane’s Website
Email Diane

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.


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

Diane’s Website
Email Diane


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

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

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

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

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.

Time and Money (Hourglass)

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
Financial Neutral
5200 Meadows Rd Ste 150
Lake Oswego, OR 97035

Dona’s Website
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Co-parenting after a breakup is difficult to begin with. For many families, the holidays are an emotionally charged time and add another layer of stress. On top of that, this year parents are still dealing with COVID-19, including concerns of minimizing exposure across households and navigating periods of quarantine. On top of all this, many parents find themselves faced with the new challenge of educating their children while also working from home. All of these stressors can create a powder keg of emotions for parents. At Posey Legal, P.C., we have some tips parents might find helpful.

Review Your Current Co-parenting Agreement

Before you get into the throes of the holiday season, make sure you know what your current holiday plan is. If you have a written parenting agreement, dust it off and read it with fresh eyes,  making sure the agreements you made when your plan was drafted still make sense in light of all the unforeseen changes that have come our way in the past year. Ask your co-parent if they are still on board with the plan as written. If you feel it needs to be changed or adjusted but your co-parent disagrees with you, seek the help of a mediator or family law practitioner early on while there is still time to adjust the plan so that it works for your family’s unique circumstances. In either case, be sure that you and your co-parent have the same understanding around the holiday parenting plan well in advance of the day of your planned trip to spend time with your family.

Communicate… Which Means Also Listening

If you went through the Collaborative Divorce process, you learned some communication skills to use now. Listen to what your co-parent says to be sure you understand exactly what they mean. You may need to repeat back what they tell you to be sure you really understand what they are saying.

An example is to listen to what your ex-spouse has to say. Then, say, “Is this what you mean?” If the answer is, “No,” repeat the exercise until you understand for certain what the other parent means.  You do not have to agree with what your they are saying but letting them know that you hear them and understand what they are trying to communicate builds a stronger foundation for making parenting decisions together.

One big topic that may come up is about travel and being with groups during this holiday time with COVID-19 looming over everyone’s holiday plans. How is travel going to be handled? How do both parents feel about visitation with the other parent’s extended family visits? These are hotbed issues that need to be resolved ahead of time.

Keep Focused on the Best Interest of the Children

Put yourself in your children’s shoes. Think about what they are going through and how they feel about traveling back and forth during the holidays. You want to encourage them to have a relationship with the other parent and with that parent’s extended family. Pick your battles and focus on everybody having a good time. Try to be flexible and understanding. Your kids will be much happier if you can avoid nitpicking and having a tug-of-war with their other parent over time spent with them.

Staying sane during this time of COVID-19 has become a challenge for many people.

The stay-at-home order first put in place last April was particularly difficult for some of my clients who were working on their divorce, but still living in the same home. Almost suddenly, they were trapped 24/7 with each other and their children. Conflict was high and everyone in the family was suffering.

For some couples, staying sane requires pursuing their divorce. That is still an option at Bridges Divorce group. Meanwhile, I have come up with some suggestions designed to help families through this difficult time.

Establish Routine and Structure to Your Daily Family Life

Creating a structure is helpful for both children and adults. Some things to consider are:

  • How many hours of the day does each spouse need to work?
  • Do the spouses work outside the home or are they both now working remotely from home?
  • How old are the children? What do they need?
  • How many hours of the day do you need to work with your children since they are not in school?

Day care options are almost non-existent. There are only a few summer camps. Make a list of things the children can do. Put it on the kitchen wall so all can see it.

You may need to have an art station and a place for the kids to interact online with their friends. Maybe the kids can get together with friends in a backyard. Get them headphones so they can listen to stories.

Check out the many creative ways parents are working together to create safe pods or home schooling allowing kids to have social interaction and/or to learn together.

Take Care of Yourself

Find a place in the home that is just for you. Even if it is just a small corner, make it a place where you can do your work without being disturbed. Set a time for this and agree with your spouse that she or her will be responsible for the children during this specific time.

Spend less time watching the news. Find positive things. For example, watch a podcast. Download a free meditation app. Spend happy hour with your friends via Zoom. Take walks with a friend. Schedule time for yourself to do something that will bring you joy. Make a list for yourself of things that will give you pleasure, allow you to breathe.

If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, there are counselors available who can help.

Stay Safe Stay Sane

Improve Basic Communication

When couples are in so much conflict, whether they are planning for divorce or not, it is difficult for them to have a productive conversation. Many need facilitation, I have been able to help couples with this and there are many other mediators who are able to help facilitate these conversations.

It is helpful to avoid making assumptions when in conflict with your spouse or partner.  Instead ask questions, check out your assumptions.   If you can take a little time away from the children and talk through the issues, staying sane is at least a little bit easier.

For more information on divorce options during this time of COVID, or to discuss any aspect of your need for assistance with your relationship during this difficult time, Contact Us Here at Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions.

Other Resources

Finding a Counselor: Portland Therapy Center  and Psychology Today

Mediation apps:  CALM, Insight Timer, Headspace

Podcasts:  Brene Brown On Being


Lee Hamilton, MA
Mediator & Collaborative Divorce Coach
Email Lee




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

Tonya’s Website
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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-laws/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 professional (CDFA) 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

Tonya’s Website
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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.

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


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

Jo’s Website
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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

Jim’s Website
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Robin Williams (1951-2014) demonstrates CONFLICT with his Sesame Street friends

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

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

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, Retired Collaborative Attorney and Family Mediator

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

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

Welcome Metro-Parent readers…

If you saw our tall, skinny ad on page 19, you’re entitled to a free telephone consultation. Please call 503-567-2848.


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

Jim’s Website
Email Jim