A Tale of Two Divorces

Divorce #1 ~ Bob and Barbara:

Bob and Barbara had been married for 20 years, and they had a contentious marriage for most of their marriage. Their friends, Carol and Chris had been married for about the same length of time and also had a difficult marriage for their last few years.  Each couple had two teenagers who went to the same high school. There were lots of similarities in their family relationships and in their socioeconomic situations. But each took different approaches to getting a divorce, and the difference to their approach had a big impact in every way – financially, emotionally and their post-divorce co-parenting relationship.

Mediation: Bob and Barbara had already started living separately – Bob had moved to the basement and used a separate entrance. They could not agree on much, but Barbara and Bob agreed to try mediation because mediation had worked in several of their friends’ divorces. They found a mediator that came well-recommended. The mediator explained that she could not take sides or make decisions for Bob and Barbara, that the conversations were not only confidential in the eyes of the court, and that the decisions were in their hands if they could reach an agreement.  In mediation they found themselves yelling a lot at each other and engaging in the same arguments they had had many times on their own. The mediator tried having them meet in separate rooms and did her best to help each understand the other’s point of view, but Barbara felt unsupported during the process and Bob felt frustrated they weren’t making any progress. Despite the mediator’s best efforts, they were not able to reach an agreement before the mediator suggested that mediation was not the best process for them. The mediator had charged $240/hour. After three sessions, and billing for correspondence, Bob and Barbara were billed for about $1,200.

Divorce CostAttorneys: After they had been unsuccessful in mediation, Barbara felt desperate to get the ball rolling, so she decided to retain an attorney. Her attorney was known for being a “pitbull” who “will fight for you to the end.” Barbara’s attorney required a $15,000 retainer which Barbara paid for with a credit card at zero interest for 12 months.  Barbara’s attorney filed a petition for dissolution of marriage immediately and proposed that Barbara have sole custody of the children with every-other weekend parenting time for Bob and that Barbara should keep the home and 70% of Bob’s retirement savings.  When Bob was served with the initial paperwork he was shocked and angry with what Barbara’s attorney had proposed, so when he saw who Barbara had retained, he decided to go with an equally aggressive “men’s rights” attorney as a defensive measure. The retainer for Bob’s attorney was $18,000, which he paid from a loan on his 401(k). Bob’s attorney filed a response to Barbara’s petition and then a number of other filings were filed back and forth between attorneys.  Bob and Barbara did not fight as much with each other because their attorneys had instructed them not to discuss issues with each other, and that they (their attorneys) would handle it. Bob and Barbara each saw their first bill about a month after each had retained an attorney. About a third of each retainer had been used up in the process. Bob and Barbara each were experiencing a high level of anxiety as a result of the financial bills and the uncertainty of how the litigation process would go. Barbara started drinking every night after work to numb the emotional pain and anxiety.  Bob started to become short with his coworkers and struggled to focus on his work responsibilities.

The Long Slog: Six months later, Bob and Barbara were still waiting for court.  Barbara’s attorney had been unresponsive for a month, both to Barbara and to Bob’s attorney, because the $15,000 retainer had been used up, Barbara did not immediately make another payment and Barbara’s attorney was unwilling to work without a guarantee of payment. Barbara eventually borrowed $4,000 from her sister and another $1,500 from a friend and took out another credit card – this time with 18% interest right away for $5,500 to get to another $11,000 for her attorney.  Bob had cashed out an IRA he owned from before he and Barbara were married to pay another $7,000 to his attorney.  Depositions had been scheduled and then postponed several times due to the attorney’s schedules and more requests for evidence. Barbara and her attorney believed there could be more accounts Bob might be hiding because Bob had forgotten to provide the most recent statement.  Bob was insistent that he and Barbara have joint legal custody because he was not going to allow Barbara to “take the kids away” from him, and Barbara was not willing to agree to joint custody with Bob given how much he and Barbara had disagreed about the divorce. Meanwhile, the children, Brad and Bella were each struggling in school. Brad had spent less time at home and his grades had dropped so he was kicked off the soccer team. Bella was doing okay academically but she was spending most of her time with his boyfriend.

A Year Later: A year after filing, Bob and Barbara with their attorneys had agreed on a holiday schedule and a 55/45 split of the retirement assets but they still had not agreed on what to do about the house. Bob wanted to sell it within 2 years and divide the equity and Barbara wanted to keep 60% of the equity and sell in 5 years when the kids were a little older. They had agreed on a holiday schedule where Bob had every-other Thursday to Monday, with equal division of summer break parenting-time, but there was still no agreement on custody. A court hearing had been scheduled for six months out.  Barbara’s credit card started charging a high interest rate of over 24% and Bob’s 401(k) loan was mostly unpaid, with 9% interest accruing.

Fifteen months after filing, Bob and Barbara were scheduled for a settlement conference with a judge, who said he would not be the judge deciding their case if they had trial but wanted to give them a reality check about what trial might look like if he were deciding the case in an effort to encourage them to settle out of court. The attorneys insisted that a trial would be necessary. Each required a $15,000 additional retainer to prepare for trial, which each paid with a loan from their respective extended family.

Final Resolution: Eighteen months after first filing, an 8-hour trial was held with expert witnesses. Barbara and Bob each had to testify and answer confrontational questions from the other spouse’s attorneys.  A lot of the personal details of the marriage came out as each attorney tried to make the other spouse look irresponsible and an unfit parent. Barbara was awarded legal custody of the children, with a parenting time schedule previously agreed-to, but Barbara only received 55% of the equity and the judge ordered a sale of the home within one year. The court hearing was contentious Neither was happy with the results of the trial and each had significant debts from paying the attorneys’ fees. Barbara and Bob would argue any time they had to interact and Bob threatened to take Barbara back to court re-litigate custody. Barbara continued to struggle with alcoholism as she coped with a poor financial outlook as she scrambled to prepare for retirement. Bob was fired from his job as a result of poor performance due to being distracted with the divorce, and although he was eventually able to secure new employment, he was forced to declare bankruptcy and was not able to fully recover financially or emotionally from the effects of the divorce.

 

 

Divorce #2 ~ Chris and Carol:

Bob and Barbara’s friends, Carol and Chris also had a lot of conflict at the end of their marriage. A couple of years before separating, Chris had been unfaithful to Carol and Carol felt a lot of anger and betrayal when she found out. Carol wanted to end the marriage and Chris said he did not want to make it a difficult divorce, he just wanted to see the kids and wanted something “fair,” as far as the property and debt.

Dignity and divorceCollaborative Divorce: Carol was interested in resolving their case amicably but she was not sure whether she could even face Chris in the same room, so she met with a mediator who was also an attorney to discuss the situation. The mediator/attorney listened to what Carol had to say, and given the fact that there was a lot of conflict in the relationship, that Carol had not worked through the emotional pain of the divorce.  Carol shared that she trusted Chris that he would not lie about money and that she felt like he could be a good parent moving forward, despite the fact that he had hidden the fact that he had maintained another relationship for the last year of their marriage. With Carol’s permission, the mediator reached out to Chris. Chris also expressed interest in resolving the divorce amicably, but he did not want to deal with all the anger Carol expressed any time they talked. The mediator indicated that given the fact that the parties wanted to resolve the case amicably, but because there was still a lot of conflict, that they would benefit from something more than just mediation; collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce each spouse would work with an attorney who was collaboratively trained and as part of their role as a collaborative attorney they would not be able to litigate the matter in court and would withdrawal if the collaborative process was unsuccessful.  The mediator referred Carol and Chris to a list of collaborative attorneys. Carol’s attorney required a retainer of $6,000 which she paid from savings and Chris’s attorney required a $6,000 retainer which he paid from a low-interest credit card.

Attorney Involvement: Chris and Carol each decided on an attorney and signed an agreement indicating they understood that their collaborative attorneys would not be able to work with them if for whatever reason they were not able to reach a full agreement. The collaborative attorneys agreed to charge the same rate to each of their clients: $300/hour. The collaborative attorneys went to work by gathering information and forming a team of other professionals – including two mental health counselors with experience working with divorcing clients, and a financial advisor with a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA). Carol and Chris gave permission for the professionals involved to share information freely with each other.  All professionals had also been collaboratively trained. The attorneys suggested that Carol and Chris first connect individually with a counselor to screen for whether the dynamics of where each spouse was at emotionally was conducive to the collaborative process. After meeting with their respective clients, both counselors indicated they thought Carol and Chris could handle the collaborative process but Carol’s counselor suggested some ongoing therapy to work through some of the emotions and that it could be helpful for Carol’s mediator to participate in the negotiation meetings or at least to be available by zoom while she was doing other work and agreed to charge a reduced rate.

Making Progress: Chris and Carol then started to work with their attorneys to gather information. A month later, Chris and Carol had gathered the information and they had started to have negotiations. The financial professional helped Chris and Carol gather some missing statements and then worked with them to develop a projected budget based on their anticipated expenses once they lived separately. Carol and Chris’s attorneys were able to give Chris and Carol reality checks as they were talking or in short individual breakout meetings. Carol wanted Chris to only have supervised visits, but her attorney was able to help her understand that a judge was not likely to award supervised parenting-time unless there were serious safety concerns and that the court generally had the approach of making sure each parent had substantial parenting-time. Chris wanted to divide the assets equally, but his attorney pointed out in a breakout session that during the marriage Carol had stayed home with the children when they were young and she was not as far along in her career as she otherwise would be. Plus, Chris had a higher earning potential and therefore a greater ability to save for retirement.

End Result: Chris and Carol were able to reach full agreement, in fact the same terms that Bob and Barbara ended up with, just with a lot less money. Carol and Chris each paid $7,000 total.

 

Side-By-Side Comparison:

  • Barbara and Bob collectively paid over $82,000
  • Carol and Chris collectively paid $14,000.

Not only did Chris and Carol spend less on their divorce, but within six months Carol and Chris were able to finalize their divorce, and during the process they experience much lower levels of stress and anxiety. Their children indirectly benefited from the process as well, with fewer behavioral and academic challenges than Bob and Barbara’s children Brand and Bella.  Chris and Carol had a positive co-parenting relationship coming out of the collaborative process, and while they still had disagreements, they were able to successfully avoid further litigation and enjoy a much more secure financial path.

 

Take Aways:

It can be tricky to know how to proceed with a divorce. Mediation, Collaborative Divorce, Litigation with Attorneys can all make sense under different circumstances. It makes sense to consult with a collaborative attorney who can help you explore your options and to decide what option makes the most sense for you.

 

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.

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, Retired Collaborative Attorney and Family Mediator

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

 

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

_______

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

~~

Randall Poff, Retired Collaborative Attorney and Family Mediator

 

 

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.

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

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

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.

~~~

Myah Kehoe, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Kehoe Moneyhun Law, LLC

319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR  97204

2005 SE 192nd Ave., Ste. 200
Camas, WA  98607
503-281-0624

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

. . .why not just “ask the judge?”

  • Mediation is a confidential process for resolving disputes. A neutral professional mediator assists the parties to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of their issues. The mediator does not take sides or make decisions, but assists people in sharing information, identifying goals and discussing options. Mediation offers a very cost-effective and less invasive alternative to the traditional litigation process. For most families, there is nothing of value to be found in court. The people in the conflict are far more familiar with the problems to be solved, and better able to clearly communicate what each needs to feel heard, respected, and treated fairly.
  • Mediation is sometimes described as facilitated or assisted negotiation. This option works best when the parties are able to sit together and, with the mediator’s help, develop problem-solving solutions on their own.  Of course, some families will require more support than mediation provides (see “What is Collaborative Divorce?” page).
  • Frustrated Judge

    The judge is just the “decider.”

    Bridges professionals are available to help parties mediate their family disputes, in a private, neutral and safe process. We have extensive training in negotiation and conflict resolution techniques. Our role is to ensure that the process remains respectful and works to develop win-win solutions that might not otherwise occur within the families. Don’t put up with this guy’s frustrations.

  • Finally, the judge is the just the “decider.” The courts are crowded, rigid and public. Even if you insist on “seeing the other side in court,” rules of evidence and time pressure usually won’t allow you to satisfy your desire to be heard. A mediated solution is a hand-crafted solution.

~~

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

 

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.

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.

  • Wait! We never got married ~ but now we’re having troubles over the children and splitting-up property. How might Bridges work for me?

Oregon and Washington do not have “common-law marriage.” You could go to court and have all the “fun” of a typical Divorce (all without starting out with a happy wedding day <<grinn>>), but most folks can find better solutions with a different option. 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 transition 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.

  • 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 virtual) 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

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 Moneyhun Law, LLC

319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR  97204

2005 SE 192nd Ave., Ste. 200
Camas, WA  98607
503-281-0624

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

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

 

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 Moneyhun Law, LLC

319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR  97204

2005 SE 192nd Ave., Ste. 200
Camas, WA  98607
503-281-0624

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

  1. Location –  It’s important to find a private, quiet space where you can focus and hear without too much distraction. Sometimes, it’s the car, and other times, a den or patio works well. Try to think about best areas for reception, good lighting, as well as privacy. Decide whether you’d like to be in the same room as your spouse or partner or participating separately. There are pros and cons to each approach and it’s best to talk through logistics ahead of time so everyone feels comfortable.
  2. Test your equipment –  Whether trying to Zoom in on your smartphone, laptop, or office desktop, it’s important to feel comfortable with your equipment and have the latest internet browser or apps downloaded in advance. Ask your host for a practice Zoom or virtual meeting if you are unfamiliar with the platform they are using. At our office, we are happy to do a practice session at no charge with you to test it out. Remember to test your camera, your audio (microphone and speaker) as well as internet bandwidth. If your bandwidth is low, you may need to practice calling into the virtual meeting with your phone, in lieu of computer wi-fi for the audio.
  3. Meeting Invite – Copy and paste your meeting invite into your calendar or notes so it’s easy to click on or access at “go time.”  If your host hasn’t sent one ahead of time, it’s ok to ask or let them know you haven’t seen it as there may be confusion or messages landing in SPAM.
  4. Food and Water –  Grab your favorite snack and beverage ahead of the meeting as you may find yourself needing hydration or energy and immersed in a longer meeting than planned. You can always ask for a “bio break” during the meeting, but it will feel great to have food and water at your fingertips as well.
  5. Background – It may sound silly, but test out your camera in the background to make sure lighting is sufficient and there is nothing too personal or private in the camera’s view. You may even play with virtual backgrounds if you have a newer computer and this feature is enabled. Older computers tend to have distracting “ghosting” around our heads. There are “light rings” you can purchase if you find lighting isn’t sufficient where you hold your virtual meetings.
  6. Microphone – Remember to mute yourself when you’re not speaking during the meeting so that keystrokes, pen tapping, and other background noises are limited and you can feel comfortable making sounds without distracting the meeting.
  7. Breakout Rooms – If you think you might need to have a separate / private virtual room apart from another participant (during a high conflict divorce, for example), ask your host if he or she can enable that feature ahead of time. They may need to adjust settings on their end or upgrade their service and test it out so it goes smoothly during your meeting.
  8. Screen Sharing / Multiple Screens – It helps for a productive meeting to have a second screen, if possible (one for document viewing and one for seeing live faces in the meeting). It will also help if you open any important documents ahead of the meeting and have those windows open to be able to share them with meeting participants, if needed. The host may need to enable your screen sharing.
  9. Recording – If you are unsure of whether the meeting is being recorded, it’s important to ask since some types of meetings (mediation, for example) are supposed to be confidential and not advisable to be recorded. If there are concerns about desiring or not wanting to have a recording, it’s best to go over these protocols in advance of the meeting so there are no misunderstandings.
  10. Timing – Let your host and other participant(s) know whether you have a “hard stop” on the time for the meeting to adjourn, so your agenda can be carefully prioritized and your most time-sensitive questions or concerns are addressed. Creating an agenda is also important in the event of connectivity issues during the meeting so that the most pressing issues can be addressed first.

Please reach out to anyone at our office if you have questions about other aspects of virtual mediation and how to help it be successful for your family.  We are here to help and want to make it less stressful for everyone involved, as it’s already a difficult time for most meeting participants.

~~~

Tonya Alexander
Collaborative Attorney & Mediator
Alexander Law, PC
1925 NE Stucki Ave Ste 410
Hillsboro, OR 97006
503-531-9109

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

See www.YourPeacefulResolution.com for more information and additional resources.

 

 

When you go through the divorce process, you will need to address all of the same issues regardless of the process you choose.  When you are choosing between Mediation and Collaborative Divorce, you are choosing how you want to discuss those issues.

There are many similarities between Mediation and Collaborative Divorce.  Both are premised on good faith, full disclosure, and creating mutually beneficial agreements.  There are several differences between the processes, but the main difference is which professional(s) you work with to resolve your case.  Both processes frequently use child specialists, financial specialists and/or divorce coaches.  This article focuses only on the role of the mediator and Collaborative attorneys.

Mediation

In mediation, clients work directly with a neutral third party – the mediator.  Mediation is usually a series of “three way” meetings involving both clients and the mediator.  The mediator does not represent either client and has an equal duty to both clients.  Mediators can provide legal information to clients, but they cannot provide legal advice.  Legal information includes what the rules are in Oregon, how they may apply to your situation, and (potentially) what a likely range of outcomes would be in your situation.  Legal advice is a recommendation about what you should do in your situation.  Mediators cannot provide you with legal advice (even if they are an attorney).

Attorneys are often involved in the mediation process, although they don’t have to be involved.  Clients often consult with attorneys prior to mediation or in between mediation sessions.  Attorneys will sometimes be present during mediation.  This happens more often when a case is litigated (i.e., going through a traditional contested divorce process), but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

You can learn more about the mediation process here.

Collaborative Divorce

 In Collaborative Divorce each client is represented by their own collaboratively trained attorney.  The collaborative team meets together in series of “four way” meetings, although these meetings may also include other professionals if you are working on a “full team” case.  Collaborative Divorce usually does not involve a mediator, although sometimes it does.  The job of the Collaborative attorney is to educate and advise their client while also providing negotiation assistance.  You can learn more about the role of the Collaborative Law attorney here.

You can learn more about the Collaborative Divorce process here.

Which Process to Choose?  The main difference between the two processes is working with one neutral third party vs. each person working with their own collaboratively trained attorney.  There is not necessarily a ‘right’ process, but here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Legal Advice. Do you feel like you need legal advice as part of the process?  Mediators are prohibited from providing legal advice, although they can provide legal information.  You can still obtain legal advice as part of mediation; it’s just usually done in between meetings.  Your Collaborative attorney, on the other hand, is with you every step of the way and is there to provide advice if you need it.  There are differences of opinion amongst professionals about the role of the law in the Collaborative Divorce process, but that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.
  • Negotiation Assistance. When you think of negotiating on your own behalf, what comes up for you?  Is that a comfortable idea?  Is it stress-inducing?  Anxiety provoking?  The job of the mediator is to facilitate the negotiation and to empower both people to effectively advocate on their own behalf.  A Collaborative Divorce attorney, by comparison, would be actively negotiating with you and for you as part of the Collaborative process.
  • Increased Support. Sometimes one person prefers mediation and one person prefers Collaborative Divorce.  In that case we usually recommend choosing the Collaborative process rather than mediation.  If one person prefers Collaborative, it is usually because they feel like they need a heightened degree of support or assistance that their own attorney can provide.  Generally speaking, we’d rather have both people get added support if there is a need for it by one client rather than have someone need an increased level of support and not get it (i.e., by selecting the mediation process).  You can still have the support of an attorney in mediation, it’s just that your attorney tends to be more involved in your Collaborative Divorce case than if they are just consulting in between mediation sessions.

One useful way of deciding between mediation and Collaborative Divorce is to schedule a joint process consultation with a member of Bridges.  A joint process consultation is an opportunity for both of you to sit down with one person to discuss which process will work best for your family.  These meetings are limited just to discussing these process options – you will not be negotiating at a process consultation.

The members of Bridges Collaborative Divorce Solutions offer both mediation and collaborative services.  Many of us offer joint process consultations if you need help deciding which process makes the most sense for you and your family.

~~

Randall Poff, Retired Collaborative Attorney and Family Mediator

Someone with narcissistic traits, as explained in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, the DSM-5, 2013, indicates a person with a sense of entitlement, a belief that they are special and deserve favorable treatment. They have a grandiose sense of importance, need for admiration and lack empathy. Believing themselves to be special, they feel they can only be understood or appreciated by other special or high-status people. They can be interpersonally exploitive, often envious of others and show arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes.    

My Clients. In my practice as a collaborative divorce coach and vocational expert, I’ve noticed a marked increase in clients citing narcissistic traits in the spouse they’re divorcing. Since a little before Covid-19, whether they initiated the divorce or not, their complaints had a familiar tone. What follows is my reflection on their experience of sorting things out and confronting the ways they have been undermined, their determination to learn to trust themselves again and make positive life affirming decisions for themselves and their family as they moved through the divorce process.

Confusion was common in the beginning of our work, as my clients put words to thoughts they had never shared.

  • What really brought on the demise of my marriage?
  •  Why was everything always my fault?
  • Why did he/she get angry with me for doing things that they were also doing? Spending money on myself, picking up the kids late. Not paying enough attention to them, while they never noticed what was happening with me.
  • Why do others always think he/she has it so together; is so charming, while I see their self-centeredness destroying those close to them?
  •  Why can’t I trust myself and my ability to make decisions anymore?
  • Why do I doubt that I could have a successful career when I used to be great at what I did?

A New Perspective. Analyzing the dynamics of the relationship was a constant theme. Painfully, my clients shared their stories and the questions continued. It was hard to wonder out loud about the abuse they hadn’t always seen as abuse and then to ask, “Why didn’t I leave sooner?”

It’s difficult to feel sure of your perspective when you’ve been discounted for such a long time. But the need to clearly understand what happened in something as important as your marriage, is strong, no matter how hard the truth can be. My clients frequently used words like manipulated, deceived, gaslighted, blamed and shamed to describe the way interactions with their partner made them feel. It was difficult for them grasp or accept that this was the way their partner actually treated them, their spouse. Perhaps the hardest thing to realize was that their partner’s behavior didn’t make sense. They didn’t deserve the way they had been treated.

Finding Support. Being listened to and validated for their perceptions made a big difference, especially around sensitive topics they might not have shared with friends and family. Topics like challenges with a special needs child, their take on a financial issue or ideas for a new career. Encouraged to share these questions and concerns related to the divorce process and being heard by their attorney, mediator, financial or other collaborative professional further solidified their point of view. Becoming more engaged and fully participating in the divorce process ensured a better outcome, as their spoken concerns helped shape the agenda.

New Chapter, Same Dynamic. A particularly tough topic continued to be co-parenting and making sure the kids understood what was happening, given their ages. The familiar lack of respect showed my clients during their marriage, now played out in a lack of communication, too much control or fights around changes to pre-arranged parenting plans, for example. If my client was still being put down, their efforts and time still taken for granted, maintaining a positive view of their partner in the eyes of the children was challenging. Our work here supported their interest in taking the “high road,” and not criticizing their spouse, especially when they felt vulnerable and afraid of seeing the quality of their own relationships with the children suffer, due to these dynamics.       

A Clearer View. Gradually my clients saw patterns, made connections, and began to feel better about themselves. Maybe things weren’t all their fault. Maybe their partner’s inability to take responsibility for their issues played a role. They were encouraged to continue to seek out as much social support as possible. Fortunately, some of the people I was talking with had friends who were able to see things from their perspective too, which strengthened their newfound realizations.

Setting Boundaries. As clients questioned themselves less and had support to think through what they actually needed day to day and in their divorce process, it became clear they needed to set boundaries with their partners. Saying “No” can be hard but vital when your self-care and mental health are on the line. Not to mention finances or childcare arrangements. Or that this isn’t the weekend for their partner to get their stuff out of the garage. Respectfully, clarifying their views one issue at a time, my clients practiced speaking up. Sometimes repeating themselves made a difference and partners listened with the support of the divorce team. What a reward. Clients’ sense of control over their lives grew; they could decide how they spent their time, within the context of agreements made about their separation. They could share their perspectives, make decisions and take action in a way that made sense to them, suited them and their style and way of approaching life.     

Looking Forward. It was now easier to entertain thoughts of the future. Perhaps if they took the time to think about what they wanted (maybe had always wanted) and moved in that direction, things might turn out differently this time. Though it was still scary to think about going back to work, once concerns about children, housing or health issues were addressed at least initially, progress was possible.   

A Gradual Process. Taking the smallest of steps, talking with people in industries of interest and being taken seriously for their ideas was pivotal. Again, it was life changing to have an experience that countered years of feeling discounted, in this case for creative thoughts about work and business. In most cases it didn’t happen overnight, but gradually as my clients built their networks, perhaps enrolled in community college, graduate school, a specific training program, chins lifted. Resumes were updated and particular jobs and companies targeted for their alignment with client interests, values and transferrable skills. Things began to happen. They continued to build momentum in response to the positive feedback and encouragement they received from established and newly formed networks, as unimaginable as this might have seemed a few months ago.

Knowledge and Resources. Practitioners in the mediating and collaborative family law community in Oregon cite the difference that support and education makes for couples that are separating. In the case of divorcing a difficult person, it can make a huge difference. Both parties are eligible for advocacy, coaching, education and care that bring stability and relief to the divorce process, and hope for the future.

~~

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC
Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor
1020 SW Taylor St Ste 350
Portland, OR 97205
503-227-4250

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

 

 

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.

 

 

I picked up a little book at my daughter’s house last week while riding out the ice storm and long power outage here in Oregon. The author was Thich Nhat Hanh, a beloved peacemaker. The title was How to Fight. *   How can that be??

Thay (his familiar name) points out when someone says something unkind, we want to retaliate right away. That’s where the fight begins. He reminds us that our usual responses create neural pathways in the brain, making these responses habits. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, we now know the brain has plasticity. We can change our minds, our brains and the way we feel by creating new habits and neural pathways. This is very important for those who want to have a Collaborative or mediated divorce. And new habits need to be established from the very beginning to keep the process peaceful, informative and productive.

How not to fight? We can begin to notice our habitual responses and change to more healthy habits. The good news is we all have the inner tools and we just have to cultivate them.  It’s an inside job. And like anything else worthwhile, it doesn’t mean change is easy.

The first step is to stop. Take a pause. Notice the thoughts racing for that comeback. Take a breath, or a few breaths, maybe slower and deeper than normal.  Settle down.  Bring yourself to calm before you respond.

fight

This is easy to say and very hard to do, that is until you have practiced it and gotten past the inertia of the normal pattern.  It’s like stopping a train hurtling down the track of that very familiar pathway.  But that pathway has never made us happy in the long run, even though it might have felt satisfying in the moment.

What does it cost to take those few extra moments to break the momentum?  It can be as hard as jumping in front of a speeding train and putting our hand out to stop it.  It takes tremendous personal energy and strength at first, until it becomes more natural.

What do we miss by allowing a break before a comeback retaliation?  We’re likely afraid we might lose the fight, but what we gain is actually much more powerful and influential.  We give ourselves the time to think and to formulate an intelligent response.  That intelligence gives us more than hurling back a “smart” or angry comeback.  It’s from a deeper understanding, maybe ultimately from a place of wisdom where we recognize we are out of control.

What do we gain by the pause?  First, and perhaps foremost, we allow our nervous system to relax and balance.  This has a significant physiological effect on our well-being, our health and our longevity.  Every moment we allow ourselves to center and come to balance, we become more coherent physically, emotionally and rationally.  If we can do that, we have an effect on the other person which can bring them into coherence and balance and rationality.  Ultimately the other person will respect the strength and courage it takes to restrain and self-regulate when it’s necessary and not to remain driven by primitive impulse.

This is the “Fight.”  It takes all our strength to stop our response and have it go onto a different track.  For the engineer of a train, it’s called a “switch.”   When we are internally self-regulating it’s called a “choice point.” It’s a moment in time where we create an opportunity for ourselves.  We give ourselves a break, a moment to calm and then think of the better response.  Normally that response is a question rather than a statement.  The question comes from curiosity to try to understand the other person and the source of their emotional state, need or opinion.  This is a reflection which causes them to start to notice what’s going on within themselves and to see and make friends with their inner world.

How to FightThay uses the analogy of wanting to make a cold room warmer.  It doesn’t happen by the warm air fighting the cold air to push it out.  Just by radiating warm air into the room it becomes warm.  This was a very apt analogy as my husband, and I had huddled in our cold apartment.  We wanted to push the cold air out, but the ultimate answer was to be in the presence of my daughter’s wood stove which radiated soft heat into their living room.

Over the years we professionals at Bridges have looked for ways to guide families through the process of restructuring with peace and understanding.  Peace is possible.  It begins inside each of us.  We will do our best to do that for ourselves so we can help you get there too.

 

*How to Fight by Thich Nhat Hanh (Parallax Press, 2017)

 

The cost of a divorce varies depending on the style of divorce you choose. From Collaborative Divorce to Mediation to Litigation, or even if you come up with the agreement completely on your own, there will always be documents that must be drafted to complete the divorce.  Drafting of the documents is going to take the same amount of time and cost, regardless of what process you choose, with rare exceptions.

Where the processes differ, the most is how you get to the final agreement and how much time it takes to get there. In Litigation, there will be a lot of back and forth between attorneys, gathering documents and statements. You may already know the information and it may feel redundant to you, but you do not have much control over this part of the process. The attorneys are going to pull all the information they want, so that they feel the prepared to best represent you in a courtroom.  Their role is also to dig for everything they can use to make your spouse look bad and you look good. You may also have several smaller court appearances (hearings) on the way to the full trial, each of which cost a lot of time and money to prepare for.

In Collaborative Divorce or Mediation, you and your spouse get to be involved in the decision-making in determining what documents are necessary. You also are working together, so you will not waste resources forcing the other one to track down documents. There are no court appearances in this process, which saves a lot of time and money. In these processes, the parties also often get to a point where they can make certain agreements on their own without the help of the attorneys and the professionals involved. This again helps the parties save money.

In Litigation, by contrast, the freedom for the couple to be involved in the decision making is rare. Litigation is set up in a way that leads to more fighting. There is no methodology for you to communicate, which often prevents parties from coming up with an agreement on their own. Any communication is done through the two attorneys only, which results in more legal fees for each person.

 

How do these issues factor into the costs? In whatever process you choose, you will be looking at roughly $2,000-$3,000 for the paperwork and filing fee.

From there, you can expect the average cost of a Litigated divorce—going all the way through trial—to start around $20,000 to $30,000 per person. That means your household could be spending $60,000 or more that year on the divorce process. Most attorneys will take a much smaller retainer than that (essentially a deposit), but the overall costs will be much higher than that initial retainer. The fees can go up from there depending on how many complex issues are involved, and how many assets, debts, and children issues there are to argue over, as well as the specific attorneys’ hourly rates.

For Collaborative or Mediation, we usually see numbers that are half of the litigation costs or lower (sometimes, much lower). The cost of a Collaborative Divorce or Mediation can vary greatly depending on how many sessions are needed versus what can be handled by the couple on their own without help. The best way to receive a cost estimate is to schedule an initial consultation with a professional. At that meeting, we can get a sense of the potential issues and how much professional support your case will need. In any event, you can generally expect the Collaborative Divorce or Mediation to be much less than a Litigated divorce.

Is it too late? If you have already started the litigation process by one or both of you filing documents with the courthouse, you can have the case dismissed or put on hold so that you can try Collaborative Divorce or Mediation. It is almost never too late to change over to another process if you both want something different.

~~~

Myah Kehoe, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Kehoe Moneyhun Law, LLC

319 SW Washington St., Ste. 614
Portland, OR  97204

2005 SE 192nd Ave., Ste. 200
Camas, WA  98607
503-281-0624

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2023, for international efforts to transform the way families resolve conflict.

We, at Bridges, are all members and supporters of the IACP. It is the pinnacle of our local, state, and national organizations. The announcement was made last weekend at the annual Forum where Collaborative professionals, mostly in family law, come from all over the world to teach, learn, reflect, bond, celebrate and have fun together. This is how the Collaborative movement has evolved from its birth in 1991 when two lawyers had the courage to meet together with their clients in a conference room around one table to resolve a divorce dispute. The lawyers had to request permission from the local court to even try such a thing without running the risk of a bar complaint for violating rules of professional conduct. Now, only 30 years later, those practices are worthy of Nobel Peace prize nomination. How inspiring!

What is it about Collaborative practice, including Collaborative mediation, that contributes to peacemaking? My take is that peace is a perspective which comes from understanding and compassion.

The necessary ingredients of understanding are looking at more than the legal aspects of the divorce by emphasizing the financial, emotional, and relational aspects of the transition as well. Understanding is looking at more than the superficial information and automatic reactions to see what is behind and below them. What is really motivating the conflict and how is it to be addressed? This kind of understanding comes from what has historically been considered other separate disciplines. By now they have become part and parcel of every Collaborative case by using different professionals and, because we cross-train, we all have a measure of knowledge and appreciation for the emotional, financial, and relational issues to refer to other disciplines in a multi-disciplinary approach.

Next with calm reflection we learn to appreciate the change in perspective that understanding brings. It moves us from anger and judgment to compassion for ourselves and others. From this space decision-making is a lot easier and becomes constructive for all parties, including the children.

Peace is a perspective, a different way of looking at things. It’s a knowing that comes from new information and understanding. It’s a way of being.  If you find this in times of trouble and carry it with you in other relationships and interactions, the world will change to be a more peaceful place. This starts at the root of society – the family, where we first learn how to live.  Even when parents are separated and divorced, what are we teaching our children?  How to live in peace with compassion, no matter what the circumstances, within the boundaries of decency and care.

This will expand through our natural connections with others, to other countries and cultures. It’s already happening. And we’re proud to be part of this movement.

~~~

Dona Cullen, Attorney at Law / Mediator
Financial Neutral
5200 Meadows Rd Ste 150
Lake Oswego, OR 97035

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

 

 

 

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, Retired Collaborative Attorney and Family Mediator

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
503-704-3759

Diane’s Website
Email Diane

 

 

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.

~~~

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

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.

~~~

Gail Jean Nicholson, MA, LPC

Divorce Coach / Personal and Career Counselor

1020 SW Taylor St Ste 350
Portland, OR 97205

Lee Hamilton, MA

Mediator & Collaborative Divorce Coach

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
503-704-3759

Diane’s Website
Email Diane

 

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 350
Portland, OR 97205
503-227-4250

Gail’s Website
Email Gail