,

“Overcoming your barriers to even thinking about going back to work. During a divorce…”

Collaborative divorce and vocational coaching is often a positive and transformative experience for divorcing women and men, usually an overwhelmed and vulnerable group. Men and women who are angry at being left behind after sacrificing their futures, career wise and financially, are inspired by connecting with a sense of purpose that also pays the bills. Partners who felt isolated and demeaned during their marriage begin to feel less depressed, hopeless and start taking positive action.

The stay-at-home spouse, who threw time management out the window to be available to her higher earning mate and the family, sees a reason to prioritize her time and get organized.

Assessing ones’ deeper interests and values in career counseling fashion, brings clarity to what matter’s most.  Considering career options that are a match for your findings and that allow you to build a life and community in relationship to those interests can change everything.

When a particular career life option starts to make sense to my client; they are coached to research what it takes to succeed in those fields, to consider potential salary and benefits, along with the required education and training.

Self-esteem grows as my clients play out their deeper values and interests; it feels good to know and remember what’s truly important, then plan and act accordingly.  When they find others who share what matters most to them, they develop confidence that things may turn out all right after all.  Connecting with a community that allows you to develop and apply your preferred skills, qualities and talents towards a sustainable future can feel like a miracle, in the midst of a devastating time.

The positive impact of finding a paid and purposeful career direction for the stay at home spouse ultimately benefits every family member.  Lowers the blood pressure and financial risk for the earning spouse long term, increases stability and security for all and provides positive role modeling for kids–Inspiration to find a job and educational path that is both personally meaningful and bankable.

Raising a family for 15, 20 to 30 years, carrying and executing the mental load of the stay at home parent is skill building.  These abilities can transfer nicely to the business world.  But divorcing and getting back into the workplace is a huge call.  It involves understanding and learning to manage the overwhelm baked into the process.  There are a lot of pieces to put together.  You’ll gradually move back into the driver’s seat you used to know, though it’ll feel different, for sure.

Let’s try managing the overwhelm around going back to work while divorcing, the way your hairdresser approaches your hair cut, by creating sections.  Take time to consider each item separately and how they overlap.  Create a plan for how you’ll address your needs in each area and develop a sense of readiness to develop and consider career options.

 

  • Are the kids OK, have the support they need?
  • Time management; learn to prioritize time for yourself.
  • Transportation adequate?
  • Need a computer and/or computer classes?
  • Wardrobe; what do you need to be school or job ready?
  • Health good, exercise and self-care routines established?
  • Personal support in place; friends, family, therapist, group?
  • Co-parenting schedules drawn up to support you going back to school and work? Perhaps extra support during finals week and/or job search.

 

It can be hard to think clearly about work choices, if your ideas and values were put down by your soon to be ex.  Do you doubt being successful at work because criticism and undermining during the marriage, took a toll?  Not that it was constant and maybe it wasn’t there in the beginning.  It’s been enough though, to leave you struggling to trust yourself, and to make the complex decisions you find yourself walking towards today.

To get started, volunteer and get your confidence back.  Many of my clients feel Barriers to overcomesurprisingly strengthened by their interactions in the world outside their homes; in entry-level jobs, community and volunteer activities.  Sharing key values and interests is eye opening and gives rise to hope that a good future can be made, if one just has the chance.  Determination creeps in as the network grows.  Persistence overcomes obstacles as the way forward comes together with a plan.  Developing organization and structure that supports you and your goals brings added assurance.

There you are, now talking to an advisor at PCC about the requirements to obtain a certificate or associates degree, or at PSU to obtain a bachelors.  Or perhaps typing up a resume for an opening in the organization you’ve been volunteering for.  The overwhelm is still there at times, but so is the delight and excitement about the road ahead.

~~~

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

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Staying Sane During COVID-19 ~ Creating Peace and Balance

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

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

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

Establish Routine and Structure to Your Daily Family Life

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

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

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

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

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

Take Care of Yourself

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

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

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

Stay Safe Stay Sane

Improve Basic Communication

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

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

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

Other Resources

Finding a Counselor: Portland Therapy Center  and Psychology Today

Mediation apps:  CALM, Insight Timer, Headspace

Podcasts:  Brene Brown On Being

~~~

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

 

 

 

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Communicating with a Collaborative Divorce Team

 

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

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

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

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Collaborative Divorce Knowledge Kit

Is Collaborative Divorce right for you?

Download your free knowledge kit quickly and easily.

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

The kit contains the following:

  • A comparison chart: “Collaborative Divorce vs. Litigation Divorce.”
  • Case studies highlighting the flexible, solution-oriented process of Collaborative Divorce.
  • General information about Collaborative Divorce and how it can benefit you.

Download your free Collaborative Divorce Knowledge Kit and discover if collaborative divorce will work for you. Used with permission of the International Association of Collaborative Professionals. The download is a single PDF “kit” file.

our process better and more responsive to the people who really matter: the clients.

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

~~~

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

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

 

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How Children Process Loss During a Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Diane’s Website
Email Diane

 

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Video ~ Collaborative Divorce : A Safe Place

A Safe Place

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

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

 

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

~~~

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

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

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Divorce Options – 4 Different Ways to Divorce

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

The Do-It-Yourself-Divorce

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

 

Mediation

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

 

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

 

Litigation

Just a frustrated judge....

Just a frustrated judge….

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

 

Collaborative Divorce

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

~~~

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

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

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Choosing between Mediation and Collaborative Law

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 Law, you are choosing how you want to discuss those issues.

There are many similarities between Mediation and Collaborative Law.  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 Law

 In Collaborative Law 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 law 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 Law 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 law 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 Law 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 Law.  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 Law case than if they are just consulting in between mediation sessions.

One useful way of deciding between mediation and Collaborative Law 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 Law services.  Many of us offer joint process consultations if you need help deciding which process makes the most sense for you and your family.

~~~

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

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FAQ – Summer 2020

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


  • I’m worried that my partner might not be fair to me in the divorce process. How can we try to work together in a peaceful process but still make sure I am taking care of myself?

Divorce is stressful and scary so your question is a very typical one. You (and your partner, if willing) should schedule a consultation with a Bridges Divorce professional and learn about your options for working together on a peaceful divorce that takes care of the needs of all family members (especially children). “Bridgers” are all very experienced in helping individuals and couples find the best option to fit the unique circumstances of their family and, after consultation, will advise you whether it seems like your situation is a good fit for a non-court process.

  • FAQIf there has been a major breach of trust (such as an affair) is it even possible for a couple to work together on their divorce?

Yes, it is possible for couples who start with a low level of trust in each other to work together in a process that will be both sale and transparent. While such work is not always easy, it is usually much less stressful and expensive than using the court model.

  • How can we decide whether Mediation or Collaborative Divorce fit our situation best?

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

Bridges Divorce Professionals

solutions that a judge just does not have the ability to order without the parties cooperating.

~~~

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

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

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More on Negotiation in a Collaborative or Mediated Divorce

 

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

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

High End Goals

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

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

Negotiation Is Mindful Listening to Yourself and Others.

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

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

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

Brainstorming Options

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

Deciding

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

Committing

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

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Bridges’ Divorce Coaches

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

Ste 550
1020 SW Taylor St
Portland, OR 97205

Lee Hamilton, MA

Mediator & Collaborative Divorce Coach

2233 NE Skidmore St
Portland, OR 97211

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Negotiating with Your Partner: Look Ahead, Not Backwards

 

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

  • Setting the Stage

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Responding to Proposals: Keep It Simple and Practical

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

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

– “Yes”

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

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

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

  • Attack the Problem, Not Each Other

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

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

~~~

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

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Update on Courts Delayed by COVID-19

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

 

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COVID-19, Energy Conservation and Divorce Settlement

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

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

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

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

Technology:

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

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

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

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

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

Skill Development:

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

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

Teamwork:

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

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

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

Please visit us at the link below

bridgesdivorce.com/professionals

GROWING STRONGER TOGETHER

 

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What Is A Good Co-Parenting Relationship?

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

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

How to Achieve a Co-Parenting Relationship

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

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

Why Co-Parenting Helps  

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

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

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

 

 

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How to Avoid an Expensive Divorce

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

What Makes a Divorce Cost So Much?

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

Tips to Prevent Problems from Escalating

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

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

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

~~~

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

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Midst of it

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

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

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

Preventing Scuffles through Self Care

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

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

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

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

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

Planning, Signals and Aprons on Backwards

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

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

Now that we’re slowing down…

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

We are in this together and here to help.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

Stay tuned next for Part 2 on Intel® Retirement Benefits

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

No Common Sense, & No Help  

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

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

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

  • Where are the Therapists?

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

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

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

                             The philosopher Theodor W. Adorno wrote:                          

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

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

 

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

  • Conclusion

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

~~~

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

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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

It Ignored Current Options for Peaceful Divorce

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

Collaborative Law vs. the Adversarial Legal System.

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

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

Mediation in Real Life.

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Why I Hated the Movie “Marriage Story” Part 1

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

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

 

PART 1:  THE LAWYERS

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Total Eclipse of the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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The Energy of Money and Divorce

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

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

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

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

Emotional Regulation

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

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

Information Gathering

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

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

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

Visioning

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

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

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

~~~

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

503-867-1763
Dona’s Website
Email Dona

 

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There’s Only One Side in a Collaborative Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Jim’s Website
Email Jim

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Maintaining Privacy During Divorce

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

 

How Privacy is Protected in a Collaborative Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Myah’s Website
Email Myah

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Collaborative Career Coaching Can Change Your Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Gail’s Website
Email Gail

 

 

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Collaborative Strengths

Strengths of Collaborative Divorce

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

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

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

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

~~~

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

Randall’s Website
Email Randall

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Why Mediation?

. . .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.

~~~

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