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.


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?


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

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; the statewide group of Oregon Association of Collaborative Professionals; and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals

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 These are life changing, evolutionary ideas, methods and  cutting edge approaches to helping families through conflict. We are constantly training.


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



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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.



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 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

Tonya’s Website
Email Tonya

We are in this together and here to help.



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
Jim’s Website
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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.



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

Jim’s Website
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Money and Divorce ~ Working with a Financial Neutral

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

What are the Benefits? 

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

What are the Qualities of Financial Professionals?

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

What are the Tasks of a Financial Neutral?

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

How Financial Neutrals Benefit Attorneys and Mediators

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

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

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


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

Dona’s Website
Email Dona


How Does Resilience Change The Divorce Experience?

What is resilience?  Resilience is the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, challenge and adversity.  These challenges are certainly present in divorce.

Stress is present in daily life to an ever increasing extent, from technology and the speed at which we expect ourselves to perform.  Stress inhibits our brain function and affects everyone around us.  It saps our energy and makes us unhappy, reactive and depressed.  Does this sound familiar?

What has been discovered fairly recently is that positive emotions can reduce stress, help us relax and think more clearly and strategically.  It helps with executive functioning and makes things more tolerable.  This means moving attention from the head to the heart on a regular basis when aware.  It’s what we do in meditation or when enjoying time in nature, with music, reading, relaxing.  It’s self-care.  That’s why it’s important.  It makes what we have to do more tolerable or enjoyable and more productive,

Moving from the head to the heart on a regular basis charges our batteries so we have energy reserves when stress hits.  We can even raise our baseline for tolerating stress. It’s called emotional regeneration.   This is all helpful when going through divorce.  It can make the experience very different from what you would expect.

The effects are physiological.  Taking attention away from the head and focusing on the heart and positive emotion balances the autonomic nervous system and the hormonal system.

It’s the balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the nervous system and the cortisol (fight or flight) and DHEA (anti-aging)  of the hormonal system.  We feel better and more hopeful. That spreads to the others involved in the process as well.

A simple way to achieve this balance is by breathing in an attitude adjustment.  You can practice different attitudes you want to develop.  You can tell yourself to breathe in courage, or ease, or forgiveness, neutrality, dignity or whatever attitude you need.  Simply focus on the area around your heart and breath these feelings or attitudes in and out for a few minutes at a time as often as you think of it.

This will enable you to think about the best interests of all involved and will make each person happier with the result.  That means a more satisfied family moving forward, even though reconfigured.

To learn more about the importance of resilience, 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

Dona’s Website
Email Dona


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.


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

Dona’s Website
Email Dona



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

Myah’s Website
Email Myah


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

Randall’s Website
Email Randall


Choosing a Child Specialist for your Child During a Divorce

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Diane’s Website
Email Diane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Gail’s Website
Email Gail