Articles Posted in Mediation

I heard someone suggest that when thinking about New Year’s Resolutions you should think about what you can do that will have an impact in 200-400 years.  And that got me thinking about the work I do and how much of an impact it can have on families.

Personally, I want my work to live on through successive generations of families who communicate well and have healthy relationships with others.

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When it comes to choosing an alternative to divorcing in court, both divorce mediation and collaborative divorce have their own unique advantages.

Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is a private and confidential method of non-adversarial divorce in which the participants advocate for their own needs and concerns without a lawyer present in the room. The mediator will help the parties reach a consensus through a series of 3-way meetings. Although the negotiations are taking place between the spouses, it is highly recommended that each party has a consulting attorney during the process. The mediator is able to provide the couple with legal information, but a consulting attorney can provide a party with individual legal advice. Additionally, the parties may wish to consult other professionals such as appraisers, financial professionals, accountants, and divorce coaches.

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Mediation is a great process for maintaining limited involvement with attorneys, but they shouldn’t be shut out completely.

Recently I’ve spoken to a number of potential clients who are about to enter into the divorce process and want to use mediation. These clients come from different backgrounds and have different preconceived notions about mediation, but they all share the desire for an attorney-free divorce. And that is when I have the unenviable task of breaking the news to them: even in mediation, you need an attorney.

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This fall, I attended a meeting of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, where one of the keynote speakers was Donna Hicks, PhD. Throughout Donna’s academic and professional career she has written books about the power of dignity and, specifically, its importance in negotiations of all kinds. Her past clients have included the United States Navy, several large healthcare systems and corporations, and various governments around the world.

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One of the weaknesses of litigated divorce is that it encourages rigid thinking that stands in the way of compromise.

Choosing your battles wisely is an important strategy in all areas of life, including if you are in the process of divorce. Unfortunately, traditional divorce attorneys often neglect to give their clients this advice, encouraging them to fight for everything they say they want, regardless of how impractical, impossible or destructive it may be.  And when the other spouse inevitably takes opposite positions on those same issues, there’s nowhere to go but to the courthouse where both parties will be subjected to the slow-moving and very public litigation process.

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People going through divorce often feel angry, confused, and alone.

They turn to their friends and family when they are contemplating divorce, in the middle of a divorce and all throughout the process.  In fact, I often get calls from family members or friends inquiring about the legal services that I can provide to their loved one.

Supportive friends or family members instinctively seek to protect a person they  love by saying negative things about his or her spouse.

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What looks like just another celebrity breakup might actually be instructive for any divorcing couple.

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are going the way of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin in choosing a non-adversarial way to divorce while living in the public eye.

During her divorce, Paltrow made headlines for describing the process as “conscious uncoupling.” Many attorneys, including myself, appreciated the spotlight she had shone on non-adversarial divorce.

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A high-net-worth couple going through a divorce can benefit greatly by staying out of court.

Couples with considerable assets (which I will define here as more than $5 million) are often lead to believe that their divorce will be a “no holds barred,” brutal, lengthy process with astronomical legal bills and complicated offers and counter-offers. Because of this belief, many high-net-worth couples assume that mediation or the collaborative law process will not work for them.

They couldn’t be more mistaken. In my experience, the opposite is true; high-net-worth families have more to gain by keeping things civil and private. Unfortunately, many attorneys who practice litigation harbor a killer instinct that grows along with their clients’ assets, and they see a litigated divorce as the only way to satisfy that instinct.

I have compiled a short list of only some of the advantages that high-net-worth couples receive when they keep their divorces out of court.

  • Specialized support: High-net-worth divorces can be complicated, but they don’t have to be high-conflict. The best results come from a team approach. For instance, in the collaborative law process specialized professionals such as divorce coaches and financial neutrals (who come from a Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA) or CPA background) are part of the team. These professionals are available to help couples who are using the mediation process as well.

Divorce coaches help spouses to decrease the emotional triggers that are prevalent in most divorces and can overwhelm and hijack the negotiation process if not properly tended to. For example, they can help in situations where both spouses have strong voices and may be highly competitive with each other, as well as when there is a large power imbalance between the spouses with one having a very strong voice and the other having almost none.

Financial neutrals have expertise in understanding some of the more complicated assets that high-net-worth couples have on their balance sheets such as private equity investments, stock options, art collections, and privately owned businesses, as well as the more complicated tax implications of divorce.

  • Flexibility and privacy: Keeping your divorce “under the radar” and out of court means that you will have more opportunities to come up with creative solutions; this is something that a judge could never provide. Also, negotiations will be private so that information about your family and your assets will never be disclosed in an open courtroom.
  • Controlling one’s destiny: People with high net worth are accustomed to calling the shots in life. If you and your spouse cannot reach a voluntary agreement, a judge will make decisions for you. If you don’t like people making decisions for you in general, why give that up in a divorce?

Choosing mediation or collaborative law makes more sense financially. If mediation or collaborative law is the right process for you, the cost savings over litigation will be substantial.

If you would like to learn more about the differences between mediation and collaborative law versus litigation, I have recently put together a guide titled Why Court Should Be the Last Resort for Your Divorce. To obtain a copy, or to arrange a consultation, contact me today.

I was recently sitting at my desk when I received a text message from a phone number I didn’t recognize. In rapid succession I received the following missives:

  • “I don’t respect people who hit children.”
  • “You belong in jail for the rest of your life!”
  • “Where you can hit a woman!”
  • “LMAO, who’s not on parole!”
  • “How pathetic what a cheater you are too.”

This person, who was obviously in distress around a family law matter and possibly even dealing with domestic violence, was exhibiting a habit I see often with my clients: Talking to a spouse or partner directly becomes so emotionally difficult, they start using text messages as their main source of communication. While it can feel easier or safer to express difficult feelings by text or email, separating and divorcing couples should use these methods of communication only if they are careful about what they are writing before hitting the send button.

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As I picked up The New York State Bar Association Journal earlier in the month, the cover story intrigued me. It was called “More War Stories from the New York Courts.” It was about civil litigation cases that go on for years. The article didn’t discuss divorce, but that’s certainly what was on my mind as I read it.

I can’t imagine any parents would want to subject their children or themselves to the perils and terror of an actual war such as those raging in the Middle East, Africa and other parts of the world. So why are they so willing to subject their families to a war of their own making just because their marriage is ending?

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