Mediation Success

Almost all divorces in Washington end up in a mediation before they are resolved. So what should you do to be ready to reach an agreement?

Here is a short list of helpful hints:

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

1. Gather updated income information for you, including a complete copy of your most recent tax returns, with W-2’s, and pay stubs for the past six months, or at least the most recent paystub if it has year to date information on it.

2. Update your financial statement if you have previously done one for the court. Expenses that commonly change with divorce are: rent, food budgets, tax withholding, re-training/education costs, day care, and health insurance.

3. Gather all financial data and provide it to your attorney. This includes retirement statements, an appraisal for your house (or at least a market analysis in writing from a reputable realtor), blue book values on all vehicles (yours and your partners) and complete list of debts with credit card statements.

4. Make a list of any personal property items you may still want that are in the possession of your partner.

5. Review your temporary parenting arrangement. What changes do you want to make? How did the holiday schedule work over the past months, vacations, transfer arrangements and decision making? Do you want any changes? Now is the time to ask.

6. Set a meeting with your attorney three to four weeks before your mediation date. Call or email them to make the appointment. Take copies of all the above documents to your attorney if he/she does not already have them. Take a list of questions. Be prepared to talk strategy for negotiations and the strengths and weaknesses of your case from a legal (not emotional) perspective.

7. Think about where you want to be 5 years after the divorce. Picturing a positive future can reduce stress and make you more hopeful for the future.

8. Think about what is most important to you and what you could “give up.”

9. Make sure you have the money or room on a credit card to pay the mediator.

10. If you have children, regardless of their ages, remember you and your ex are forever linked and how you handle mediation will have a long term impact on all members of your divorced family.

 

When mediation day arrives:

1. Eat breakfast, find a long term parking spot so you do not have to excuse yourself to move your car, and be on time. Bring the funds or credit card you need to pay the mediator.

2. Keep in mind that five year dream from the preparation list above.

3. Come with an open mind and try to leave the past hurts at the door. They will not be resolved at mediation.

4. Bring your strategy for negotiation. Where will you start and what is your bottom line, meaning the least you will settle for? This is something you should have previously discussed with your attorney.

5. Keep in mind that your bottom line may not be set in stone and some flexibility will be required. Neither you nor your partner will get everything you want.

6. Do NOT bring your new boyfriend or girlfriend if you have one and ask your attorney before you bring any other support person. Do NOT bring children. Ever.

7. Know the strengths and weaknesses in your position should you end up in court.

8. If you feel flooded or need a break ask for one. If you want to consult with your attorney without the mediator, do so. And remember in the negotiation to speak. This is not your attorney’s life, it is yours.

9. If an agreement is reached, READ IT BEFORE YOUR SIGN IT. In Washington State, it will be binding.

10. If you have children, regardless of their ages, remember you and your ex are forever linked and how you handle mediation will have a long term impact on all members of your divorced family.  Yes you heard this before, it’s worth repeating.

 

Have a successful outcome that fits your family and  your life.

Summer Plans

 

Working parents always face the decision of what to do with their school aged children during the summer break from school.   Do you place them in day care, camp, or send them to a relative’s home? It is even more complicated when the parents are divorced. As they age into the teen years, the schedule gets even more complicated with summer jobs, sports, and special interests.

So what is a parent to do? The first key step is communicate, communicate, communicate. A parenting schedule that worked for your 6 year old is not necessarily going to work for a 10, or 12 year old let alone a 16 year old. Have a meeting in the spring and work out the summer schedule.

Issues to discuss and resolve:

    • Family vacation times-schedule as far in advance as possible who will have which weeks so travel arrangements can be made when airline prices are lower.
    • Family reunions, weddings, graduations or other special events. Every family has these, try to accommodate them because your ex-spouses extended family is your child’s extended family.
    • Summer camp for the kids – who will pay and how will it impact residential time? Who will do pick up and drop off? Avoid the last minute stress and decide in advance.
    • Allow the kids to grow – if your child wants to play high school football or be in the marching band, there may be a need to be close to home in August. Honor your child’s desires to excel and be a part of something bigger.Having both parents on the same page will lower everyone’s stress and anxiety over summer plans. Most of all it will help your child have a happier, healthier summer.

The Ripple Effect of Divorce with Children

The Ripple Effect

By Gail B. Nunn

 

Divorce is very tough on the family, and there is a ripple effect. You move from a one house family to a two house family. Your children may acquire step-parents and step-siblings or half-siblings. But beyond their nuclear families, are their extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grand-parents. The divorce has a ripple effect on all those people and on the relationship your child has with those people.

Recently I was gratified when my ex-husband’s niece reached out to me as she planned to relocate from the mid-west to my home town area of Seattle. It brought to mind the questions about who makes up our extended “family”.   In her mind, I’m still her aunt even though the blood relative uncle has remarried, even though I haven’t seen her in 8 years, even though she lives 3,000 miles away from me.

When you get divorced you lose your spouse. You don’t have to lose his/her family too and your children do not have to lose those relationships. It “takes a village” is a well-known phrase, even cliché’ perhaps. However, the ties forged during the marriage do not have to be totally undone. How wonderful for your children if they can talk freely about their grandma and grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins no matter on which side of the family those folks happen to fall. How wonderful for you if you can rely on these folks for day care, babysitting, birthday party attendees, etc.

Those “ex” family member may miss you. You were their family. Now you are not? How does that work? You’re divorced so you never again talk to your mother-in-law or favorite sister-in-law? Using collaborative law process to get divorced can help heal your family beyond its borders to the extended family more quickly and keep everyone more connected.

A few summers ago, I traveled to visit my 94 year old former mother-in-law. She is a wonder feisty woman who was my mother-in-law for 21 years. She is the grandmother to my children and the great grandmother to my grandchildren. I delight in our continued relationship and am so grateful she decided to stay connected to me. My divorce was over 15 years ago, but my ex-husband’s family became my family and are still my “family”.   I’m took my daughter and two her great grandchildren, one of whom she has not yet met. Pretty exciting stuff.

 

 

 

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