Your children are about to go or have just gone back to school which creates many chances to help them get used to switching gears, remembering or learning new routines, and dealing with some inevitable reaction to things changing from summer schedule to fall.
Back to school is a very predictable change that parents and children have lived with for generations and is a particularly good example of how children need their parents’ help to navigate the passage.
As separated/divorced parents living in two homes, you and your children have extra changes to choreograph with your co-parent:
Which school (I hope this has been settled by late August)?
Which teacher (see above)?
What after school care and activities are possible, preferable, and scheduled for each child?
How do you deal with your child’s questions, reluctances, and excitement about the end of summer and the beginning of fall?
How much help do you need/do they need to be ready to go to bed and more importantly get up in time to be ready for school?
How much time does your particular child(ren) need to settle into the new routine?
These are ordinary and predictable family issues. Sometimes they are easily accomplished. In two households there can be serious differences between parents that lead to either tension/arguing or inability to plan.
Your kids need to have a ‘good enough’ plan and all kids do better when they know ahead what the plan is.
A ‘united front’ is the most ideal version to present to kids. "Your Mom or Dad thinks this is important,” “I know you are a little scared, and your Dad or Mom and I know you will settle in in a few days,” or “This is the best plan that we can arrange for this semester; your Mom/Dad and I will help you with this and keep trying to see if we can make a plan you like better next semester.”
When that is not possible, you need to extend the needed empathy to say, “It is really extra hard to have us take so long to decide on soccer/tennis/afterschool, etc. You might be disappointed that we couldn’t figure this out sooner. I’m sorry.”
You and your spouse can use your Collaborative coaches and child specialist to create new arrangements as well as learn skills to be proactive and effective as co-parents.
Elizabeth Salin, MFT, is a Divorce Coach, Child Specialist, and psychotherapist in San Rafael, CA
When couples marry in California, there are laws that automatically apply to their assets and income. For instance, income received as a result of either spouse’s labor, skill and efforts is community property and belongs to the marital partnership. Assets owned prior to marriage or received during marriage as a gift or inheritance is separate property unless it increases in value during the marriage due to either spouse’s efforts.
These default rules can be changed in a premarital agreement. The process for creating such a contract is an important consideration. The relationship needs to be valued and the communication about financial topics facilitated to encourage open and heart felt discussions about the terms to be included. Instead of having a proposed premarital agreement prepared by one client’s attorney and delivered to the other client, in a collaborative process the couples and both attorneys work together to develop a Premarital Agreement. The process should be commenced well before the intended wedding date to assure the topics can be considered thoughtfully without any pressure related to timing.
Collaborative practitioners begin the premarital agreement process with a meeting between the prospective spouses and drafting attorneys where we learn together about the clients’ personal and professional backgrounds, as well as their goals for their marriage as a couple and as individuals. Full disclosure of all assets, obligations and income is required regardless of process. During the meeting, we review each person’s financial information and ask questions to ensure understanding. A review of what California law provides is given so those rights and responsibilities are known. Then we identify topics to be included in the document and brainstorm options for solutions. After all possible options are identified, each is evaluated to determine viability and connection to the clients’ marital goals and interests. If consensus about the terms is reached, the attorneys will then prepare a draft agreement for review. If the couple needs time to further reflect on the options together, another meeting is scheduled to hear the results of this conversation. After the draft is read by all, there is a final discussion to confirm the document is understood and consistent with the couple’s intent.
Susan Stephens Coats is certified as a Specialist in Family Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. http://www.collaborativepracticemarin.org/members/Coats
Photo Credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
Oftentimes, collaborative family professionals and child therapists encourage parents to speak in one voice when discussing divorce with their children.
Children do best when they feel loved and cared for by both parents.
It is certainly true that if one parent decides the marriage is no longer workable, the couple ceases to be able to continue as before. Therefore a statement such as “mom and dad tried to make our relationship work but were unable to…” conveys a true fact.
Yet, if you did not want the divorce, you may still feel the desire to tell your children that this big change in their lives was not your fault. This may reflect your desire for them to know that “I am not the one who caused your pain.” Or perhaps, it may derive from not wanting your children to grow up with the belief that if you start something you can always quit if it gets too difficult. You may also want your children to know you, your values, and your dreams for them.
As with many other sensitive issues in life, parents make decision on what they tell their children based on their age, development, temperament, interest and capacity to understand.
Most parents strive to protect their children from adult issues and concerns in order to not overwhelm them or introduce them to the adult world too soon.
Consulting with a child professional will assist you in determining how to best speak to your child.
Jay Stone Rice, Ph.D., MFT, is a Coach and Child Specialist in Marin County.
Photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
Thank you to Brad Reid and the Huffington Post for this blog article.
Collaborate law is a variation of non-adversarial alternative dispute resolution. Specific collaborative law techniques have been discussed for about thirty years and fifteen or so states have enacted the Uniform Collaborative Law Act of 2009. While primarily focused on family law and divorce, collaborative law may be utilized in other disputes such as employment, insurance, mergers and acquisitions, or issues between family members in closely held businesses. Always consult an experienced attorney in specific situations.
In broadest overview, the parties voluntarily sign a collaborative participation agreement and are represented by attorneys whose representation ends if a traditional contested judicial proceeding begins. While participation cannot be court ordered, courts retain authority to issue emergency orders to protect health, safety, welfare, and financial interests. Attorneys must make a full disclosure of the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration in the specific situation so that a client may make an informed participation decision. There are limited institutional exceptions to the end of attorney representation when a free legal services clinic or governmental entity is involved in the collaborative representation. The parties agree to disclose all relevant and material information (although the agreement may limit the scope of disclosure) and promise to exercise good faith while negotiating. Disclosed information is deemed privileged and may not be utilized in subsequent litigation, subject to modification by the collaborative participation agreement. Exceptions to disclosure exist to prevent bodily harm or a crime, abuse or neglect of a child or adult, and to address professional misconduct or malpractice. The parties may engage appropriate professional experts to assist in the dispute resolution process. Courts may enforce an agreement that does not meet all of the formal requirements in the interest of justice when the parties intended to engage in the collaborative process.
Collaborative law, unlike arbitration under which a third party makes a binding decision, leaves the decision to the parties themselves. “Coaches” may facilitate direct communications. Unlike much alternative dispute resolution, collaborative law is pre-litigation. Hence, it may be less emotionally draining and more relationship preserving. The most serious criticisms of collaborative law center on attorney disqualification. Critics are concerned with potential attorney withdrawal at the very moment (litigation) when attorney services are most needed. An additional criticism is that collaborative law adds another layer of time and expense to disputes that end in litigation. However, attorney codes of ethics uphold the attorney withdrawal provisions and advocates of collaborative law assert that litigation rarely results at the end of a collaborative process. It is additionally asserted that privacy, control of the process by the parties themselves, and the individualized situational based aspects of the process are significant benefits.
Psychological and sociological knowledge underlies collaborative law. The following several paragraphs provide a few of many basic concepts. Fear of the collaborative process is perhaps best overcome by trust that is created by individual self-awareness and mutual self-disclosure. However, creating trust is hard work and the personal relationships may already be so damaged that trust, hence collaborative law, is impossible.
Additionally, the parties themselves may be at various points in the familiar progression consisting of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There may be non-party individuals that have a high degree of unrecognized influence over the parties. Controlling parents, new boyfriends or girlfriends, and friend confidants are examples.
Furthermore, one must distinguish an individual’s interests, positions, and goals. Interests are concerns or matters of importance that drive persons and they may be unrecognized emotions such as sadness, anger, or shame. Skilled advocates help their clients develop self-knowledge and understanding that leads to attainable goals. Inquiring about “what you assume will happen,” “what is your expectation,” and “precisely what will that look like to you,” are recognized techniques to get beneath the surface.
Individuals may engage in irrational, self-sabotaging behaviors due to projecting their problems on others so that they avoid changing their behavior, defensive habits, creating excitement or chaos to override depression by stimulating the body’s physical chemical responses, and to acquire status or approval from others. Sometimes deeper psychopathology may be present that creates real risks of physical harm to themselves or others.
The parties must have common ground rules for negotiation and the attorneys themselves must be self-confident centered persons who are able to manage their own stress as well as the unique stressors of the particular situation. Professionals must be prepared to address such expected problem areas as an individual’s resistance to disclosing needed information or delaying the process either consciously or unconsciously.
Professionals must be able to recognize “transference” and “countertransference” when feelings are unconsciously redirected from one person to another. Self-knowledge, relying on facts not opinions, and discouraging posturing and positions are all helpful professional techniques. Initial meetings and the collaborative participation agreement set the stage for everything that follows. Common courtesy, mutual respect and constructive negotiations are vital to success. Certainly, however, collaborative law is not possible or even best under all circumstances.
Thankfully, an individual professional need not know and be everything as a collaborative team is likely. Particularly in family law and divorce situations, a variety of financial, wealth management and tax experts may be involved. Ideally the transparency of the collaborative process will allow efficient data collection and the development of and commitment to mutually beneficial financial goals and commitments. However, non-financial professional assistance in the form of child and adult therapists, addiction specialists, as well as family, friends, and clergy may be of equally important. The expectation is that professional individuals will bring their best neutral professional judgment to the process.
In broad conclusion, collaborative law is advocated as cost effective and relationship oriented and has spread globally. There are a number of professional organizations and training associations. These organizations may overlap and cooperate with family advocacy and mental health groups. Courts have been creating both local and state-wide rules to govern the collaborate process. Minimum professional training before one may practice collaborate law is frequently required. Consult an experienced attorney to determine the status of collaborative law in a particular state.
Collaborative law aligns with a recognizable movement to make legal services and dispute resolution more accessible and cost effective. Standards for attorney and non-attorney professional specialization, for example, licensed legal technicians, are developing. The “unbundling” of legal services so that attorneys are not required to personally engage in every client encounter, much like the current activities of a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner, are the contemporary trend. Additionally, a host of specialized courts that have non-traditional powers and may grant unique remedies or divert parties to extra-judicial entities are increasing. Individual just-in-time services provided in a multidisciplinary package are coming to law. Increasingly, it appears that in the long-term the Anglo-American adversarial system of justice, while not totally replaced, will be reserved for certain unique problem areas. Even criminal law, uniquely adversarial, is not immune from these developments.
This comment provides a brief and incomplete educational overview of a complex topic and is not intended to provide legal advice. Always consult an experienced attorney and other professionals in specific situations.
You are faced with an enormous initial decision when you face divorce. Unless you choose otherwise, litigation is the default. However, more and more couples are choosing to divorce without going to court, by mediating or collaborating. Collaborative Law is rapidly becoming the norm, as Gary Direnfeld, LCSW, writes in his blog:
For years, family law litigators were the go to persons to facilitate the distribution of property, support obligations and the plan of care for children of the relationship between separating couples.
Mediation was always a distant alternative to the go to of family law litigators and hence the moniker, alternate dispute resolution.
Beginning the in the early 1990’s and gathering a head of steam into the new millennium and now an unstoppable force, Collaborative Law is biting the heels of mediation.
However, when looking at Google searches, Collaborative Law and Mediation combined as so called alternate dispute resolution solutions are closing in quickly on the family law litigators. As of Sunday, February 21, 2016, Google searches revealed:
Family law litigator: 35,600,000 hits.
Collaborative Law: 12,500,000 hits.
Family law mediation: 21,000,000 hits.
Given the head of steam rising from mediation and Collaborative Law, I would predict that they soon will surpass family law litigation, at least in terms of combined Google hits.
When Mediation and Collaborative Law surpasses family law litigation, which will then be deemed alternate and interestingly, Australia has long since deemed the so-called alternate dispute resolution solutions primary, at least since 1975.
This change in approach to dispute resolution is no minor thing. Given the rise of the so-called alternatives, people at the same time are becoming increasingly aware of the ravages of litigation particularly contrasted against the less costly and more peacemaking outcomes of mediation and Collaborative Law.
It may not just be a sea-change in terms of how people seek to resolve family conflict, but the sea change might also spell the death knell for litigation. Oh sure, there will always be those few who march towards court, but even there, couples are increasingly redirected to resolving matters in the hallowed halls outside the courtroom only returning to have their mediated agreements converted into orders for enforcement purposes. Many are realizing that they may as well begin where they are likely to end up – in mediation, even if going to court.
There’s a definite change a’coming. Indeed it’s here. The only question now is the depth of change and whether litigation will actually survive.
Are you looking to resolve a family dispute. Get with the times. Look at mediation and Collaborative Law.
Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. http://www.yoursocialworker.com
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
Talking to your children about your impending divorce can feel like a daunting task and can evoke an array of intense emotions.
Before talking to your children it is most helpful to be on the same page about how, when and where you will speak to them. A divorce coach can help you with this process so that you can feel confident about how you want to handle this talk. Talking with your children together, knowing what you want to say and anticipating some of their reactions will make it easier.
In talking with your children, keep in mind that too much information regarding the details of the decision to divorce and what led up to it may not at all be useful or appropriate to share. However, details about the things that will impact their lives going forward is very appropriate and important to share. The more information they receive, the less anxious they will be.
Your children need to know that they are not the cause of the divorce, that they are loved and you are divorcing each other and not divorcing them. They need to know that you both will do your best to help them thorough this challenging period and that you will be keeping them informed of any decisions that have been made concerning their everyday lives including where they will live and where they will attend school. They need to be reassured that they will seeing both parents and what the parenting time schedule will look like. They also need to know that they will have the freedom to contact either parent when they are not with them. Allowing your children a full relationship with each parent is important to their development.
In speaking with your children, it is important to allow them to have their own reactions and feelings. One client told me that she was planning to tell the children that the divorce was" for the best". The best for whom? It may be best for the couple or for one party in the couple, but the children may not feel that it is best for them as life as they know it will be changing. It is helpful for the parents to listen to their children's point of view and to validate how they feel. It is not helpful to minimize the situation or try to talk them out of their feelings. This is a sad moment in their lives.
As daunting as it is, finally talking to your children can be relieving. If you can be mindful of what and how you are communicating, can listen and validate your children's thoughts and feelings and can be reassuring about how much you love them and will continue to be available you will hopefully be on the road to a healthy conversation.
Nina Berk Knox, Ph.D. is a psychologist and Divorce Coach in Marin County.
Photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
When couples begin a divorce process, they have many questions. During this time of transition everyone needs support to navigate the process as it unfolds. You need support while you are making temporary plans for your children and yourself.
If you have a relationship with your own therapist you may wonder how a separate Coach can be needed or helpful. After all, your therapist already knows you, and perhaps also your spouse. Why hire and pay for another mental health professional? Here are some reasons why it is not a good idea for your therapist to take on a dual role:
Elizabeth Salin, MFT, is a family therapist, Divorce Coach and Child Specialist in Marin County.
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
You are getting a divorce and you want to move on with your life. You are eager to introduce your kids to your new partner, and you are wondering when is the right time.
This is one of those questions of “What is in the children’s best interest?” It is important to think about the child’s needs and perspective here, over your own wants and needs.
Your child(ren) are going through an unsettled time of change and transition, and they need time to process their feelings of grief and loss of the family (and maybe also the home). They will need to work through the Elizabeth Kubler Ross “Five Stages of Grief,” denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Over the next year your child(ren) will need time to re-establish stable relationships with each parent, separate from the other parent. Some research suggests that a well-adjusted child needs one-two years to readjust after the divorce is finalized. Children who were having a hard time before the divorce will likely need more time to adjust to the new family “under two roofs.”
It is also important to look at this question from an attachment point of view. How stable and long term is this new relationship? If there is a chance of a breakup, it is unfair and unhealthy to ask the children to attach to someone only to have that person leave your life, and therefore also your children’s.
While there is no magic number of months, waiting until the dust settles for the children and until the new relationship is committed and stable is a good idea before introducing a child to a new partner. This can often take many months, and more often a year or two. So patience is the name of the game in this situation. If you try to force the meeting prematurely, you many end up creating a very difficult and stressed relationship between your new partner and your children. Talk with your Divorce Coach or Child Specialist about when the right time would be for your children to meet your new partner.
Stefan Benton is a Divorce Coach in Marin County. www.sbentonmft.com
Photo Credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
For most parents who decide to divorce the first concern is about not harming the children. Maybe you went through your parents’ divorce and now you feel it negatively affected you. Here are some points to know:
How much time will your divorce take? By the time you reach the decision to divorce, or accept your spouse’s decision, you probably want to get it done and over with! Why prolong this difficult and overwhelming process?
Well, it’s a little complicated. There are a few answers to your question.
Your divorce will inevitably be a stressful event, but you will get through it. You should take the time you need to complete the divorce, without rushing through the important decisions you will need to make. If you would like it to be an efficient and less costly divorce, you can control some of the costs and time by doing these things:
Doing your divorce quickly is less important than doing it well. A good divorce is one that leaves you, your spouse, and your family on the path to a new, healthy, and stable life. A good divorce means that you and your spouse can continue to communicate in a friendly way, and that reduces stress for your entire family. And a good divorce is one that is emotionally and financially efficient.
--Ann Buscho, Ph.D. is a Collaborative Divorce Coach and psychologist in Marin County. http://www.collaborativepracticemarin.org/members/Buscho
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
OMG! It is the end of April and you haven’t planned things for your children for the summer! You may be recently separated and have been busy and overwhelmed by setting up two homes, juggling your kid’s school work and equipment, communicating with your co-parent, paying attention to homework, potty training or SAT prep. You may be already divorced but have not set up a time to work on summer planning yet.
It is no surprise this has missed you this year. Be gentle with yourself. But: Note to Self – we should make sure we plan a meeting in early March next year. Here are some tips to get you through this challenge:
1) Don’t panic – breathe and realize that this year is a very unusual time. Give yourself some slack for being in a complicated situation that you are adjusting to. Divorce makes life complicated, especially when you are just going through it, or in the first year after the divorce.
2) Take some time to think about your kids, their interests, their friends and family traditions from past years. Start to think creatively about how a favorite family tradition could be adjusted in ways that save the event and yet acknowledge that it won’t be the way it was in years past. For example, one parent can take the kids on the camping trip, and the other takes them to the grandparents. You could also divide a week away between the two of you, where one parent comes mid-way and the other parent leaves.
3) The first year is most likely unique. To take the pressure off of knowing what will always work, let yourself consider an arrangement that works just this year. Next year you can take more time to plan, and you’ll know what worked well and what did not.
4) Prioritize for each child and yourself what are the most important summer activities: i.e. continuing sports, art/drama/music, camps, meaningful traditions with family and friends.
5) Remember to include the practical matters of work schedules, financial limitations, and your need to have some down time with the children and without them.
6) Do the research to know about camp schedules, family trips, costs, and availability of friends and family for summer activities.
7) Call, email or text your child’s other parent asking for their thoughts and ideas about the summer BEFORE you talk to your kids, buy tickets or sign them up. Don’t commit the kids to something that affects their time with their other parent without that parent’s agreement.
8) You and your co-parent need to decide about the general schedule for this summer as well as share what your hopes are for the kids. If your kids have already asked about the annual family camping trip, or time with grandparents, include those activities in your discussion with your co-parent. What are the children expecting or hoping for? What have you already talked to them about? What is feasible or realistic?
9) List options to review with your kids and a timetable for decision making. What things do the children have choices about, and what plans are not optional?
10) Create a plan and use your family calendar to list the events. Be sure that both parents have access to that calendar; it is an important communication tool.
As a child therapist, collaborative coach and child specialist, I have talked with many separating/divorcing families, I know this is not easy but it is possible.
Learning to organize your thoughts and feelings and communicate with your co-parent are skills to learn or refine. Taking time for self care- taking a walk, going out in nature, connecting with good friends – these will help you recover from the inevitable times of feeling overwhelmed and help you regain your perspective and perhaps your sense of humor.
Wishing you some fun this summer.
Elizabeth Salin, MFT, is a family therapist, Divorce Coach and Child Specialist in Marin County.
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
For many, the word “divorce” conjures up negative thoughts and impressions. We gasp: “what about the kids? I thought they were happy? There go the holidays.” No one wants to be part of those statistics, but many of us are or will be. So, how do we surpass the social and psychological hurdles of this transition to realize the positive outcomes of a divorce?
The decision to end your relationship and get divorced is a difficult one. The process can be fraught with emotional stress and interpersonal conflict. To make things worse, any positive attitudes one may have related to this change are often overshadowed and dismissed as inappropriate or unhealthy. However, cognitive behavioral therapy provides us a unique insight – balancing negative thoughts alongside positive thoughts is a sign of good mental health.
If you are considering divorce or recently divorced, here is a glimpse of the bright side of your decision:
Positive Attribute #1: Positive modeling for your children
By choosing to end an unhappy relationship, you teach your children an important life lesson: people change. Although change can be difficult, it is an integral part of our natural and social world. By being a positive model for change, you are teaching your children how to cope in tough situations and helping them understand the complex nature of relationships.
Positive Attribute #2: Your physical health will improve
Research shows that telomeres, small areas at the end of chromosome strings protecting your DNA molecules, shorten or die off as you age or when under stress. This shortening process is associated with premature aging, cancer and a higher risk of death. However, you can reverse this process and restore these vital cells through improved lifestyle changes and healthier relationship living,
Positive Attribute #3: You will learn about yourself
It is common for people to wonder “Why me?” when considering or going through a divorce. This process of self-reflection is a critical step in understanding your psychological make-up and to perhaps avoid the experience again. Entering counseling, talking to a trusted friend, or conducting your own soul searching are ways to truly connect with your deepest inner self and help you transition.
Positive Attribute #4: Your mood will fluctuate, but on your terms
Mood management is very hard for some and especially challenging if you are leaving a situation in which your mood was subject to the mood of another person. After a divorce, your mood may fluctuate – but at least it will be your mood yours to control, and yours only.
Positive Attribute #5: Self confidence
Divorce can be complicated, messy, and very emotionally taxing. Once you survive the transition, you will feel alive with the confidence that you made a decision to better your life. This esteem will lead to a sense of empowerment and deep self-knowledge that you are in control your happiness.
--Erika Boissiere, MFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist, specializing in couples, relationships and marriage therapy. She is the founder of The Relationship Institute of San Francisco, http://www.trisf.com
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
You made the very serious personal decision to terminate your marriage. This decision necessarily takes you to the procedure known as divorce (AKA Dissoluiton of Marriage in the Court).
You found yourself an attorney who discusses the different processes with you that can be used to divide assets and debts, set a child sharing plan, and set support. You say, “We don’t want to go to court – we just want to settle.”
The Collaborative Family Law model provides the most complete and efficient process to meet your goal. The hallmarks of the Collaborative Law divorce process are an agreement from everyone at the outset to exclude all court proceedings, and engage the services of various professionals, known as “the team” to assist in the resolution of all issues.
Why is a “team” needed? Why do we need a team just to get a divorce? If you don’t have any assets, income or children, then you don’t need a team and you can stop reading. If you do have any of these, I encourage you to continue.
ALL parties in a divorce in California no matter what process is used are mandated by law to exchange Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure. It means each side must provide in writing to the other a disclosure of all assets and debts. There is considerable debate regarding the extent and specificity required, but the goal of the law of disclosure is to adequately inform both sides before decisions are made regarding dividing assets and liabilities.
The main advantage to having one neutral financial person as part of a Collaborative team is that you deal with just one individual working to provide fair and accurate information to both parties in a divorce. Both parties provide financial information to the single financial expert. He or she verifies and organizes it, and reports the information in an understandable form to both parties and their counsel. Everyone is on the same page.
In comparison, in many “litigated” cases, a joint expert is not retained at the outset of a case, and after a great deal of increased animosity, distrust and anxiety, not to mention expense, the parties either reach the point of a joint expert or continue to battle each other with their own expensive experts – two instead of one.
Many times even the most sophisticated party in a divorce may be surprised to learn some information in the exchange. For example, husbands and wives can be wrong about how title is held on a property, whether something is community property or not, or the true value of a given asset. Clear, organized information such as this is essential to the parties in a divorce to reach reasonable and informed solutions.
The independent financial specialist also assists in determining the true income of both parties and the relative expenses for separate households going forward. Compensation packages for W-2 earners as well as the self employed have become increasingly complex with the proliferation of compensation such as Restricted Stock/Units, Performance Restricted Stock, Stock Options, claw back provisions, insider trading rules, irregular bonus payouts, profit distributions, 401K and profit sharing plans. Employment benefits can impact both asset division as well as ongoing income available for support. Self employed individuals often have unrealistic opinions of their worth or income.
The parties and their respective counsel need accurate, efficient documents and information in order to adequately educate and advise the parties as to the best solution and informed decisions for their particular case.
Even more important than the financial considerations in a divorce is the attention needed to preserve the best interest of the children. A child specialist can be the most valuable person on the Collaborative team.
First, the children need to be assured early and often that the separation of the parents is not the fault of the child. The child may be in need of therapy that neither parent is able to recognize or facilitate because of his or her own emotional upheaval. The child needs a neutral place to discuss his or her input and even vent, without fear of recrimination from a parent. Children of different ages have different needs and concerns.
All of this can be discussed with the parents and the child specialist in a safe and calm situation in order to reach a suitable, workable family child sharing plan. Every mental health expert agrees that continued animosity and conflict between the parents in divorce renders harm to the children from which they never recover. The Collaborative team, with the help of the child specialist, has the best chance of avoiding this tragedy.
If parents are unable to agree regarding the sharing of the children in a litigated divorce case in court, the family frequently undergoes a costly custody evaluation process and may have their own “expert” to review the work of the expert conducting the evaluation. Once again, you have the potential for three experts instead of one, as well as counselors and therapists, coming in at a much later stage of the proceedings after further polarization of the parties and damage to the children. The structure of the Collaborative team and process can “put everyone in the same room” from the beginning of the process.
Equally important to the team are the coaches for each of the adults. Divorce is one of the most emotional processes a person can go through in a lifetime. Everyone can use assistance from time to time for insight and balance while dealing with the inevitable feelings of loss, uncertainty, fear, anger and overall anxiety. Your attorney is not a psychologist. It is the duty of the attorney to maintain as much objectivity as possible in order to advise the client in the decision making process, and the individual coaches are a tremendous assistance in facilitating the parties to reach resolution.
With a professional Collaborative team in place from the outset of a divorce, you will be provided information, organization, support, advice and assistance for the entire family in the transition process for the best possible solutions. Otherwise, you may end up with a team or two anyway, but in a courtroom instead of a conference.
Win Heiskala is a family law attorney in San Diego. She graciously allowed CPM to repint her blog piece, and can be contacted at http://www.blsapc.com/
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
In the midst of parental separation feelings run high. If there are complicating factors such as violence, abuse and infidelity, those feelings typically run even higher. To add, if the decision to separate is more one-sided than mutual, the person being left can feel a sense of bewilderment if not abandonment. This too adds to the mix of bad feelings.
Parents in these circumstances are typically in a terrible place emotionally for determining the best parenting arrangement for their children. Knowingly or unknowingly, the children can become the battleground over which the parental score is settled.
As the parents unwittingly settle their score through the children, think one parent isn’t deserving of a relationship with the kids or think one cannot parent or will provide a negative influence and then seek to limit one’s relationship or time with them, the fight is on. The issues of the relationship which led to the separation worsen, further exposing the children to parental conflict. At the end of the day, parental conflict alone is the best predictor in terms of the outcome for children of separated parents. The greater the conflict the worse the outcome.
In a bid to win the day and determine an outcome, parents may turn to the court. In so doing each parent must convince the court that the other is the scoundrel. Each parent, reasonably defensive, must up their claim against the other to countermand the others claims. The court, thought of as an instrument for settling disputes and restoring peace becomes the very structure that creates further instability, chaos and hardening of bad feelings. Pity the children as the conflict inevitably intensifies.
Consider the following:
The single best predictor in terms of the long term outcome for children of separated parents is the duration and intensity of ongoing conflict to which the children are exposed or privy. Court is not aimed at reducing conflict what-so-ever. Court is only aimed at making decisions which at times makes relationships and conflict worse;
Children are typically better served by parents willing to participate in dispute resolution processes that do not involve court and are clinically focused as opposed to legally (rights) focused;
Parenting conflicts are not legal matters. Parenting conflicts are reflections of personal and interpersonal problems which require personal and interpersonal solutions. While judges and lawyers are experts at law, they are not typically experts at parenting conflicts, child development, mental health, drug and/or alcohol concerns or domestic violence. Seek the expert with the appropriate expertise;
Court may only be really necessary to keep people safe from harm in the event of truly dangerous or abusive behavior or in situations where a parent is truly undermining a child’s relationship with the other parent with no hope of change. Not liking the other parent, having different values or preferences and challenges in communication are not addressed in court processes;
Concern about mental health, behavior and even drug/alcohol problems can be addressed in settlement focused clinical services outside of court.
In view of the above and with a desire to act in the best interest of children, seek services that are provided with a view to facilitating settlement. Approaches to facilitating co-parenting should have a clinical focus, meaning they are directed to the well being of the children through helping parents address issues that can lead to settlement. Children’s needs remain paramount. After all, we all want our children to grow up well.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW is a Social Worker and Collaborative professional in Ontario, Canada
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
The holidays can be hard for families that are going through a divorce. Many families have established traditions that they look forward to year after year. These traditions may include extended family, travel, religious rituals, festive parties, decorating a tree or cooking special holiday foods. Most parents want to make the holidays as celebratory and memorable as possible for their children and for themselves. Finding joy and peace during a time of upheaval may not even feel possible. Creating an atmosphere free from tension and conflict is a unique challenge during the time of a divorce when parents may have to share or divide some cherished traditions when the children are sharing their time with both parents. Even such traditions as decorating the house might feel bittersweet when you are feeling emotionally fragile and full of uncertainty about the future. It is even worse if you believe that your family home may not be your home next year. The first year after separation is a year of change and adjustments, and the first holiday season after you and your spouse have separated can be especially difficult. Here are some ideas that might make the holidays easier.
--Ann Buscho, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and Collaborative Coach in Marin County. http://www.collaborativepracticemarin.org/members/Buscho
This srticle was originally posted on December 13, 2013.
By Sharon Strand Ellison and Ami Atkinson Combs
The love we feel for our children often prompts strong protective instincts, which can be intensified during the trauma of divorce. We just want them to feel good, safe, and secure.
When our children are sad, scared or experiencing feelings of loss, a common reaction is to try and reassure them. When our four-year-old cries, “I miss daddy,” we might hold her saying, “It’s OK, honey. We both love you so much. Daddy just lives in a different house now. You’ll still see him lots.”
Sadly, this kind of protective impulse often backfires. Whatever the age — from toddlers to adults — rather than protecting our children, an attempt to convince them that everything is okay shuts down the “real talk” they need.
Instead, we can ask questions. For example, “What do you miss about Daddy?” She might answer, “He always read to me before bedtime.” We can now respond to something specific, like, “I know how much daddy loves reading to you too!”
The child may shift instantly from sadness to trust in Daddy’s love. And this process can facilitate more creative problem solving. Perhaps Daddy can call or Skype in order to still read bedtime stories some nights.
We could also ask a child who is missing the other parent, “Why do you think Mommy’s not living here anymore?” This allows us to learn about stories he may have told himself, including “Mommy left because she’s mad at me.” Knowing his assumptions can make all the difference in our ability to successfully respond to what’s really going for him.
We regularly see parents wanting to avoid asking questions because they’re afraid it will make the child feel worse instead of better. This can reflect a lack of confidence in the child’s ability to handle a more in-depth conversation. We find the opposite to be true – that children welcome “real talk” and feel relieved when they can open up.
One story we both love is about four-year-old Ali, whose parents had a difficult divorce. Ali told her mother on the way to pre-school, “Daddy wants me to be a girl and you want me to be a boy.” Her mom was shocked, but shifted to asking a curious question, “Honey, what made you think I want you to be a boy?” Ali said, “Daddy wants me to wear dresses to school and you want me to wear pants.”
Surprised by the unexpected answer, Mom responded that, since they played outside and even rode horses at her Montessori school, she wanted Ali to wear clothes that gave her the freedom to do all the different activities. Then, she said, “I’m delighted you’re a girl, I always wanted a daughter,” and Ali giggled in delight.
Laughing as she us told the story, this mom finished by saying, “If I hadn’t asked that one question, she might have grown up and gone through years of therapy — trying to work through some vague feeling that her mom wished she’d been a boy!” The point is well taken because when a child carries an unexamined assumption, it can solidify into a belief that feels true even if the conscious memory fades.
When a child asks us a question, we can also sometimes shift too quickly to reassurance. Daniel’s parents were divorcing and his mom was worried he wasn’t expressing his feelings because his dad didn’t think boys should cry. One day when I (Sharon) went for a home visit, Daniel came and sat on my lap. After we talked a bit, he looked at me and asked, “Sharon, are you a crybaby?” I said, “I do cry, but I don’t think of myself as a crybaby.” He was very still for a moment, then asked thoughtfully, “Do you mean that if there are tears inside, they need to come out?”
If I had gone into protective mode and used his question as an opportunity to reassure him that crying is OK, I think he would have probably retreated back into his private conflict. When I simply answered his question directly, he compared his belief that crying meant being a baby to my belief that I cry without feeling like a baby — and came to his own conclusion. I was awe-struck by his wisdom.
When we have authentic conversations with our children, we can honor their strength and connect on a deeper level. The lessons and security that come from such conversations can last a lifetime.
© 2014, Sharon Strand Ellison & Ami Atkinson
Sharon Strand Ellison and her daughter Ami Atkinson Combs co-produced the audio-book, Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting, winner of a Benjamin Franklin Award. Sharon and Ami offer workshops and webinars for parents and training programs for teachers in public and private schools, as well as for a wide range of agencies serving families.
For more information, go to www.pndc.com.
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.
Divorce is a painful time no matter whether you are the one to initiate the process or you are the one who is reluctantly dragged through the process. You and your spouse together have the choice of how to go about ending your marriage and moving into a better space. The following are three ways to feel you have control of the process and its outcome.