What Makes Divorce Mediation Work?

December 1, 2015

divorce mediationMediation is a confidential settlement process in which a trained, neutral settlement expert – the “mediator” — facilitates communication between the parties.  Without deciding the issues or imposing a solution on the parties, the mediator enables them to better understand each other’s positions and to reach mutually agreeable resolution to their disputes.

At Graine Mediation, we focus on the following techniques and method to help our clients move quickly, but thoughtfully, through the settlement of their divorce matters . . . so that they can get on with the business of living their lives:

  • Focus on interests, not positions. We keep the focus on our clients’ needs, fears and desires and discourage the use of many strategical bargaining tactics.
  • Create options for mutual gain. We help our clients create options for mutual gain and think creatively about various settlement options.
  • Use objective facts and limit speculation. We encourage the use of up to date and objective facts and information and prefer educated projections and positive action over speculation.
  • Information-based decision making. We provide clients with important information with regard to the law, the legal culture, tax, finance and the effect of divorce on children.  Understanding this type of information really helps clients put their issues into perspective and make good decisions.
  • Neutral language. We neutralize language and help parties learn how not to “push buttons” unnecessarily.  Blame and negative judgments are usually not productive and do not, therefore, play much of a role in mediation.
  • Step in the other party’s shoes. We inspire clients to view issues from the other party’s perspective.

Getting divorced is tough.  The settlement process should not make it any worse.  At Graine Mediation, we will do all we can to help you get through this stage in your life without making things any more complicated, difficult or expensive than necessary to get the job done. Contact Graine Mediation today to see how we can help you.

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


How Does Mediation Save Divorcing Couples Money?

November 23, 2015

It seems that everything is getting more expensive these days, and divorce is no exception. Luckily, mediation can be a good way to save money during the divorce process. Here are some simple ways mediation can help:

  • No “Surprise” Billing. Most work is done in the mediation room and it is easy to keep track of what the divorce settlement process is actually costing.  Mediators don’t nickel and dime their clients to death.
  • One Mediator, Not Two Attorneys. When both parties have their own attorney, the $300-$500 per hour fees rack up quickly, especially when multiplied by two attorneys (as opposed to only one mediator at an often lower hourly fee).
  • Get to the Point. Mediation is less strategically oriented than litigation.  This allows clients to address their and their children’s real needs faster and with a focus on mutual agreement versus winning the fight.
  • Sensible Information Gathering Process. There is no formal “discovery” in mediation.  Discovery is the court-supervised and procedurally complex method that attorneys use to gather information in a divorce case.  Keeping the information gathering process to its essential elements saves clients thousands of dollars that they will need to run two households where there once was only one.
  • Focus on Present and Future, Not Past.  The focus in mediation is on helping the parties to find common ground and mutual agreement that will allow them to start their and their children’s new lives in as good a position as possible considering the circumstances.  Past behaviors and transgressions are usually minimized, unless they directly impact the present or future.  This is the opposite of litigation, where past wrongs and transgressions are often the focus of the fight itself.

save-money1Don’t let tight finances keep you from moving forward with a divorce when it’s the best decision for you and your family. Speak to a mediator and see how they can help.

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Child Custody Problems – Should I Use a Divorce Attorney or a Mediator?

October 13, 2015

When families break apart in a divorce, many parents do not know where to turn to get help.  Divorce lawyer?  Divorce mediator?  What is best when it comes to planning for children when their parents are getting a divorce? Here is some information to help you choose what route to take:

Parents must decide whether they want the fate of their children’s upbringing to be made within the family unit (by mom and dad) or by a judge.

A quick read of the following comparative descriptions of the child custody decision-making process, as managed by divorce lawyers (litigation), versus divorce mediators, will help parents decide which method is best:

DIVORCE LITIGATION

Whether or not a child custody case is ultimately bound for court, it is common for divorce attorneys to approach their cases as if they might end up before a judge.  Clients should expect this type of behavior considering a legal advocate is obligated to “zealously assert the client’s position” and, as a negotiator, a divorce attorney is expected to “seek a result advantageous to the client [who is the parent, not the child]” (see the Preamble to the Virginia State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct)

Do you need Zealous Advocacy? Zealous advocacy – often referred to in terms of “winning and losing a battle” — is frequently the best route to take in extreme cases, such as where there are allegations of child abuse and neglect. Many parents find, however, that this approach is far too absolute when applied to the very human business of making decisions with regard to their children’s upbringing.  Also, you need to be careful in traditional litigation since it has a tendency to further polarize parents who are often already struggling with divergent value systems and parenting styles.

The courthouse was not designed for most divorcing family’s child-related problems.  But, it’s good to know that the courts are there if you need them.  The fact that so many custody battles are aggressive in nature is not, necessarily, the fault of the individual attorneys. Instead, this problem is more of a manifestation of an entire judicial system which was better designed – back when divorce was a rarity — for matters of business and property disputes than those of families and children.

Knowing what we know today about the emotional development of children, the court system is outmoded and, often times, inappropriate for the needs of divorcing families and their children.  However, for those dire situations, such as child abuse and neglect, where compromise and co-parenting are out of the question, having a neutral, authoritative judge as the decision-maker can be in everyone’s best interest.

Is Compromise an Option? Many clients find that approaching child-related decision-making with a “win-lose” mentality is expensive, confusing and rarely geared toward supporting a cooperative environment.  If you think you are ready to compromise (even a little) and are interested in your child being raised by both of his or her parents, cooperatively, you may want to steer clear of traditional litigation. Instead, consider using your energy on making plans for how to best raise your child in two separate homes (which is never easy in the best of circumstances).  

Litigation might be your best bet in a child custody situation if:

(1) You absolutely do not see the possibility of compromise in your case; and/or

(2) Your child would be unsafe if left in the unsupervised care of the other parent.

DIVORCE & CHILD CUSTODY MEDIATION

Working with a mediator, in a child custody situation, is all about cooperative planning for your child’s immediate and future needs. This planning is usually done with both parents in the same room and, during certain segments of the mediation, the mediator will talk with the parents separately.

Mediation has four parts:  

(1) Pinpointing Issues;

(2) Sharing Information (the parties share information about their child and their own personal situation, as well as some family history; the mediator shares information about the law, the legal culture in the jurisdiction, and the impact of divorce on children, generally, and in various custody situations);

(3) Facilitated Negotiation; and

(4) Drafting and Signing the Custody Agreement.

When is Mediation a Good Idea in a Child Custody Situation? Mediators are able to help clients settle their child custody disputes if:

    • Both parents love their children and are able to appreciate that what happens in childhood will have a lifelong impact on their child;
    • There is no history of child abuse or neglect;
    • Both parents are committed to the idea that their child’s life should be  better after divorce than it was during the marriage (if at all possible); and
    • The parents are willing to sit down with a neutral third party (the mediator) and work on creative, practical and child-centered plans for their child’s upbringing.

 

 

The immediate goal in divorce mediation is to assist parents in making rational, child-centered, and logistically feasible parenting arrangements for their child after considering the full circumstances of all members of the family.

The ultimate goal is to help couples transition gracefully from traditional parents (if married) to single moms and dads who are able to provide their child with the best dual-home situation possible for their child to grow, learn and play before he or she is old enough to leave the nest.   

Only you can decide what is best for your child when your family is faced with divorce and custody situations.  

Got questions?  Call: Robin Graine, JD at (571) 220-1998.  I’m always happy to answer questions and help you get on the right track toward moving on with your life and creating the best situation for your child post divorce.

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


9 Key Questions To Ask Before Negotiating Child Custody In Your Divorce

October 6, 2015

coparentingParenting is a one-shot deal. As a 10-year veteran of divorce, my former husband and I have made it our goal to keep our children the focus, despite our own differences and troubles. When we negotiated our divorce settlement, we keyed-in on the fact that we only had one chance to get it right in raising our son (who was then 9 years old) and daughter (who was then 7 years old).

The goal, in divorce, should always be to make the situation better – or at least reasonably comfortable — for everyone in the family.

I can tell you from my own personal experience, and 13 years as a Virginia Supreme Court Certified Divorce Mediator, former divorce attorney, and family court hearing officer:  Divorce does not have to be a tragedy for your children.

To successfully negotiate custody in your divorce, you will need to ask yourself and ponder some very important questions.

You will need to ask yourself what is really best for your children for both the immediate time frame and for your child’s future well-being. You need to start thinking in these terms before you begin your custody negotiations so you can think of terms of broad goals, albeit flexible goals, and a variety of options for reaching those goals.  This is true whether you engage the services of a divorce lawyer or a mediator.

9 Key Questions Divorcing Parents Need to Ask Before and During their Child Custody Negotiations:

  1. What unique traits, knowledge, values and skills do I have to offer my children?  What about my children’s other parent?  
  2. What qualities do I believe are necessary to “be a good parent?”  Do I have most of those qualities?  What about my children’s other parent?  
  3. Do I see myself as the better parent for children of certain ages and developmental stages? What about my children’s other parent?
  4. Do my children have special activities that they like to do with me, alone?  Their other parent?  
  5. Will I need help from my children’s other parent, in terms of child caretaking, once living separately? Will my children’s other parent also need help?  (e.g., due to work demands, work travel, “juggling” children’s activities, etc.)
  6. What do I believe are the benefits, specifically, of my children having a rich and stable relationship with both Mom and Dad? What would be the harm, specifically, if they did not?
  7. Am I able to let go of control when my children go to stay with their other parent?
  8. When there is a parent who has only been minimally involved in his or her children’s life, is there reasonable potential for that parent to become more involved?
  9. Is there potential for compromise in parenting decisions?

If two loving parents exist, why not make the most of it? Children get a stronger sense of security, love, expanded world views, skills, knowledge, extended family, role models and sense of self.  And you get children to have and to hold–and to love.

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Ashley Madison Problems? 5 Reasons to Avoid Going to Court on Adultery Grounds

August 28, 2015

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As 37 million recently hacked people on Ashley Madison can attest, adultery is rampant.  What is going on? From what I have seen and heard in my divorce mediation private practice, parents are so stressed out that they forget to nurture one another.  They put “adult care” at the bottom of their list, like a chore to be done when there is time.  But, while waiting for the “right time,” at least one of the party’s need for attention and physical affection doesn’t go away — no matter how busy they are with kids or careers. In my experience talking with couples over the past several years in my divorce mediation firm, adultery is usually a symptom — not a cause — of the death of their marriage.  It is rare to encounter adultery in a marriage that was healthy and alive before the deed was done.

If you’ve recently discovered a betrayal in your marriage, and have decided that the marriage is over, I recommend taking a long, slow breath before moving forward with a divorce on the grounds of adultery (if that is even possible in your state, as it is in my area, Northern Virginia – Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William counties).

Divorce trials and litigation, which focuses on the ground of adultery, are extremely expensive and do not help clients move forward with their lives.  They grind in past transgressions and ugliness.  They reinforce all of the negatives in a marriage, as opposed to focusing on the positive futures available to each spouse if the settlement is fair, centered on the children, and aimed at providing a platform for both spouses’ future success and happiness.

Here’s why you should consider mediating your divorce settlement, and not sue for divorce using adultery as your ground:

  1. Adultery is often difficult to prove. How far will you take it? Is there another side to the story? This will drive up investigators’ time, court time—and cost–for what gain?
  2. Adultery is very expensive to litigate. Litigation is highly complex—and therefore expensive. Couples can often settle their matters without all of the legal wrangling and red tape.
  3. It’s not private. Do you want your kids—not to mention the entire town, schools, church, gym, and Thelma at the bank—to know your business? Why deliver the gossip and humiliation to the world’s news feed?
  4. It serves no purpose. Destroying each other will leave you not only broke, but ultimately cause more anguish. There is no real meaning and value in the destruction of someone you once loved. Focus on building your own happiness from here on in.
  5. Court is not a place to seek revenge. Judges don’t care who sleeps with whom. They focus on what is best for the children, and how to make income that supported one home now stretch to support two. Mediation can help you pinpoint and focus on key issues for the benefit of the kids.

As for your kids . . . After 13 years in family law, and mediating countless divorcing parents, my thinking is this:

  • Do not talk with your young children about what really happened when your spouse cheats.
  • Focus on your goals: Be independent. Be happy. Be successful.
  • What good is it involving your children in your pain? They’re too young to understand sex and adult relationships. You’ll only succeed in making them feel conflicted in their parental loyalties — right at the very time when they need both of their parents the most.

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

 


The 3 A’s of Avoiding Divorce

August 18, 2015

As a certified divorce mediator and a former divorce attorney, I’ve worked with hundreds of couples over 13 years in family law who were filing for divorce. Here’s what I hear from clients — over and over again – as the key reasons for the break-up of their marriage. I call them the 3 A’s:

Lack of Affection. Though cliché, it’s true: When baby makes three, both parents are often consumed with showering their new baby with the most affection possible. As the child grows, couples forget to smooch their spouses, too.

Lack of Attention. Couples often feel ignored in their roles as spouses, parents and, often times, human beings! It’s no secret that jobs, child-rearing, in-laws, financial worries and responsibilities of running a home eat up your time and energy. If you want to save your marriage, though, start by giving your spouse the focus that or she deserves and needs.  Be intuitive, remember what your husband or wife needed back when you were dating, and try and give him or her that level of attention that you, too, need in order to feel secure in your relationship.

Lack of Appreciation. This is perhaps the biggest contributing factor in the divorcing clients that I work with — I hear it, in one form or another, from every set of mediation clients that I encounter. In many cases, women feel they do the lion’s share of the homemaking. When the kids were born, they changed around their priorities. The husbands, or so I hear, didn’t change their everyday lives quite as drastically as did the wives. The husbands, often times, feel that they are not appreciated for their financial contributions and the actual time that they do spend with the children. Each resents the other for longer hours put in at work and chores, and forgets to thank the other partner for keeping the family enterprise afloat. One thing that helps? Parents need to divide and conquer the mundane tasks of everyday life. If mom is best at details, let her do the details: whether it’s party-planning or setting up that 509 for Junior. But dad needs to do the other stuff, like preparing taxes or working with the kitchen contractor. The key is quite simple: Work hard at appreciating what the other is doing and know that 50/50 is not always a practical goal to attain depending on each others’ personalities and priorities.

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Harsh Exposure of Divorce Lawyers & Courts: The Divorce Corp Documentary

July 7, 2015

UYe2xpOm.jpegDivorce Corp http://www.divorcecorp.com/ is a 2014 documentary film, directed by Joe Sorge, that exposes the inner workings and, in their own words, “the appalling waste and shameless collusive practices” seen daily in U.S. family law courts. This film presents a shocking viewpoint on the divorce industry, divorce lawyer practice, and the family law court system in the United States.   Divorce Corp’s goal is to make the viewer feel enraged toward the family law courts and the divorce attorneys who, they say, take advantage of individuals who are in a weakened emotional state.

The statistics presented in Divorce Corp are alarming.  For example, the producers estimate the total costs of divorce to be $50 Billion Dollars per year! In relatable financial terms, Divorce Corp estimates that the total dollars spent by Americans on their divorces, each year, is equal to the dollars needed:

  • To produce a healthy lunch for every child, every day, grade school through high school, in North America, South America, and Africa;
  • To pay the tuition for 5 million college students;
  • To fund the research and development of 50 new medicines each year.

While these statistics are tremendous, they do not compare to the wickedness that Divorce Corp asserts that the family law court system and their main players, the divorce attorneys, are capable of. The goal of Sorge and his guest “experts” is to prove that there is mass corruption in the family law courts in the United States.

They spend much time on the fact that family law courts are “courts of equity”, meaning that there are no juries and no right to an attorney –- despite the fact that people’s basic rights, such as the right to raise and enjoy the companionship of one’s children and the right to use and distribute one’s own hard earned money as the earner sees fit — are taken from them every day in divorce court.

Judges, they tell the viewer, have the authority to order complete liquidation of the parties’ assets and to issue restraining orders, even when there is very little evidence to support such a deprivation of liberty and seizure of real estate, personal property and money. Divorce Corp presents these facts in such a light as to make the viewer almost queasy at the thought of how one all-powerful judge can make extreme decisions, without even the nominal due process protections afforded criminals, and how an individual can be completely railroaded by the family law court – and pay for that railroading out of his or her own pocket!

The facts and statistics that Divorce Corp presents are deeply unsettling; but a skeptical eye is necessary considering the extreme sensational manner in which the information is presented. The producers of this documentary film focus on the absolute worst-case divorce scenarios and only showcase the most egregious of problems that individuals have had with family law judges. Though there is no doubt that these terrible situations occur, most reasonable viewers would have to wonder just how often and/or how likely these incredibly horrendous situations arise?  Divorce Corp’s modus operandi is to make it seem as if everyone getting a divorce will be severely overcharged by their divorce attorney and will, chances are, experience a corrupt judge who is out to ruin one of the spouse’s lives.

Though Divorce Corp did a sensational job of presenting the horrors of the divorce industry, divorce lawyers and the family law courts, it did not offer an alternative solution to that system, nor did the writers, director or “experts” provide any guidance whatsoever as to what could be done to reform the family law court system. No alternatives to litigation were presented and this is a shame considering there is a very effective and sensible alternative to divorce litigation: Mediation.

Parties that mediate the settlement of their divorce are able to avoid the court system and remain in control of their children, their assets and their future.  The parties create their own personalized settlement agreements, which include all matters of custody, child support, spousal support and the distribution of property and debt, by working together, with the help of a neutral party, i.e. the Mediator.   The Mediator works with the parties in four specific areas:

  1. Pinpointing relevant issues for settlement (usually eliminating strictly emotional issues that merely inflame parties and fuel litigious behavior);
  2. Gathering information about the children and all other relevant factual and financial information necessary for the parties to make sound settlement decisions for the present and the future (as much as practically possible);
  3. Sharing of information by the Mediator which is important for the parties in making fair and informed settlement decisions (e.g. divorce law and legal culture in the area, divorce tax law, expert information related to the effect of divorce on children and potential financial implications of various settlement decisions); and
  4. Assisting the parties in their negotiations and in reaching compromises that are mutually agreed and that give each of them the best possible opportunity for a fresh start.

Mediation prevents one spouse from gaining power over the other spouse, eliminates the aspect of an all powerful judge, helps individualize the settlement based on the needs of the family and costs a fraction of what divorce litigation costs.  As the producers of Divorce Corp correctly point out, litigation often creates more problems and difficulties for divorcing parties than it solves. Instead of focusing on helping divorcing men and women move forward with their lives, litigation tends to drag them back through all the difficulties of a marriage that has, for all intents and purposes, already ended.

Written by Jessica Wilds, Mediation Assistant

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


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