Valentine’s Day Special: 6 Tips for Dating After Divorce

February 9, 2016

Valentines-Day-Hero-2-H

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so I’ve prepared a post-divorce dating survival cheat sheet for you. Here are 6 tips to keep in mind while dipping your toe back in that pond.

  1. Pay attention to everything your date says.  Most dates will expose their “skeletons” by at least the third date.  If you’re falling for that new guy or gal, though, the tendency is to not hear what your date is telling you.  Don’t let this happen. If you spot a red flag – a very difficult personality, a messed-up family life, an inability to hold a job, or another scary situation, do not ignore!  Once, I went over to a date’s house (after we had a few dates and I felt safe) after dinner and noticed that he still had family pictures up in the common areas of his house.  Nice, right?  But, every image of his wife had black tape over her face!  Imagine his little kids having to look at that picture of Mommy with tape over her face every time they spent time at Daddy’s house.  It was creepy – and alarming.  Goodbye, masked man.
  2. Be yourself.  If you’re not being true to yourself, you’ll probably not be able to do a very job at “scrutinizing” your date, either.  It’s a lot of work to pretend to be someone you are not . . . even a little bit.  Your intuition will be sharpest when you are relaxed.
  3. Go with your gut.  If you think your date is jerk, or a narcissist, or a phony, or whatever else you might not like, you are probably right.  Don’t make excuses for your date’s behavior or tasteless conversational choices.  Move on. 
  4. Leave your rescuing persona at home.  If you are the type of super-empathetic person – perhaps a true caretaker by heart — who tends to rescue others in need, you do not want to date until you put your own boundaries firmly in place.  People who have been through a divorce need nurturance; not more trouble.  Know your boundaries and keep them firmly in place. 
  5. Be ready for rejection.  If you can’t deal with rejection – or even mild criticism — , stick with going out to dinner with trusted friends.  Dating takes thick skin . . . and it might take a good, long while after your divorce to have the emotional fortitude to deal with the rough-and-tumble of dating.
  6. Chemistry is Key.  Attraction is either there or not.  There was one sweet man I went to dinner with who was smart, open-minded, a good conversationalist and well-liked by friends and colleagues.  But, when it was time for a goodnight kiss, I struggled.  I actually felt grossed out!  Let’s be honest.  You can’t fake romantic attraction and, even if you tried to just to have the company of another, it would most surely end in disaster for one or both of you.  I moved on . . . and you should, too.

And don’t forget to have fun!

 

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.


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.


What Experts Say You Can Teach Your Kids in Your Divorce

November 3, 2015

Graine Mediation is pleased to introduce Kristine Meldrum Denholm as our guest blogger this week.  Kristine is an award-winning journalist who often publishes stories related to families, health and emotional well-being.

communicationIf you model good communication with your spouse during a divorce, it can be a helpful lesson to your kids in learning how to handle conflict, say experts in both law and mental health.  

In The Good Karma Divorce: Avoid Litigation, Turn Negative Emotions Into Positive Actions and Get On with the Rest of Your Life (HarperOne, 2011) author Michele Lowrance, a former divorce court judge in Cook County, Illinois, recommends mediation to curtail destructive communication among divorcing spouses.

“The sight of couples who participate exuberantly in a demolition derby always disturbs me,” she wrote. “They lash out and irreparable damages are done.”

Those damages, of course, could be to your children.

Judge Lowrence told ABC’s Robin Roberts in an interview: “We watch who is enjoying the conflict, and who is compromising for the sake of the children.”

She recounted a story of a 10-year-old boy in court who said, “If only I was dead, my parents would stop fighting.’ He thought since they were always fighting over him, he caused the divorce. She recommends you tell the child—age-appropriately–why the divorce was not their fault. She also explains that when you degrade your partner, you are interrupting your child’s ability to feel safe in the world.

When you can put aside your own anger and focus instead on positive interactions with your spouse, your kids are sure to benefit.

“If you think of your spouse as a ‘difficult co-worker,’ you can still speak to each other professionally, because work needs to be done,” advises Christine Barckhoff, LCSW, a psychotherapist in Knoxville (TN) who has given divorce parenting workshops and classes. “When parents keep their communications positive, they aren’t just modeling healthy communication skills, they’re communicating respect for their children by not making the divorce more stressful on them.”

Barckhoff says if former spouses can communicate well, their children learn that while sometimes relationships end, you can continue to be a loving, respectful person.  You are also modeling handling conflict with poise, dignity and resolution.

“I made a point to not degrade their dad in front of them,” said one mom in Virginia, whose kids were 9 and 14 when they divorced. “Both my parents and myself never spoke badly about my ex in front of them. The first time they went back to visit their dad, they found out literally right before they walked in the door that he had gotten together with a friend of ours. They were angry and disappointed and wanted to come home. I took the high road and told them they didn’t have to like her, but they did have to respect her as his choice of partner.”

Her approach to a potential emotional landmine paid off. Her daughters, now happy, well-adjusted adults, enjoy a loving, close relationship with both parents. “I hope it taught them to take the high road. I hope they learned that nice counts. I guess I kind of hoped it would elevate me in their eyes, that Mom didn’t ‘diss’ anyone.”

She adds: “I always tried to teach them that you can find good in most everyone, but sometimes you have to search for it.”

Based in Northern Virginia, award-winning freelance journalist Kristine Meldrum Denholm writes articles for magazines, newspapers, as well as content for companies and websites, covering parenting, health and sports, and psychological issues.  

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.


Tax-timing a Marriage or Divorce

September 18, 2015

new-years-ball-65422478005As part of your tax planning, you need to consider an expected change in your filing status for this year or next. The frequently overlooked strategy is that the advancement or postponement of the date of a marriage or a divorce by a single day at year’s end can make a sizable difference in the amount of your tax tab for both years.

Usually, your marital status as of Dec. 31 determines your filing status for the full year. (There’s an exception: If your spouse died during the year, you can still file a joint return.) Consequently, the IRS considers you a married person for the entire year in question, even if you wed just before the ball drops in Times Square. Similarly, the IRS considers you a single person for the entire year, even if your divorce or legal separation occurs as late as Dec. 31.

Suppose, for example, that you and your prospective mate both earn roughly the same. In that event, matrimony before the close of this year may be costly. Reason: The taxes that the two of you become obligated to pay as married on your combined incomes can turn out to be a good deal more than they would be as two unmarrieds who share lodgings and report exactly the same incomes—a law quirk known as the “marriage penalty.” But if you delay the ceremony until next year, you get a reprieve from the marriage penalty for this year.

Conversely, a marriage this year can be a smart move when one of you earns the bulk of the income or considerably more than the other. Couples with dissimilar incomes frequently reap a bonus in the form of decreased taxes.

The IRS applies comparable rules to couples who divorce. Divorce close to the end of the year, and you relinquish the benefits of joint filing for the entire year. To save taxes, you have to remain married beyond Dec. 31.

Curious about the amount of your marriage penalty or bonus? There’s an easy way to find out. The Tax Policy Center, a Washington-based, nonpartisan research group, has posted a calculator at http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/mpc

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Julian Block writes and practices law in Larchmont, N.Y. and was formerly with the IRS as a special agent (criminal investigator) and an attorney. He is frequently quoted in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, and has been cited as: “a leading tax professional” (New York Times); “an accomplished writer on taxes” (Wall Street Journal); and “an authority on tax planning” (Financial Planning Magazine). This article is excerpted from “Julian Block’s Tax Tips for Marriage and Divorce,” available as a Kindle at Amazon.com and as a print copy at julianblocktaxexpert.com. Law professor James E. Maule, a professor at Villanova University School of Law and Graduate Tax Program, praised the book as “An easy-to-read and well-organized explanation of the tax rules.”  The National Association of Personal Financial Advisers says it is “A terrific reference.”  

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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