Tuesday, June 25, 2013

12 Tips to Prepare for Divorce Mediation

mediation divorce parents kids settlement legal

In divorce, mediation is a process whereby a neutral third-party facilitates settlement negotiations. The mediator has no authority regarding the resolution and each party has complete control over whether or not they reach an agreement. If you are unable to reach an agreement during mediation, you still retain the right for your case to be heard before a court.

Divorce is a unique legal matter for parties may remain connected after a settlement and have a future relationship. A contested trial can be very difficult emotionally, so if you can do meditation and an uncontested divorce settlement, then it will benefit all parties.

In a trial, the court decides what each party will receive in a settlement, while in mediation you retain a wish list, negotiate, and compromise your desires for the future good of the relationship.

Here are some guidelines for mediation to be successful for both parties:

  1. Remain cordial and respectful of your partner.
  2. Be prepared and have a checklist of all the things you need to discuss.
  3. Make offers and be open to hear disagreement or other ideas without issuing ultimatums.
  4. Volunteer and disclose all necessary information regarding assets.
  5. Keep your eye on the clock and make sure your mediation sessions are fruitful by making concrete agreements. If nothing useful happens within the first hour or two, you may want to consider other legal options.
  6. Make the first step regarding settlement and show your desire to reach an agreement through mutual trust.
  7. Be creative and flexible so you can work together to find the best possible outcome. Always be open to negotiating and looking at the benefits of alternative solutions.
  8. Keep your painful emotions such as anger, grief, frustration, etc., out of the equation. Plan for this ahead of time so that you go into negotiations with your feelings checked at the door. Look at the proposal with a clear eye of observing the facts of your situation so as to determine what's best for you, your spouse, and your family.
  9. Appoint a special decision maker, a neutral person who you both trust and will respect their decisions on disputed matters such as custody in the future after your divorce is finalized.
  10. If you have children, consider a joint custody arrangement such as the popular 5/2 2/5. This is a predictable way of raising kids where no more than 5 days will go by without seeing your children. One parent takes Monday and Tuesday while the other parent takes Wednesday and Thursday then have every other weekend which will either be Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to one parent and then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to the other parent. The children have a set routine and always know where they are suppose to be.
  11. Go through the house and figure out what each person wants. If there are any disagreements regarding the division of property, agree to flipping a coin. Flip the coin and if it comes up heads the older person picks what they want most and then younger person picks something (tails the reverse). Then switch off with the younger person going first and the older person going second on the next item. Keep going back and forth until all property has been equally divided.
  12. Keep all the family photos even if it feels painful at first. Make duplicates if necessary so you can share them equally. If you have kids, do not cut the other parent out of your photos for this is an important part of their personal history, and they will want to have these memories as they grow up.

How To Find A Mediator

Talk to friends and family and ask for a referral. Clergy, therapists, attorneys, and state mediation associations might also have names for you. When interviewing, ask the mediator how many mediations they have under their belt, the rate of their success, how long it takes, what kind of couples are suited for mediation, and the cost.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Saving a Marriage or Love Relationship and Avoiding Divorce

saving marriage avoiding divorce books imago

I'm definitely not the poster child for avoiding a breakup or divorce and saving a marriage. In many ways, divorce was a tool for my marriage to go from conflict to a growing relationship. I don't have any regrets and see that who I am now wouldn't have been possible without having chosen divorce.

Nevertheless, we didn't have any children, and I do believe that this factor may have added a whole new spin to my decision making. My parents have been together for over 50 years, and I have admired their ability to love each other, find compromise, and make personal sacrifices within a relationship. I believe a healthy, committed relationship has enormous value, and taking the time to evaluate and see if there are workable solutions that allow you to remain together seems like an important step in the process. 

I had two post-divorce experiences where the light bulb went off in my head. Times where I heard myself saying, "Wow, I wish I had read this book while I was still married."

One of those books was the The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman. After reading this book, many of the conflicts within our marriage made total sense to me. I could see how I didn't completely understand what my husband needed to thrive; and more importantly, I realized how I didn't have the tools to express what I needed from others or myself to feel loved. It was like a lightening bolt hit me.

If you are separated or thinking about breaking up, I urge you to read The Five Languages of Love. If your partner is a willing to save your relationship, then hopefully they will want to read it too. You can download my brief summary of the different languages of love by clicking here. I guarantee that reading this brief summary of The Five Languages of Love will have a powerful impact on your thoughts about all types of relationships (e.g., parent-child, friends, lovers, coworkers, etc.)

The second "aha" moment came when I was engaging in Imago dialogue after my divorce. I had read a little bit about Imago relationships, but had never taken the time during my marriage to learn this technique. It's HUGE! I won't go into a lot of detail, but Imago is a canned conversation that allows partners to listen and empathize with each other in a safe and trusting environment. It's a disciplined practice, and it's very powerful. To read more about Imago click here. It's best to have a Imago coach or therapist help you and your partner learn and practice the dialogue, but if you want to see what the structure of the conversation looks like, click here to download the Imago Dialogue.

The idea of a canned conversation may sound silly, but the beauty of this practice is that it is not about finding solutions or fixing problems. Rather through the natural process of deeply hearing your partner and also having the space to truly express yourself, as a couple, you develop the key components of relationship: trust, safety, and compassion. What you begin to see is that many problems don't require solutions hashed out like demands on a battlefield of love, rather because you build this intense understanding and empathy for your partner giving comes naturally.

saving relationship marriage divorce books imago
saving a relationship

If you consider your relationship relatively healthy, but you are still thinking about separating, here are some other ideas to work through before you breakup or get a divorce:

  1. If you struggle to express your feelings and thoughts to your mate, write him or her a letter. 
  2. Consider the price tag of doing therapy and possibly ending up with a meaningful relationship over the cost of getting a divorce.
  3. Make sure you do an exhaustive self-inventory of why breaking up or divorce is the only option and how you have contributed to the current state of your relationship.
  4. Let go of the fantasy that the other person needs be perfect.
  5. Reconnect through touch. Many times the distance between two people can be bridged not through talking but through a simple touch such as holding hands.
  6. Spend time learning to see your mate through new eyes as if they were a mysterious stranger. Cultivate curiosity and make a list of all the things you value in your partner.
  7. Evaluate the affect your divorce might have on your children and if you are ready to embrace your spouse's new love interests as role models for your kids.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Funny Breakup and Divorce Cards

What did mom always say? "Laughter is the best medicine."

When times are tough, being serious is often necessary, but sometimes a spattering of laughter here and there can go a long way to keeping things on track. After a breakup, you might want to hide in your hole of silent shame. However, collecting some funny breakup cards can put the situation back into perspective. If you're lucky enough to be on good terms with your ex-partner, the humor in these cards may pave the way to the two of you realizing that you both did the best you could, and it was a learning experience to grow from.

Someecards.com has a whole section of Breakup Ecards that can put the funny back into your breakup experience. Here are a few examples:

If you are experiencing a breakup, separation, or divorce, you may choose to download my FREE ebook Divorce Care Package, which offers tools and ideas for helping you through the process of letting go of a love relationship.

To have me facilitate a workshop or retreat on mending after the loss of love, check out my Web site here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Finding Happiness After a Divorce or Breakup

After your breakup or divorce, when you're ready, play more. Have fun just for the sake of having fun.

After my divorce, I've had periods of fun that come and go. They're like ocean waves I've been ready to catch. I ride them for awhile and then eventually go back to the business of healing. Playing and having fun is healthy and can provide respite and energy for when you're ready to deal with the next layer of healing.

I wouldn't push it though. Only you know if you're ready for play and adventure as well as if you're using fun as a way to avoid the more difficult emotional aspects of your breakup or divorce.

Recently I met up with the physical manifestation of play in a dream. Together we slid down a hill, and she showered me with glitter. I was mesmerized within this visual embodiment of pure joy. Nothing else existed except the laughter bubbling up from my heart.

Joy is always there. You might not be ready for it because you're in the middle of honoring some grief and suffering from your breakup or divorce. But know it exists for you. It's held in trust for you no matter the depth of your pain and ready to spill out at any time.

More importantly, look for other people who want to play too. People with no fixed agendas or expectations, but simply enjoy the experience of playing together. Seek groups of people who want to sing, dance, act, play outdoors, knit, make art, and garden together. These are your play-makers. They will help you grow, heal, and feel joy again.

For 100 random ideas that will cultivate more play in your life, download Beth's Happiness List by clicking here.

Here's a quick sampler from the list:
  1. Put bananas on everything
  2. Leave a funny joke on a stranger’s windshield
  3. Follow a butterfly
  4. Wear your fat pants all week
  5. Make silly faces in the mirror
  6. Hang out at the swings
  7. Let a kid beat you at a game
  8. Go bowling and try for gutter balls
  9. Go roller skating and request your favorite song
  10. Switch something from forwards to backwards
  11. Have a tailgate party in the parking lot after work.
  12. Make a snow angel
  13. Skip down the street
  14. Sing in the rain
  15. Jump in a mud puddle
  16. Take pictures upside down
  17. Fall in love with your bathtub
  18. Practice Kung Fu moves in your pajamas
  19. Procrastinate
  20. Lounge on the grass
If you are experiencing a breakup, separation, or divorce, you may choose to download my FREE ebook Divorce Care Package, which offers tools and ideas for helping you through the process of letting go of a love relationship.

To have me facilitate a workshop or retreat on mending after the loss of love, check out my Web site here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Breakup Care Package for Women

To be perfectly honest, when I first separated from my husband, I didn't want anyone to acknowledge the situation with gifts or helpful advice. Instead I wanted to crawl into a deep, dark hole and disappear for awhile.

In addition, a lot stuff married people were saying to me out of concern and love I just tuned out and heard, "blah, blah, blah," because listening to their views and advice felt like nails on a chalkboard. I already felt inadequate enough, and I didn't need anyone telling me where my husband or I went wrong. I just needed the space to heal.

We all have a desire to give and receive love differently. If you've arrived at this blog because you want to ease your friend's pain stemming from a breakup or divorce, you might first read a brief summary of Gary Chapman's book The Five Languages of Love by clicking here and start a dialogue with your friend concerning how best to show her love during this time.

I recommend asking your friend if she wants your help and if so what kinds of things would make her feel loved and cared for. Some women might feel incredibly nourished by gifts meant to show your care and concern while others might want to be left alone to lick their wounds in private. Some women may want to heal in solitude while others want to be distracted by a night of dancing or a funny movie. Other women may need you to give them hugs, listen to them cry in silence, or offer words of encouragement.

Don't be afraid to ask. In fact, I think anyone suffering a loss would appreciate this kind of conversation because it allows her to make choices about her life in a situation that may feel outside of her control. More importantly, a woman going through a breakup or divorce is experiencing rapid change, so what she may feel and want one day might be radically different in a week or two. So keep checking in with your friend to find out where she is at in her grieving process and try to see her afresh every day.

The most important question to ask yourself is this: "Am I trying to cheer up, heal, or fix my friend because I'm uncomfortable with her pain, and I want it to go away. Or am I truly giving her something I know she wants?"

Here are some possible questions to start a conversation with your friend:

  1. Do you want to talk about the breakup or would you rather chat about something else?
  2. Would it help to go out and have some fun or do you want to stay home and be alone?
  3. Is there anything I can give you that would help you feel more loved and cared for right now or would this feel overwhelming?
  4. Do you want me to reassure you how much I love you or do you just want me to listen in silence?
  5. Are you seeking advice about your situation or do you just want me to be a supportive presence and keep my ideas to myself?
  6. Is there anything I can help you with or do you just need me to let you do things in your own space and time?

If you discover your friend would appreciate some care taking in the form of gifts, special indulgences, positive words of affirmation, or quality time here are some ideas:

Gifts to Buy or Make

Funny cards
Chocolate and wine
Homemade cookies or treats
Bath salts
Lotion or fragrant soap
Gift certificate for a massage
Guided meditation CD
Mixed CD
Facial products
Letter from you
Book of entertaining fiction
Book of daily devotionals
Something huggable or a warm comfy blanket
Handknitted scarf
Fuzzy socks
Funny T-shirt
Gym membership
Class registration for her favorite hobby
Gift certificate to her favorite supply shop (knitting, jewelry, cooking, gardening, sewing, etc.)
Makeup (lipstick, nail polish, etc.)
Starbucks card
Favorite bag of coffee beans
Treats for her cat or dog
Book of poetry
Tarot cards

Things to Do

Manicure or pedicure
Dinner out
Game night
Shopping trip for a new outfit
Coffee and conversation
Walk or hike
Bike ride
Day at the beach
Trip to the museum
Visit to the ice cream or chocolate shop

If your friend is experiencing a breakup, separation, or divorce, you may choose to send them information about my FREE ebook Divorce Care Package, which offers tools and ideas for helping women through the process of letting go of a love relationship.