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Mediation: Two Views

This month I worked with two very different couples in two very different mediations, and it occurred to me that if you are in the divorce process, you know nothing of other clients’ experiences, which might be helpful in making a decision about mediation. Here’s the back story:  Couple A (let’s call them Anne and Arturo) and Couple B (Ben and Barb) have more than a few things in common.  They are all working professionals, but at different levels of pay.  Both couples have one young child (Abby and Boris).  They both have moderate debt and assets.  They are all smart and capable, and they all want a divorce that preserves their sanity, resources, and relationship as co-parents of their children.  And both couples chose mediation as the vehicle for settling their divorce. Anne and Arturo have a very communicative relationship, even now, in the midst of divorce.  They share equal time with Abby and talk about her to each other all the time.  Anne tends to be more outgoing and decisive, while Arturo is more quiet and contemplative.  They have been working through their issues in mediation two hours at a time for several months.  We are almost at resolution, with only a few details left to hammer out, and Anne and Arturo both needed this time to fully process and absorb the agreements they were making.  They have thoroughly reviewed their settlement documents at least three times, and are giving them a final review before signing.  Anne and Arturo have repeatedly told me how much they appreciate the fact that we never rush or pressure them to agree to anything they don’t understand or...

How to Choose A Divorce Attorney

My cousin (who is also an attorney, but not in Arizona and not in family law) sent me a message a few days ago, on behalf of her friend who is getting divorced.  Jana’s question was, “how does Amy choose a divorce attorney and what questions should she be asking?”   By the time I was finished with the email, I realized that there are probably lots of “Amy” people in the world (both men and women) who are bewildered, confused, scared, and stressed, but still need to make a smart decision.  Here’s what I told Amy ~ First, you should decide what kind of divorce you want: do-it-yourself with legal consulting and/or drafting of documents, mediation, arbitration, Collaborative Divorce, negotiated settlement, or litigation. Those are listed in order of expense from under $2,000 to $50,000 and up.  There’s more information on our Services page that describes these options.  This is probably the most critical step in the process, because not all attorneys are suited to all types of divorce. Then, when you have decided what kind of divorce you want, you should call several therapists and NON-family law firms and ask for a referral to a family law attorney for (i.e.) mediation. If you get the same name twice, you’ll know that the person is at least somewhat respected by their peers. I don’t recommend asking friends for a referral because most people who get a divorce either think their attorney was the best or worst that ever lived with no frame of reference other than their own divorce. Now that you have an idea of what kind of divorce you want and have a list of attorneys to call, you should get...

Divorce Recovery = Prevention

We are all familiar with the horror stories about nasty divorces, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, taking years to complete, and leaving the family in ruins.  Unfortunately, that scenario (or one similar) is pretty much the norm in our society.  The emotion-fueled “intimate war” is promoted and glamorized by Hollywood divorces, daytime television, greedy lawyers, and unenlightened spouses who want to have their “pound of flesh” for sins both real and imagined.  Can you ever recover from such a traumatic and devastating experience?  Maybe, with a lot of counseling and inner reflection.  On the other hand, we are now seeing the fallout from those types of divorces in adult children — books and web articles abound and none other than Oprah has featured adult children of divorce on her wildly popular talk show.  If you are the divorced person, there are (according to Google) 1.36 million resources on the web, including support groups in every city, at most places of worship, and at community centers. From where I sit, I think the best recovery program is prevention.  Rather than having to experience and then recover from a bitter and harrowing divorce experience, why not nip it in the bud and avoid the mess in the first place? What?  Too difficult to bite your tongue and put aside your base instincts in favor of a peaceful divorce?  Well, here’s a news flash.   That’s what divorce litigators are counting on.  Want to drag out all the dirty laundry and make your spouse “pay” for their bad acts?  Yippee!  That means more (and more) billable hours!  Can’t bring yourself to have a civil conversation about exchanging...

Summer Vacation

Summer Vacation is just around the corner — only a few weeks away!  I know, it’s hard to believe, and that means trips, child care, and camp.  To make sure that you and your co-parent are on the same page, make sure to review your parenting orders and start planning now.  Here are some things to consider: Give timely notice of your vacation plans, if it’s required by your orders.  Don’t wait until the last minute to let your co-parent know your vacation dates.  Remember, holidays trump vacation, so pay attention to Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays. Provide a detailed itinerary, including mode of travel, route, flight numbers (if applicable), hotel or lodging information, phone numbers, and departure and arrival times.  No, it’s not too much information and it’s not about control or permission.  This type of information can be critical in the event of an emergency situation. Coordinate the child care or summer camp that your child will be attending so that there is no unnecessary overlap or expense.  One-sided decisions about where Joey and Suzi will be spending their summer days is not endearing to your co-parent! Extended family visits require additional coordination.  If you want the kids to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm for a month during the summer, consider how that may impact  your co-parent’s summer plans before you make a promise you can’t keep.  First, talk it over with your co-parent to find out if it’s feasible and then consider whether the two of you want to agree on some “make up” time.  Some co-parents simply agree that time away from both parents is “regular” parenting...

Sell, Hold, Short Sell, Foreclose?

Oh my, we are in a pickle here in Arizona.  Our real estate bubble burst with a bang and left many homeowners under water and holding real estate — and debt — without equity.  We’re not alone in that dilemma, but we are one of the hardest hit areas of the country and are regularly featured in national news stories about the mortgage lending and foreclosure crisis. If you are living in an upside down house, love it beyond reason, and intend to stay there the rest of your life, then it’s probably a good idea to hang onto it.  However, if you’re in the midst of a divorce or break up and one salary won’t cover the carrying costs, you are probably having a very different conversation.  And that conversation can be making you anxious, stressed, depressed, sad, angry, resentful, or all of the above!  While there are many opinions and theories about what you “should” do or “should not” do regarding underwater real estate, in the final analysis, it is a very personal financial decision.  It is not (or should not be) an emotional decision.  Houses are investments, in the form of real property, that you and/or your marital community made.  The investment is neither good nor bad.  The return on investment, however, has made millionaires of some and bankrupted many thousands more. Clients ask me all the time, “Should we sell, hold, short sell, or foreclose?”  While I don’t pretend to have all the answers to every issue that one simple question implies, I do have two answers.  One, please call on a professional to assist you in evaluating the issue.  I recommend...