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What is Collaborative Mediation?

Trends come and go, what was hot a week ago is now passé, and things evolve. More and more, I’m seeing a trend towards Collaborative Mediation and it’s client-driven.  In this post I will define Collaborative Mediation and provide some examples so you can determine if it’s right for you. The only constant is change, which is why I was not surprised to spot this mediation trend among my collaborative colleagues and clients.  The “law” of collaborative work is that it fundamentally requires two attorneys who agree not to litigate.  While the International Association of Collaborative Professionals has not changed their guideline, it seems to be morphing in real life. IACP defines Collaborative Mediation as: Collaborative Mediation – Collaborative mediation is a style of mediation where two or more people are encouraged to work toward resolution in a transparent and peaceful manner. The goal is to support the parties to unfold the issues and create fair agreements that will stand the test of time. Collaborative Mediation is an offshoot of Collaborative Practice in that it uses the “team” vernacular and litigation is off the table.  Some collaborative practice groups (Arizona Collaborative Colleagues included) began incorporating the role of mediator into their collaborative teams as a way to overcome impasse on distinct issues.  For example, the professionals and clients might be unable to resolve a division of business assets, so they would call in a mediator to help tease out a solution. Generally, the role of the mediator in a classic Collaborative Divorce is finite and limited to problem-solving on specific issues (versus global settlement) and the mediator is not...

Summer’s End

Even though the temperatures are still blazing in the desert, days are long and the nights are sultry, for most Arizona kids, summer (meaning the summer break from school) is almost at an end.  As we approach the 2010 – 2011 school year, you should be asking yourself a few key questions: Are the kids doing well on the current parenting schedule and, if they aren’t, what changes could we make now that would help them in the new school year? Is this the right school for our children right now?  Should we consider a change to private / public / charter / Montessori / non-traditional / parochial? Do we need to address certain issues with each child individually?  For example, if one child has learning challenges, another is having behavioral issues, and your eldest is entering the hormone zone, how do  you parent each one to his and her best potential? Do we have our school year holiday schedule all worked out?  Who gets Thanksgiving and Christmas this year?  Are there any vacations on the horizon that your co-parent should be notified of? When are the upcoming teacher conferences and are both parents attending? If you like to be involved with your children’s school activities, have you worked out a schedule with your co-parent about who is bringing treats or attending field trips throughout the year? If your child’s schedule is changing, have you arranged for before or after school care?  Who will transport the kids to extracurricular activities like sports and music lessons? These are the questions that most parents are rolling around in their minds yet often don’t get around...

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...