Archive for collaborative divorce – Page 2

Top Five Principles for Successful Family Law Conflict Managers

In my years as a consensual dispute resolution professional, I have gotten to know a lot of professionals who try to manage conflict in divorce and family law situations. Some are very successful… and others not so much. I have compiled a list of my top five principles for successful family law conflict managers.

Mediating manager ponders about new business ideas. A light bulb as a concept of new ideas.

1. PATIENCE

This is not a race. Parties involved in a divorce are in crisis both emotionally and often financially. Don’t expect them to just reach a compromise in five minutes. The temptation is to try to “cut to the chase.” After all, we probably have an idea of where the settlement is long before the parties do because of our experience. But the parties need to “own” the agreement and they can’t if we just decide it for them and then try to force it on them.

Our job is NOT to twist arms. Our job in successful dispute resolution is to help the parties find solutions. In my experience, arm-twisting rarely results in a lasting settlement. It does, however, leave a terrible taste in the mouth of the person whose arm you just twisted. If people feel pressured or forced, we may reach a settlement, but it is unlikely we will have been able to help the parties reach a transformative outcome. Worst of all, they will resent us.

Rather, we should let the case proceed organically. We will guide, inspire and motivate– but never, ever force.

2. HUMILITY

Newsflash! It’s the parties’ case- not yours. Your job is to help guide people to a respectful outcome. You are not the finder of solutions or the sage of wisdom. Your job is to shine a light on problems and help the parties find their own solutions.

I have seen mediators brandish their stats as a weapon in mediation. For example, parties may be stuck at impasse and the mediator says, “I have a 98% settlement rate and you are ruining my statistics!” Your dispute resolution statistics, as far as the parties are concerned, are completely irrelevant to their problems. Sure, you try and find solutions, but the moment you invest yourself personally invested in the outcome as a matter of pride, you are doing your parties a huge disservice.

In my experience, most of the best ideas come from the parties not me. While I sometimes see myself as the “brainstormer-in-chief” trying to provide as many ideas as possible that the parties may not yet have thought of, I never lose site of the reality that the case belongs to the parties. My most important job in brainstorming, however, is not to be the one with the great idea. Rather, I strive to create an environment were the parties can find the solutions on their own. I am the facilitator. I am not the decider. My personal pride is not important.

3. EMPATHY

Perhaps the most important skill a mediator can learn is the ability to listen. I am not talking about the superficial surface listening. I mean deep, empathic listening.

To help parties settle, you have to really understand the conflict. This requires more than just listening to words. You need pay attention to body language and non-verbal cues. Prepare yourself to dig deep to find out what really motivates a party and what his or her interests truly are. Yes, she may be telling you that it is about the house or the best interests of the kids. But maybe down deep, she is really just afraid or insecure about her future. In such a situation, no financial settlement can satisfy the party who is afraid until the fear is acknowledged and addressed. This may take some digging to find, but until you do, you won’t help the parties reach a lasting settlement.

I find that I have to make sure I listen with more than just my ears. I also listen with my eyes, my heart and my soul.

Good dispute resolution requires your humanity.  Remember, this isn’t just a legal process; it’s a human experience. Until we can get into the world our clients are experiencing, we are limited in what we can help them unlock for themselves.

4. FLEXIBILITY

Because I work with people, I have learned to be ready and open for the unexpected. People don’t fit into compartments. My dispute resolution process, therefore, needs to have flexibility built in. A good mediator or dispute resolver can pivot quickly. Rigidity is the enemy of success when people are involved.

My mantra is “People before process.” While we may be very proud of our protocols and systems, the moment we allow them to drown out the needs of the clients, we miss the whole point of our service—to guide and help PEOPLE. We will keep our processes and protocols, but won’t be afraid to modify when the needs of the parties dictate a change.

5. PRINCIPLED BOUNDARIES

While it is important to be empathic and flexible, it is still important to have principles and boundaries, which we don’t compromise. For instance, I don’t ever let a party compromise my neutrality. I also insist on clarity surrounding how a party can communicate with me outside of the dispute resolution process. I guard my weekends and off hours, which are reserved for my own family. These and other principles and boundaries will not only preserve my own sanity, but they also communicate to the client that this is a business transaction and that there is a professional process that is deserving of respect.

While I am all about compassion and kindness, I am not a family member or a friend. I am a professional with a job to do. I do that job best when there are boundaries. Whenever I have allowed a boundary to be compromised, I regret it because the case almost always will go south.

I have found these principles to be crucial to my own practice. Perhaps you have other principles you would like to share. Let me know what works for you!

Read also:

Dolphin Lawyering: Why I can be an advocate without being a shark

We don’t get along very well. How can we possibly mediate our divorce?

Why “Fair” is the F-Word in Divorce Negotiations

Five Tips to Reduce Your Divorce Stress that Most Attorneys Won’t Tell You

Stress Management ConceptDivorce and legal separation can be an extraordinarily difficult time in a person’s life. Clearly, divorce is not just a legal process; it’s a human experience. Although there are legal and financial questions to address, the transitioning of the family is not without a good deal of divorce stress. Here are some ideas to help manage the divorce stress that a lot of attorneys will never share with you:

Consider a No-court Option

If you ever want to get depressed, spend a day at the family court observing the poor folks being shuffled through adversarial litigation. At court, the lawyers make a lot of money and the parties cede the control of their futures to attorneys and strangers in black robes. While some cases require court, most do not. There are many consensual dispute resolution options available such as mediation or Collaborative Practice that can keep you and your family out of court. Ask your attorney if she offers no-court divorce options.  If she doesn’t, then look elsewhere.

Consider Hiring a Divorce Coach

Resist the temptation to use your attorney as a therapist. In Collaborative Practice, mental health professionals assist as members of a team hand-in-glove with attorneys and financial professionals. While not doing therapy, coaches help the parties in a divorce situation deal with the emotions and the divorce stress. EVERYONE can benefit from time with a divorce coach. Even clients, who think they are handling the divorce stress without a coach, are often surprised with how much a mental health professional makes things go more smoothly. If nothing else, learning how to interact with you now estranged spouse and your kids during this difficult time is of huge benefit and can significantly reduce your stress. While divorce coaches are most typically used in Collaborative Practice, I have had a great deal of success incorporating coaches in mediation or even adversarial litigation.

Consider Hiring a Divorce Financial Specialist

Finances can be one of the biggest causes of divorce stress. Resist the temptation to use your attorney as a financial planner. I can tell you, most attorneys went to law school so they wouldn’t have to do math. As such, this is not the person to ask for financial advice. Hiring a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst is a great way to get good financial advice and to find clarity regarding money—even if you were not the spouse who handled the money. There is no reason to suffer in financial ignorance. Financial knowledge is empowering!

a worried woman feeling divorce stressTake care of your body

Most people when they are stressed out first neglect taking care of themselves. When folks get scared or depressed, the temptation is to forget your health. Don’t do that! Besides, exercise is a great way to blow off steam. Join a kick boxing class. Lift weights. Put a punching bag in your bedroom. Also, make sure you are eating well. Eating too little or too much can exacerbate your divorce stress. You need good fuel for your body, mind and spirit.Get into the Spirit of Things. Prayer and mediation can be great ways to center yourself to deal with stress. No matter what your religious background, taking time to be mindful through meditation or prayer can significantly strengthen you. Talk to clergy or a spiritual advisor to find the best way for you to fuel your soul.

sport, box and people concept - young man in gloves boxing with

Forgive your Ex. This is a tough one for many people. But hate can do more to damage the hater than anyone else. So, look for ways to let go of your anger and forgive. Maybe the marriage is over, but holding on to hurt and resentment does little to help you move on. Look forward. Don’t look back! You will find that your load is much lighter.

Beautiful Woman Doing Breath Exercises With An Autumn Background

 

 

Try these steps to reduce divorce stress

These are only a few ideas to reduce your stress during a divorce or legal separation. But if you take even just these tips to heart and implement them in your life, you will find that you will be strong as you go through this difficult time in transition your family. Don’t fret. There is a light to the end of the tunnel!

Other articles related to divorce stress:

Stress, Divorce and Down Dog by San Diego Attorney Win Heiskala

CNBC: Collaborative divorce can ease emotional, economic stress by Deborah Nason

Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace

Will I be able to keep the house?

Helpful Hotlines

 

Reducing Reactivity in Divorce

Sometimes a divorce or family law case can be like a perfect storm.  The fissile material of fear, hurt and anger can lead people to make terrible choices as they navigate a very difficult legal process.  This video offers tips on how to reduce reactivity in divorce to help encourage a peaceful, cost-effective and amicable divorce.

We Don’t Get Along Very Well. How Can We Possibly Mediate Our Divorce?

Conflict between the man and the woman prior to divorce mediation

Peace and harmony are not prerequisites for divorce mediation.

Some people believe that a prerequisite for consensual dispute resolution options like Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Practice is that the parties have to get along or trust each other. That is simply not the case!

A good divorce mediator or collaborative practitioner knows how to get to the heart of the issues even when there is significant conflict. We consensual dispute resolution (CDR) professionals understand that people need our services when there is a dispute to resolve. Conflict is an inherent part of dispute resolution.

CDR professionals are not afraid of conflict.

They have training to get to the heart of what is keeping you from settling. I call these “fault lines”.  A significant part of my work with couples in divorce mediation is taking the time to really listen and understand where the fault lines are and what is causing them. That way I can help.

With divorcing couples, I never just expect things to be easy. After all, you are divorcing for a reason. Surely things up until now have not been all butterflies and rainbows.

My mission is to bring humanity to legal situations to clarify the dynamics of each unique situation in a manner that reveals options for settlement, preserves the long-term interest of the family, and empowers the individual client. I have a profound ability to get into the world my clients are experiencing and feeling to uncover the necessary clarity in each divorce relationship dynamic. From there, I can use my gifts to bring a sense of calm, resolve and hope that could never be reached in adversarial litigation.

So, I take time. I listen – carefully. I try to help bridge the gaps. It’s often quite emotional. It’s only rarely easy. But, if the parties work hard to stretch to find a settlement, I can usually help.

If you are having trouble getting along, don’t let that stop you. There are few cases that must go to court. It’s my job to get you past the conflict and help you find peace for you and your family.

What?!?! How could we have been so wrong about the divorce rate?

Conflict between the man and the womanFor years I had pretty much taken it as gospel the popular statistic that 50% of all marriages end in divorce.  It seemed to fit an apocalyptic narrative, which seemed to fit to the time.  But recent evidence shows that although divorce rates increased and peaked during the 1970s and 1980s, rates have actually been declining steadily ever since.  In other words, we were dead wrong and its wrong to keep repeating it.

Read about it here and here.

Now… that doesn’t mean that people aren’t divorcing.  Fortunately for me and perhaps unfortunately for the rest of the world, my family law practice is humming right along.  I don’t seem to have a shortage of divorce cases coming through my door.  So, I still hold to this sentiment: although I may not be able to change the fact that people get divorced, I may be able to change HOW they divorce.

That’s why I offer out of court consensual dispute resolution options like mediation and Collaborative Practice.  I simply believe that helping families transition without the need for adversarial litigation makes the world just a little better and makes the lives of those going through the divorce way better.

Video Post: Why I Absolutely Love Collaborative Practice For Divorce Cases

Family Law Attorney and Mediator Shawn Weber explains why he loves Collaborative Practice for resolving divorce and family law cases.