Below you’ll find a link to a good article that discusses briefly how divorce effects children at different ages. Also, the website generally provides resources that may be helpful to you if children involved as you go about ending a marriage whether through divorce mediation or a litigated divorce process.
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The following 4 tips are offered as a continuation from the previous divorce mediation blog article posted on 1/16/13. These are additional considerations when preparing for a peaceful divorce in the Bay Area.
4. Research Support & Counseling Options
The ending of a marriage is often one of the most painful experiences people will go through in their lives. Do not under estimate the need for support as you are going through it. Even when you have good friends and family members to talk to, having unbiased trained support is still a good idea. Further, I assure you that it gets exhausting listening to anyone as they go through the process. You will most likely want to talk about what is going on and how you are feeling, and you should. There are many great therapists out there, and many divorce support groups. Do yourself a favor and at least consider that this might be something helpful to you at some point during or after your marriage ends.
Also, if you have children, you should research therapists that specialize in working with children going through divorce. Your child may or may not adjust well to the news. This type of research is to simply to be prepared if your child does not seem to be coping well. Most therapists tend to specialize and have experience in different areas. Knowing what resources are available, and the potential costs is helpful to your planning process.
5. Talk to An Accountant
Another important person to consult during your planning process is an accountant. An account can be very helpful in explaining your finances, and advising you regarding various tax and accounting matters related to ending your marriage. For example, there are potential tax considerations to understand regarding paying or receiving both child support and spousal support. Understanding these matters will help you in formulating the best plan for you and your children.
6. Research Divorce Mediators
Because it is important that your divorce mediator is a viewed as a neutral between the spouses, a divorce mediator should not meet with you without your spouse present. If one, or the other, of the spouses has had a prior meeting with the mediator, this normally prompts a bias. However, you can conduct some preliminary research to find divorce mediators in the Bay Area that are experienced, and get an idea of their fees for your planning purposes.
7. Put Together A Plan and Backup Plans
Once you have a good grasp on all your current costs and potential future expenses, you are in a good position to put together your game plan. You should have an ideal plan, and backup plans. You need to plan your finances accordingly for your worst-case scenario. If you cannot afford to get divorced, you would be better served to wait until you have a plan in place for getting the money. If you feel strongly that your marriage needs to, or is going to end, you will do you and your family a great favor by planning for your divorce before you take action.
For any questions regarding divorce mediation, please contact Lisa Nelson at San Francisco Area Mediation (SFAM) at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation.
The most important thing you can do to minimize the potential conflict involved with ending a marriage is to plan for your divorce. You will have a much great chance of being able to utilize tools such as divorce mediation if you have researched and developed a game plan. Ending a marriage is a huge, complicated ordeal. It deserves a thoughtful, calculated approach. Here are some things you should consider doing in your planning process.
1) Research & Talk to Attorneys
You should become aware of what to expect when going through a divorce, and how much it is going to cost. Even if you hope to use divorce mediation and avoid a contested divorce, you should be aware of what is involved in a divorce proceeding. It is prudent to know your worst-case options, but aim for the best-case scenario. Divorce mediation is a voluntary process. Thus, if both parties do not agree to try it, or decide at any point not continue with it, then you would have to go through a court divorce proceeding to end your marriage. The good news is that most divorce attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation. You should interview more than one divorce attorney. This is a great way to get an overview of what to expect, as well as get a feel for different attorneys. Come prepared with questions. In a best-case scenario, your spouse will be open to divorce mediation. In a worst-case scenario, your spouse fights the divorce the entire way. You should especially understand the costs of your worst-case scenario. You do not want to be in the middle of a divorce battle and run out of money to pay your attorney, or the other expenses involved in preparing for contested hearings regarding property and children issues.
2) Research Housing Alternatives
At some point you and your spouse will need to separate. Being in separate spaces as you work through your ending your marriage is a good idea for a number of reasons. As a general matter, it is very difficult for spouses to negotiate the terms of their divorce when they are residing in the same space. Let’s face it, for most spouses this is going to be a very emotional time. You both need your space to think and deal apart from one another. However, you should consult a divorce attorney for advice regarding possible legal ramifications (especially if children are involved) of moving out of the marital home in your particular situation. Another good reason to separate is to reduce the conflict in your household. This is especially important if children are involved. I assure you your children will suffer and feel in the middle if you and your spouse engage in spitting matches in the home.
To this end, you need to carefully consider your options and have a plan, and backup plans regarding your housing. If you do not want to stay in the house, or are unable to (because the conflict is too much or because a temporary court order removes you), where are the possible places you could reside (with and without your children)? How much do the places cost? When are you able to move in? If you want to your children to be residing with you at least part-time, then you must have adequate space for them. This may be an involved process in you live in an area such as the San Francisco Bay area where housing is expensive and limited. This is all part of your alternative planning.
3) Access and Copy Documents
While you are residing in the same home as your spouse, you have easier access to the types of documents that you will need for ending your marriage –whether it is through divorce mediation or a litigated divorce procedure in San Francisco. You want to be able to access, and at least make copies of all the various documents that you will need. These include documents and statements regarding credit cards, mortgages, automobile loans, investments, bank accounts, etc. (See my previous posts for a more through discussion of the types of documents you will need).
For any questions regarding divorce mediation, please contact Lisa Nelson at San Francisco Area Mediation (SFAM) at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation. SFAM provides divorce mediation services for clients in the Bay Area. Offices are conveniently located in San Mateo and San Francisco counties.
If you are ending a marriage and teenage children are involved, you should consider addressing a few other issues in your divorce mediation sessions –such as transferring children, involving counselors, and setting healthy, consistent boundaries. Appropriate communication with and in front of your children is still an important matter to discuss in divorce mediation when teenagers are involved (see Part 2). Additionally, being consistent with schedules is essential (See Part 2). As teenagers begin to have independent lives and get involved in activities, such as employment, it becomes increasingly significant to have a schedule in place upon which they can depend and plan around.
How to handle the physical transfer of children between households is something divorcing parents should consider discussing in divorce mediation for children of all ages. As always the focus should be on minimizing conflict –as this is in the best interests of your children. Particulars that might be discussed in divorce mediation include: where will the transfer occur; and who will be present at the transfer. If the two of you cannot engage without conflict, maybe it is better to pick up and drop children off at neural home, such as a grandparent. If a new romantic interest is going to be upsetting to the situation, then perhaps efforts should be made to avoid that person being present. If child-related issues need to be discussed, how will they be handled? For instance, can you agree to go somewhere outside of the earshot of the children, or discuss them on the phone before or after the pick up? Keep in mind that it is very upsetting to children to be in the middle of any sort of conflict between their parents. Efforts now to address some of these issues in divorce mediation, and come to agreements, will be helpful later.
It is not uncommon for teenagers (and school age children too) to have a difficult time adjusting to their parents’ divorce. Even with the most well intentioned parents, children often feel in the middle of the conflict, or blame themselves for the situation. Behaviors to watch out for include failing grades, personality changes, disassociation from friends or family, depression, withdrawal from normal activities, and drug use. It is a good idea to discuss in divorce mediation what you intend to do if you observe that your child is not adjusting well to the divorce. Will you get your children in counseling? How will you choose a counselor? Who will pay for it? Children may or may not be receptive to the idea of therapy, but they will definitely be more receptive if both parents are encouraging.
While it is tempting to want to be more of a friend to your children when they reach their teenage years, this is precisely the time when they are looking to you as parents to help them set good, healthy boundaries. This is sometimes a tricky area to mediate, but the discussion might center around keeping similar rules regarding when children need to be home, how they are to check in, how and what information needs to be provided regarding sleepovers, etc. This is your opportunity to try and get on the same page with your spouse about these issues. It will have negative ramifications for your children if one parent is the “good-time Charlie”, while the other attempts to set healthy boundaries. Children unfortunately end up learning the hard way (often through unfortunate experiences) when parents give their children mixed messages.
For any questions regarding divorce mediation, please contact Lisa Nelson at San Francisco Area Mediation at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation.
Parenting Time Schedules
Children will pretty much go along with any parenting schedule and be okay with it, so long as it is consistent. Children must know when they are coming and going, and it must not change (at least not very often and without good reason). Keeping to the schedule and making that schedule readily available to the children are very important. Once a schedule is worked out in divorce mediation, it is a good idea to highlight it and post it on the refrigerator (or other common place) at each home. Parents should attempt to negotiate a parenting time schedule that works best for the both the parents and children, with the understanding that both parents’ and children’s schedules may likely change throughout childhood. Be prepared to have to sit down and mediate again if jobs change, or activities for children change.
Keep in mind that you will only ever be able to effectively control what happens during the time when your children are with you. Thus, if there are particular activities that you want your children to experience, you will only be able to advance those activities during your time. You will need the future support of your former spouse regarding other activities, which may interfere with his or her time. Thus, you both have very good incentives to communicate and work together for not only the kids’ sake, but yours too.
Appropriate Conversation & Communication
It is important to discuss and agree upon during mediation what is, and what is not, appropriate conversation and communication with (and in front of) your children. For example, telling your children that you are divorcing is appropriate. Tell them why you are divorcing is not. Also, it is not appropriate for either parent to talk negatively about the other parent in front of (or in ear shot of) the children. This is putting your children in the middle of your fight and it will negatively affect your children. Talking about issues related to your children such as money or other adult issues you may have with your former spouse is not appropriate. Again this is putting your children in the middle of adult matters. It is in your children’s best interest if you and your spouse can agree in mediation to not discuss such matters in front of the children.
Some mediation issues need tangible documents available to engage in a productive negotiation. Child support is one of those issues. All domestic courts require that that the parties address child support issues for all minor children. To calculate child support amounts, your mediator will need to know various income related information, childcare costs, health insurance costs, and possibly other child related expense information. It makes no sense to discuss those issues without the parties having documents to support those figures. Parties can avoid conflict by bringing to divorce mediation documents to support those numbers.
Not only are documents that evidence financial figures necessary to run child support calculations necessary, but also, documents such as school and activity schedules are essential for negotiating parenting time. Do not waste your time in a divorce mediation session not having these necessary documents with you.
For any questions regarding divorce mediation, please contact Lisa Nelson at San Francisco Area Mediation at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation.
Helpful Tips & Considerations for Mediating Child Related Issues (Part 1 of 3 – Ages Birth to Toddler)
The suggestions provided in this 3-part series are useful for divorce mediation when children are involved. Domestic courts will require that the parties submit a parenting plan that addresses a variety of key issues. However, a domestic judge is not going to micromanage parents. A parenting plan is your opportunity to address parenting issues that are most important to you. Some of the considerations discussed in this three part series of articles apply generally to mediating a successful parenting plan regarding children of all ages, while others are more important depending upon the age of the children.
The general aim is to try to do what is in the best interest of your children. With very young children, parents should attempt to keep consistent schedules at both homes. Consistent feeding and sleep schedules are especially important. Also, parents should try their best to communicate and support on another with development tasks such as potty training and the like. You may want to take the opportunity during mediation to discuss and come to some common ground on those types of issues.
Another very important issue to discuss in mediation is how to handle emergencies, regardless of the age of the child. Every parent wants to be made aware of an emergency. Parents should decide who will be called, when, and provide one another with contact numbers (and backup emergency contact numbers).
As a general matter, you should realize that change is inevitable and that even with the most comprehensive and thoughtful plan, unanticipated situations will occur. This is especially the case when you are crafting a shared parenting plan that is intended to suffice through an entire childhood. Thus, it is important to have a conversation regarding how you will handle the unexpected situations that your parenting plan does not address. Heading into court to resolve an unexpected conflict is normally a costly and unsatisfying experience. Including a provision that the parties agree to attempt mediation is normally a more effective option.
Please contact Lisa Nelson, Divorce Mediator at San Francisco Area Mediation today at (650) 556-880 for a free initial consultation regarding your family matter.