Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Divorce and Custody Agreements: Don’t Ask Why, Ask How

Often during divorce and custody settlements, people ask, “Why?”

• Why does s/he get to decide where the children will live and when I will get to see them?
• Why does s/he get to dictate how the assets will be divided?
• Why does s/he get to stay in the house?
• Why does s/he think s/he doesn’t need to provide support?
• Why…….?

The list of “why's” could go on and on. The problem with “why” questions is that they rarely help a couple/parents move toward resolving these questions.

In mediation, we move the focus away from “why” and onto “how” and “what”.

• How can the house be distributed to best meet the needs of the divided family?
• What does meaningful time with the children look like for each parent?
• How can the children’s time be spent with each parent in ways that will satisfy both the parents’ and the children’s needs?
• How can the assets and the debt be divided to best meet each party’s needs?
• What resources are available to meet the support needs of both parties?
• How can the available resources be used to meet everyone’s needs?

Remember that decisions regarding assets and debts, parenting, and support do not take place in a vacuum. While it's tempting to want to go through them like a checklist, in reality they are all connected and need to be approached with a broader perspective.

Use the mediation process to be creative! Together with the mediator, ask lots of “what” and “how” questions. Really think about your answers before backing yourself into a corner with a position that turns out not to be right for you or your family at all.

For example, parenting time (what used to be called "visitation") and the primary residence of the children are cornerstone decisions that will also affect housing and support issues. Challenge yourselves to think beyond the old formulas and start asking meaningful questions about these issues.

• What is best for the child(ren)?
• How can the parenting plan minimize the effects of divorce on the children?
• How can the parenting schedule minimize the time the child(ren) are in daycare?
• What do the children feel about parenting time and residence?
• How close do the parents live to each other?
• How can the parenting plan minimize the amount of time the children spend traveling from one parent to the other?
• How can the parenting plan put the children’s needs and feelings ahead of the parents’ needs?

Separation and parenting agreements are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Let the questions “what” and “how” guide you to the solution that will work best for you. Mediation can help!

© 2008, Mary Wollard, J.D., Family Solutions Center, www.cofamilysolutions.com

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Every Other Weekend Is Not The Only Answer For Divorcing Parents: How Mediation Can Create Parenting Plans That Really Work

More and more parents are looking for ways to avoid lawyers and court when facing divorce or separation. And more and more, they are turning to mediation.

Mediation can help parents create successful parenting plans, even when the parents don’t seem to be getting along very well. The mediator is a neutral participant who works with the parents to help them keep their focus on the children and develop options they might not have thought of.

Many parents have preconceived notions about what a parenting plan should look like. They've seen examples on television, in the movies and in other families. One of the most common parenting plans that people perceive as "normal," is that the children are with one parent most of the time, and with the second parent every other weekend and a couple of weeks in the summer.

As well, parents often come to the table with the notion that one parent will "win" and one parent will "lose."

Both of these myths are outdated and untrue. Parenting plans can be as unique and creative as the people who come up with them, and they can be designed so that everybody wins.

Mediators will encourage parents to be creative and flexible. And each parent is given the opportunity to talk about what they would really like to see in a parenting plan and parenting schedule, to consider what the children might want or need from the parenting plan, to work out solutions that meet everyone's needs and desires, and to develop a plan that is unique to them.

There is no one parenting plan that works for all families all of the time. Allow the possibilities to grow!

© 2008, Mary Wollard, Family Solutions Center, www.cofamilysolutions.com

Monday, January 21, 2008

Are You Sharing Nicely When It Comes To The Children? Mediation Can Serve As A Reality Check For Your Parenting Plan

Every parent has told their children many times that they have to be nice and share. To sweeten the job of sharing, parents may get each child involved, so that, for example, one child divides the pile of candy and the other child chooses first.

When parents are sharing children, it's just as important that the same niceties are observed, and that each parent is involved in creating a balanced parenting schedule. If the schedule favors one parent with significantly more time than the other, that second parent is much less likely to comply with the plan.

Mediation serves as a reality check for parents when they are working out the details of a parenting plan and parenting schedule. For example, from an objective perspective, a mediator may ask one parent if s/he would be willing to accept the schedule if the roles were reversed. If the answer is a resounding NO, the mediator can lead the parents into a discussion of how the schedule could be more balanced in the quantity and quality of the parenting time for both parents.

Shared balance in a parenting schedule does not necessarily mean equal time for each parent; it DOES mean adopting a schedule that allows the children to have the best of both parents. For example, if one parent is available while the other parent is working, an optimal shared schedule would place the children with that parent instead of in daycare.

Each parenting schedule can be as unique as the people using it, and the best ones are balanced, thoughtful and creative. The beauty of the mediation process is that it helps parents explore new possibilities and create a schedule that really works for the whole family.

© 2008, Mary Wollard, Family Solutions Center, www.cofamilysolutions.com

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Co-Parenting Golden Rule for Divorced Parents

Exchanging the children is often the most stressful situation between divorced parents, and where a lot of "stuff" comes out. Because the children are obviously there as well, this can have a harmful effect on them and on your future as a family.

Gandhi wrote that we should, "be the change we want to see in the world." You can set the pace of your co-parenting relationship and treat the other person like you wish to be treated.

If you don't like it when s/he is early or late dropping off the kids, be on time when it's your turn. If you don't like it when s/he doesn't mention important details about the kids, make sure you share openly.

Chances are, even if you're not doing those things, there is something you're doing that s/he wishes you wouldn't. If your meetings are leaving either of you feeling upset or angry, talk about it. No one can read minds (at least not accurately).

With a genuine effort to make things run as smoothly as possible when you're exchanging your children, you're setting a positive example for them AND taking a proactive step towards creating the co-parenting relationship you want to have.

© 2008, Mary Wollard, Family Solutions Center, www.cofamilysolutions.com

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Welcome to 2008!

Welcome to 2008! Family Solutions Center, LLC is looking forward to an exciting and productive year. This blog is a new addition that will get underway in earnest about the middle of January. Look for new posts then.