Mediation needn’t be thought of as a last resort when your marriage is about to end. In fact, learning to self-mediate the problems and challenges in your marriage can help you build a stronger relationship along the way.

We’re excited about a new project that we have in the works here at Mediationline.  We’re going to be launching Marriage Matters:  Communication Bootcamp for Committed Couples, a special program designed to teach couples how to self-mediate their way through certain danger zones and make their marriages happier and healthier. 

To celebrate our anticipated launch this spring, we’ve interviewed Alisa Bowman, author of the new book, Project Happily Ever After: Saving Your Marriage When the Fairytale Falters and blogger at ProjectHappilyEverAfter.  Bowman was ready to end her marriage (and was daydreaming about her husband’s funeral) when a friend encouraged her to try harder. As a result, she turned her marriage around and now offers encouragement and advice to those who face the same problems she did. The lessons she learned while pursuing Project Happily Ever After (PHEA) can benefit any marriage.

What were the signs and symptoms that there was something wrong with your marriage?

I had many. I fantasized about divorce. I planned in my mind who would get what and how we would share custody. I had it planned down to the couches, china and rocking chair. I also fantasized about him conveniently dropping dead (so I wouldn’t have to bother going through the divorce). We weren’t having sex. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d done it—and I truly would not have cared if I never had sex with him again. We had nothing to talk about. We’d go out to dinner and stare in silence. We would fight about stupid stuff like what was allowed to go on the bathroom countertop. I also had an ongoing sense of resentment that never seemed to get solved.

 Why didn’t you get a divorce?

I was ready to go that route. Then I had dinner with a divorced friend. I asked her, “How did you know it was time to give up? How can I tell if my marriage is truly broken?” I thought she would give me permission and encourage me to end it. She didn’t. Instead, she asked, “What have you done to try to save your marriage?” I’d tried nothing until that point. She made me promise to try something. Then if that something didn’t work, I could walk away knowing that I’d given it my all.

Can you briefly describe the steps you took to get your marriage back on track?

I read. I bought 12 marital improvement books. I went online and read some, too. And I even interviewed a few friends who seemed to be happily married. I wanted to learn as much as I could about marriage.

I broke the project down into smaller steps, too. They included:

  • Forgiveness
  • Sex
  • Romance
  • Communication
  • Intimacy

I worked through one area at a time, trying everything I could to improve it. Then I moved onto the next.

Why didn’t you seek professional help, i.e. a marriage therapist?

Some of this was logistical. Money was tight, and I didn’t have reliable baby-sitting support. Some of it was fear. And I just didn’t think it would work for us. I imagined my husband rolling his eyes and sighing through the sessions. I figured the counselor would ask why he was there and he would say, “Ask my wife.”

I also wrote self-help books for a living and I’d used them to solve other problems in my life. It seemed comfortable for me to use them to save my marriage, too.

Were you terrified this wouldn’t work? Were you afraid that working through your problems might be hurtful and painful? How did you get past that?

Honestly, I never expected it to work. I know that sounds shallow. But I entered the project with one goal: to find proof that my marriage was doomed. I also wasn’t too worried about the process being hurtful because I was at rock bottom. I didn’t think I could hurt any more than I already did.

As it turned out, I was wrong. As I grew to love my husband again, our disagreements became more painful. I allowed myself to feel again, and that was excruciating.

Do you think that others can do what you did?

I know some couples can. Countless couples have told me their success stories of going from bad marriage to good.

That said, I will not promise that everyone can. Some marriages cannot be fixed. These marriages usually suffer from a terminal issue: serial cheating, mental or physical abuse, addiction, Peter Pan syndrome (one spouse becomes a parasite and refuses to grow up), or intractable mental illness. Some marriages can’t be fixed because one spouse isn’t willing to try.

And some, even with all of the therapy and books in the world, just don’t improve. I don’t have any magical insights as to why this is. I only know that it’s the case. And you can’t know if you are in one of these marriages until you try to save your marriage and nothing works.

How do you think a person knows if the marriage is really over? How much should you put into it before giving up?

I recommend couples start a project that spans four months. Rate your marital happiness on a 1 to 10 scale at the start and again after 4 months. After 4 months, you might not be completely cured, but you should see some improvement. If your marriage is just as bad or it has become even worse – and you’ve been diligently trying to improve it the whole time—you have to question whether your marriage can be saved. I would argue that it probably can’t.

What are the keys to a happy marriage in your opinion?

Most of us struggle in marriage because no one teaches us how to be married. We expect marriage to be instinctual. We assume it’s some sort of magical mystical process of picking the right person.

But it’s really just about skills, skills that no one teaches us in home, etc. It’s about communication skills, listening skills, forgiveness skills, and affection skills. It’s also about patience and it’s about positive thinking. It’s about seeing the potential in your spouse, and the potential in yourself. In its essence, it’s about humility.

What do you do if you want to turn your marriage around but your spouse is not on board 100%?

This is a tough one. I think if your spouse is on board some, then be the leader. Work on changing yourself for the better and see if your spouse follows. Some spouses do. For instance, if you take steps to warm up your marriage and be more affectionate, you might find that your spouse returns that favor.

How would you recommend people customize their own PHEA?

Think about what’s wrong with your marriage. It might be everything (like mine). It might only be one or two areas. Focus on the areas that need the most work, and learn all you can about those areas. Think of this as a problem that you can solve, and use the scientific method to solve it. Try different solutions and see what works and what does not. Not all of them will work, and that’s okay. But if you embrace possible solutions with an open mind, you just might find that some do work.

You essentially self-mediated your own marriage. What do you think about the experience of self-mediation after having been through it?

I think this worked for us because neither one of us is hot and spicy. We didn’t necessarily need a referee. But some couples do. If you tend to really lose your temper, you probably need someone there with a whistle to call a time out for you every so often. It doesn’t matter if you do it alone, with a friend, with a clergy person, with a mediator, or with a counselor. All that matters is that you try something.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this on your own without professional help?

The advantages: it’s cheaper and easier logistically. It’s also easier to talk a strong and silent man into the self-help approach than it is to talk him into seeing a counselor.

The disadvantages: You need to be a good self-starter. Counseling appointments are nice because they give you a weekly deadline. If you tend to be a procrastinator or tend to need a boss checking up on you, then the self help method probably won’t work so well.

What do you think your life would be like now if you had gotten a divorce?

This is hard to answer because I’m looking at it from a place of current marital happiness. That said, I think I would feel guilty about shuttling my daughter back and forth between Mommy and Daddy. I think money might be even tighter than it is for me now. I think I would feel more alone and less supported. And I think I would have an emotional scar that may or may not heal.

Would you describe the self-mediation process you went through as something that changed the dynamics of your marriage, of you and your spouse as people, or both?

Yes, it changed everything. Most notably it changed me, though. Now I don’t fear problems. I embrace them. Solving the problem of a bad marriage is a huge accomplishment. It makes me believe that I can solve any problem.

The skills I learned during marital improvement have also helped me every where in life. They’ve improved my friendships, my career and even my relationship with my mother.

How do you know if your own PHEA project is working? What signposts should you look for along the way?

You should see your marriage incrementally improving. Your sense of happiness should be getting stronger. You should notice that some of those symptoms are ebbing. You might be having sex more often. You might be bickering less often. You might be feeling more attached and connected.

How did the PHEA project affect your daughter?

My husband and I are both happier now. As a result, there’s less tension in the house. That benefits her greatly. She also sees that we love each other. And we can now have fun as a family—something we couldn’t do when the marriage was bad.

What kinds of things have you learned in writing your blog?

I’ve learned that I have nothing to hide, that I’m not alone, and that we’re all flawed humans who are struggling to get through life and are doing the best we can as we struggle along. No one sets out to be a bad person—not even your spouse. It can be hard to believe when you are mired in misery. Yet I’ve heard from both sides of so many marital arguments that I can clearly see just how desperate both spouses are. In the end, most people want the same thing: to be adored. In the end, most fights are about the same thing: not feeling adored.

Is PHEA an ongoing project that lasts the rest of your life or at some point do you say “we fixed it”?

I don’t think a marriage is ever cured. You don’t cross the finish line, get a metal and say, “That’s it.” I will always be noticing symptoms of potential problems. I’ll always be reading about marriage and taking steps to improve ours.

That said, I think we’re past the worst of it, and things are amazingly great right now. I don’t work on my marriage as regularly as I did during the project. It’s more of an awareness—the same sort of awareness I have about our daughter, my career and other pieces of my life. I make sure to notice if something seems to be slipping, and I do something about it.

You’ve been talking a lot about your marriage – on TV, on your blog, on the radio, and in your book. Does talking about it help you understand it more or are you finding that you’re enjoying just helping other people?

Both. Talking about it helps reinforce the skills for me. I’ve become a better wife because I talk about and write about marriage. But I also love connecting with and helping others. That’s priceless.

{ 6 comments }

Experts agree: Online Mediation is here to stay

by Petra Maxwell on December 16, 2010

Post image for Experts agree: Online Mediation is here to stay

Toronto-based writer, editor and all-round tech savvy marketing guru, Luigi Benetton contacted me the other day about an article he was writing for The Lawyer’s Weekly – Canada’s pre-eminent national law journal.  Mr. Benetton has been researching the growing interest in mediation as a means of resolving disputes, and the extent to which mediators are using technology in their practices.  Luigi really did his homework and seems to have scouted around for the handful of us in North America who are dabbling in this arena.

Mediationline, I’m happy to say, is more than simply dabbling, though.  As I mentioned to Mr. Benetton, we here at Mediationline view online mediation as being a core part of what we do and central to our mission of making dispute resolution accessible to everyone.  I’d like to think that we’re staying way ahead of the curve so that we can be ready for our clients when they need us.

Thanks, Luigi, for your great article and insightful summary of both the pros and cons of online mediation.  Read an excerpt, below, and then click on the link for Mr. Benetton’s full article published last week in The Lawyer’s Weekly.  And then take a few moments to look around at the rest of Luigi’s website for more interesting article’s on marketing, law and technology.

The Benefits of Video Mediation, by Luigi Benetton

originally published in Lawyers Weekly Magazine, December 9, 2010

Face-to-face mediations won’t go away, but for cost reasons, they sometimes give way to videoconferencing.

Some professional mediators are banking on this trend. “It’s a great time to do online mediation,” Petra Maxwell says. The founder and CEO of New York-based MediationLine LLC, a “veteran” of about 15 video mediations (plus portions of others) gives several reasons why online mediation should take off. For starters, legal bills can quickly add up, and as the current economic climate continues to take a toll, people’s interest in saving money rises. Meanwhile, divorces, business disputes and other events calling for conflict resolution continue to occur.

There’s also an increasingly techno-comfortable market segment that expects such services. “In a divorce I recently mediated, the male was in New York, while the wife had already moved to California,” Maxwell explains. “They heard I handled mediation online and called me, asking to use Skype.”

Mark Shapiro is a newbie compared to Maxwell, having only participated in one commercial mediation so far. While with his former firm, the Toronto-based partner at Dickenson Wright LLP found himself in the offices of dispute resolution service provider ADR Chambers with the mediator (live) and the other party (via video feed from Ottawa).

“Sometimes you get cases in which dollar values aren’t huge, and this makes mediation cost-effective,” Shapiro says. “To mediate otherwise, lawyers and clients would have to travel.”

Allan Stitt, president of ADR Chambers, admits cost savings may be the only reason to use what his company calls eVideo mediation. “People can be in different cities and can cost-effectively participate in mediation,” he explains. “If somebody has a three-hour mediation, they’re only there for three hours.”

Driving home the cost savings point, he openly states that ADR Chambers charges $250 per remote location, “so lawyers ask whether they would rather pay the $250 or fly to another location for face-to-face meetings.” (Maxwell’s home page states that her services start at $249.)

[Read complete article here]

{ 0 comments }

5 Tips for Self-Mediating Your Holiday Parenting Disputes

by Petra Maxwell on December 14, 2010

Post image for 5 Tips for Self-Mediating Your Holiday Parenting Disputes

The holidays are a busy time—not just for those in retail and catering, but for attorneys. Specifically, family law attorneys. You might not have guessed this is the busy season for this profession, but it’s true.  This is an emotional time of year for divorced parents when parenting plans often become hotly disputed. Parents who previously agreed to a holiday schedule suddenly rethink it as the holidays become a reality. The thought of spending year-end holidays alone, once something that was just part of a big visitation plan, becomes an unbearable reality. High-conflict parents go into hyperdrive, finding every possible way to sabotage each other’s holiday plans with the kids.  And even parents who generally get along find themselves disagreeing about the tiny details, such as actual times for drop-offs, how many phone calls will be allowed and at what time, how to interpret the wording in their court order, and where the child may keep her new gifts. 

Because of this, the phones ring off the hooks in family law offices, with clients begging their attorneys to intervene and straighten things out. People who call at 4 pm on December 23 are usually distressed to learn that there is no time to do anything in court and that the other parent’s attorney has already left for vacation. The system is overloaded.

Don’t fall into the holiday dispute trap. If you and your ex are having trouble working out your holiday plans, a little self-mediation can help you solve the problem. Use these 5 self-mediation tips to get through the holidays with your ex:

1.  Use your roadmap!  Pull out your written parenting plan. What does it say? This is your roadmap to the holidays. You need to follow what it says, unless you both agree otherwise. One of you wanting a change is not enough to actually make one. It’s by the book or by mutual agreement to alter it, and nothing else. If you have no written plan, you need to work out an agreement now.  If you don’t feel as though you’re capable of having a fair discussion on your own – call a Mediator to help.  It’s usually much faster (and cheaper), and you’ll be able to craft an agreement quickly that you both can live with.

2.  Be calm, and be clear! If you want to make a change but your ex won’t agree, completely lay out what you are proposing and why. List dates and times so it is clear what you want. Explain why you want to make the change. To be very persuasive, total up the amount of hours you each will have and compare it to the pre-existing written parenting plan to show your ex that everyone will have the same amount of time (or that your ex will actually get added time). Be business-like, calm, and collected. You may feel very emotional about what you want, but displaying your emotions is not going to help resolve things. If you have no written parenting plan, lay out what kind of schedule you are proposing for holidays (don’t try to negotiate beyond this – stick to the immediate problem).

3.  Ask your ex for input! This is a negotiation. You both need the opportunity to talk. Be prepared to do a little give and take. Is there something you might be willing to give up in order to get the holiday schedule you want? Are you willing to alter holiday plans for other major holidays in the coming year? Maybe you are willing to trade one of the upcoming regularly scheduled weekends for the holiday plan you want. You both need to walk away feeling the compromises you’ve made are fair.

4.  Write it down! Write down whatever you’ve agreed to and put both your signatures on it. It’s not enforceable in court, but it does clear up any possible confusion and makes it very clear what your plan is.

5.  Don’t forget –  it’s really all about the kids! Don’t let your disagreements affect your child’s holiday. Do not burden your child with your sadness that you will be alone on an important holiday. Don’t expect your child to be able to focus on anything other than what is happening at the home he is at on a holidays. Children are understandably self-centered and when there’s major excitement in front of them they aren’t going to be interested in talking to a parent who is not present.

 Best Wishes for a Peaceful, Healthy and Happy Holiday Season!

{ 0 comments }

Post image for Meeting in the Middle – Joan Lunden talks to me about her new role as Caregiver and Host of RLTV’s show “Taking Care with Joan Lunden”

A couple of weeks ago, I had the rare privilege of speaking with Joan Lunden by phone.  Joan Lunden!  I’ve watched her and admired her for years as she hosted Good Morning America, A&E’s Behind Closed Doors, the Emmy winning special America’s Invisible Children, and a series of other respected news programs and women- and family-oriented series.  She’s an entrepreneur, an author, a spokeswoman, a mother of seven, she was voted “Mother of the Year” by the National Mother’s Day Committee. And most recently, she became host of Retirement Living TV’s, Taking Care with Joan Lunden.  She’s a media icon. And in my mind, Joan Lunden and I are leagues apart.

But after about 30 seconds of conversation, just after the initial pleasantries and introductions, the perceived gap between Joan and me closed.  She and I share a common bond.  We are both members of the growing baby boomer “sandwich” generation: mothers of young kids, faced with the daily struggle of managing a career and parenting responsibilities, balanced against the additional challenge of participating in the care of an aging parent.  As Joan told me the story about how she found herself taking over the responsibility of caring for her 91 year old mother who lives on the west coast, she bluntly acknowledged that caregiving is the great equalizer.  “My story is just like everyone else’s.”  For the most part, she’s right. 

According to recent statistics provided by the National Alliance for Caregivers, caregivers are predominantly female (66%) and they are 48 years of age, on average.  More than three in ten U.S. households (31.2%) report that at least one person has served as an unpaid family caregiver within the last 10 months, leading to an estimate of 36.5 million households with a caregiver present.  Caregivers report spending up to 20 hours of care per week, in addition to the time devoted to their work, personal and family responsibilities. That means that not only does caregiving take a huge toll on the caregiver herself, but it exacts a toll on the caregiver’s family, friends and co-workers.  The financial, emotional and physical repercussions of what is rapidly becoming our nation’s next big health crisis facing older Americans, is staggering.

Joan’s story is moving:  for years, her older brother, himself suffering from advanced Type II Diabetes, had been their aging mother’s primary caregiver.  Joan had financed their care from a distance, but her brother managed the day-to-day caretaking responsibilities.  When her brother died suddenly of health complications at age 56, Joan rushed in to fill the void.  Her mother, Gladyce, was 88 at the time and already suffering from dementia.  Joan was left to muscle her way through the monumental task of having to piece together and reorganize her mother’s medical, financial and personal history from a sea of paperwork. 

We spoke on the phone about the urgent need for family members to sit down together, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem, to hold a “family meeting” to discuss important issues such as health care routines, plans for residential care, and estate planning matters before it’s too late and dementia sets in.  As Joan said, “Asking important questions now and having a plan in place is an act of love. It means having the information necessary to help our loved ones when they need us most.”  I agree.  And sometimes having a Mediator by your side to assist you and your family negotiate a fair and balanced caregiving plan makes the most sense for everyone.

Tune in to Retirement Living TV’s new show, Taking Care with Joan Lunden, where Joan will be talking with a variety of experts on eldercare and caregiving issues.  Check out www.rl.tv/shows/Taking-Care for more details and air times.

Thanks, Joan, for, yet again, being willing to get out in front of this very important social issue!

{ 2 comments }

Post image for Need Some Gift Ideas for the Caregiver on your List? Eldercare Apps!

It’s no secret that most eldercare decisions fall on women who are already busy with jobs, kids, and their own home life (29% of working people are responsible for making eldercare decisions). Caring for an elderly parent, or trying to make decisions about care for that parent is time-consuming and stressful no matter how much you have on your plate. And when you are faced with an emergency situation (such as a parent who can no longer remain at home, or a parent who is hospitalized and needs to be released to a facility), finding the information you need in a timely way makes all the difference.

Workplace Options has introduced the iFindCare app (available in the iTunes store). Enter a zip code and the app allows you to locate and qualify caregivers from your phone. The app will locate caregivers within a 20 mile radius and allow you to pre-select them based on a customizable checklist. Narrowing your list of calls down to a handful makes finding the right care much easier.

Eldercare 411 and Eldercare 911 are information based apps you can use to quickly access medical advice from your phone in a crisis or just when it’s convenient. Eldercare 411 offers information organized by topics. Eldercare 911 is triaged by the type of event you’re dealing with so you can get quick answers and tips on how to handle a situation.

The LiveSmart Eldercare Workbook is a complete eldercare manual at your fingertips, including checklists and assessments. It’s perfect for looking things up and always have a checklist for your situation on hand (even at times when you don’t expect to need one, such as ER visits).

Eldercare apps are just getting started and will continue to evolve and on my wish list are apps that:

– Offer an online updatable schedule so family members and friends can schedule caregiving time blocks from their phones or Blackberries;

– Allow family members to check in with their senior via webcams streaming from the senior’s room at a caregiving facility or at home; and

– Provide online updatable statuses so family can check in on seniors experiencing a health issue or dealing with a chronic condition (such as vitals, insulin levels, etc.).

What would your dream eldercare app do?

{ 0 comments }

Heading Into the Holidays With Your Ex? A Mediator Can Help

by Petra Maxwell on November 23, 2010

Post image for Heading Into the Holidays With Your Ex? A Mediator Can Help

 

It’s late November and already I’m beginning to feel my jaw tightening and teeth grinding when I start to think about how my ex and I are divvying up the holiday time this year.  Not just Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years – but right on through to President’s Day, Winter Break and Spring Break, rolling right on through to Memorial Day.  It always involves fraught conversations like, “Well, remember that you got him for 4.5 days in a row over Christmas break  last year, so that means that….”  I know I’m not alone in this.  Holidays are hard for every family.  Negotiating visits with extended family members is difficult, but when divorce is part of the equation, the challenge can seem monumental.

Today, as a Divorce and Family Mediator, I help couples work out the logistics of their parenting plans as they struggle to transition from married life to life as single parents.  It’s pretty typical that, when we get to the part about vacations and holidays, couples will say to me something like, “Oh, that’s not a problem, we’ll just alternate.”  Or, “We’ll just work out the time as we go along.”  I look at them and say, “Umm. Let’s talk about that. Why don’t you describe exactly how that will work.  Take Thanksgiving, for starters.  Little Sarah gets out of school at 2:45 pm on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and she goes…..where??”  The couple stares at me, then they stare at each other, there’s a long silence…then the inevitable argument ensues.  It happens every time.

There’s nothing that says “wet blanket” like a rigid parenting schedule, right?  Especially when it means dissecting holidays and vacations right down to the micro level.  But, trust me, and I know this from personal experience, better to have every moment plotted out on paper so as to leave nothing open for interpretation, then to think you’re just going “wing it” or rely on your ex’s good nature.   I don’t want to go so far as to say that you can kiss your visions of sugar plums and all of that goodbye….but, why invite needless argument and tension?

Get creative when thinking through your holiday and vacation schedules.  For example, one couple I know alternate the years at whose home the kids wake up on Christmas morning.  It works something like this.  In even years, the kids will go over to their mom’s home at 2:00 pm on Christmas Eve, then will wake up on Christmas morning at her house.  They will stay with her until 1:00 pm, and then will go over to their dad’s home to open presents and will remain at his home until the following afternoon.  The remaining Christmas break is thereafter split between the couple.  It’s always a bit of a sacrifice for the parents, especially the one who doesn’t get to see their kids’ faces on Christmas morning, but the kids love it!  Two Christmas celebrations!  What could be better??!!  And both parents, one way or another, get to spend time with the kids on Christmas Day.

It’s never easy negotiating holidays when you’re divorcing, or even after you’re divorced.  Someone always has to give up something, it seems.  If you have a good solid parenting plan in place, then I applaud you!  But if you don’t, then contact a mediator.  Whether you’re contemplating a separation or divorce now, or are already divorced and find that holiday and vacation time brings on more stress than you’d like, a mediator can help you work out a solid parenting plan that can help alleviate most of the ambiguity and, therefore, ensuing argument between you and your spouse or ex.

As a extra special holiday bonus for those of you who may be dealing with seasonal stress or wrestling with parenting plans – MediationLine is running a special promotion.  Give us a call and sign up for Online Mediation any time between now and the end of the year, and you’ll pay less than half our regular rate!  Check here for more details.

The bottom line is, as counter-intuitive as it may seem to have a detailed holiday and vacation plan in place, it’s usually best for everyone involved, especially the children, when there’s a schedule that everyone can count on.  Kids love stability and parenting plans are really there for them.

Have a safe and Happy Holiday Season from the folks at MediationLine!

{ 0 comments }

Divorce Mediation Makes Better Parents

by Petra Maxwell on November 8, 2010

Post image for Divorce Mediation Makes Better Parents

Mediating your divorce or custody case not only benefits you emotionally and financially today, it creates a better future for you and your children. A twelve-year study conducted by Dr. Robert E. Emory and published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, followed families who mediated and families who didn’t. It found that nonresidential parents who mediated had more in-person contact with their kids in the long run and more telephone contact.  28% of nonresidential parents who mediated had weekly contact with their kids twelve years after the divorce, compared to only 9% of parents who went to court.

Mediation seems to make noncustodial parents better parents—or at least helps the custodial parents think they are. The custodial parents in the study rated the noncustodial parents significantly higher in every parenting area, including discipline, religious and moral training, discussing problems, and handling significant events in the child’s life. Not only did the nonresidential parents have better relationships with their kids, but they were viewed as better parents by their co-parenting partners than parents who did not mediate.

Mediators know that the mediation process helps parents develop better problem solving skills, it teaches them how to work through conflict, and it helps parents realize that the children’s needs are really the most important thing. Mediation, in essence, is life skills training because it helps parents learn how to think about their family, their relationship with each other, and their own behavior as they move forward to create new post-divorce lives.

If you’re mediating your divorce or custody situation, take advantage of the mediation process as you begin to think through how you’d like to reframe your parenting relationship as well as your new relationship with your former partner.  You may want to ask yourselves these questions:

  • How do I want the other parent to think about me in the coming years?
  • How involved do I want to be in my child’s life?
  • What level of involvement by the other parent would benefit our child?
  • How do I want the other parent to treat me in the coming years? How can I treat him/her so that we both live up to that standard?
  • What rules can we set up for ourselves that will encourage cooperative parenting?

Mediation will help you resolve your issues and reframe your parenting relationship in a way that will allow you to stay actively involved in your child’s life, and co-parent together in a way that is healthy and productive for everyone involved.

{ 0 comments }

Divorce Insurance?? Let’s Do the Math….

by Petra Maxwell on November 4, 2010

Post image for Divorce Insurance?? Let’s Do the Math….

A company called WedLock now offers divorce insurance. That’s right, divorce insurance. If you divorce after a thirty-six month waiting period, the policy pays you a benefit, meant to cover the cost of your divorce.  What’s next, a divorce app?

Let’s look at the cost of this new concept.  A policy is not cheap. Every $1250 of coverage costs $16 per month. The average litigated divorce costs upwards of $30,000. A $30,000 benefit would run you $384 a month – and is probably close to what you pay for your car payment. Is it even cost effective? At a yearly rate of $4608, eight years of marriage (the median point length of marriages that experience divorce) this $30,000 benefit will actually cost you $36,864 in premiums. More than a divorce itself and much, much more than a mediated divorce would cost.

Money concerns aside, is divorce insurance any different than a prenup? To some couples it might be. A prenup is something you do once, while thinking, “we’ll never need this, but just in case….” Divorce insurance is something you have to pay every month and keep in force, so it keeps the possibility of divorce as an active thought in your mind. Each month you have to mentally reevaluate if you might need the policy and if you ask yourself something like that often enough, the answer is bound to be yes at some point.

Want some effective divorce insurance? Try premarital counseling. One study found that couples who went to premarital counseling had marriages that were thirty percent stronger than couples who didn’t. Counseling taught them communication and conflict resolution skills. What if you’re already married? Counseling during marriage has been shown to create a feeling of significant improvement in sixty-five percent of the couples who attend. If you are considering divorce, mediation is the most cost effective and satisfactory way to resolve the issues in front of you. No insurance needed.

{ 2 comments }

Post image for 10 Ways to Tell if You’re Heading for Caregiver Burnout. Take the Quiz!

According to the National Family Caregivers Association, in any given year, more than 45 million Americans are caring for an aging parent, close family member or friend.  While more often than not, women tend to shoulder more of this burden, increasingly men are just as likely to face the challenge.

For those of you who have wrestled with caregiving responsibilities, you know that it can often place a tremendous strain on one’s health, personal finances, job responsibilities, and relationships.  Day after day, you’re making tremendous personal sacrifices caring for loved ones, but who’s taking care of you?

Ask yourself these 10 questions to see whether you’re heading for Caregiver Burnout.

1. Are you constantly feeling tired and exhausted?  Don’t have the same energy for performing routine activities that you used to?

2. Do you find that you sleep poorly at night and either have trouble falling asleep, or sleep restlessly throughout the night?

3. Are you constantly wondering if you are making right decisions for your loved one? Do you question your decisions because of  the stress you may be under in dealing with other family member’s conflicting ideas of how to care for your loved one?

4. Do you find yourself becoming increasingly impatient and irritable with others for no good reason?

5. Do you find yourself being resentful toward your loved one or at other family members for the burden that’s being placed on you?

6. Do you feel increasingly joyless, depressed, or apathetic and find that you derive less and less pleasure in either taking care of your loved one, or in other activities that used to give you pleasure?

7. Have you found yourself wanting to withdraw socially?

8. Has your appetite changed noticeably – either you are eating considerably more due to stress, or you have lost interest in food?

9. Have you developed an increased dependence on substances such as cigarettes, alcohol or drugs?  Or do you find yourself escaping into other “unhealthy” activities such as overshopping, excessive use of the internet and other escapist activities?

10. Do you feel a sense of guilt that you aren’t doing quite enough for your loved one?

Of course, even non-caregivers can experience some of these symptoms now and then in response to stress at some points in their lives.  But if you answered “yes” to more than 3 of these questions, and experience these symptoms on a pretty consistent basis, then you could be heading down the path to Caregiver Burn-out.

What Now?

Here’s one of my favorite resources that I want to share.  The Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving produces a wealth of resources – manuals, provider lists, research studies, you name it – for care givers.  I particularly like their “Long Distance Caregiver Handbook”, which stresses that caregivers who may be facing burn-out reach out and get help, ask for professional support, and call a family meeting to delegate some of the caregiving repsonsibilities.  

It’s thorough and concise and it offers some wonderful tips, links and strategies for caregivers.  I love the section that advises caregivers to hold a family meeting! That’s great advice.  For many people, though, the idea of sitting down with other family members and sorting through complex emotions and devising an appropriate caregiving strategy can be daunting.  However, with the assistance of a third party neutral, such as an eldercare mediator, to facilitate the discussion that conversation can become much more manageable. Food for thought.

{ 0 comments }

Many of us were encouraged, weren’t we?  A tech-savvy presidential administration that seemed to really ‘get’ how we tend to communicate …..and, therefore, how to connect with its public through Facebook, Twitter, Web video, and chat rooms?  And then there was all of the pre- and post-campaign talk about the use of such media to open up the political process; bring us all into the fold, as it were.

You can’t have missed the recent press, then, about our very same administration proposing a sweeping wiretapping agenda.  Proposals to infiltrate Facebook, Skype, and other online face-to-face communication tools…..had they seen the other side and gotten scared?

And now I can visualize the wheels spinning in your heads (because they did in mine as well):  “Wait a minute ….. and I’m about to sign up for Online Mediation?  I don’t feel safe!”

First, were the proposal to pass (and I have my doubts that it will), wiretapping can’t take place without a warrant.  In extreme emergency situations, courts and government agencies can get around the warrant requirements, but I remain confident that the mediation work we do on behalf of couples, families and small businesses doesn’t come close to raising the eyebrows of government watchdogs.

Second, I am hopeful, perhaps naively, that we’ll fight the good fight on this one.  Health practitioners, educators, therapists, and mediators, all rely on online tools to connect privately with their clients.  If I have to round my colleagues up myself so we can voice our concern about where to draw a responsible line on this matter, then I’ll roll up my sleeves and do that!

And finally, we’re always looking for newer and better ways to connect with you.  Your privacy and security is of paramount importance to us.  We will do everything we can to ensure that your confidentiality is protected and will utilize the latest technology to make that happen.

{ 0 comments }