Mediation Questions

Divorce Mediation and the Gen X Family

by Petra Maxwell on July 20, 2011

 

A  recent Wall Street Journal piece focused on Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and divorce.  As the author points out, this is the generation defined by divorce: nearly half of Gen Xers grew up in split households, and roughly 40% were latch-key kids. It’s no wonder, then, that  Gen Xers, now married with their own families, are more determined than ever to get it right.

Learning From the Past, in Marriage and Divorce

Contrary to popular belief, children of divorced households aren’t necessarily headed for a failed marriage themselves.  The article points out that, for the first time in over two decades, the divorce rate has dipped.  Recent census data shows that the early wave of Gen Xers married in the early 1990’s have stayed married past the 10-year mark.  Gen Xers are loathe to put their kids through what they themselves have endured as neglected children, shuttled from household to household. But divorce still happens.  Gen Xers, like their parents, lead complicated, dual career lives that present multiple challenges when trying to navigate around the competing demands of jobs and kids. When the marriage breaks down, the Gen X couple, who themselves suffered the pain and emptiness of divorce, is again determined to “get it right”.

For Gen Xers, Mediation Makes for Better Co-Parenting

This generation that has a laser focus on its own children is very attuned to the effect of divorce on kids because they themselves lived through it.  More and more, Gen Xers are turning to mediation to negotiate their separation and divorce to help reduce the negative impact of the transition on their kids. That’s good news for the children since a University of Virginia study has shown that divorce mediation does what mediators have long been saying it does – it fosters better communication between the parents, allowing them to stay actively engaged in their kids’ lives as parents co-parents.  (Also read our previous article, Divorce Mediation Makes Better Parents).

Create A Parenting Plan!

If you’re a Gen Xer (and even if you’re not), you want mediation to help you lay the groundwork for cooperative co-parenting, so that you can continue to give your kids a grounded and balanced childhood, even if they have two homes. We are experienced at working with parents who lead complex lives – professional moms and dads with multiple kids and complicated parenting arrangements – and we understand your interest in making sure that your children go on to lead healthy, secure and balanced lives with continued access and support from both parents, despite your break-up.  Contact us for information on how we can help you create (or revise) a co-parenting plan that will help you ‘get it right’ so you can remain actively involved parents for your kids.

 

{ 0 comments }

Post image for Keeping Aging Couples Together: mediating your family’s eldercare options

As the elderly population grows, one segment of that group is bigger than ever before: married seniors. 45% of men over the age of 85 still live at home with their spouse. Another 10% of senior men are married, but are living apart from their spouse (who is most likely in a nursing home). As senior couples and their concerned family members confront caregiving decisions, the couples’ desire to continue to live together is a huge challenge. There are a number of living arrangements to consider and holding a family meeting to consider them may be the best way to sort out the pros and cons.

Most senior couples prefer to continue to live together at home. But when one spouse is in need of extra help, it places the healthier spouse in a care-giving role. Remaining at home may be the goal for many, many couples, but doing so without the right support can mean injury for the healthier spouse. When families are faced with the important question of how elderly loved ones can enjoy their time together without compromising the health and safety of each partner, it makes sense to hold a family meeting – sometimes with the aid of a mediator – to weigh the options. Here are a few to consider:

Aging in place at home may seem like the best option for elderly couples. They have the chance to stay together in a familiar environment and if they can manage to hire an in-home care professional, the couple will get the care and support they need. On the other hand, families must keep in mind that constant contact with caregivers can lead the healthier spouse to feel intruded upon, and round the clock in-home care can be pricey.

Moving together to an assisted living facility is a also a popular option, but rarely do both spouses stay at the same activity and health level. One spouse is likely to fall into a caregiving role in this situation as well, when the facility does not have the services the weakening spouse needs. Moving together to a facility that provides the higher level of care the less healthy spouse requires ensures that health needs are met, but can result in the healthier spouse feeling trapped in a place that doesn’t offer the opportunities he or she needs to remain active, and can result in the healthy spouse deteriorating.

Living separately at different facilities (assisted living and a nursing home) or one spouse remaining at home while the other moves into residential care are options, but is usually distressing for both spouses and can negatively impact their health.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) have been stepping up to the plate lately to fill the void. These residential centers offer a wide array of services and care which can be customized to each spouse’s needs. This may be the perfect solution for a couple that can’t remain at home together, however it can be cost-prohibitive. Most CCRCs require a buy-in fee and then monthly payments (which can be comparable to live-at-home costs). And the sliding levels of care may only be offered in specific buildings on the grounds, meaning one spouse might need to move to receive a higher level of care.

Clearly, there are a number of options available to aging couples – some of which have not even been touched upon here. There are no perfect solutions, but understanding a couple’s need to remain together is the first step in the process of making long-term care decisions. Holding a family meeting, either with or without the help of a mediator, is a great way to put everyone’s needs and concerns on the table so they can devise the best possible strategy.

{ 2 comments }

Post image for Mediation vs. Meditation: A Freudian slip on the old keypad?

There’s a difference of only one letter between the words “mediation” and “meditation.” It’s very easy to mistype one or the other words since they look almost the same. On the face of it, they seem like two entirely different things, but the two have more in common than just their spelling.

Mediation and meditation both require you to ground yourself in some way, find your center, explore what you really need and want, and take action to get there. They share the need for self-recognition and have the result of creating self-sufficiency. To meditate, you must make room in your life for the daily process, arrange your mind so that you are able to focus, and let go of the outer world as you hone in on your breathing and relaxation. Meditation has many proven benefits, including stress relief and a better ability to focus.

Mediation is really not so different. To mediate your conflict, you must put yourself in the right mindset, one that is not about conflict, but is about conciliation. You must make room in your life to attend mediation and give it your full attention and focus when you are there. You have to really push through the emotional layers to find the solutions that work for you and the other person. Mediation, like meditation, reduces stress, and allows you to move forward with your life. It also teaches you conflict resolution skills so you can reduce future conflict in the same way that meditation helps you learn to control your reaction to future stress.

How about a double whammy, though? Meditation combined with mediation? The two processes are very compatible and supportive of each other. If you’re in a situation that requires mediation, you’re under stress. Meditation can help you manage the stress and be better prepared to mediate. It can also help you practice calmness, which is very helpful in the mediation process, and will allow you to go a bit deeper within yourself to understand what your needs truly are.  Mediation can then help you find solutions to your problem, so that you are better able to relax and meditate deeply and more fully. Mediation helps you feel in control of your own life, which enhances your feeling of being grounded.

Together, the two processes form a perfect circle and more mediation practitioners may do well to recommend a little meditation to their clients.

{ 1 comment }

Post image for 10 Tips to Successfully Negotiate Your Dispute During Mediation

No matter what kind of problem you’re going to mediate, you need to have some basic negotiation skills in order to insure a successful outcome. Mediation is a process that encourages back and forth conversations. It is not a situation where you sit at a table and you say I want X, the other person says I want Y, and miraculously you agree to Z. To be able to get from the point where you each demand what you want, to a mutually satisfying outcome that works for both of you takes some skill and forethought.

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind to help you stay on track, as well as keep emotions in check when coming to the mediation table:

1.  Come prepared It’s helpful to begin the negotiation process with a checklist of what you believe the key issues to be, what you want out of the process and what you’re willing to give up.  And be willing to back up your arguments.  Using real numbers, photos, or other documents always lends credibility to an argument and helps focus the discussion.

2.  Put yourself in the other person’s shoes – It pays to try to see things through the other person’s eyes. Not only will it help you understand what a fair compromise might be, but it will help you really grasp what is motivating that person. If you can understand his or her motivation, you can move more quickly to a compromise that answers that concern.

3.  Separate out interests from positionsIf you see that you and the other person have a basic difference in how you view the problem, take some time to figure out what the underlying interests are.  For example, let’s say that your spouse argues emphatically, “I need $3,500 every month from you for maintenance!”  You’re reaction is to argue back about the amount, and then the fight begins.  But, if you were to stop and ask about the underlying need or interest that motivated the request, you might learn that your spouse is fearful about his ability to secure steady employment after divorce and he feels he needs time and resources to get back on his feet after taking a break from the workforce.  With that information, the two of you can craft an agreement that is more economical and satisfying for both of you.

4.  Take a break If you come to mediation to deal with all the issues involved in a divorce or caregiving situation, it can be overwhelming. Tackle one small issue at a time and don’t try to solve everything at once. All the small decisions will add up to a big solution as you work through the process.

5.  Consider alternatives – If you both sit there and insist only your one solution will work, you won’t achieve anything. You must think creatively and outside the box whenever possible.  Be prepared to brainstorm and consider solutions that never occurred to you before.

6.  Barter for what you wantUltimately, mediation is about honesty and respect, but if you both come to the table with immovable positions, there is nowhere to go. It’s often best to approach a negotiation by asking for a little more than what you what you want so you have some room to negotiate down.

7.  Stand up for yourself Be flexible, be willing to yield, but also know what your bottom line is and remain firm.  The goal is to insure that everyone walks away from the process feeling heard and feeling like they’ve reached an agreement that is fair and equitable.

8.  Don’t be confrontational Use language at the mediation table that is non-confrontational and invites discussion. If you act and sound like you’re not going to give an inch, the other person will see no reason to waste time trying to convince you. And watch the body language! Use body language that is open and accessible. If you sit leaning back in your chair with your arms crossed, you send the message that you’re not willing to compromise. If instead, you sit upright with your hands on your lap or the table, you make it clear you’re willing to try.

9.  Acknowledge the other person’s feelings This is often the single hardest thing to do when you’re engaged in a conflict with another party, but acknowledging someone’s anger or hurt feelings is perhaps the one thing you can do that will have the greatest positive impact.  A simple acknowledgment or apology, if called for, can often break through an impasse very quickly.

10. Stop keeping score Keep in mind that the process is not about who wins and who loses. Rather, it’s about arriving at an equitable settlement so each of you can move forward in your lives as soon as possible. If you focus on who won this round or that round, you will keep yourselves engaged in a no-win battle.  Focus instead on moving forward with integrity, and everybody wins.

{ 0 comments }