Month: March 2013

NYSBA Task Force on Family Court Report

The New York State Bar Association Task Force on Family Court issued its January 2013 Final Report. Finding No. 5 of the Final Report sets forth the conclusion which many in the mediation field already believed to be true – the mediation programs in NYS Family Court “should be greatly strengthened, expanded and funded.” The Task Force noted the loss of many family court mediation programs due to budget cuts and recommended funding for mediation should not only be re-instituted but should also be increased in Family Courts. It concluded that mediation is very effective in dealing with a range of situations, such as child support and child custody cases. It is well worth the time to read the Final Report and the comments regarding mediation. It can be found at http://www.nysba.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Final_Report_9_21_2012.

What does the mediation process for separation or divorce look like?

The mediation process for separation or divorce answers all the same questions and resolves all the decisions that you would in a litigated divorce that goes to court.

A mediated separation or divorce takes less time, is less costly, is private and the decisions are made by you, the clients. Clients sit in a comfortable office with one mediator to make decisions 

The typical mediation process looks like this:

1)    A one hour initial consultation is set-up with one of our mediators. We answer all your questions and go over the process in detail. You decide if the process is a good fit for you and your situation.

2)    After the initial meeting, it typically takes 3-4, 1 ½ hour sessions to go over issues surrounding parenting plan, equitable distribution and support issues. Depending on your specific situation it may take more or less sessions to resolve all the issues.

3)    Once your decisions are made, the mediator writes a Memorandum of Understanding that summarizes all of your decisions. One last meeting with the mediator is required to review the Memorandum and make any changes.

4)    You, the client, take your Memorandum to an attorney of your choosing to review the document and make the appropriate filing.

The mediation process doesn’t necessarily involve attorneys until the end of the process, and keeps you out of court. The results are: more money stays in the pot for both households, you can set the pace of the process and not be at the mercy of the court system, you make the decisions that are best for your specific situation and communication is established between the parties that fosters cooperation in decision making. The emotional benefits of working cooperatively together are lasting.

Electronic communication and the challenge of co-parenting

After divorce, parents often are challenged on how to communicate effectively. Mastering such communication skills can be very difficult especially when lack of communication or hostile communication skills may have contributed to their divorce. Despite the difficulty, it is important to communicate since good communication can reduce the post-divorce conflict. It is a common assumption by many mediators that limiting post-divorce conflict between the parents will assist kids adjust. In addition, it seems logical that less conflict will reduce the stress in the lives of the parents, too. I as well as some of my colleagues in the mediation field were eager to have the communication process improved by the electronic age. We believed e-mail as well as cell phones for calling and texting, were going to be a fantastic resource for parents- Fortunately, there were folks willing to do scientific research on the subject.
At the University of Missouri a group of researchers studied the use of communication between divorced parents. The parents used electronic calendars, e-mails, and cell phones in their efforts to co-parent. Lawrence Ganong and Marilyn Coleman and their team discovered that despite the use of electronic communication, the parents reported a wide range of ratings about the level of their post-divorce conflict. The technological tools ranged from helpful to harmful. The parents with good co-parenting relationships used electronic communication in effective ways which improved their communication. Unfortunately, parents with poor co-parenting relationships sometimes used these tools to harass, control and mislead the other parent. It seems that while technology can be a useful tool it is does not cure or correct the underlying communication problem. If you want more information on this interesting study, check it out in the Family Relations Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies. Volume 61, Issue 3, pages 397-409, July 2012 published by the National Council on Family Relations.

Why Are You Doing That to Me?

Sometimes as we go through our busy lives, we are negatively affected by the actions of those around us. The idiot who pulled out in front of us, the teenager playing their music too loud, the creep who pulled into the parking spot we were going to take.

I know how easy it can be to react in ‘justified’ anger: “I had the right of way”, “The sign says ‘Quiet’”,  “He saw me waiting for that spot”. How could that person be so selfish? You feel they have purposefully acted against you.

Maybe. But what if they didn’t? What if the person was just not very good at judging distances (because their eyesight isn’t what it used to be)? What if the teen didn’t realize how loud his music was (because he’s lost his hearing from playing his music too loud)? What if the creep was distracted by the baby in the back seat and really didn’t notice you waiting?

How differently would you feel if you knew that this person had simply made a mistake? We may be pointlessly putting ourselves in a bad mood, feeling put upon, or worse, starting a confrontation. To put things in perspective and to keep myself from reacting in situations like these, I have devised the following trick:

I pretend the bad driver is a friend of mine. I’m pretty sure she cuts people off daily. I imagine the teen is my son. Enough said. And I imagine the parking spot stealer is myself, because I have actually done this without realizing it until being told afterwards. Because I know that my family, friends and I are fully capable of making these mistakes, and I would hope that the person impacted by our actions would forgive me and those that I love, I do the same for them. And if I’m wrong, and the person IS just being a jerk, well, that’s his/her problem, and one that will do them a disservice in life. But, it doesn’t have to affect me.