Category: The Mediation Center

Mediation Through the Lens of a Child and Now an Intern

How I Discovered The Topic of Mediation

In 2011, my parents separated. I didn’t know that they were going through such hardships when I was younger because they learned to co-parent without difficulty. Later I found out that they were going to mediation, which is when I first found out what mediation consisted of. My parents wanted the best life for my sister and I and they were able to succeed at that through their
mediation process because they learned how to communicate with each other effectively and efficiently. Although it was a new concept to my sister and I, that our parents would no longer be together, I think that it also helped to shape us into who we are today.

Even though our parents were living separately, they still ensured that they would be there for us no matter what and showed us that we were their first priority. Knowing this at such a young age and during such a vulnerable moment, let us know that it wasn’t our fault and that we could still rely on our parents just the same as before, only in a different manner. Even though we didn’t know the specifics of why they were separating, I believe that our parents just sitting us down and talking to us together about what they had decided to do is something that has honestly still stuck with me because it made me feel included and not as if everything was thrown on me.

Although many couples’ situations are different and everyone goes through their own unique experiences, as a child whose parents were honest and open about what they were going through, I believe that it helped me to understand the separation process a lot better.

Jumping into my college experience, I became interested in the legal field because there were so many fascinating parts to it and so many different routes that one could take. I had learned about courtroom scenarios and all about attorneys but had always wondered what other legal areas there were that didn’t involve a courtroom. I had done a little bit of research on mediation and had learned that it was still in the legal field and I would still be helping people, just in a different way. I was able to connect with my parents about their previous mediation experience and how they felt about it and heard lots of positive things, one big one being that they felt as though it helped them become the best possible parents for my sister and I. As I did more research on it, I realized that one of the biggest takeaways people have from mediation is a better communication style to help support their kid(s) which is why I believe that I had a more positive experience when my parents separated. Although separation was still difficult and took a lot of time to process, I believe that the way my parents went about it and the advice that they took from their mediator made it the best that it could be.

During my time interning at The Mediation Center, I was able to learn a valuable lesson about how important communication is throughout the separation process. Not only in the sense that couples need to communicate with each other but also with their children so that they are all able to heal and go through a vulnerable moment together. If my parents hadn’t let my sister or I in on what they were deciding to do and gone about it the caring way that they did, I might not have remembered it as such a positive experience and may instead feel negatively towards it.

The mediation process has really opened my eyes as to how important it is that people make the decisions for their families and themselves since ultimately they are going to know what fits best for them and their futures.

Cassidy Utter – Mediation Intern

Financial Benefits of Mediation: An Intern’s perspective

When I first heard of mediation, I wasn’t quite sure what it entailed. After reading different
articles on the benefits of it, I learned that one of the biggest praises was that mediation is extremely

When looking at mediation compared to the court process, court fees can pile up
very quickly for various reasons, obtaining a lawyer, paying hourly rates, and more. With
mediation, I have learned that it only takes a few sessions, a lot fewer people are involved, and
generally, there are fixed fees when it comes to sitting down with a mediator, ultimately saving

Understanding that time is money, is crucial. Not every couple wants to go through a lengthy
court process, not knowing how much it is ultimately going to cost them. This means that you
may be missing out on work, losing money, or having to find extra work for the costs that the
court process will gather.

Generally with mediation, your mediator will have a set rate that they
offer for each session or per hour. Instead of walking into the unknown, the mediation route is a
lot more enticing for most because they can gauge how much the entire process will cost them.

Mediation is also an extremely flexible option. The couple going through the mediation process
can pick when they want to sit down with their significant other and speak with a mediator. Since
the couple then has control over their own decisions, they are more likely to already feel more in
control over what happens to their future because they know what fits their lives better than
anyone else does.

In this process, the couple can figure out their finances in ways that benefit
both parties and help both individuals walk away happy. Feeling more in control of the
process can help make the process feel more worth it, knowing that they are spending money
on positive decision-making.

Seeing how mediation can help with not only leaving decisions in the couple’s hands but saving
them money compared to if they were to take an alternative route shows why mediation is a
great selection if you are seeking to spend less and decide more.

Cassidy Utter – Mediation Intern

“Getting to YES” – A reflective blog on communication and negotiation

Getting To Yes” – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury 

If one struggles with navigating negotiation, this book is worth a read. As many know, negotiating with someone who has opposing views can be rather difficult. Getting To Yes goes into detailed descriptive sections with various routes on how to steer through negotiations with someone with whom they have a relationship. 

One section that stood out to me was “separating the people from the problem”. When there is an issue at hand, some individuals tend to blend the issue, and the person with the issue, into one combined category. By looking at the situation and removing the relationship from the equation, navigating the issue can appear to be much easier.

To do this, there are three key factors involved; perception, emotion, and communication. With perception, you are going to want to put yourself into the shoes of your opposing side. By doing this you are giving yourself the ability to withhold judgment and not blame the other person for why they are thinking the way they are and the reasoning behind what they are proposing. You will also be able to get through your conversation a lot smoother and come to a clear joint consensus after your negotiation while still being able to drive your point across to the other individual. Emotion being another factor simply means understanding why the other person is feeling the way they are and not judging them for the emotions they may be feeling during the negotiation process. By allowing more empathy and less judgment, you are more likely to conclude the negotiation a lot easier than you may have thought when you first began the process. If you were to fail to follow this step, it would become clear that by not cautiously dealing with other’s emotions, you are leading yourself into a disastrous state for negotiation due to the other person feeling as though they weren’t being heard. This also goes into the last point, communication. Communication is an extremely significant factor in how two people talk to each other in an attempt to negotiate. Allowing open communication and realizing why the other person is bringing up certain points, is going to be a much simpler process because it is going to encourage there to be more open dialogue. By not communicating effectively, things may become misconstrued in what someone is saying because you aren’t fully taking in what the other person is saying, resulting in a non-successful negotiation process. Examining these three sections and understanding the significance they hold is really the first piece to understanding why negotiating properly is so important. Taking these steps and applying them to your negotiations are only going to make them stronger and more likely to succeed. 

These are just some of the few factors that are discussed in this book and are deemed most effective in ways to negotiate effectively and efficiently. From my personal experience, a lot of people get caught up in the moment when trying to communicate with each other when negotiating, not really listening to what the other person has to say. Following these steps appears to be what can be deemed as most effective in the long process of negotiating because nobody is caught up in the moment, but is rather more self-aware of where the other person is coming from and why they are feeling the emotions that they are. Taking this guidance and applying it to their negotiating abilities can only strengthen the way that they communicate in the future and in the end, strengthen the type of relationship they would like to have.

Cassidy Utter – Mediation Intern

Divorce and the Mediation Process: The Male Lens of a Former Client and How He is Paying it Forward

By Jeffrey Hoffman

The divorce process felt like when a gladiator walks into a coliseum, or at least what I imagine that would feel like: The muted roar from the crowd warns of something large and looming, but you don’t know if they are cheering for or against you. Your family, your friends, and your colleagues are sitting in the stands, but so are her family, her friends, and her colleagues. I felt powerful – like I was impacting my own future. After all, I chose to be here and at the same time, I felt woefully unprepared for a potential battle I’ve only previously witnessed from the stands.

Walking into The Mediation Center was the first time I would have to negotiate for my own interests in the contexts of the marriage and its dissolution. We chose mediation because 1) We understood that it could be less expensive than traditional litigation through attorneys, 2) We felt we had sufficient strength in conviction to do what’s best for the family, despite our differences, and 3) We heard of others who had done mediation successfully and recommended The Mediation Center. We both arrived at the office around the same time, hugged, and were cordial as we were introduced to the process.

Renee LaPoint introduced herself to us and my first reactions were comfort and fear. Renee is friendly, crisply professional, and balanced. She is also a woman. Because of this, I worried it would be “two against one,” with her siding with my wife, and that I would need more advocacy for equal footing in the discussion. This was not the case at all. During the entire mediation process, I felt no bias towards or against me because of my gender. Although my experience when discussing divorces has been that men need to advocate more heavily to be seen as equal partners in the divorce, this wasn’t the case with Renee.

A friend described divorce by saying it’s like being on a roller coaster except the peaks and valleys are compressed. This played out fairly accurately for me. I could be in the middle of a work meeting with my chest tight and tears forming in my eyes from the terror filled thoughts of potentially fracturing the relationship with my kids – but still needing to present slides to colleagues. I would be buzzed and belly-laughing with new friends, but end the night alone in my empty, sterile apartment wondering if my kids blamed me. I would have new, deeper connections with my kids, but crumble into a depressed – sometimes suicidal – drunken mess after dropping them off at their mother’s house on designated days (and alternate weekends). I would leave The Mediation Center and cry in a park before returning to work. Divorce removed the ill-fitting armor of normalcy and forced me to bootstrap a new way of living for myself.

Divorce forced me to identify and prioritize my needs; it forced me to decide with intent where my energy was best spent, and it shoved me into a battle with my own demons that I had to face if I was going to make it through the process. And I did. 

The expression “getting divorced sucks – but being divorced is great,” rang true for me. I went from feeling like an invisible foundation to a structure larger than myself, to being a craftsman of my own destiny.  New found control. Discovering myself and the work that needed to be done on this newest part of my journey.

During my divorce process, I was grateful to the community that surrounded my wife so that she could be supported and bolstered as she went through this huge life change. But I received no such outpouring. I wondered if I was the only man who felt this way, SO…

I created VISIBLE MAN, – an organization that connects men in need, trains men to become better men for themselves and others, and is a visible network of advocates for men’s mental health and suicide prevention.

The Mediation Center gave us a framework for the difficult discussions and negotiations that need to happen for divorce, and provided a safe, unbiased environment to have them. The process exposed me to things I had never experienced, and helped me craft a new, battle-scarred but stronger, smarter version of myself.

Find out how you can connect with other men going through the same experience, and help us to become seen. You can find me at, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or at [email protected]

Social Distance Does Not Mean Social Isolation

During this time of social distancing, when we aren’t able to “see” people in person; friends, extended family and colleagues, remember to stay connected emotionally with those in your support system.

Social distancing means keeping everyone safe by staying at least 6 feet away from others not in your own home, and if you have to go out to the store for essential items, it means wearing a mask to protect yourself and others.

Social distancing doesn’t mean isolating yourself from people. Finding new ways to connect is important for good mental (and physical) health.

Get online when you can for virtual gatherings. You can plan a virtual game night with your friends where you all play multiplayer games in your gaming televisions (similar to the ones you can purchase at or laptops. Other things you can go for are a movie night, a pizza party, or celebrate birthdays/anniversaries.

Take advantage of other activities like reading, gardening, doing yard work (when the weather allows), do puzzles, binge watching shows and family game nights. Learn a new skill over distance learning or video. Have you always wanted to learn to sew? Or woodwork? Taking time to reset and recharge. Identify priorities and things that really matter.

I know I have some rooms that can be cleaned and purged and there is the basement and garage that needs sorting.

I find it helps to set one or two goals for myself a day, attainable goals and tasks. Do not try to do too much and set yourself up for failure. Be reasonable with yourself and others.

Giving back to others is also a great thing to do that will have multiple benefits for you and them. Helping an elderly neighbor with grocery shopping, or outside chores. Donating to your local food bank.

Self-care during social distancing means finding what feeds you.

So, ask yourself, “what feeds you?” and then make it happen.

Renee LaPoint, M.S.

The Mediation Center, Inc.


Should we put our separation or divorce “on hold” during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Some of you may be in the middle of a separation/divorce process or just starting, and be wondering how and if you should proceed.

We are here at The Mediation Center to help you virtually if you want to continue with a separation/divorce process, however, if you and your spouse feel like you need to focus on your family and finances and continuing with the separation/divorce does not feel right at this time, then take some precautions for keeping the stress and conflict low.

This time of limbo can be extra hard on couples who were planning on separating who now feel like they need to stay together (for kids now at home full time, finances, etc.)Here are some ideas to manage the stress if you are putting your process on hold:

  • Give yourself separate spaces in the home, if you are still living together, and honor those physical boundaries
  • Plan schedules to minimize time together
  • Decide in advance who is responsible for what tasks
  • Discuss any budgetary issues if money is tight
  • Get outside. Take a walk, hike, run, etc. Exercise can get positive endorphins going and provide oxytocin to improve mood
  • If you have children, plan time for each of you to be with the children while the other parent has time to themselves. And plan one-on-one time with kids. Your children will love your undivided attention!
  • Avoid “old” conversations that open wounds
  • Come up with a “safe word” that either of you can call out when you feel like a conversation or situation is getting too high conflict. Verbal boundaries are important
  • Once you feel your heart rate rising, disengage. Once your heart rate hits 100, all rational thought goes out the window. Our reptilian brain kicks in. Walk away and resume after a few hours have passed (3 hours is a good rule of thumb for many).
  • Acknowledge that this is an unusual time for all of us. Give each other (and yourself) some leeway on emotions. We all may need additional time and space
  • Connect with your support systems virtually. Don’t minimize the need for connection from people outside of our immediate family. Get online when you can, pick up the phone and get support.

No matter your decision to continue with your separation or wait, do not let the conflict get too great. Manage the time and the stress and if you need assistance, please us at 585-269-8140 or email us at [email protected] for questions or support.


Divorce Workshop – Saturday, April 11, 2020, 9:00 – 10:00 am – Fee Waived for Workshop to Help with Expenses During Quarantine

The Second Saturday Workshop will be held virtually this Saturday, April 11, 2020 from 9:00 am – 10: 00 am.

This workshop is designed to inform and educate women about the separation and divorce process. What do we all need to know before and during the process? Get you questions answered and talk directly to professionals in the field.

This month we are offering the program virtually, for a shorter duration during social distancing and with no cost for participants. We understand that people are more worried now about finances and we would like to help alleviate some of that concern.

You can register for the program by visiting Once registered you will receive a link for the program.

The Mediation Center participates in this program and encourages women to become informed on all decisions that will need to be made during a separation of divorce. Women typically feel less empowered when it comes to the finances and we want to encourage informed decision making for couples. Good decision making comes from both parties working with good and complete information.

We do not want men to feel alone or less empowered either. Men who feel they need more information before beginning a process for separation or divorce can reach out directly to The Mediation Center at 585-269-8140, by emailing [email protected] or by visiting our website at

We are dedicated to helping all couples, men and women, reach the best agreements for their families and we are working on more platforms and workshops to offer everyone going through divorce access to information.


Giving Back and Coping During Social Distancing

We are being asked to change daily life as we know it.

Routines are interrupted. Kids are home from school.

Offices are closed and people are working from home.

We are not sure how to act within the constraints that our government and health experts are recommending.


How do we deal with the extra stress, fear and conflict that may arise? Perhaps, by focusing on some of the positives and focusing on others, we can find some solace and good news…

Click this link for an inspiring article on Coping and Giving Back:

Giving Back and Coping During Social Distancing

Today as I write this blog, the sun is out and the sky is a vibrant blue. Not usual for the Rochester area. I am basking in the warmth and light.

People are out walking with their kids, families and dogs. So many dogs. We may need to stay 6 feet apart but the dogs are rejoicing in being with their owners and making new friends.

Strangers you pass when walking are grateful to say hi and welcome conversation even from a safe social distance.

More ball is being played in the front yards with fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.

People are slowing down and connecting more with people far away through virtual technology.

Creative play evolves out of boredom. More furniture forts in the living room and many humorous memes on social media.

Neighbors reach out to neighbors with groceries and kindness.

Communities come together to support those who may have less or are more vulnerable to getting sick.

Systems that are pushed have the chance to adjust and change.

And maybe, JUST MAYBE, we can learn from this time. Learn how to treat each other better and to have systems in place that can take care of us all.

The Mediation Center


Financial Perspective During COVID 19

By: Kitty Bressington, CFP®, CDFA

I know that these past few weeks have been a challenge. I think the market drop, the border restrictions, the layoffs, and the “yikes” factor is snowballing and it can be tough to balance all the associated emotions.

Episodes like this are what New Englanders like to call “bracing.” Shocking enough to take a little bit of your breath away but not cause frostbite. (OK, a true New Englander wouldn’t consider Rochesterians “New Englanders” but this is a time for solidarity, in all shapes and sizes).

Several people have asked if we are at “panic” point yet and I’m still going to say “No.” Here’s how I gauge panic – are you and your family making life-long significant changes to your personal spending patterns that will alter, forever, your relationship with money. Are you going to drop down to one car? Are you going to aggressively down-size your home? Are you evaluating all of your spending patterns and making wholesale shifts in where and how you spend (or will spend) your money? Sure, things are a little nuts right now (if you had told me two weeks ago I would be hoarding Taza Toffee Almond chocolate bars, I would have laughed – but now, hey, a girl has her vices….); this will pass and when the stores re-open, most people will slip back into old habits, slowly perhaps, but I doubt few of us (as in the population as a whole) will make significant changes.

To put some perspective on things – The market dropped 33.5% during the 1987 correction, 36.7% during the 2000-2001 episode and 51.9% during the 2007 drop. We are barely scraping the least of those numbers now and aren’t even close if you factor in that we shouldn’t have risen as high as we did. Further, most of you have well diversified portfolios which means that you have only a percentage of your portfolio in “the markets” so your value drop is even lower. Does that make it less painful – heck, no. It just means that we have to separate the emotion from the actual financials. It’s not easy, I get that but it’s critical so if any of you are feeling the itch to pull the trigger on your accounts, call me and we’ll talk.

On to some structural issues. For those of you who don’t know me well, it may come as a slight shock that I don’t have internet, cable, or a TV at home which is going to make the “stay-at-home” order somewhat challenging. It was a personal decision made years ago to protect my mental health and when the thought that I would need to work at home wasn’t even on the horizon.

Right now, the most important thing is to stay well. While drops in the market are shocking, the are easier to recover from than some health issues.

OK – the weather has turned and we can all get outside so go get some fresh air this weekend and let those UV rays burn off the germs.

Kitty Bressington, CFP®, CDFA is a founding principal of Linden Financial Consultants, LLC a fee-only, hourly-only financial consulting practice. With more than 20 years of experience, Kitty provides affordable, objective, well-explained financial advice helping clients understand the long-term ramifications of the financial decisions being made, particularly during the course of a separation and/or divorce.

By working on an hourly basis, clients are able to benefit from product-neutral financial advice, either periodically or on a regular basis, depending on their budget, making financial advice more accessible to those who want to take control of their financial well-being – no income or investment account minimums are required.

Kitty is a member of the Garrett Planning Network, a nationwide network of independent, fee-only financial advisors, a member of the Rochester Association of Family Mediators (RAFM), and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).

Kitty is also founding director of the Foundation for Women’s Financial Education, a non-profit
dedicated to improving the financial literacy of women in the Greater Rochester area and local sponsor of the Second Saturdays Divorce workshops.