Today, Maryellen chats with Rochester’s Renée LaPoint, president of The Mediation Center. Hear about the importance of mediation and why it’s okay to ask for help when it comes to your relationship. You have OPTIONS!
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, www.visibleman.org – 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 www.VisibleMan.org, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or at [email protected].
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 https://www.vizio.com/en/gaming) 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.
So, ask yourself, “what feeds you?” and then make it happen.
Renee LaPoint, M.S.
The Mediation Center, Inc.
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 www.womensfinancialeducation.org. 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 www.mediationctr.com.
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.
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.
SO MUCH CHANGE…
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:
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
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.
Guest Blogger: Maryellen Dance, LMHC, “Excuse me, you’re really going to talk to me about managing my anxiety during a global pandemic? You must be the crazy one.”
Maryellen Dance is a LMHC, Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She has a private practice in Pittsford, NY, is an adjunct professor at Nazareth College and is a friend. Maryellen and I began working together a couple of years ago for the Second Saturday Workshops. Workshops designed to inform and educate women about separation and divorce. You can find more information on this workshop at www.womensfinancialeducation.org. The workshop is held every Second Saturday of the month at The Mediation Center.
As a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, I am getting a lot of comments like the one above. I hear so many people telling me that they have just accepted they are going to live in a puddle of anxiety until this is all over. Well, that sounds miserable to me. Of course, we are going to feel a bit more anxious than usual during this time in the world, but we don’t have to just sit and let our anxiety take over.
If I had to guess, we are doing other things that actually increase our anxiety. Some of the top triggers for anxiety are boredom, fear, and loneliness.
Can any of us relate to these feelings right now?…..I know I can!
Although we can’t directly do anything to stop the global pandemic, we can work on our boredom, fear, and loneliness which ultimately lead us to manage our anxiety. I want to share with you some of the best and easiest ways to manage your anxiety during this time!
1. Recognize that you have anxiety. It’s okay to admit that right now is a stressful time in life. If we ignore anxiety, it has this tendency to bubble up underneath the surface until we feel like we’re losing it! Talk about it. Share with a loved one how you’re feeling. Have compassion for yourself for feeling this way.
2. Stop reading the news!! Okay, maybe not completely, because it’s important to stay informed. But we are inundating ourselves with news articles with so many statistics, opinions, and hypotheticals. Stay up to date, but put the phone down!
3. Stick to a schedule. Just like babies have feeding and sleeping schedules, so do we! To keep some sense of normalcy try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day as well as eating three meals around the same time each day.
4. Breathe! Breathe! Breathe! If you notice your shoulders going up and down, you’re breathing shallowly which can increase anxiety. Put your hand on your stomach and try to breathe in deep in your belly, your stomach should grow when you inhale and shrink back when you exhale.
5. Distract yourself. Make a quarantine bucket list of things you want to accomplish during this time and every time you feel bored, go to something on the bucket list. Call a friend. Read a book. Go outside. Try some new cannabis strains like the purple bubba strain. Anything to distract from the spiral of anxious mush in your brain! The latter is something that more and more people are doing nowadays to silence that stressful voice in their heads. As multiple countries are opening up to the possibility of using cannabis and decriminalizing it, people are able to buy cheap weed canada products as well as multiple others so that they are able to try it and see if it helps with calming them.
Please don’t put your mental health last. Please don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and panicked to reach out for support. Right now, (not all) but most insurance companies are even waiving copays for mental health therapy to meet the growing needs of the community. Call 585-294-1390 or email marye[email protected] with any questions or to make an appointment.
Many separated and divorced parents have questions during this uncertain time.
How do you manage shared parenting time and financial changes due to loss of job and/or schedule changes? Modifications to your current agreements can be made as long as you are both in agreement.
Agreements for child support include language for any substantial change in circumstances and COVID-19 can mean a large change for you and your family.
Mutually agreeing how you and your ex-spouse will manage the kids and finances while keeping everyone safe and healthy is of the utmost importance.
If you can agree on any changes for sharing time with the kids that need to happen (for health concerns or job schedule changes) and adjustments to support or sharing of expenses due to being laid off or having other changes in income, that is wonderful.
If you are unable to agree on how to handle the current situations we are all dealing with, loss of income and concerns for kids going between houses and exposure, (two of the most asked questions during this time), The Mediation Center can help you navigate these conversations to help you put a temporary plan in place.
Although the courts are closed, we can meet with you online or via phone. Let us know how we can help.
These are stressful times. Getting your questions answered and having clear understandings between you and your ex-spouse can make these next few weeks and months more manageable.
Call us at 585-269-8140 or email us at [email protected] to make an appointment.
Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Divorce/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the COVID19 Pandemic
From the leaders of groups that deal with families in crisis:
Susan Myres, President of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML)
Dr. Matt Sullivan, President of Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
Annette Burns, AAML and Former President of AFCC
Yasmine Mehmet, AAML
Kim Bonuomo, AAML
Nancy Kellman, AAML
Dr. Leslie Drozd, AFCC
Dr. Robin Deutsch, AFCC
Jill Peña, Executive Director of AAML
Peter Salem, Executive Director of AFCC
1. BE HEALTHY.
Comply with all CDC and local and state guidelines and model good behavior for your children with intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. This also means BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumor mill on social media.
2. BE MINDFUL.
Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal in time. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on 24/7, for instance. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.
3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and custody agreements.
As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The custody agreement or court order exists to prevent endless haggling over the details of timesharing. In some jurisdictions there are even standing orders mandating that, if schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as though school were still in session.
4. BE CREATIVE.
At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to fly and vacation attractions such as amusement parks, museums and entertainment venues are closing all over the US and the world. In addition, some parents will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games and FaceTime or Skype.
5. BE TRANSPARENT.
Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Certainly both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.
6. BE GENEROUS.
Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.
7. BE UNDERSTANDING.
There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many, many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something, even if it can’t be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.
Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It’s important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep their child safe.