TAG | custody

I am always very cautious my blog posts details are vague enough so clients do not recognize themselves or feel their privacy has been violated or a trust broken.

I met with these clients over a year ago and I will not identify the parents as either Mom or Dad, simply as parents. I also will refer to the child as X only.

They had been married almost twenty years and found themselves contemplating divorce. They were still living together and co-parenting their three children. Over the years they had drifted along in their marriage, busy with family demands and work demands. That happens frankly in most marriages with kids. They have not had enough time to focus on their relationship but that does not mean divorce is the best solution in most situations.

I was not picking up a clear sense of their specific relationship challenges and they were very businesslike in all their discussions and exchanges. Separating property and assets was easily worked through with an accountant’s precision.

As I asked about their children I was met with a stony silence. Finally one said simply “We do not agree”. Not agree on custody? Child support?
I asked what did they specifically not agree on. “X claims they are transgender”. The other parent shot back “X is transgender, X is not just claiming it”. It did not improve from there.

The exchange continued with allegations of propping up teenage “fads”, being too close-minded, caring too much what other people think and on and on. They never mentioned their two other children.

Once they had burned off that energy I asked them about their marriage. When had is stopped being supportive and positive? They both looked at each other and gave the same answer. “When X announced they were transgender it soon felt as everything shifted and morphed because we see the issue so differently. It is one thing to have a discussion in general about an issue but an entirely different experience when it is your own child”. Both parents were now crying.

We took a short break and when we all sat down again I asked them if possibly their marriage was not the challenge but rather X’s transgender status and how to parent such an issue, especially when they had very different responses and belief systems.

I suggested they try meeting with a marriage and family therapist before they continued with the divorce. I told them they were always welcome to return to mediation and I would be glad to continue working with them if that was their final decision. I never have heard back from them in over a year.

Parenting is so hard. I have seen couples come almost to blows over whether their child should play traveling hockey, I cannot image trying to parent a delicate and major decision when the parents are so divided. Clearly both parents wanted the best for X, they just had very different ideas of what “best” was.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt
Rule 114 Qualified Mediator
Parenting Consultant PC
Early Neutral Evaluator ENE
Clean Slate Mediation.net
612-308-9994

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Mediation is utilized for many differing types of conflicts. Mediation can be helpful in elder disputes, neighbor issues, landlord and tenant issues, divorce, separations and post divorce decree. I often work with parties after the divorce has been finalized.

Mediation sessions can fine-tune parenting issues that may arise after the divorce. As children age their challenges morph and shift. Originally perhaps choosing a preschool was a challenge but now issues of where to attend school, traveling sports teams, teen drivers or religious training surface. Some divorced parents – honestly still married parents too- manage these transitions easily but many do not. If one or both parents has remarried and is now a blended family with step children in addition to their own children the possible permutations of conflict increase exponentially.  Parents who cannot resolve these issues ultimately are struggling to parent effectively and successfully.

 Parenting Consultants (PC) are an option available to consider. Parenting Consultants are another form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). A PC is appointed by the court. The PC may work with the family for a limited period of time or possibly the entire period the children are minors.

 A Parenting Consultant is neutral in relationship to the parents, just as in mediation. The PC is focused on best possible outcomes and decisions for the minor child or children. The PC can function as a coach for the parents because they are able to establish a relationship and a trust level not practical in the court setting. The PC and the parents have a common history and understanding of the family’s specific challenges and skills. A sense of accountability exists also. The PC does have to power to decide how an issue is to be resolved if the parents simply cannot agree.

 I am trained as a Parenting Consultant. I intend to work more as a Parenting Consultant. PC work dovetails neatly with mediation and the process truly help the kids and their parents too.

 Sheila-Marie Untiedt

www.cleanslatemediation.net

612-308-9994

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Shame, as defined by Merriam-Webster1-a feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong, 2-the ability to feel guilt, regret, or embarrassment 3-dishonor or disgrace

 We all have experienced a feeling of shame. We shame ourselves and others “graciously” shame us too. Entire lives have been shaped and twisted by shame. Shame makes frequent appearances in mediation sessions and therapy sessions. An adulterous spouse will often intentionally over-compensate in a divorce settlement by literally giving away their property or money to the partner they have hurt. They are attempted to right a wrong- a gallant payoff-but not truly addressing the underlying issue.

 Elder issues are often a minefield of shame. Adult siblings wrangle with each other for attention, recognition and pecking order. Those squabbles about who was the bathroom hog manifest into entire narratives of loss and disappointment as families age and resentments, often anchored in shame, fester.

 Recently I worked with a sibling group struggling with elder care challenges. Their father had died a few years ago. Their mother was still living at home but could no longer drive. Their mother was beginning to require more daily care and more frequent medical appoints to manage her diabetes and related challenges. One son lived on the West coast, one son lived 40 minutes from their mother and the daughter lived 15 minutes from their mother.

 The daughter worked full-time but had a home office setting and a flexible schedule. The local son had an 8-5 job and the West coast son traveled for business. The daughter had become the lead caregiver for their mother. She stopped over every day to check on the mother. She also scheduled the doctor appointments and drove to all the appointments, the grocery store, shopping trips, etc. The mother had recently been hospitalized and was released from the hospital on the requirement for 24 hour care for the following week. The daughter literally could not handle any more responsibility. After some nasty fights with her siblings and a recommendation from a good friend she convinced her brothers to try mediation.

 We met together with the West coast brother on speaker phone. The session quickly devolved into hurtful statements and childhood rivalries. One sibling actually said Mom always loved you best. If that phrase does not trigger a smile from you search “The Smothers Brothers”.

 The daughter stated she felt she was being taken advantage of by her brothers. The pattern had developed that she was the default caregiver. She felt unappreciated and angry. The local brother seemed stunned as he processed her statements. The West coast brother wanted to move their mother into senior housing and let the facility get her to and from appointments. The one common, but unstated, emotion was shame. Shame they had not been more helpful, shamed they resented helping their mother, even shame to move her and be done with the issue.

 At the point we could begin to process solutions and suggestions the daughter stated she really just wanted to be thanked for everything she had been doing. She would do it regardless but she wanted to be recognized and thanked.

 I suggested it might make sense to simply pay her for the time she spent individually caring for their mother. West coast brother balked and said “Just get a car service; I am tired of being jerked around. We searched “elderly ride services” and quickly discovered they are expensive. One service had a flat one way rate of $ 75.00, round trip $ 140.00. Suddenly he was more willing to explore other options.

 In the end, the two brothers agreed to split an hourly rate of $ 25.00 to compensate the sister for her time. The sister might be paid $ 150.00 per month- three appointments a month, two hours each. The next month might be higher or lower. The sister would keep a log of her time and bill each brother at the end of the month. The sister would keep the brothers informed of unusual requirements, such as the 24 hour care for seven days after hospitalization challenge.

 In the end the daughter felt she had been heard and honored and the brothers felt they too were contributing to their mother’s care, even if indirectly. They felt less shame too.

 Mediation is an option to explore. Mediation is not about win/loss, right/wrong, accusation/defense but rather about what is the best settlement and resolution that leaves everyone as whole as possible, without shame or guilt.

 Sheila-Marie Untiedt

Rule 114 Qualified Mediator, Parenting Consultant PC

Early Neutral Elevator ENE

Clean Slate Mediation.net

612-308-9994

 

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New Year appears in the shadows of winter, nudging us along, motivating our gluttonous souls forward into the growing light of future months.

 Resolutions are made with intention and yet our resolutions often fall away, leaving behind a dimming glimmer of our hopes and dreams for ourselves, unmet and abandoned.

 Many resolutions are familiar to us as we have all made these resolutions- to become organized, to develop a skill or learn a language, to exercise or lose weight, to eat better. Some resolutions are less familiar to us but perhaps should be more embraced in our lives.

 January also brings resolutions of personal honesty and self-reflection. Mediation cases and inquiries accelerate in January. The metaphorical tinsel has been packed away and we are left with the clear and uncluttered truth. “Something has to change. I cannot avoid this any longer. I cannot live like this any longer.”

 This is especially true for separation and divorce. The process of divorce and separation is slow and arduous at times. Parties feel as though they are slogging through the sordid details of their lives- challenges and financials are laid bare to be examined and discussed by others. “Who is responsible for that mistake, why did you buy that, why didn’t you try harder?”

 Who would ever willingly subject themselves to such examination? No wonder couples delay initiating a separation and divorce. Tonight there will be a spouse sleeping on a mattress in the unfinished basement, no longer welcome in their own bedroom but not yet ready to move out. The desire to avoid what needs to be addressed and rectified is powerful.

 Mediation is an option to explore. Mediation is not about win/loss, right/wrong, accusation/defense but rather about what is the best settlement and resolution that leaves everyone as whole as possible, without shame or guilt.

The darkness of January will yield to the promise of more light and hope.

 

Sheila-Marie Untiedt

Rule 114 Qualified Mediator, Parenting Consultant PC

Early Neutral Elevator ENE

Clean Slate Mediation.net

612-308-9994

 

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