TAG | divorce mediation

Jul/18

27

Taboo $$$$

When a server narrates a special entrée or a featured dish but does not state the price I have an internal cringe moment. “How much does it cost?” I want to ask but I dread asking. My younger daughter just got her first job. I asked her what she would be paid and I saw in her the same cringe moment. “I did not want to ask, it felt too weird.” she replied.

The cost of a meal, a car or a service matters and is a factor in our decision-making process. Price is an element of the cost benefit analysis we all perform many times a day. We all do this but rarely talk about it. I know this is a taboo subject for many potential clients considering mediation. They are often very emotional, sometimes desperate, scared, tired, weakened or angry, just to start a list. How do you weigh the potential savings of mediation while wondering where your kids are or if the joint savings account is suddenly empty?

You certainly may retain an attorney before, during or after you begin mediation or not at all. I always create a written summary of the mediation session and forward that exact same email with the attachment to both parties. You may then forward that on to your individual attorneys or a drafting attorney.

A working estimate of mediation sessions schedules would be an initial two-hour session to review the working arrangement you have in place, identify and review issues or unaddressed areas and create goals and expectations. A second two-hour session would be financial arrangements and considerations. I encourage people to also consult an accountant or tax attorney. A $ 35,000 car does not equal a $ 35,000 IRA in the eyes of the IRS and I really believe professional financial advice is helpful and necessary when settlements with property or tax exposure are involved.

Two two-hour sessions with hardworking and focused parties can yield an incredible amount of progress. If you have no minor children that eliminates an often large area of conflict. Many separating couples can finish the process in two sessions.

Mediation sessions are “Pay as you go”. I collect my fee of
$ 250.00 per-hour ($ 500.00 total) at the beginning of the session. The fee includes the summary report of the session, all my time outside of the session and any additional correspondence necessary. I do not collect a retainer nor invoice you additionally. I do have both parties sign a mediation agreement which creates a privacy shield for the mediation process. What is stated in mediation stays in mediation.

If appropriate for your situation, I do have different attorneys I refer clients to who prepare the actual court papers and petitions. They charge only for their time to prepare the paperwork. You can represent yourselves in court confidently.
Attorney fees typically range from a $ 500.00 to a $ 1,000.00 fee depending on how complicated the settlement is.
Here is the math- 3 sessions of 2-hours each total $ 1,500 + attorney fees of $ 500.00 to $ 1,000 is a range of $ 2,000 to
$ 2,500 total plus the court fees. Your mediation process may be a bit lower or higher but certainly very reasonable.
Honestly it can be the cost effective. Every case is different obviously. I had a couple with over a $ 3,000,000 net worth finish in 75 minutes and I have seen couple go for three sessions. It all depends.

You have a high quality and supported settlement because both parties designed it and understand why it is sustainable.
Mediation fees should never be an internal cringe moment.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt
Rule 114 Qualified Neutral, Parenting Consultant PC
Early Neutral Evaluator 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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Scenes from the orthodontist’s office

I was waiting at the orthodontist’s office during my child’s appointment. I was seated next to the office door of the financial administer which was closed and I could only hear muffled conversation.

Someone opened the front door which caused the financial administrator’s door to pop open slightly. She did not realize the door had opened or she certainly would have closed it. Honestly, I should have closed it myself and in hindsight I would have. I was so saddened by what I heard.

I entered the conversation right after the phone rang;

“Yes, X has an appointment today at 2:30.”

“No, the bill has not been paid.”

“Yes, I understand this bill is your ex-husband’s responsibility.”

“Yes, I have made many attempts to contact him regarding the balance.”

“Yes, I understand it is not your responsibility.”

“No, I will not try to collect from you.”

“No, I do not know when he intends to pay the balance.”

“What? You want me to instruct the front desk to turn X away?”

“No, I would never refuse scheduled treatments to X.”

“Why not? X needs to have the braces adjusted in a progression. We would never delay or refuse treatment.”

“Well, I am sorry you feel that way.”

“Hello? Hello?”

The administrator was compassionate and caring. She was the lone voice of reason. Poor X, what must her interactions be like when her parents really need to cooperate and support her? I cannot imagine.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt

Rule 114 Qualified Mediator, Parenting Consultant PC and Early Neutral Elevator ENE

Clean Slate Mediation.net

612-308-9994

 

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Feb/15

10

53 Paper Bags

53 Paper Bags

In early January I received a call from a mediation client. She is an elderly woman who had been a participant in an elder care issue with her children. She left me a voicemail asking me to send her a copy of her mediation receipt as she could not locate it or had misplaced the receipt. I printed of a copy of her 2014 receipt and mailed it off to her. I called her to let her know it was on the way. She proudly explained to me that she keeps a paper grocery bag for each year’s receipts, warranties, tax records, bank statements. When all the records are collected for that year she seals the bag, writes the year on the side and puts the bag up in the attic. I thought to myself that is actually a pretty good record keeping system until she said “Yep, I have bags going all the way back to 1961 when I moved into this house.”

53 years of documents, receipts, checkbook registers, papers. 53 paper bags of slowly deteriorating- likely mouse eaten- papers cluttering her attic. 53 bags of now useless records that are probably a fire hazard. Granted, the last 7 years or so are valuable but not the rest of those bags.

I have been thinking a lot about those 53 paper bags and how every person brings their own concepts of what is valuable and correct in all our personal interactions. We all have differing ideas and expectations of what is right and appropriate. We all have been shaped by our own life experiences. When our own expectations and belief systems come into conflict with another person’s differing perspective we are at odds with each other. Conflict happens in business issues, personal marital relationships, neighbors, extended families, and governmental bodies. Conflict occurs easily, resolution is more elusive.

The woman firmly believes- or perceives- those 53 bags will be an aid to her children and a gift of excellent records. I suspect after she dies her children- who are already in conflict with each other- will curse those brittle paper bags as they bring them down one by one from the attic. One woman’s thoughtful act becomes another person’s dirty job.

It just depends who you ask.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt
www.cleanslatemediation.net
612-308-9994

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My younger daughter and I volunteer at a food shelf as shoppers. We meet the clients and guide them through the shelves of the food shelf helping them make their selections and making certain they do not miss any categories. The broad spectrum of clients always amazes me; from young single mothers, to singles adults, elderly, physically challenged, large families, mentally challenged, your neighbor, my neighbor, the list is endless. We are to be friendly and helpful but we are not to ask personal questions or make the clients uncomfortable, for obvious reasons. Every once in a while we will have a client “type” we have helped before.

She is in her 50’s or 60’s, well dressed; her intake sheet indicates she is shopping for one adult, often plus a pet. Her eyes are downcast and she rarely makes eye contact. She is very quiet and polite but only answers our questions, never asks any of her own. She selects her items quickly and moves through the “store” as quickly as possible. She has an energy radiating from her of sadness and loss. She thanks us and leaves immediately.

I can only guess but I personally am certain she is separated and waiting for her divorce to be finalized. She has absolutely no available cash while the divorce drags on and on. She does not have money for gas, groceries, even the most fundamental needs. Her husband’s divorce team strategy is to “ice” his wife until she settles for less in the divorce settlement. Generally their kids- if they had children- are out of the house and only his wife is left to wait for the settlement. Sometimes this can last for months and months and months.

Thank heavens there are food shelves, friends, and neighbors to help her through. It all seems so cruel and sad. We all know or have known someone in this situation, or at least suspect it. I need to be clear; it can be a wife controlling money and the settlement too.

These women later, after their settlements and finalized divorce, often volunteer at the food shelf.

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Recently I was speaking with a new client to schedule an initial mediation session for a divorce. She does not work on Fridays and her husband usually can leave work early on Friday afternoons. We were looking for Friday appointment times. “How about Friday February 14th?” I suggested. “Hmmm, no, that is just too sad.” she responded. It took me a moment to realize I had suggested they begin divorce mediation on Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is fraught with peril for many individuals, especially the recently divorced or separated. For many their divorce feels like a failure of their marriage and they are ashamed the marriage did not last. Failure is a harsh word but it is the word I often hear used by clients. A Valentine’s Day newly alone can be very lonely and isolating.

As humans we naturally focus on the one bad event or experience and instead we forget the all the other good events or experiences. After a mediation session I often think of what I should have said or a better question to have asked instead of the discussions that went well or the progress that was made.

The same tendency to view events as negative applies to divorce. Obviously divorce creates challenges and consequences no one ever anticipated when they were planning their wedding. Divorce also though creates new opportunities and chances for change and growth that were not possible in the spiral of a deteriorating marriage.

After a separation and divorce both parties have a chance to challenge themselves and explore new opportunities. Some clients find solace in support groups, others mentor new divorcees, some focus on their work, some on their children if they have children and others take up new hobbies and sports. Money can be tight after a divorce but so many options have no or very little cost. A cup of coffee and a conversation with a supportive friend at a coffee shop is affordable. Some people begin to date and many eventually enter a serious relationship.

All of these new and positive possibilities exist precisely because of their divorce. New possibilities and positives to focus on exist because they did get divorced.

And no, I will not being mediating a divorce on Valentine’s Day.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt
www.cleanslatemediation.net
612-308-9994

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Apr/13

11

War of the Roses

In 1989 Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner starred in the movie The War of The Roses. They played a wealthy divorcing couple trying to get the other to leave the house. They destroy the house, ruin cars, swing from chandeliers and just behave badly. They were stubborn, self indulgent, childish and evil. Almost 25 years later my stomach still takes a flip thinking about that movie. I was so personally disturbed by the behavior, even though I had not personally experienced that type of conflict. It was just so destructive, both physically and emotionally.

Now viewing that film through the lens of a mediator involved in family law cases I believe I can confidently state there is no possible way that couple could mediate a divorce!

So, who can mediate a divorce? Mediation is about abandoning an I Win/you lose mentality and replacing that mindset with common goals and compromise. Good mediation candidates are individuals, especially in divorce, who are able to see a bigger picture and care less about minute details. People who can look past today’s concerns and see how things play out long term are good candidates. Most people have those skills; they often just have not used them very much recently.

 We live in a world of “I” or “Me”, IPhone, IPad, MyFi, My Medica, all those terms deal with the individual and not a cooperative or collective view.

 Mediation is hard and painful work at times but well worth thinking of a goal and outcome instead of I/Me.

Please feel free to contact me with mediation questions at 612-308-9994 or sheila-marie@cleanslatemediation.net

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Myth #2: A couple can only mediate if they have equal power. There are not many marriages where both spouses have equal advocacy skills. Ideally, both parties have equal bargaining power, but if they don’t which is more often the case, the mediator’s job is to empower the party who may not feel as comfortable in the process. She can see if the couple will agree to bring someone into the process who can help, such as a financial person or the party’s lawyer. However, there is a difference between unequal bargaining power and a situation where someone does not have the capacity to mediate. If someone cannot or will not advocate for himself or herself, whether it be because of personality, substance abuse or domestic violence, then only mediators with special training should undertake those matters, if at all.

If you have questions, contact Sheila-Marie.

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I have decided to start my blog by dispelling some of the myths about mediation. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and I’d like to try to clear some of that up by sharing accurate information regarding mediation and the services that mediators offer.

mediation services mnMyth #1: Only people who agree can mediate. If that were true, there would be no need to mediate. Of course people who disagree can mediate, just like people who are angry can mediate and people who don’t really like each other can mediate. All they have to do is agree to mediate, not agree upon every issue between them. Mediators do not expect their clients to talk quietly and never raise their voices, and a mediator truly has to feel comfortable being in the middle of people expressing anger and frustration, often times loudly. The mediator’s job, through restating and reframing what a party says and asking questions, is to get them to really hear what the other is saying and feeling and then see where they have shared interests to brainstorm resolutions where those interests can be met for both of them.

Common Myths about Mediation
(provided by Clare A. Piro, Esq.)

Only people who agree can mediate. If that were true, there would be no need to mediate. Of course people who disagree can mediate, just like people who are angry can mediate and people who don’t really like each other can mediate. All they have to do is agree to mediate, not agree upon every issue between them. Mediators do not expect their clients to talk quietly and never raise their voices, and a mediator truly has to feel comfortable being in the middle of people expressing anger and frustration, often times loudly. The mediator’s job, through restating and reframing what a party says and asking questions, is to get them to really hear what the other is saying and feeling and then see where they have shared interests to brainstorm resolutions where those interests can be met for both of them.

A couple can only mediate if they have equal power. There are not many marriages where both spouses have equal advocacy skills. Ideally, both parties have equal bargaining power, but if they don’t which is more often the case, the mediator’s job is to empower the party who may not feel as comfortable in the process. She can see if the couple will agree to bring someone into the process who can help, such as a financial person or the party’s lawyer. However, there is a difference between unequal bargaining power and a situation where someone does not have the capacity to mediate. If someone cannot or will not advocate for himself or herself, whether it be because of personality, substance abuse or domestic violence, then only mediators with special training should undertake those matters, if at all.

People who mediate don’t use lawyers so they make unfair agreements. In addition to using a review attorney at the end, parties in mediation may see an attorney both before and during mediation, and in some cases it is beneficial for a party to come to mediation with an attorney. As a mediator, I always tell people from the beginning that they can consult with a lawyer and have suggested it during the process if I thought it would benefit the party.

Mediation ignores the law so agreements will not be upheld. It is part of a mediator’s job to give the couple legal information, but she is not permitted to provide legal advice. More to the point, all couples want to know what would happen if they went to court. In a workshop entitled “What Would a Judge Do” presented by a Nassau County matrimonial judge to the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation, Judge Zimmerman reminded us that judges who conduct trials in matrimonial matters are seeing the worst of the worst cases since those are the cases that have taken years of litigation to get to her without settling. Those are hardly the standards that most people would want to use as a measure of what to do with their children or their money. She also spoke about how judges are human and that there are so many factors that come into their making decisions that she wishes more people would take control themselves and make the decisions. That said, when people learn what the law provides, most mediated agreements will substantially follow the law, and any deviations from well established principles of law should only be made knowingly by the parties.

Only people with few assets and low income can mediate. This is simply not true, and many high income, high profile cases mediate for the very reasons that anyone wants to mediate-it is a non-adversarial process to resolve their divorce in a way that is least harmful to the family, it is private and is not going to cost a fortune. In any event, complexity is not governed by the amount of money involved. It’s as difficult to budget with a family that is overextended no matter if the combined income is $80,000 or $500,000. Most mediators use software programs that can help with addressing some of the financial issues, and would not hesitate to call in help where necessary.

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