TAG | mediator

Divorce can be a terrifying and confusing process. Everyone has an opinion as to what are the best options for you to pursue. Should you try to mediate first, retain an attorney immediately, move out, stay put together in the same house? Empty out joint bank accounts, take only half the funds? Everyone has a sister, a brother-in-law, a neighbor, a co-worker, someone with a horror story to share.

It appears to be a giant chess game of strategies and positions. Individuals can feel as though they truly are just a pawn in a winner-takes-all chess game.

Every situation is unique. Every couple has unique challenges and strengths. No two divorces are alike, as no two medical treatments are alike. Results may vary- the same disclaimer as every pharmaceutical commercial on television.

Let me share some reliable information to consider in two major elements of divorce- child support and spousal maintenance. Both issues are emotionally charged and fraught with well-meaning “advice”.

Child Support– Minnesota has a Child Support Calculator which is used to determine the court ordered amount of child support to be paid when minor children are involved. The calculator collects the same information from every divorcing couple- income- if any- of each spouse, number of children, percentage of time the children will spend with each parent, children from previous relationships and other sources of income. The calculator runs the provided numbers through a matrix model and calculates the amount of child support paid to be paid by a parent. The calculator is straight-forward and accepted by the courts. The challenges come when the percentage of parenting time is straddling a step up or down on the calculator, and when there are large swings in annual income or other unusual circumstances.

Spousal Maintenance– Spousal maintenance (formerly alimony) is very different from child support calculations. There is not a calculator or a recognized guideline. Determination of spousal support is at best “squishy”. Spousal support is intended to help a spouse bridge time to return to the workforce, complete a degree or find childcare. A classic example would be a stay-at-home Mom to three kids 10, 8 and 5 years of age. The husband and wife were married twelve years. She worked until the birth of their first child. She cannot return to work tomorrow and earn enough money to support herself to her previous standard of living. She will need spousal maintenance- how much, how long? Spousal support is the element of divorce where the negotiations really occur. A spouse can waive spousal maintenance; can reserve spousal maintenance in the future or even agree to not claim spousal maintenance in consideration for a more favorable property settlement. Your neighbor’s spousal maintenance settlement will vary from your cousin’s settlement. It is the nature of negotiations.

Every divorce is different. Mediation is a useful, safe and thoughtful opportunity to work though the possible scenarios and settlements. The two spouses understand their working dynamics, especially when children are involved. In mediation both parents work together to craft a settlement that is organic and sustainable because they helped to design and create the settlement.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt

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

Clean Slate Mediation.net

612-308-9994

 

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· · · · ·

Jul/17

26

Secrets fester

He was a bull of a man. Tall, muscled, clearly tightly wound. He preferred to stand during the mediation. He reminded me of a peacock as he preened and strutted. She was quiet, folded into herself, clearly once a very beautiful woman. She had aged and appeared tired and worn out.

They were married 30 years. The children were launched, the house was paid for and their lives should have been grand. They both were working. She was a pre-school teacher; he was a police officer for a large metropolitan department.

Their divorce was straight-forward and almost formulaic. We were working though dividing their assets. One of the last items to work through was his police pension. He had accumulated a sizable pension in his tenure and it would continue to grow.

The rule of thumb is assets, such as a pension, that grew during the marriage are joint property. The value before the marriage is not joint property, nor is the growth after the divorce. During their 30 year marriage his pension had increased by $ 600,000 simply meaning $ 300,000 was her share.

I explained how this typically worked. He looked directly at me while leaning in uncomfortably close to me. “She is not getting one cent of that money. I put my life on the line every day and that money is mine! It is my blood money!”

Silence hung over the room while I processed what to say next. The pension was clearly personal and very raw. I glanced at his wife and she seemed stunned and mute. “Tell me more about your pension, why is it blood money?”

“You know the police shooting last week? And the riots and the accusations? Every day I get in my squad car and think is today the day? Is today the day I shoot a black kid? Is today the day I am in the news? Is today the day my career is over? Is today the day I die?”

He dropped into a chair and began to weep. I asked if he needed anything and he asked to be alone. His wife and I excused ourselves for a few minutes. She poured herself a coffee. She turned to me slowly and said “I always wondered what has happened to the man I married. I never guessed he was afraid and scared. You saw him; he is a big strong man. How did I not know?”

We returned to the conference room. He was composed. “I need to leave. Finish the property division; I know you both will be fair. She can have $ 300,000 more of the house OK? The pension is all mine, I need that OK?”

After he left I asked if she was comfortable with accepting $300,000 more of the equity in their home. She agreed. “If he needs to have his pension that is fine with me. I wished he had shared his fears. I would have tried to understand.”

I sent the mediation agreement to both of them but I wonder if they ever divorced. Now that he had shared his secret would she convince him to see a therapist? Would they see a therapist together? I hope so.

I always give a wave to police cruisers when I pass one now. No matter the ethnicity of the officers, their sex, their tenure and experience they always have silent stress and angst. I cannot begin to imagine.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt
www.cleanslatemediation.net
sheila-marie@cleanslatemediation.net
612-308-9994 Tags:Divorce, Separation, mediation, mediator, family law, divorce attorney

 

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I was sorting old notes for shredding and I came across notes from a case I chose 
not to mediate. A few years ago I met with a gentleman who was interested in 
mediation for a divorce. He was organized, well groomed and dressed, spoke 
eloquently and was charming.
I asked him if the divorce was a mutual decision between him and his wife.
He hesitated for a moment and said no. He explained his wife has been a 
high-functioning alcoholic for 30 years but in the last years she had 
become very medically fragile due to the alcoholism. She developed neurological 
and balance issues in addition to memory loss and liver function issues. 
She refuses to see her doctor anymore. She does not qualify for disability 
insurance and is no longer working. They have accumulated substantial debt 
because she is no longer able to work.
I asked why now? He recently came home one evening after a work trip and found 
their teenage daughter sitting silently in the kitchen and his wife passed out 
on the dining room floor. His daughter looked at him, tilted her head towards 
her mother and rolled her eyes. “It was an epiphany moment. I knew my daughter 
should no longer have to live in a chaotic co-dependent family system. I knew I 
had to save us both.”
Suddenly, after 30 years, he was pushing hard on the accelerator. He wanted to be 
divorced ASAP. He would walk away from the house, their possessions, anything to 
just to be done and to protect their daughter. He was not being rational.
They are both in difficult situations. Clearly his wife is chemically dependent 
and very sick. Alcoholism is a disease. Treatment did not work for her and she 
refuses to go again. He is likely co-dependent as so many spouses of alcoholics 
become plus he has to responsible for daily details plus their daughter.
I referred him to an attorney I know well and trust. I felt his wife could not 
participate in mediation. She cannot self-advocate or make life-changing decisions 
and I am concerned she needs someone to advise her. I did not get the sense her 
husband would try to cheat her or be unfair in the settlement but she is frankly 
a vulnerable adult. As he currently is too.
I wonder what happened to them. Hopefully she sought treatment and it worked this 
time. Honestly, not very likely though.
Life can be hard.
Sheila-Marie Untiedt
www.cleanslatemediation.net
sheila-marie@cleanslatemediation.net
612-308-9994
 

	

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Every mediator has a different style and tone. In divorce or separation mediation sessions I focus on the outcome and I attempt to mold discussions to be helpful and progressive. I never ask why a couple is separating. It simply does not matter legally, unless of course a crime has been committed or there are concerns around domestic abuse or child abuse. Why the divorce is happening does not matter to the court system. It obviously does matter greatly to the parties directly involved.

I recently mediated for a separating couple. They had been married long enough to have children, raise those children and now were empty-nesters. In my experience generally one of two things has brought them to this point. They either have simply grown apart and find a “stranger” in the kitchen getting coffee in the morning or one of them- sometimes both- has had an affair and the quiet house creates an Elephant in the Room.

I use a simple intake packet for mediation clients so I can collect factual information in advance and not use session time- and their money- to collect addresses, emails etc. That packet does not ask why they are seeking a divorce. I never ask why they are separating because rankly it does not matter to the court why they are separating.

In this recent session we were working through separating their assets and a palpable tension was rising in the room. Finally the wife looks at me, slaps the tabletop and thunders “Aren’t you going to ask what he did?” This is a delicate moment for a mediator. If I acknowledge her desire to tell me I have risked losing control of the mediation but she might feel heard and honored. If I do not acknowledge her desire to tell I have potentially left her feeling invalidated and likely not willing to continue the mediation. Her husband looked as though all the air had been sucked out of his lungs.

I took a deep breath and explained it does not matter legally but it does matter in a personal and relational sense. I made eye contact with her husband, he nodded and looked down. I asked her why they were divorcing. She roared out “He F^@#$%^&&&^^ed her and ruined our lives” and she began weeping.

I suggested we take a 10 minute break. After the break we started again on the list of assets and actually made great progress. After the session I emailed her a list of excellent therapists who could help her process her grief for the marriage and help her develop skills to carry her forward in her “new” future.

Sometimes life hurts. It just does.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt
www.CleanSlateMediation.net
sheila-marie@cleanslatemediation.net
612-308-9994

· · · · ·

The economic downturn left deep financial wounds in many families. The young investments bankers of Wall Street may be buying their first Bentleys but often the average American has not recovered enough to buy a new Kia.

Clients I work with often select mediation as their vehicle to divorce because is cost-effective. Frankly mediation is much less expensive than traditional divorce with each party retaining separate attorneys. Mediation clients can facilitate a settlement agreement- how to divide their assets and debts, how to arrange custody if they have children, how to share pets, how to co-parent, weekly schedules and any number of other details. My mediation rate is $ 250.00 per hour vs. legal fees generally starting at $ 300.00 per hour. Mediation is usually paid for equally by the parties effectively costing $ 125.00 per hour as opposed to each party paying an attorney $ 300.00+ per hour.

Mediation encourages divorcing couples to collaborate together to create a settlement they -and their kids- can live with and support. I recently worked with a couple who had divorced last year. They were both still making monthly payments to their attorneys to pay off their legal fees. They both had thousands of dollars left to pay for the divorce. They were not making ends meet and falling farther into debt. They came to mediation to discuss selling the house the wife had been awarded in their divorce. She was barely able to make the mortgage payments, her utilities were about to be shut off, his lease was up for renewal and his rent had jumped up $ 200.00 to $ 1,000 a month plus utilities. He needed dental work done, his car needed repairs and her credit cards were maxed.

Both of them were working opposite but shifts which had become an issue with parenting time and transferring their kids. As we started exploring their options they came to a surprising but very workable solution, or at very minimum, a option to try-out.

They decided he would move back into the home as a roommate, not a spouse. He would live in the finished lower level of the house and she would remain in the master bedroom. He would pay $ 500 “rent” – in addition to child support- which would go towards groceries, car repairs, the dentist and monthly expenses. She would pay the mortgage herself as the house was in her name. The kids would no longer need summer full-time daycare or after school after care. The summer daycare saving alone would be over $ 2,000 a month.

Together they both would benefit financially, they could begin to get out of the financial holes they both were in and the children would have both access to both parents every day.  She worked traditional hours and he worked 3:00 pm to midnight. They would rarely be home together during the week. Weekends would be an adjustment for them, especially if either begins seriously dating someone.

They both were very supportive of the concept and the financial benefits and were willing to become “Co-parenting Roommates”. I hope it works for them and their children. Perhaps they only lasts a month, perhaps this will be a long term solution. Time will tell.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt

www.CleanSlateMediation.net

sheila-marie@cleanslatemediation.net

612-308-9994

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

 

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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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65 is the new 45

I have been noticing a trend with divorce mediation clients I have been working with that directly parallels a national trend. Many clients are seeking to separate and divorce after 30 or even 40 years of marriage. The term for this phenomenon is “Gray Divorce”.

I recently worked with a couple who were 60 and 62 years old. They had been married 36 years. Their children were married or moved out. The husband and wife were both still working, both physically healthy active people with lots of interests and activities.

They simply had drifted apart. Neither claimed the other was unfaithful, no addictive behavior, no staggering debt, no clear cause or root of the separation. Somewhere along their daily lives they stopped interacting with each other and stopped relying on each other. Careers, work travel and frankly social media and instant internet access steal away intimacy and energy from a marriage. Suddenly you are 63 and realize you have been living with a roommate instead of a spouse.

Friends and family will be surprised to hear they are separating, but not really. We all know people in that situation, maybe even ourselves. Al and Tipper Gore separated in their early 60s after 40 years of marriage. The presidential campaign and election apparently toppled an already weakened foundation.

Many 65 year olds live as though they are 35 or 45. They are planning for the future, launching new businesses, running half-marathons, pursuing interests, publishing, creating art, traveling. 65 used to be considered “senior citizens”. The term suggested early bird dinners, coupon clipping, Buicks and The Price is Right. That reality may be true for some people but not for the Gray Divorce clients I have been working with.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt

612-308-9994
Rule 114 Qualified Mediator, Parenting Consultant PC and Early Neutral Elevator ENE

· · · · ·

Divorce can be a terrifying and confusing process. Everyone has an opinion as to what are the best options for you to pursue. Should you try to mediate first, retain an attorney immediately, move out, stay put together in the same house? Empty out joint bank accounts, take only half the funds? Everyone has a sister, a brother-in-law, a neighbor, a co-worker, someone with a horror story to share.

It appears to be a giant chess game of strategies and positions. Individuals can feel as though they truly are just a pawn in a winner-takes-all chess game.

Every situation is unique. Every couple has unique challenges and strengths. No two divorces are alike, as no two medical treatments are alike. Results may vary- the same disclaimer as every pharmaceutical commercial on television.

Let me share some reliable information to consider in two major elements of divorce- child support and spousal maintenance. Both issues are emotionally charged and fraught with well-meaning “advice”.

Child Support– Minnesota has a Child Support Calculator which is used to determine the court ordered amount of child support to be paid when minor children are involved. The calculator collects the same information from every divorcing couple- income- if any- of each spouse, number of children, percentage of time the children will spend with each parent, children from previous relationships and other sources of income. The calculator runs the provided numbers through a matrix model and calculates the amount of child support paid to be paid by a parent. The calculator is straight-forward and accepted by the courts. The challenges come when the percentage of parenting time is straddling a step up or down on the calculator, and when there are large swings in annual income or other unusual circumstances.

Spousal Maintenance– Spousal maintenance (alimony) is very different from child support calculations. There is not a calculator or a recognized guideline. Determination of spousal support is a best “squishy”. Spousal support is intended to help a spouse bridge time to return to the workforce, complete a degree or find childcare. A classic example would be a stay-at-home Mom to three kids 10, 8 and 5 years of age. They were married twelve years. She worked until the birth of their first child. She cannot return to work tomorrow and earn enough money to support herself to her previous standard of living. She will need spousal maintenance- how much, how long? Spousal support is the element of divorce where the negotiations really occur. A spouse can waive spousal maintenance; can reserve spousal maintenance in the future or even agree to not claim spousal maintenance in consideration for a more favorable property settlement. Your neighbor’s spousal maintenance settlement will vary from your cousin’s settlement. It is the nature of negotiations.

Every divorce is different. Mediation is a useful, safe and thoughtful opportunity to work though the possible scenarios and settlements. The two spouses understand their working dynamics, especially when children are involved. In mediation both parents work together to craft a settlement that is organic and sustainable because they helped to design and create the settlement.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt

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

Clean Slate Mediation.net

612-308-9994

 

· · · · ·

A Scene From the Recital Hall-

I recently attended a recital on a cloudy Sunday afternoon.  Let’s be honest, other than the recital student you attend to hear perform their recital piece, your mind begins to wander, at least mine does. I was seated to the back of the recital space which gave me a great view of the other guests. I often find myself attempting to puzzle together who these people belong with and a little about them and their stories and their relationships. Occupational hazard I guess.

Seated directly in front of me was a couple with their 10-year old son. The wife was sitting next to the boy and had her right arm around the boy’s shoulders. After a minute or two a gentlemen sitting on the other side of the boy reached out his left arm and draped it across the boy’s shoulders also. The woman turned her head and hesitated and began to remove her arm. The man whispered “I am sorry” and removed his arm.

The woman’s husband leaned over and whispered “Is everything ok?” and she quickly responded “Oh yes, just fine.”

I quickly realized the boy’s mother and father were seated on either side of him and his step-parents were seated next to each of his parents. The recital just got a bit more interesting.

After the recital during the obligatory juice and cookie reception I could not help but watch this family interact. The boy’s parents were talking with each other and with their son, the stepparents were standing to the side waiting quietly. The boy’s stepmother took numerous photos of the boy and his parents, then the boy and his Mom and step-father and handed her camera to the boy’s mother who took photos of the boy with his Dad and stepmother.

These four adults were stunning examples of successful co-parenting. They all put the boy first and behaved with grace and elegance. The boy clearly felt loved and supported at his recital, which is the point after all.

Sheila-Marie Untiedt

www.cleanslatemediation.net

612-308-9994

· · · ·

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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