Author: Divorce Done Differently in PA

Is Collaborative Divorce a Good Idea?

When one thinks of a divorce, they usually think of only one party winning and both parties barely able to cooperate. However, that is not often the case in some situations. Some instead would prefer the process of a collaborative divorce, in which all members involved would walk away satisfied with the agreed results. If you are wondering, “is collaborative divorce a good idea?”, keep reading to see if this option is best for your situation.

What is a Collaborative Divorce?

The process usually involves both parties working together with their respective lawyers and the mediator involved with the case to reach a solution that benefits all. By doing this, all the parties involved will understand the requests with a clear understanding of why this was suggested. Outside of the broad strokes, other factors will vary depending on the judicial district and the attorneys hired for the process.

Who Would Want to Have a Collaborative Divorce?

Those willing to have a collaborative divorce would most likely want a peaceful resolution to the process. Say, for example, a spouse wants to have a divorce but is not willing to go through the tiring process of a traditional divorce. This could be for several reasons, such as if they had a child together or if they want to still have a connection with a former spouse or anyone else connected to them in some way. Through this process, all parties can benefit from this situation without straining the relationship further than it already has.

What Are Some of the Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce?

When it comes to some of the benefits, it can often focus on the idea of better communication for both parties. With the option of both sides working together, the amount of miscommunication between both parties is reduced. (The idea of both sides benefiting from the process as well as another strong point of this practice- delete) .Also, most former couples do not want to see former spouses left out high and dry for a variety of reasons. Collaborative divorce helps parties work together to create a financial settlement that works best for both of them ( add) In this way ( add) , all parties involved will walk away with ( some sort of benefit – delete ) a resolution that(add) will make each feel satisfied with the outcome.

Why is a Collaborative Divorce Important?

In an age where it seems like everything around us feels like a nightmare, the way both parties ( communicate in a divorce is very important. Clear communication between both parties limits the amount of misunderstanding that often happens in a traditional court environment. In a collaborative divorce, both parties will feel like there is no hidden agenda to ruin them. This aspect of collaborative divorce is especially important if the couple has any children who are often unintentionally caught in the crossfire of a traditional divorce, adding to the trauma they already are experiencing with the dissolution of the family

How Does Collaborative Divorce Benefit Me?

The collaborative divorce process helps make the communication between both parties clearer and calm and avoids unintentional misunderstandings than if they were going through a typical court case. This way of communication makes the process much smoother and quicker than in a traditional court environment. Collaborative divorce is a good idea because having a smoother, quicker process reduces the amount of time and money wasted over non-productive arguments that don’t need to happen in the first place. When both parties can see things from each other’s perspectives and work to reach the best overall settlement for everyone through the collaborative divorce process, each party wins in the end.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at lmjmyers@cs.com.

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The Difference Between a Divorce Mediator vs. Attorney

As one begins to prepare for a divorce, one may look into the various options that are available to them. A person may be confused about some aspects of divorce proceedings when they are trying to gather information about the process, such as the differences between a mediator and an attorney. While most people assume that hiring an attorney is the only route for a divorce, this is not necessarily true. If someone is seeking to make the transition of divorce go as smoothly as possible, mediators can play a vital role in ensuring a divorce goes this way. If you are going through or considering divorce or know someone who is, you may have some questions about the benefits and differences between a divorce mediator vs. attorney.

What Does an Attorney Do in a Divorce?

While an attorney may be the first thing that comes to mind when one files for a divorce, they may not be the best option for you in the long run. The attorney’s goal is to represent their client to ensure their client ultimately comes out on top at the end of the divorce process, regardless of how it affects their spouse.

How Much Does An Attorney Cost?

You will have to pay an attorney a large retainer of thousands of dollars to cover the cost of your representation. Divorce attorneys are usually paid an hourly rate. They and their staff charge for every phone, call, email, letter, copy, or anything they do concerning your case well before you even get into court. Then once you get to court, you often spend hours waiting with the attorney to hear your case, and you get charged for that, and the time it takes your attorney to argue your case before the court.

What Does a Mediator Do in a Divorce?

Mediators work with people to help them reach a settlement that is a compromise to serve the overall best interest of everyone involved. Communication with each party is key if you want your divorce process to be a smooth transition. A mediator is essential in facilitating communication between spouses by helping the parties to listen to each other express their needs and wants and helping them navigate different options to help the couple get an idea of where they need or want to go. In doing so, the mediator helps the parties from a neutral perspective reach a compromise and settlement with which both can be content. Mediators can also come from various backgrounds, including therapists, though a law degree is required in some states for them to operate.

How Much Does a Mediator Cost?

In general, another difference between a divorce mediator vs. attorney is that mediation is generally less expensive than most lawyers or litigation. Most mediators charge a flat fee that usually covers several mediation sessions to discuss various issues, such as how to distribute the couple’s property or custody arrangements. For their flat fee, the mediator also generally reduces the couple’s agreement to writing to help them finalize their divorce. If a mediator is not a lawyer, you may have to take your written agreement to always afterward to help you finalize your divorce.

What is the Benefit of Having a Mediator Who Is Also An Attorney?

The mediator’s job is to hear the desires of both sides and help both parties compromise to reach an agreement. An attorney/mediator can help the parties create a legally binding written contract encompassing their entire agreement to become part of their divorce decree. The attorney/mediator can then help the parties navigate the finalization of their divorce through the courts once the written agreement is signed. In this way, an attorney/mediator can make a divorce proceeding that could end up being a smooth transition upon which all parties can agree.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at lmjmyers@cs.com.

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Questions To Ask Your Divorce Attorney about Custody

As the process of a divorce starts, many people may have questions about custody. Some may have questions about logistics involving custody schedules, while others may have questions about some of the emotional aspects of the process. Here are questions to ask a divorce attorney about custody to help you through the process.

How Do I Tell My Child/Children About The Divorce?

Depending on the state of the parent’s relationship, they may tell the child together or separately that they have decided to divorce. It is best for the parents to coordinate giving this information about the divorce to their child. A significant event like divorce has the potential of shattering the child’s world, whether they are toddlers or teens. The situation may be confusing for the child, so it is very important, to be honest with the child. Parents should explain to the child that they are separating households in clear, precise words that the child can understand based on age. The parents must let the child know that even though they won’t be living in the same house together all the time, both parents love the child and that all the child’s needs will always be met.

What Is the Best Custody Schedule for My Child?

Parents should consider the mindset of the child and the difficulties the child may have in adjusting and transitioning between two houses. For example, some children may do better living primarily with one parent, while others will want to spend equal time with both parents. A custody schedule that both parents agree upon and create with their child’s needs and best interest in mind is what is best for the child’s emotional and mental wellbeing.

What Are Aspects to Consider in Custody?

Some questions to ask a divorce attorney about custody involve different aspects. There are two sides to child custody. The first side is legal custody. Legal custody is focused on religious, medical, and educational decisions concerning children. Parents may share legal custody, where both parents must consult with one another about major religious, medical, and educational decisions concerning children. Or one parent may have sole legal custody with the right to make major decisions concerning religions, medical or educational issues without consulting with the other parent.

The other side of custody is physical custody. Physical custody is a schedule that determines when the child spends time with each parent.

A parent could have sole, primary, or partial/shared physical custody. In this case, one parent has the child most of the time, and the other parent has the child for lesser periods, such as alternate weekends or one night a week for dinner or overnight.

A parent’s time with the child may also be required to occur in the presence of a third party or supervised custody. In this scenario, one parent has the child most of the time, and the other parent may only see the child for short periods of time in the presence of a paid supervisor such as a social worker or a trusted family member.

Finally, both parents can have joint physical custody of the child where the child spends equal time with both parents. In this situation, parents may alternate time with the child on an alternating week-to-week schedule or a split-week schedule. For example, this schedule may have parents alternating weekends for 1 to 3 days at a time and sharing the week, whereby each parent may have the child alternating 2 to 3 or 4 to 5 days at a time.

Which schedule works best for the children can be decided by the parents or by the courts. Hopefully, since you and your co-parent know your child better than any judge will, you will work together to create the best possible schedule for your child. Suppose you don’t think that the two of you can reach that decision together on your own. In that case, a mediator can help facilitate conversations to help the two of you reach a mutually agreed-upon schedule that works best for your children.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at lmjmyers@cs.com.

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Divorce Mediation vs. Litigation Through the Courts

When a couple agrees to a divorce, many challenges lie ahead that can affect how long a divorce takes. A divorce will involve determining the value of all assets and debts the couple owns or owes and how they will be distributed between them. The divorce laws in this regard will vary for each state. What divorce process will work best for the couple is ultimately up to them. Some couples think divorce litigation is the only process available, but other options exist, such as mediation. Below is a comparison between divorce mediation vs. litigation.

Mediation Process v Court Process In General

Like with many aspects of life, many factors can determine how the divorce process will go. Many issues will need to be considered and resolved in divorce mediation vs. litigation, such as conflicting interests, scheduling issues, and other unforeseen events.

Mediation Process: An Overview

First, a couple needs to understand what the mediation process entails. The spouses should do some online research about mediation and mediators in their area. The couple should meet with a few mediators to interview them to decide which mediator is the best fit for their situation.

Both spouses must feel comfortable with the mediator they chose. They must make sure that they feel at ease with their mediator personally. They need to ensure that the mediator is experienced and knowledgeable. They need to understand the costs of mediation.

The mediation process is designed to ensure the divorcing couple reaches an agreement they consider fair for both of them. In the end, the mediator works with the couple to ensure that they are operating on an even playing field and that they focus on the best outcome for all. The mediator will help guide the couple in completing the many tasks and factors to consider in reaching an agreeable settlement. In addition, the mediator will facilitate discussions between the couple where each person can present their side of the story and the desired outcome they wish to achieve and then help the couple reach a compromise agreement. But ultimately, in the end, it is the divorcing couple in control of the process in terms of scheduling and determining the terms and conditions of their agreement.

Only one mediator is required to help both spouses together resolve. A mediator is generally paid a flat fee for their services. The couple determines how fast or slow their mediation process will take. As a result, the mediation process is faster and less expensive than litigation.

Litigation Process: An Overview

In litigation, each lawyer works with their client to fight for what works best for their client. The attorneys are not focused on what works best for the other side of the family as a whole. There is no discussion between just the parties to work out a settlement. All such discussions are generally tasked to the attorneys and the judges who decide the issues based on the law. The courts and attorneys control the scheduling and how information concerning the parties’ assets and debts is shared and then ultimately divided.

In addition, each party is paying its attorney. Each party will have to pay their attorney a hefty retainer, which will be depleted by the hourly charges for the attorneys and their staff and other expenses involved in preparing a court case. There are often delays and a lot of time wasted waiting for court cases to be scheduled and even on the day of trial for the judges to take the bench and afterward render a decision. This makes litigation a much more time-consuming and expensive process than mediation.

Mediation Process v. Court Process in Resolving Financial Issues

During the divorce process, what needs to be determined in terms of finances is how the assets and debts of the couple are to be distributed and if either party needs to pay the other party’s support.

Financial Issues in Mediation

The couple will need to gather all the financial documentation requested by the mediator to be shared. This is required to ensure that both the mediator and the couple have clear, complete, and full disclosure of all the couple’s assets and debts to be considered for distribution.

In mediation, the couple will clearly understand what has been or will be distributed from the combined assets and debts—having a clear idea of who gets what reduces the stress of the divorce process.

In mediation, the couple may consult with an attorney about the laws of their state concerning the division of marital assets and debts. They may also consult a certified divorce financial analysis to consider various scenarios in dividing marital assets and debt. This can help to divorce couples make a knowledgeable and informed decision concerning the division of their marital estate.

The couple will also look at their budgets for their separate households and consider their state’s laws to help guide them on the decision of support being paid between the parties.

Financial Issues In Litigation

A lawyer will work with their client to get all the financial information for the couple and the marital estate and all the dirt they can use against the other spouse to present the best case for their client in court.

In litigation, the couple may not clearly understand what has been or will be distributed from their combined assets and debts. This judge, not the couple, makes the decisions on how their assets and debts are divided based on the laws of their state. In terms of support, the state laws also determine the amount of support to be paid between the parties and whether or not it makes sense for their household budgets.

Mediation Process v Court Process in Deciding Custody Issues

If children are involved in a case, reaching a solution that creates the ideal conditions for the child is crucial. The issues to be considered can range from where the child lives and the school the child attends to how the financial responsibility for the child is shared. How the parties involved approach custody differs between divorce mediation vs. litigation.

Custody Issues in Mediation

In mediation, the parents work together to resolve issues about how to raise the child. The mediator will help the couple formulate a parenting plan involving the children. Issues that the parents will discuss and agree upon can range from sharing time with the child, schooling, extracurricular activities, and housing to creating the best living situation for the child.

Custody Issues in Litigation

In cases where the courts decide custody issues, the judge, not the parents, determines what works best for the child in determining where the child has to live and how much time the child spends with each of the parents. In making these decisions, the court will weigh various factors such as consistency in the child’s care, the living accommodations for the child, and the child’s general safety and well-being in determining which parent cares for the child. To try to succeed in winning time with their child, parents often wage costly and bitter court battles that are emotionally destructive to the child and each other.

Ultimate Decision

Suppose you and your spouse want to divorce by working together to divide your assets, debts, and household in a way that works best for your family rather than fighting each other to win, so the other person loses. In that case, mediation may be a good option for the two of you to consider.

How Much Will The Mediation Cost?

While the statistics vary between states, in Pennsylvania, the average flat fee cost of a mediated divorce is between $5,000 and 8,000 dollars. Some but not all mediation practices offer a free consolation to give you additional information about the mediation process, so check beforehand if there is a charge when scheduling your consultation. There may also be additional fees on top of the flat fee, such as fees for financial professionals such as appraisers, accountants, or certified divorce financial analysts. Other fees will be required on top of the flat fee rate, such as court filing costs and outside fees for preparing Qualified Domestic Relations Orders needed to divide 401ks and pension.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at lmjmyers@cs.com.

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Look For The Good in Divorce

Look For The…(Wait) .. Good.. (What?!).. in Divorce

What are we looking for? What do we see around us? Sometimes there are views and hues which filter out so much of the good that’s out there, distorts so many situations, or just needlessly separates us from one another as we are just get carried along with torrent of everyday life.

One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that sometimes we need to be more mindful and deliberate about what we what we’re looking for so we can see things differently. So many things influence what and how we see things (and that makes total sense). In separation and divorce, the world often seems filled with an overwhelming pall of darkness, anger, resentment and despair. This is totally normal and completely understandable.

So often I have seen couples become so entranced by revenge that they get lost in ever chasing that white whale, Moby Dick, like the fabled captain Ahab who says as he is pulled down into the sea by the object of his obsession:

“…to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart, I stab at thee; for hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee…”

I’ve seen all too many of these sad divorce tales and know all too well the traumatic endings.
I feel exhausted and tense just thinking about that type of separation/divorce.

Yet I find that there is so much more to a situation in any given moment if we just look at it from a different angle. It is difficult and an arduous journey but it can yield the possibility of sailing off peacefully into that proverbial sunset.

Being from the Philadelphia area, I’ve become familiar with some of the ideas of “The Society Of Friends” (better known as William Penn’s Quakers). One thing which has impressed me about this group’s belief system is that their entire faith is built on this one simple premise- Seeing what is called a “Divine Presence” or “That Of God” within others- to see the light of God in everyone they meet.

Applying this simple tenet to my everyday life, I’ve found that everything changes. I see and experience things I never knew existed. I’m not talking about some religious epiphany. But if you are able to look for and then see some semblance of that Divine Presence or “good” in everyone and everything in your everyday life, you can in a very practical way see life through a lens that makes everything seem infinitely more beautiful and amazing. And in turn this new found vision can nurture you and your own sense of well-being and have a ripple effect on those around you and in some small way a positive effect on the world.

The musician Jason Mraz wrote a song which seems to personify this with the simple refrain, “look for the good in everyone.” Easier said than done, I know. It’s even more challenging when you are looking at your ex. However, if you “look for the good” in your ex, that doesn’t mean you have to erase all that has gone before. Not at all. It doesn’t mean ignoring inflicted hurts and pain you have received. It certainly doesn’t mean ignoring the wounds and tribulations you have been dealt (and are still dealing with).

Divorce is a deep, profound trauma in both of your lives. Looking for the good can help you develop a sense of empathy for that other person who may also be experiencing similar pain to you. It can also be a technique you can use as a way to journey towards healing yourself and finding peace. To create a mindset which can light the way for you to help you to better and more easily transition from the hurts of your past relationship to all the healing that awaits ahead of you. If you can look for the good in your ex, you may not see much…but just enough good to free yourself, for yourself.

Looking for the good in others is also a good starting point for the mediation process. The mediation process can help both you and your ex more easily and less expensively work things out. As the mediator I can assist you both in this process. My role as mediator is to serve as a supporting catalyst to help you reach your goal to find the “good” resolution that can serve the best interests of you and your family as you move forward in separating your household.

Please take a moment to contemplate this different perspective of “looking for the good in everyone” as Jason Mraz’s song and lyrics below would suggest and as you consider a way to divorce differently.

Look for the Good

Please take a moment to contemplate this different perspective of “looking for the good in everyone” as Jason Mraz’s song and lyrics below would suggest and as you consider a way to divorce differently.

Artist: Jason Mraz
Album: Look For The Good (Release Date – 19 June 2020)
Song: Look For The Good

Lyrics
[chorus]
Look for the good in everything
Look for the people who will set your soul free
It always seems impossible until it’s done
Look for the good in every one

People done gone crazy, people done gone mad
People done forgot the superpowers we all have
We were born to love, not hate
We can decide our fate

And look for the good in everyone
And celebrate our love most days
If there’s a silver lining (silver lining)
You still have to find it, find it, find it

[Chorus]

Everyone needs sunshine, everyone needs rain
Everyone is carrying around some kind of pain
I see who you are, you’re just like me
I see you’re searching for a purpose, guided by a dream

I see who you are, I’m just like you
I get lost sometimes and I forget what I came here to do
I keep on trying (keep on trying)
When it gets frightening

[Chorus]

[Break]

Everyone is nature, everyone is God
Everyone is love and light and vibration
Look for the good, look for the good
Everyone gets mad sometimes and maybe they should

Look for the good, Look for the good
Yeah, look out for all the heroes in your neighborhood
Look for the good, Look for the good
Life sure would be sweeter if everybody would

[Chorus]

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at lmjmyers@cs.com.

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“Festivus Makes A Mess-Of-Us”: The Airing of Grievances in Divorce

With the holiday season winding up, I came across a “Festivus” decoration which we had bought for our tree many years ago. On a whim, I watched this Seinfeld episode (“The Strike,” Season 9, Episode 10) with my spouse and child. We’ve all always found this installment of the series to be one of the best and most enjoyable.

I began to wonder if there really is a festivus. A quick google search uncovered that oddly enough, there is a real “Festivus.” “Festivus” was originally created by the American writer Daniel Lawrence O’Keefe to commemorate the first date that he had with his (then future) wife Debora on December 23rd. It was meant to intimate a feeling of “excellence,” “joviality” and “liveliness.” “A Festivus For The Rest Of Us” originally referred to those family members remaining after the death of O’Keefe’s mother Jeanette. His son, Daniel O’Keefe, grew up to become a sitcom writer. Based on this real life story with a few changes, Daniel Jr. gave us a hysterical and truly memorable Seinfeld episode.

The true origins from the O’Keefe family seem to be rather sentimental and touching. However, in terms of the younger O’Keefe’s script, as with separation and divorce, the reality is a bit more complicated.

In light of this new discovery my thoughts kept returning to my work and what “Festivus” looks like in reality in my line of work.

Part of the Seinfeld “Festivus” tradition includes the annual “airing of grievances.” As the character Frank Costanza describes: “I GOTTA LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE…NOW YOU’RE GONNA HEAR ABOUT IT!!!” (yes, he yelled).

I know and have read about some divorce attorneys actually promoting the “Airing Of Grievances” as a normal part of the divorce process (and advocating for it as a “healthy” part at that). Yet I can’t help but feel a moment of pause with this perspective.

“The Airing Of Grievances” unfortunately seems to be an integral part of the emotional divorce process but not the actual divorce court process. The legal divorce process is now generally a “no-fault process “designed to divide assets and debts, nothing more.

During the divorce process you believe that only you know all the challenges you have faced, not only in your own personal life, but also in the experiences you have had during the time with your partner well before you stepped into court. You feel the courts need to know all of this information or least let you tell your side of the story so at least you feel validated. However the courts aren’t about validation. The courts will push you to settle within their set legal parameters and you end up feeling like your divorce just doesn’t fit the courts’ view of fair. So you end up feeling very frustrated in the divorce process as the courts try to shove your square peg life into their compartmentalized legal round holes.

Unfortunately, the separation of assets and debts has nothing to do with healing, resolving emotional challenges or raising emotionally healthy children. Courts are ok at dividing property but children are not property. As for custody, the courts do the best they can with their skill set to design custody schedules for parents and children. However, the courts are made up of lawyers not sociologists or counselors. So although parents and children may be in a better position to determine the best parenting plans, because the parents are so emotionally overwrought over their divorce they tend to simply hand over their power to determine the best schedule for their children when they step into the courts.

In my experience, “Airing Of Grievances” can very easily (and most often does) fall into the realm of endlessly maintaining a score of “who did what” and “when.” It can be a source of continued rumination on the hurt and harm people have received at the hands of their partner/spouse during their time together (as well as after any relationship has ended).

I must be honest. In my view, focusing on these things, as if on an endlessly looping, repeating tape, does not resolve anything. It certainly does not help YOU move forward with your life as a person, with relation to your “ex.” It certainly does not make life any easier or emotionally healthier for any children you may have. I regret to say and I would not have believed it myself if I have not seen it to be so common a result in my more than 34 years of practicing family law, with respect to children, this kind of “airing of grievances” causes more harm to the welfare and stability of your children than you can possibly imagine.

Separation and divorce are profoundly painful and disorienting. But as intensely difficult as this is, it doesn’t mean that it has to be any specific person’s “fault.” As unbelievable as it may sound, it doesn’t have to be anyone’s “fault.” That’s why even the courts embraced this concept, decades ago, when states began to allow no fault divorces based on “irreconcilable differences” or “no fault.”

Endlessly rehashing injustices and grievances about your “ex” does not heal or make things right or fair. It does not resolve disagreements or issues. It does not resolve practical, everyday problems with a relationship which has fallen apart. It most certainly doesn’t address the real life challenges your children and you as their parents are facing day to day.

Child running through field with hula hoop | Airing of differences and raising healthy children | Divorce Done Differently in PA

The hurt, pain, disappointment and betrayal one feels after the breakup of a marriage or divorce are best under the care of a qualified therapist. A qualified therapist can help you process and heal and empower you to be ready to face not only the challenges you may have faced and continue to face during the course of your own life, but also with regard to your “ex.”

The parallels between the Story of Festivus and the demise of a marriage are striking. The history of Festivus started out from sweet seeds of sentimentality and grew from those origins into a rose bush of satirical parody whose thorns prick with the airing of grievances. The same way the sweet beginnings of a marriage that blooms into a life together ends with pricking the couple with its thorns of disappointment, betrayal and distrust as the marriage ends in divorce.

From a mediation standpoint “The Airing Of Grievances” isn’t really productive. My job, as a Marriage Mediator, is to serve as a facilitator to help couples smooth the transition between an unworkable relationship to a healing path forward. I help couples divorcing start to feel in control of the process of divorce by holding a safe space for them where each person will feel heard and acknowledged and informed, not attacked or blamed. I help lead them to a calm space where they can together make decisions that best suit their family based on their intimate knowledge of the lives and what will work best for them, not based on a cold general set of laws. Through mediation, I help my clients, through their divorce mediation, reconfigure, not destroy, all that they as a couple have built together during their marriage, so that it survives to benefit them and their children going forward. Contact us today for a consultation.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at lmjmyers@cs.com.

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Collaborative Divorce Process

The collaborative divorce process can vary by jurisdiction and the professionals who become involved in your case. However, generally, the process is described best as “representation without litigation.” Collaborative divorce is a mix between a traditional divorce because it involves attorneys, and divorce mediation, where couples reach an agreement on their own through discussions facilitated by a mediator.

Lawyers retained for the collaborative divorce process are specifically trained to reach “win-win” settlements instead of “win- lose” outcomes. This is because Collaborative attorneys serve as advocates not only for what is best for their clients but for what is fair and just for all involved.

In the collaborative divorce process, all the professionals involved in your matter are interested in helping you and your spouse resolve your legal issues in an amicable fashion without litigation. Anything that is shared during the collaborative divorce process is confidential and cannot be used in litigation if the collaborative divorce process fails.

The process generally involves the following steps:

  1. Each spouse hires a collaborative attorney, who has been trained in the collaborative law process. One attorney cannot ethically represent both sides because an attorney is hired to advocate for only one party, their client.

  2.  The spouses and their attorneys sign a collaborative contract that sets out the terms of the process which requires the parties to agree to “collaborate” in the divorce process in order to reach an amicable settlement. If an agreement cannot be reached and the case goes to court, the agreement also states that the spouses’ attorneys cannot represent their clients in the litigation process. The spouses would then have to hire new attorneys to represent them in litigating their case in the courts.

  3.  The spouses will meet with their attorneys alone and individually to discuss his or her most favorable vision for a parenting plan, child support, spousal support and property division.

  4.  Then the two attorneys and the spouses will also meet together in joint sessions to discuss their client’s position. In these initial meetings the attorneys lay the groundwork for the process in the future to discuss what issues the spouses agree upon and which need to be negotiated.

  5. As the meetings progress, other professionals such as accountants, business appraisers, certified divorce financial analysts, accountants, real estate agents and/or and mental health professionals can be brought into the meetings to assist the spouses in reaching agreements. These professionals remain neutral during the collaborative process. With the help of these professionals working together with the parties, the spouses can make the best-informed decisions that are focused on the specific needs of their family.

    • Certified Divorce Financial Analysts – Certified divorce financial analysts are neutrals who help you and your spouse have a better understanding of what your finances may look like post-divorce. In this way, these financial neutrals help support you and your spouse by helping you understand your cash flow and financial situation as you negotiate a fair division of your assets and debts and calculation of support issues.
    • Mental Health Professional – These professionals often serve as the facilitators in joint collaborative discussions with you and your spouse and your attorneys. They help diffuse the emotional issues that may arise between the two of you during the collaborative divorce process meetings. These professionals also remain neutral as you and your spouse discuss parenting and financial issues and do not represent either you or your spouse.
    • Child Specialist/ Parenting Coordinator – In addition to the mental health professional, a child specialist or parenting coordinator may be involved to support you and your spouse in the collaborative process. This specialist may support the two of you and your child to have a smoother transition during this emotional time. As a parenting coordinator, a mental health professional assists you both as the parents in developing a parenting place that is focused on the best interests of your child and your family while addressing each of your concerns as a parent.
    • Real Estate Broker/ Business Appraisers/ Accountants– All of these financial professionals help support you and your spouse, in a neutral way, to handle the various aspects of the division of your marital property and debt as far as the valuation or sale or transfer and/or tax implications of the division of the marital estate.

Collaborative divorce is an option for couples who feel they can work their divorce settlement themselves but still want legal protection. Although not right for everyone, collaborative divorce allows parties to end the marriage but retain a functional relationship during and after divorce.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at lmjmyers@cs.com.

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10 Things To Consider When Picking a Divorce Mediator

Facing the end of your marriage can be a very stressful life transition, especially if children are involved. Deciding how to move forward with the process can add stress and confusion. Do you choose to hire an attorney and divorce through the courts or find a divorce mediator? Below are some important things to consider when picking a divorce mediator.

Picking a Divorce Mediator

Divorce mediation is a more cost effective and peaceful way than hiring an attorney for couples to transition from one household to two as their marriage ends. Through divorce mediation, couples can avoid costly, painful, lengthy court battles. The couple negotiates the settlement of all the issues involved in their divorce with the assistance of a divorce mediator. Their mediator will help facilitate settlement discussions without the traditional costly legal expenses of the divorce and custody courts.
In order for the divorce mediation process to be successful, picking a divorce mediator that is right for both of you is important. Most divorce mediators offer a consultation for all those involved to determine if the process and the mediator are the right fit for the couple.

Here are ten points you should consider in deciding if divorce mediation is the right fit for both of you and if your divorce mediator is capable of helping you both through your divorce.

1. How much does divorce mediation cost?

Divorce mediation is more cost effective because the couple will not be paying two lawyers to communicate for them but will be speaking directly to one another with the assistance of one mediator. You should ask your mediator how they charge for consultations and their services up front.

Most divorce mediators have different fee structures that allow the couple to plan for and understand exactly what the cost of their mediation will be.
Fees for divorce mediation vary depending on the complexity of the marital estate and issues at hand to be settled. After the initial consultation, the divorce mediator will quote a fee for a service that will meet the couples’ needs. If the couple wants to proceed with mediation, an agreement will be signed between the parties and the divorce mediator outlining the fee structure and the services the fee covers. The fee agreement should also cover what happens with the payment and refund of fees in the event that the mediation stops midstream either because the process stalls, one person digs in their heels or leaves the process, or the parties decide to take a break. These questions may also be raised at the initial consultation.

2. How does divorce mediation work?

This should definitely be outlined by your divorce mediator during the consultation. You should ask your divorce mediator how their mediation process works.

Generally, once the couple has retained their divorce mediator, the mediator will give the parties a list of documents and information that must be gathered. Once the information is gathered, the divorce mediator will schedule the mediation sessions to discuss the issues to be resolved.

Once agreements on all the issues have been reached, the terms and conditions of the settlement are reduced to either a memorandum of understanding which is not legally binding or a marital settlement agreement which is legally binding. The difference in these two agreements is whether or not your mediator is a licensed attorney who can prepare a legally binding settlement agreement.

The last step will be for the parties to file the final divorce paperwork with the court. Many mediators offer to assist clients with this process through their staff but the mediator will not represent them in the courts during this process.

3. How long does divorce mediation take?

A divorce mediator should be able to give you a time range for the completion of a mediation. However, generally it depends on the couples’ timeline. Generally the divorce mediation process itself takes between three to six months.

The finalization of the divorce depends on the laws of the state.

4. What are some of the benefits of divorce mediation over going through the courts?

Your divorce mediator should be able to give a long list of reasons why divorce mediation will benefit you both in the long run.

Generally, the process is much more predictable. You will have an idea when the divorce mediation process will start and end. You will have control over the possible outcomes of the mediation process.

There is no such predictability in the courts. Couples do not have control over how the courts will rule in their case even if their lawyer can give them a best case scenario.

5. Is divorce mediation legally binding?

Divorce mediators who are serving a party strictly as a mediator and who are not licensed to practice law can only draft memorandums of understanding memorializing the terms and conditions agreed upon by the couple in divorce mediations. A memorandum of understanding is not a legally binding document per se. In order to create a legally binding marital settlement agreement incorporating all the terms and conditions agreed upon as outlined in a memorandum of understanding, the couple must take the memorandum to a licensed attorney to draft a legally binding marital settlement agreement or if their mediator is a licensed attorney, the divorce mediator can serve as a drafter of the legally binding marital settlement agreement as well.

You will need to ask you mediator if they will be able to prepare your marital settlement agreement or only a memorandum of understanding.

6. Is divorce mediation the right answer for both of you?

The divorce mediator should be able to give you an idea if mediation will work for both of you after the initial consultation.

Divorce mediation is for those couples who are committed to reaching mutually agreeable and beneficial agreements within the divorce settlement negotiations. Mediation is not for those couples seeking revenge or punishment of the other party.

Divorce mediation will not be successful unless the parties are willing to compromise. Having a “my way or the highway” attitude will doom the success of any divorce mediation from the start.

7. Will divorce mediation change my relationship with my ex?

Any good divorce mediator will tell you that their goal is to improve communications between the couple for the long run. This is accomplished by the divorce mediator facilitating and modeling productive, neutralizing communications for the divorcing couple.

However, if one spouse (or both ) is violent, has severe mental health issues or severe substance abuse issues, a mediator may advise couples to seek other avenues for resolving their divorce.

8. Is divorce mediation public?

Divorce mediation sessions are private and confidential. The parties meet with the divorce mediator in the mediator’s office. The couple never has to go to the public courts to settle their divorce other than to file their final divorce paperwork which is generally sealed by the courts as well.

9. Do I still need a lawyer to represent me in mediation?

Ending a marriage is a legal process. Most divorce mediators will not encourage lawyers to attend mediation sessions. In fact some mediators prohibit their clients from having legal representation during the mediation process. However all divorce mediators recommend that their clients consult with a divorce attorney to ensure that their clients are well informed of their legal rights. In addition, clients will need a divorce attorney to either prepare or review their final marital settlement agreement.

10. Ask your divorce mediator why divorce mediation with them as your mediator will benefit you as a couple.

As you are in the process of picking a divorce mediator, you should ask during the consultation why they think mediation is the right fit for you and your spouse.
You should also ask your divorce mediator about their professional experience and their success rate with mediation cases reaching final settlement. Raise any issues or concerns you have about the possibility of success or failure in your mediation with your divorce mediator.

In the end, you are picking a divorce mediator who is right for you if you both feel a connection with the divorce mediator personally and feel confident in their ability. If you are both committed to settling your divorce in an amicable way that benefits both of you, then dive in; mediation waters can be very healing.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at lmjmyers@cs.com.

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Common Questions About Divorce Mediation

Can Divorce Mediation Work For Me and Why?

If your marriage is coming to an end, this can be a very stressful life transition, especially if there are children involved. Many couples think that their only option is to “lawyer up” during a divorce. What most couples don’t realize as they start down this road is that this can be a very expensive proposition. Once a lawyer is hired to represent someone in a custody or divorce suit, they will be paying for every single phone call, email or paper their attorney and/or their support staff touches in their case. So if your lawyer charges the going rate of $300 per hour or $75 to $150 per hour for their staff, you will be billed for every tenth of an hour each of these professionals spend on your one email sent. That means one email could cost you $100 or more. Those kind of expenses may not be in everyone’s budget.

But there is a better way- Divorce Mediation. Mediation is a much more cost effective and peaceful way for couples to transition from one household to two as their marriage ends. Through divorce mediation, couples can avoid costly, painful, lengthy court battles. The couples, not the courts, will negotiate the settlement of all the issues involved in their divorce including property matters, support payments and custody sharing. This is accomplished through the assistance of a divorce mediator who will help facilitate settlement discussions between the couple without the traditional costly legal expenses of the divorce and custody courts.

Most divorce mediators have different fee structures that allow the couple to plan for and understand exactly what the cost of their divorce mediation will be. In addition, divorce mediation is more cost effective because the couple will not be paying two lawyers to communicate for them but will be speaking directly to one another with the assistance of one divorce mediator.

Common Questions About Divorce Mediation

Below are some answers to common questions about divorce mediation that I hear. These may help you determine if mediation is right for you.

What if my spouse and I don’t talk?

Divorce mediators are skilled at facilitating peaceful conversations between divorcing couples. So long as the couple is committed to resolving their differences in a more amicable way instead of through the adversarial process of the courts, divorce mediation can work for most couples. This is because divorce mediation actually helps instill in couples a better way to communicate about important issues. This can be very helpful for the couple going forward as they may face future difficult conversations such as those surrounding their children even after the divorce mediation ends. In addition, a divorce mediator will often encourage each person to have their own emotional support such as a therapist who can also help the couples learn better communication skills individually.

What if I am afraid of my spouse?

A divorce mediator works to establish a safe space for both parties to discuss important issues in their divorce. A skilled divorce mediator serves as neutral facilitator who will intervene during difficult discussions in order to balance any power struggles between the couples surrounding the issue being discussed. However, if there has been any domestic violence between the parties, divorce mediation may not be the best route to settle divorce issues.

Can I consult with an attorney before I begin divorce mediation?

It can be helpful to consult with an attorney to understand what you may be entitled to under the law during a divorce. However, any attorney will tell you that there are no guarantees in court. In addition, couples can decide what works best for them and their family in their marital settlement agreement which does not have to follow any particular court guidelines.

Can I take an attorney to represent me at the divorce mediation?

Attorneys may be consulted outside of the divorce mediation sessions but the parties can’t participate in mediation sessions if they are represented by attorneys in certain states. If a person wants to try a peaceful settlement route but still wants to retain an attorney, they may consider hiring a collaboratively trained lawyer who could represent them in settlement discussions without litigation. However, collaborative law settlements are not as cost effective as divorce mediation settlements.

Is divorce mediation legally binding?

Divorce mediators who are serving a party strictly as a mediator and who are not licensed to practice law can only draft memorandums of understanding memorializing the terms and conditions agreed upon by the couple in divorce mediations. A memorandum of understanding is not a legally binding document per se. In order to create a legally binding marital settlement agreement incorporating all the terms and conditions agreed upon as outlined in a memorandum of understanding, the couple must take the memorandum to an attorney to draft a legally binding marital settlement agreement or if the mediator is a licensed attorney, the divorce mediator can serve as a drafter of the legally binding marital settlement agreement as well.

Why is divorce mediation better than going to court?

The courts are adversarial. They teach people how to fight. The decisions made in court are the result of what the lawyers and the judges say not what the parties want or decide. If the couple has children, the adversarial court system can cause even more bitterness between the couple which can make co-parenting even more difficult which in turn can be very harmful to the children involved.

In short, it may be worthwhile for any couple facing divorce to consider investigating mediation as an option. Contact me if you have further questions about divorce mediation.

Want to Know More?

If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options, including divorce mediation. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at lmjmyers@cs.com.

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Lenore Myers Answers Questions About Divorce Mediation | Divorce Done Differently in PA

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