Author: Divorce Done Differently in PA

Orientation Day

Orientation Day

Today was an “orientation” day for my son’s transition to a four-year university. Basically, it was a very general “Welcome!” and “Hello!” to new students and those transferring (like my son) to the school. I don’t remember what it was specifically called, but “orientation day” is the best phrase. My partner and I could tell that our son initially seemed very overwhelmed by it. For the first part of the day, he got very quiet, and I could tell he was questioning himself and all the amazing things he’s accomplished in his life to this point. He’s had a bit of a journey in his life, and I was so proud to be a part of his day today.

As we wound our way through line after line (to get into another line), the look on his face said it all. This is unlike anything he’s ever experienced before. Yes, we’ve driven through the campus numerous times, and he’s gotten the basic lay of the land. But today, it was real for him: this is no longer a distant thought about eventually transferring. He was committed, knew he was accepted as a student, and knew he was going there. He’s scheduled his classes, and we’ve put down a deposit. Today was a very intense day for him.

While waiting for our coffee and doughnuts, I heard him say something almost offhandedly. He sounded a bit distant and dreamy and a bit dejected. Looking around at all the other families, he mumbled to himself, “I think I should have done this four years ago.” Then, without skipping a beat, my husband casually ruminated out loud, “Well, I don’t know. What do you think, Mama?” As he said this, he flashed a quick glance at me. It was one of those slight, swift glances the two of us share when we “talk” to each other without actually saying a word. I knew that was my cue. I’ve written before that my partner and I split the lead on certain things. This is one of my many areas of expertise.

I told him something like I’m going to tell you now.

You are in a strange new place. Life is going on around you, and sometimes there’s a never-ending line of people and meetings and strange new experiences you’ve never encountered before. It’s intimidating. It’s terrifying. It’s extremely disorienting and overwhelming in a way that may never have seemed possible. But you know what? You are exactly where you need to be, and despite how you may feel, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve caught myself thinking, “I could have done this” or “I should have done that.” Why? You’ve done the best you could with what you knew at the time. That’s a good thing. There’s no shame in that. You know what you know now, and that’s what counts. What matters is what you do with what you know today.

In comparison with others, my son has always started out “behind” or labeled as “failed.” But my husband and I have always asked each other: “Behind who?”, “Failed what?” He’s always been right where he needs to be – for himself – to achieve what is best for him at any given moment. In the end, it’s always worked out. With time and (healthy) support, his engines have always revved up when he’s ready. He’s “engaged warp speed” (as my Trekkie spouse says) to bridge chasms, surging through any darkness or doubt: all when the time and place were right for him. This is not pollyannish by any means. I’m not saying there haven’t been many “dark nights of the soul” for us. There certainly have been times – days, months, even years – when we’ve had profound, doubtful misgivings about the outcomes (but that is where faith and hope come into play). But yes, I have to assert that, in the end, things have always worked out for the best for him as long as he made an effort.

Yet remember what I just said: “time and healthy support.” You and your ex deserve to be heard. You both deserve to be supported. You both deserve that moment when “warp speed” is suddenly and unexpectedly engaged by some seemingly unknown reason, force, or power.

I am a part of that process for you both.

My Role as A Mediator

I don’t “fix” things or people. I’m a part of a larger manifestation in your life that helps you both to achieve what is best for both of you should you so choose. Even though a relationship may be over, you and your ex were brought together to provide the opportunity to heal each other: That’s why you were attracted to each other in the first place. I know this sounds odd, but it’s true. As a mediator, I am a catalyst to assist you in making sense of your current situation and how you can move forward towards all, which can be the best of what might be. The point is to do this in a non-confrontational and alleviating, mitigating way. This is my expertise.

I’m not a therapist. It’s not my job or purpose to perform such a role. However, I can be an integral part of your larger, healthy support system. I’ve spent my entire 36-plus-year career learning and developing the methodologies and processes of mediating divorce for both for the benefit of all. I’ve seen things that work and many things which don’t. I would challenge you to engage me to assist you with all the techniques I’ve learned over the course of decades for the benefit of you, your children, and even your ex.

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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Solomon’s Child: Why I Became a Custody Conciliator

Solomon’s Child: Why I Became a Custody Conciliator

In my courtroom, as a custody conciliator, I have a picture of the story of Solomon. In this story (1 Kings Chapter 3), there were two mothers, each claiming to be the child’s birth mother. King Solomon, who was renowned for his wisdom, commanded:

Solomon’s Child

“Both of you say this live baby is yours. Someone bring me a sword.” A sword was brought, and Solomon ordered, “Cut the baby in half! That way, each of you can have part of him.”

As the story goes, the true parent gave up her claim to the child so the child would live, while the other parent seemed fine with the child being split in two. Thus, the true mother was found.

There is a reason why this story resonates so powerfully with me and why it’s so imperative to the work I do. Believe it or not, there are some ex-partners who would be perfectly fine with Solomon’s decision – even literally. It would surprise you how many parents are perfectly willing (even eager) to split their children, in an emotional and physical sense, in two for any number of reasons.

Why I Became a Custody Conciliator

I know that the current system was created with the best of intentions. But after decades of practicing in this field and viewing the ramifications of the results that come from the practice in this area of law, I had to find a different path that follows the spirit of what was intended rather than the proscribed letter of the law. Note that I have the greatest respect for the law and what it strives to accomplish. But I have very serious disagreements with the real world, real life, consequences it can entail (unintentional though it might be).

This is why I stopped handling custody litigation years ago and became a custody conciliator and now a mediator. I chose to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem in a system that is more equipped to divide property than to heal a dysfunctional family.

I’ve viewed, studied, and practiced family law during the transition from the time of the 1979 movie “Kramer vs. Kramer” to today. At the time, this movie was an explosive expose of divorce and the real-life intricacies of what that entailed. In Pennsylvania, family law is foundationally based on the concept of the no-fault division of property. At the time it was implemented, this seemed like a rational and good idea, fine in theory. As a result, today, divorce is not (forgive me for saying) so dramatic as it was in the 1970s. “No Fault” divorce (since the 1980s) is much more common. Things happen. Separation and divorce don’t have to be anybody’s “fault.”

Yet the fact remains that your children are not “property” to be cleaved in half like your home, your income, or your retirement. And while the court’s standard for determining custody schedules is what is in the “best interest of the child,” this can be rather subjective criteria.

You know your children best. Who they are and what they need cannot be easily communicated to a stranger in a black robe in a few hours in court. That is why it’s so vital to refrain from the urge to “split the child.”

As Henry David Thoreau said, “It is always darkest before the dawn.” I find it is most helpful to see forward as to what the new horizon brings rather than constantly look backward and eternally fight to “right” any and all past “wrongs.”

Your children are the legacy and reality of what you are offering to the world. They are the inheritance you give to humanity: a reflection of where you came from, who you are and what you strive to be. It’s not about anything that you might leave them in your will. Your children are a reflection of how you lived your own life and how good you’ve been to yourself. Your children are the mirror you look into when all is said and done. It’s truly difficult when another person is involved, but, after all, children are a reflection of your ex as much as they are of yourself.

So going forward, in a sense, it’s not just about your children, but your legacy. I understand that these things are very personal, very difficult, and, yes, intensely painful. But in light of this, I would assert that your life (and that of your children) is vastly more valuable than any win you are in court to achieve.

This is why I do what I do in the field I’ve chosen to pursue. I would even say that it’s my passion.

My goal, as a mediator and custody conciliator, is to help you find the best path for you and your family to move forward into the next chapter of your lives. I command no emotional sword to be brought to me. I desire no authority to emotionally cleave or divide children between parents. My goals and desires are to help parents find the best, most healing way for ex-partners to find fulfillment in their own lives by resolving conflicts with their ex-partners to achieve your own peace of mind and peace 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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Not “if,” But “How” Couples Argue Matters

Not “if,” But “How” Couples Argue Matters

My husband and I got into a fight yesterday. No physicality, but let’s just say we exchanged various words and phrases in a rather assertive manner. Believe it or not, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Couples argue. People disagree. Arguments can ensue, and certain situations can arise where separation or divorce can ensue. The thing is, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that it’s anyone’s fault. If you have gotten to the point where a relationship is ending, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your partner’s fault. That said, it doesn’t have to mean it’s your fault. Sometimes the dissolution of a relationship simply means you weren’t a good fit for each other. Sometimes stuff just happens.

The Challenges of Relationships & Arguments

I find that the challenge of relationships is about growth and learning how to relate to others amid difficulties. To end a marriage or relationship only to pick another partner who only knows “the same dance” (as I often say) doesn’t help you in the long run. Yes, things happen, but I suggest learning from the dissolution of a relationship rather than dancing the same dance to the same tune.

My partner and I don’t often argue (or fight like we did yesterday). But on the few occasions we do, we’ve never tried to hide it from our child. Of greater importance, we’ve never put our child in the middle of our disagreements. You see, it’s not a matter of if you and any partner you have will fight or argue, but how couples argue or fight.

I think we would all agree that physical violence is never a good idea and is never acceptable. Yet I would also assert that a sort of “passive-aggressive” form of conflict, or a manipulative one, is not very helpful (especially when children are involved). My partner grew up in a very violent home. But it was also a home filled with manipulation and emotional abuse (for all involved). I’ve spent 40 years in the field of family law, and, sadly, I must admit, I’ve seen many dysfunctional harmful relationships play out to the detriment of the whole family. Sadly, I have to say that I’ve been in practice long enough that I’ve seen 2 to even 3 generations of families ripped apart by the same patterns of maladaptive relationships.

My partner has done a tremendous amount of personal work and therapy over the course of decades. My partner has given me insight into his struggles, and I know that I have provided him with perspectives he had never considered before. The point is that we’ve grown together. We’ve come to see our relationship with each other as paramount: it doesn’t matter who was “wrong” or “right.” More importantly, we view our child’s growth, development, and happiness as more imperative than what either of us wants or desires.

Resolving Arguments

Somehow we’ve learned over the years that at a certain point, it’s better for both of us to disengage, spend some time on opposite sides of the house and cool down and reflect on what is actually happening at the moment. Now, bear with me. This will sound odd, but it works for us. Many times what will end up happening is my husband will come back into the room I’m in and say something to the effect of: “I’ve thought it all over and have decided to forgive you.” I never fail to erupt with laughter – and then all the tension is gone. The reason is that I know what he’s actually saying is, “I love you so much, and I would really appreciate it if you would forgive me.” He doesn’t want to admit that he’s wrong (and he can be), but he’s found that approaching the situation this way allows him to apologize (at least initially) without actually saying it. The key here is that neither of us is “keeping score.” We live our lives in a way where no one “wins” unless we all “win.”

In our relationship, there is a give and take. There are certain things my spouse does that drive me nuts. At the same time, I know there are certain things I do that drive him nuts. And ultimately, we find that our relationship and (especially) the value we both place on our child’s well-being and happiness is more important than any disagreements we may have on any other matter.

All couples argue. Yes, at times, my partner and I argue and fight. But it’s not “if” we’re going to argue or fight. It’s always about “how” we go about it that makes all the difference in the world.

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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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.

Let’s Talk

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