Mediation with a neutral lawyer-mediator is a low conflict/low cost way to get legal education, guidance, and drafting assistance. This will help you be certain you both make well-informed decisions and reach agreements that will last and be best for your family.
Here is a list of mediation steps:
Mediation is a positive way to resolve your divorce or any other family law or post-judgment issue. The two of you can openly share information, obtain education, and discuss issues and options with expert assistance while retaining control of the outcome for your family.
By: Attorney Greg Hildebrand, co-founder of FMC
Divorce is difficult, but you can choose whether or not it is destructive. In Wisconsin, more and more couples are choosing to resolve their family issues via mediation—including the convenient and cost-effective option of online mediation--with the Family Mediation Center (FMC). In mediation, the couple jointly retains a neutral lawyer mediator who functions as an educator and guide to help them make informed decisions and efficiently navigate the legal process. Check out these top 5 reasons a couple considering separation or divorce should choose FMC mediation:
Rather than addressing relationship issues through a legal conflict in a public courthouse, couples using mediation resolve all issues through confidential discussions in a private conference room. This is important for anyone who is concerned about the public release of personal details and especially for parents, business owners and professionals.
By its very nature, cases that go through the court system are adversarial. It pits husband versus wife, mother versus father, as each side tries to prove to a judge that he or she is a better parent or deserves more (or less) money. In contrast, mediation is a method of conflict resolution in which the mediator helps the parties attack the problem rather than each other. The mediator helps foster an atmosphere of respect and dignity within the negotiation process.
Over 95% of all divorce cases end with an agreement, whether soon after filing a petition for divorce or after the parties have spent many thousands of dollars and more than a year in and out of court. The key question is the process you choose to reach an agreement. The efficiency and cost savings of a joint process is an enormous advantage for divorcing couples who have the ability to work together.
Divorce is not just a legal process; it is also an emotional and financial process. At FMC, couples work with a lawyer mediator and may involve a child and/or financial specialist as needed. The child specialist helps clients focus on what is most important to them (i.e., their children) and gives the children a voice in the process. The financial specialist can expand value (e.g., determining the most tax advantageous options and maintaining business profitability) and helps ensure financial transparency and informed decision-making.
When a judge makes a ruling, he or she is bound to rule within certain parameters of the law. In FMC mediation, the parties may create their own agreements that are much broader, so long as they are mutually acceptable and livable for them and do not violate public policy. Any couples who want a family-tailored result rather than a court-imposed decision are best served by the creativity available within the mediation process.
If you have questions about how mediation can benefit your family, contact the Family Mediation Center to schedule a consultation with a lawyer mediator at (414) 939-6707 or visit our website at www.familymediationcenter.com and fill out the contact form.
Greg Hildebrand represents individuals in all divorce matters affecting the family including complex financial issues and child custody and placement matters. He is also a trained and experienced mediator who assists represented parties and their lawyers in resolving divorce issues privately and without court involvement.
By: Sue Schramka, Psy.D.
Divorce can be an extremely difficult and painful process. If you have children, one of the greatest challenges is to both separate and co-parent. The most important aspect of your relationship with your ex-spouse, your co-parenting relationship, needs to remain intact and, in fact, be strengthened.
Research has shown that the single most important factor in healthy post-divorce adjustment in children is low conflict between the parents. Therefore, when transitioning from spouses to co-parents, ensuring the well-being and future happiness of your children is crucial.
As a child specialist, I help many couples make the transition and restructure their post-divorce relationship for the sake of their children. I urge all couples to consider working with a child specialist to help them be the best co-parents possible for the sake of their children. Here are some insights from my work with families that I want to share.
Moving from a marital relationship to a co-parenting relationship is a process that takes time and encompasses several steps. The first is to grieve the loss of the marriage and the “nuclear” family. This is a process that often moves in a stop and start manner as various events occur and you experience living without your ex-spouse, and begin to re-define your life with your children.
Another step that needs to be addressed is to accept that there may not be a full resolution of the pain, anger and resentment that led to separation. All the issues that came up in the marriage that the two of you argued about and never resolved will not likely be resolved as you go through divorce. All of the patterns, behaviors and resentments that led to the end of the marriage do not simply end with divorce. This is a reality you must accept in order to begin building a healthy co-parenting relationship in which you will not attempt to pursue resolution of these old issues. You must recognize familiar impulses to engage in old conflict and then resist these impulses, as they will inevitably come up. You must both work at creating new patterns of communication and decision-making to be successful parenting partners.
Finally, you must understand that your emotional needs will not be met by your ex-spouse and should not be met by your children. Your children, even if they are adults, should not become your emotional caretakers. You have to find ways to get your emotional needs met in other activities and people, including individual counseling if needed to help you with the transition, so you can manage the business of co-parenting and be the best parent possible for your children. If you can manage to clear away residual issues in your own mind and do the work necessary to eliminate unconscious underlying expectations leftover from your marriage, you can begin to build a very healthy and effective co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse. Because in the end, no one loves your children more than your ex-spouse, the other parent. Who better to partner with to guide their development and usher them to adulthood?
Sue Schramka is a psychologist Cornerstone Counseling Services. She provides treatment for children, adolescents and adults. Her special interests include treating anxiety and mood disorders, divorce adjustment issues, interpersonal difficulties and stress management.
Divorce can be a complex and emotionally challenging process. Decision-making is stressful and emotions run high. It is important to remember that your actions throughout this process can not only affect your final settlement agreement, but also affect your family relationships. Rather than having regrets, below are some helpful tips during this time:
• Do be reasonable and cooperative in decision-making. Respectful communication will lead to creative and positive options.
• Do follow all temporary court orders or agreements. It will help to ease conflict.
• Do confer with your spouse before selling or giving away property.
• Do fully disclose all assets and debts.
• Do support your children. Changing family dynamics is difficult for adult children as well as minor children.
• Do consider consulting with a child specialist to help keep a positive focus on their needs and interests.
• Do be upfront about your needs and interests. It will help to create options that are in the best interests of the entire family.
• Do take care of your physical, emotional and mental health. See a therapist if you need assistance.
• Do understand all of your process options. A court litigated approach is not the only way. Call us to learn more about mediation with the Milwaukee Mediation Center
• Don’t lash out at your spouse or react negatively to their actions, especially around your children. Give yourself time before making major decisions.
• Don’t violate any temporary court orders or agreements.
• Don’t sell or give away property without your spouse’s mutual agreement.
• Don’t hide assets or withhold income from your spouse.
• Don’t involve significant others in your children’s lives too quickly. It can confuse your children and make them insecure. Introduce new relationships only when you and your children are ready.
• Don’t use your children as a pawn in order to get what you want and don’t make them pick sides.
• Don’t involve adult children in the drama. They are still your children and deserve to be insulated from parental conflict.
• Don’t defer to the past, it cannot be changed. Instead, look forward in deciding how to reshape your family.
• Don’t go it alone. Contact us today or call us at 414-939-6707 to learn how the we can guide you and your spouse through the complexities of a divorce process.
The decision to divorce your spouse has many emotional and financial ramifications and involves many choices. Choosing your process is the first step and then there are many additional decisions you will both need to make. There are likely bank accounts to divide, home ownership and a mortgage balance to deal with, and credit card debt to pay. If you have children, all of their day-to-day needs and activities continue—school work, after-school activities to be driven to, doctor appointments to be made. With a separation, a child placement schedule must be arranged with the other parent.
All of the above decisions have the ability to be an “issue” in the divorce process. With each issue comes the potential of conflict and the decision whether to hire a lawyer. The traditional view of divorce is that it is inevitably adversarial with damaging emotional and financial costs for the family.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
After you have made the decision to divorce, your first step is to become educated about process options. One alternative to the traditional divorce process is mediation. Mediation is a confidential, problem-solving process in which a neutral third party (the lawyer mediator) will help educate and guide both of you through all necessary decisions and documents you need to complete for a divorce or separation. You and your spouse deal with all “issues” outside of the courtroom and retain all decision-making. It’s your family. Divorce should be your process and your resolution.
As parents navigating separation or divorce, you want to do what is best for your children. However, it is not always easy to work together or know what to do or say. Resources are available to help you both consider the impact of restructuring your family and provide ideas on how to reduce risk for your children.
While there are no single answers that fit all families, tools like the online help page can provide useful information about co-parenting or other relevant divorce/separation related topics. Many parents find that while books and webpages are helpful for basic education, they lack consideration of their unique children and family situation.
Families looking for more specific support and input individually tailored to their family and their children’s needs will find educational/consultation support from a child specialist valuable.
A child specialist helps you as a parent:· Understand the impact of separation on your child
· Talk openly about your thoughts and feelings about and with your child.
· Create a child-centered parenting plan that addresses your child-related issues and concerns.
· Have an ongoing resource as an alternative to court.
A child specialist helps your child by:
· Giving the child a chance to express feelings, thoughts and concerns about what is happening.
· Encouraging the child to feel safe and supported throughout the separation.
· Providing healthy ways to manage stress and emotions during the separation period.
· Giving an avenue to feel heard by you as parents through the child specialist—“voice not a choice”.
If you have questions about child specialist services or would like to discuss your options regarding separation or divorce related processes, please contact Casey Holtz, Ph.D. (414) 810-7647 or the Family Mediation Center (414) 939-6707.
Our children are our greatest assets and there is no time when we are more concerned about their interests than when a family is going through divorce. Divorce is a life experience that doesn’t present itself often and, as a result, it is sometimes difficult to know how to handle the process, especially when children are involved. Separating and staying co-parents is challenging. A child specialist may assist you in navigating the process and help you work together with your child’s other parent to make decisions and plan for the future.
A child specialist will help you look at divorce through the eyes of your child and be able to help you understand how children of different ages and different temperaments approach parental separation and divorce. Your child specialist can help you frame how you want to present the divorce decision to your children and assist you to better understand your changing role and responsibilities as a co-parent living in a different household.
The Court expects that you and your child’s other parent will prepare a parenting plan that outlines how you will handle the tasks of parenting in a way that delineates how decisions will be made, where the child will spend time, and how you will manage some of the challenges of divorced life such information sharing, holidays and adding new family members. All of these aspects of divorce will be a part of your conversations with your child specialist.
The child specialist can meet with your child and ensure that their voice is heard in the process. Getting feedback from a trained professional who understands children, your unique family situation and divorce can be invaluable in preparing you to write your parenting plan.
I hope that you see the value of working with professionals who have training in family systems and child development as you move through your divorce.
You may divorce, but you are still a family!
Jeanne Schroeder, Ph.D.
Dr. Jeanne Schroeder is an Individual Therapist, Mediator, Child Specialist, and Coach with In Focus Counseling. She works with clients who are facing challenging circumstances, strong emotions, and a sense of uncertainty to help them adapt to life-changing events and stressful situations.
Mediation means one attorney for both sides: Representing both spouses would be unethical. The mediator is neutral and does not represent either spouse. The mediator will provide education and guidance to assist the couple in building their final resolution. However, the mediator cannot give legal advice and does not appear in court.
A Mediator won’t tell me anything about the law that I can’t find on the internet: The law is complex and can be interpreted in different ways. It is important to understand current impact and discuss future consequences. Opinions and articles on the internet are not always accurate and do not delineate the differences in state laws. A Wisconsin lawyer mediator can explain the law, support fully informed decisions and assure proper steps are taken to implement legal agreements.
A Mediator will decide for us if we cannot agree: The mediator cannot tell you what to do or make decisions for you—only a judge or arbitrator can do that.
Couples with a high net worth or financial complexities do not benefit from using Mediation: Though couples with a high net worth can afford litigation, they may actually benefit more from mediation. Mediation can involve a neutral financial specialist to help jointly address values, tax effect and allocation options for assets and income. This helps both parties understand and discuss financial settlement options rather than hiring separate lawyers and dueling financial experts to fight over values and final divisions in court.
Mediation will not work for couples who disagree on issues: The only issue the couple must agree on is a resolution to educate themselves and commit to mutual communication and joint effort to resolve issues outside of court.
I’ll settle for less than I’m entitled if I don’t have an attorney: What each is ‘entitled to’ varies depending on different interpretations of the law. Mediation helps spouses reflect on and satisfy their needs and interests rather than focusing on entitlements/positions that distract from their end-goal.
Mediation is always the best process: Mediation is not appropriate for all cases. High conflict, mental health issues or refusal to participate in full disclosure may prevent productive outcomes in mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process. If either of you decides that mediation is not working for any reason, you always have the option stop mediation and pursue a traditional divorce process.
The March 2016 AARP Bulletin contains an article called “Inheriting Trouble”:
Inheriting Trouble: For some families, inheriting a house is a harmonious affair. Unfortunately, “we’re seeing disputes a lot more often,” notes New York elder-law attorney Bernard Krooks. “It’s just awful.” The sluggish economy also plays a role, as some financially strapped siblings seek to cash out of a longtime investment. Inevitably, there are arguments over the value of the house and payout terms. Estate planners say the best way to avoid disputes is to have a family discussion while the parents are still alive, to explore everyone’s expectations and desires. The article details the troubles with estate planning and ways to avoid them.
When it comes to the recommended “family discussion” do families think of mediation? They should. The mediation process makes it possible to agree on the kind of specific terms that make shared family properties work over the long haul. Why? Mediation promotes interests rather than entrenched positions. Molly wants her children to be able to use the Lakehouse in October, because Fall is her favorite time of year and she wants to pass a legacy of memory on to her kids. Her brother Jerry, learning this, is far more agreeable to trading with her for using the house in June, since he cares more about using the boat for fishing when the crappies come in. Plus- the summer expenses of operating the cabin are less, and Jerry can afford that better while he looks for another job. Mom and Dad simply assumed that it would be better for them to divide all the time equally among the kids, and now they understand why Molly and Jerry’s needs are different.
Getting to interests required a trained mediator or meeting facilitator to help people ‘Get to Yes,” as the famous negotiation handbook by Ury and Fisher says. Trained mediators can expedite these family conversations, manage emotion, and bring out the best in parties toward the goal of shared values and specific interests. Families come out stronger, communicating better, and looking forward to more years Up North enjoying the things that they value most: nature, sharing meals, good memories, simple down-time with family, and holding hope for the future.
Rachel Monaco-Wilcox is an Attorney and Mediator who specializes in Elder Mediation. She is a frequent public speaker, advocate, and policy analyst regarding issues of the aging. Rachel is also Chair and Assistant Professor of Justice at Mount Mary University.
Preparing tax returns for the year of divorce can be challenging. Professional help and consistent filing with your ex-spouse is key to avoiding IRS issues. In order to navigate preparation of your 2015 tax returns, start by reviewing your marital settlement agreement (MSA) and consider these tax tips for the newly divorced:
1. Filing status – if you were divorced as of December 31, your options are to file as single or head of household; filing jointly is not an option.
2. Did you sign an Income Reclassification Agreement? If so, you will report your separate income, deductions and withholdings for the year. If not, you will need to allocate marital income, deductions and withholdings between you and your former spouse from January 1st through the date of divorce.
3. Dependent exemption – if you have minor children, your MSA should indicate which parent is claiming which children. If your agreement does not specify, you need to address this with your former spouse to avoid both claiming the same child. Use form 8332.
4. Check with your attorney to see if any of the legal fees you paid are tax deductible.
5. If you use flexible spending accounts, make sure you qualify for the child care credit or other pre-tax items which are tied to the dependents you are allocated per your MSA.
6. Make sure you know the tax cost basis in the assets allocated to you as part of your divorce settlement.
7. Be certain you understand the tax impact of payments you are receiving or paying, including maintenance/alimony, to assure proper estimated payments and reporting.
8. Use a CPA who has experience and expertise in divorce tax issues.
Finally, start gathering your tax information early! You can avoid issues with proper preparation and a knowledgeable tax preparer.
Gaylene A Stingl, MST, CPA, CVA
Gaylene is a principal with Blau-Himmel LLC, providing tax, business valuation and litigation support services. Gaylene has worked with divorcing couples for over 20 years, providing cost effective, creative solutions to individuals and transitioning families.