Nancy S. Caplan, Esquire

Nancy S. Caplan, Esquire
Bend Don't Break- Mediate!


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland- No Waiting Required (for Some).

There's been a change in Maryland law relating to divorce and separation. How does the process work?


1.) The couple has no minor children; and
2.) The couple negotiated and signed a binding Property Settlement Agreement; and
3.) Neither party seeks to modify or challenge some or all of the Property Settlement Agreement; and
4.) Both parties attend the final divorce hearing;

Then:  You may file for divorce without having  to be physically separated in two separate residences for the one-year waiting period.

Mutual Consent Divorce is now part of the laws of Maryland. Beginning today, October 1, 2015, for the qualifying couples, the year of separation limbo is a thing of the past.

Many of my mediating couples come to me soon after making their decision to divorce or separate, anxious to promptly address the unknowns of the future, to “settle” the issues in the hopes of actually settling their very unsettled lives.  

If you are a couple who does not qualify, here's a news flash: There was never a required 1 year separation period to negotiate and sign a settlement.  Never.  The required 1 year separation period for those who do not qualify for Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland pertains only to filing for the actual divorce.  Therefore if you don't qualify, that
doesn't mean you have to miss the true positive impact of this change in this new Mutual Consent law- that a prompt settlement is less costly both financially and emotionally.

The  1 year separation period had (and has for those who don't qualify for Mutual Consent Divorce) the unfortunate consequence of dragging out the negotiations increasing costs and conflict, by providing 12 months of opportunity for additional conflicts to aggravate the negotiations (think dating and social media as just one example) and aggravation means financial costs increase.  The Mutual Consent grounds for divorce in Maryland, carrying the promise of a fast divorce provides the parties with greater settlement incentive. Almost every divorcing person wants to reach “the other side” as soon as possible.   From a mediator’s perspective, increasing the incentive to settle is a positive development for the parties involved.   

Therefore whether you do qualify for the Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland, or you don't qualify for the Mutual Consent Divorce in Maryland, the emotional and financial benefit to promptly facing the issues, settling the issues, reconstructing lives sooner rather than later, is a worthy goal.   

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Step-Parent Boundaries- One Size Does Not Fit All

The evil step-parent or your child's new best adult pal?  Which option would you choose for your child? Neither one may be desirable, however, I think most parents would choose the latter in favor of the evil thing.

Nevertheless, the over-stepping step-parent can become the proverbial stone in the shoe over time and cause great conflict on an ongoing and perpetual basis.

So what is "over-stepping?"  That answer is in the eyes of the beholding parent.  While there is no formula for evaluation of "over-stepping" I can offer a way to evaluate how to avoid conflict which negatively affects your child/children.  Consider this approach:

1. WHAT DOES YOUR CO-PARENT SAY IS BOTHERING HIM/HER ABOUT THE STEP PARENT?  If you don't have these specifics, its time for mediation or family counseling.  Allowing the cold war to fester is a recipe for conflict.

2.  MAKE A LIST OF THE STEP PARENT ISSUES.  For example, is it ok to:
Coach a step-child's game? Once?  Every Season?
Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences? What does the teacher say?
Have Unilateral discussions with other key Adults who are involved in the child's life?
Volunteer in the Step Child's Classroom?
Attend Field Trips?
Attend Back to School night?
Buy expensive gifts/clothes/gadgets for the step-child?  What about expensive activities like football games?
Telephone the step-child for conversational purposes on an ongoing basis?
Plan birthday parties?
Post Social Media about "our" child?
Orchestrate school projects?
Takethe Child for haircuts? Ear-piercing? Tatoos?


Don't "course correct" in the middle of a championship (or non-championship) hockey season.

If you believe that your child is unharmed by the conflict and hostilty then by all means, do nothing (said the Mediator sarcastically.)  But, if you want to reduce conflict, doesn't Step 1 go a long way for putting YOU in control of reducing conflict?

In other words, if a parent feels the step-parent's role should not include step-parent's attendance on field trips, don't do it.  Find other ways to have step-parent/step-child bonding; like movie time and board games or family vacations.  I say "don't do it", NOT because it is wrong, or bad or negative.  I say "don't do it" because "other parent" is upset.   What is more important to the child?  Having step-parent at the pumpkin farm field trip or avoiding conflict between the child's parents?  Which would a child choose, NOT what would you choose is the real question.

That's why "fairness" or good intentions might not always matter.   That's why "right and wrong" are irrelevant.  That's why "best interest of the child" is the universal concept in family law matters. From a mediator's viewpoint, extra conflict for a child of divorce is always negative.

Of course all families are different and the circumstances in which the step-parent came to be the step-parent may be relevant.  Did Parent marry Step-Parent after an affair that contributed to the end the marriage?  Or is a Step-Parent bringing additional children into the family and merely attempting to create some sort of "equality" for the step-children?  For example, if new step-parent has seasons' tickets to the Ravens' games, would the parent want the step-parent to exclude his or her Child from that event because it aroused jealousy in the parent?  I didn't claim there was an easy answer, except that  the decision should be jointly made and sometimes explanations provided.  "So what should I do if I have an extra ticket and I'm taking my kids? Exclude your child and take one of my children's friends?"  Sometimes such a conversation might provide perspective for the  upset parent.

The answer is easy and hard. I think the answer is conflict avoidance and harmony among the adults who are the role models of the child.  Determine the child's bests interests, but if you do so, place appropriate weight on the weight of an ongoing parental conflict upon the the child.   To me that weight is very, very heavy.

Mediating Alimony in Divorce - Coming to an Agreement

To mediate an Alimony matter incident to a separation or divorce in Maryland, I take a multiple step approach.

Step 1- Have the parties come to their own agreements relating to Alimony?  Do their agreements address the monthly sum (usually yes) and the duration for the Alimony (usually not.)

If so, it is not the mediator's role to upset the parties' agreements.  That said, the mediator should explore the facts surrounding the parties' agreement for several reasons.  For instance, when was the agreement was made?  Did the parties have a full understanding of their own needs at the time of the discussion?  Was a parties' agreement made at a time when there was an imbalance of power?  If the parties have been living according to the Alimony agreement, has either party has incurred debt during that time frame? Have financial circumstances of the parties changed since they made their agreement?  Have the parties considered the tax implications of Alimony? In general, cash Alimony is deductible by the payor and included in the gross income of the payee for tax purposes.

Step 2-  Analyzing the need for Alimony by one party and the ability to pay Alimony by the other.

It is important to accurately quantify the amount of "need" of the proposed Alimony recipient.  Care must be taken to review past expenses to accurately tally all current needs.  If the residence costs are expected to change (or any other major expenses) then an educated assessment of the new residential costs is a must-do.  The same analysis must be done for the prospective payor of future Alimony.  Once the parties have quantified their respective "need" for Alimony and the "ability to pay" Alimony there should be a range in which to work the negotiations.

Step 3- Alimony- for how long?

There needs to be a practical discussion relating to how long the Alimony will be paid.  If the underlying purpose of Alimony has a "goal" the end-date is explored from this practical analysis.  Are you trying to keep a child in a particular school district until graduation? Or does the Alimony recipient need to educationally rehabilitate his or her skills, and if so, what is the timetable? Do we need to discuss the anticipated retirement date of the payor?  In the case of an anticipated retirement date, what will happen if the payor does not in fact retire?

Step 4- Determining the Circumstances that will Terminate Alimony.

Alimony always ends upon death of one of the parties, and almost always ends upon the recipient's remarriage.   Sometimes the parties make an agreement to terminate the Alimony if the recipient is cohabiting with a third party in a "marriage-like" relationship.

Step 5-  Obtaining Legal Advice on the issue of Alimony.

There are formulas, which are not the law  in the State of Maryland, but which may be helpful in narrowing the negotiations relating to Alimony.   Sometimes a mediator will utilize these formulas to see if the agreed-upon range of Alimony negotiated falls within the parameters being discussed.  However, the best way to understand how the judges in the county in which the case might be tried might rule.  The only way to get that answer is to speak to your consulting attorneys.   I often recommend that in between mediation negotiation sessions when Alimony is at issue.   Having those two opinions from two lawyers is another tool to help narrow the issue, used in mediation.  Consulting an attorney in between mediation session for such a critical issue makes good sense where there is an impasse.   In addition, consulting an attorney at this juncture helps the parties come to an agreement which will not derail the negotiations at the attorney review phase of the mediation agreement.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Getting A Dog- Veto Power

Getting a dog is a decision that will impact the whole family.  To many people, like those who grew up with an ever-present dog member, getting a dog may seem like a no-brainer.  What’s a home without a dog, he or she may wonder?  But the true no-brainer is that the choice to get a doggie family member, needs to be an enthusiastic mutual choice.  Each spouse must have absolute veto power.

Dogs, and the time, attention and expense they require have a huge influence on the family dynamic and lifestyle.  Being tethered to one’s home (or conversely the expenses of the dog-walker and/or kennel) may lead to substantial lifestyle changes.  Add in a dash of destruction (i.e. the soiled carpet, the holes dug in the back-yard, the chewed up pair of shoes) and you’ve got the makings of a catalyst for a serious and on-going, couple dispute. 

A mutual desire for a dog may or may not be enough to overcome the negative aspects of canine ownership.  Sometimes the mutual desire arises from the loneliness of the marriage and simply provides a temporary distraction from brewing discord.  In such cases, dogs may be invited into the marital bed, or otherwise suck up what is perhaps an already low-level of interpersonal nurturing between the spouses.  Even the most dog-desiring couple may end up putting vet expenses on a credit card to their marital detriment.  Suddenly the dog may be the last nail in the coffin of a marriage that was merely weathering an emotional or financial storm.

As a divorce mediator, this warning may come too late to my readers (at least for this relationship, but there are likely to be other relationships in your futures.)  I can only offer this warning from my collective experiences about divorce.  I have seen far too many dog-interference issues aggravate marital problems.  Thus I have one piece of advice:  If there is a doubt, DON’T.  A spouse should have veto power about the choice, even as the other spouse swears that he or she will be the sole care provider for the pet.  Perhaps I should modify that advice- If there is a doubt, and you care about preserving your spouse/in-tact family- DON’T.   Even if becoming single sounds appealing to you, will you be able to care for the dog you love in terms of time, expense and other practicalities such as whether a rental will accept pets? Do you wish to limit your choice of future dates/spouse to those accepting of pets? Suddenly you may be worried about your prospective date's children's allergies!  If separation and divorce are your secret or not so secret goals, what is the harm in waiting until that monumental life-change actually happens before you make your doggie dream come true? Is your dog dream more weighty then dreams of accord with your romantic partner?  Life is full of trade-offs.

The idea that a reluctant dog-acquiring spouse will “fall in love” with the new critter is a roll of the dice. Having a puppy means entering the puppy stage of house-breaking, a time when many puppies are destructively chewing, whining at night, and this creates a whole slew of new family chores which means that the hardest part of having a dog happens immediately on the heels of the reluctance.  How is this a healthy formula for marital success? 

Even among a couple of dog-lovers, timing is critical.  Sometimes dog-lovers suffer extra stress from the lack of time he or she may have to attend to the dog which truth drives a dog-lover to deny him or herself of the pleasure based on practicality and not based on desire.  From my experience as a divorce mediator I observe that getting a dog has a disproportionate impact when a couple has small children, because like it or not statistically speaking, this is one of the most vulnerable and expensive (in terms of child care or the sacrifice of an income) times of a marriage.  It is also the time when love and nurture is diverted from spouses to the children, only to be further diluted by puppy needs.  On the other end of parenthood is the couple (or one of them) who was looking forward to post-college freedom to travel, only to acquire a sudden replacement doggie-child to fill the empty nest and quash those long awaited dreams.

Sad but true, pets often are a huge unexpected expense.  Whether we are talking about building fences, routine vet care and vet meds, replacing puppy-ruined carpets, kennels or dog-walkers, or animal illness costs, the true cost of owning a pet is probably a subject pet-lovers try not to think about.  Take it from a mediator who happens to have a old, beloved diabetic dog whose monthly costs equal a modest car payment. However, when the choice is heartworm prevention medication or funding a school lunch account or field trip, can imagine the agony. 

I’m often asked to comment about the prevalence of animal “custody battles” in divorce negotiations.  Many times such disputes arise where the couple has been childless and the couple has jointly and emotionally invested in the animal.  Often in these cases the couple starts off with a joint sharing of time and expense, but usually that is merely a weaning process for the person who will eventually move out of the pet’s life or become a fringe player.   Far more often is the circumstance where one party insists on the other spouse “taking” the dog so that dog-resentful spouse can finally wash his or her hands of the obligation.  How many stories must I hear where one spouse surprised not only the children but the other spouse with this wonderful gift, only to have the reluctant spouse be the sole party-pooper?  When the party-pooper is also expected to be the doggie caregiver, think muddy paws, cold temperatures and busy mornings and tell me how that's going to wear on the marriage?

So when is a good time to get a dog during a marriage? The short answer is when you both enthusiastically agree, and both have time, energy and money to devote to the dog resources you will need to fit your other lifestyle choices.  The time not to get a dog during the marriage?  When there is reluctance from a spouse; when financial resources are scarce or variable; where travel and life away from home is common; or when children are young, expensive and needy of emotional devotion.  

Do you think a dog is unlikely to be a negative tipping point during a stressful time in a marriage?  Think again.  Please. A dog is never more expensive then when it is the catalyst for a divorce. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

“Conscious Uncoupling”- Just a New Age Fancy Name for Good Old Mediation

Thank you Gwyneth.  Through your ingenious although somewhat elitist/pretentious announcement of separation, you have brought the idea of peaceful negotiations to the forefront of family law. Specifically “Conscious Uncoupling” refers to drawing upon “feminine energy” to engage in peacemaking, nurturing and healing to address the separation situation and to reject “masculine energy” which keeps us in “attack mode.”  What?  That sounds like a fancy way to describe separation, divorce and custody mediation.  It’s just mediation.  

It’s agreeing to make a positive decision to address a very bad/sad/mad situation.   To respond without undue reactivity.  To get what is fair without vengeance.

This probably sounds like a bunch of hooey to the angry and shocked spouse.  To the spouse whose life is being unraveled by the choice of the spouse who took vows to protect you, not throw you away!  To the spouse who suddenly realizes that he or she will only see about 50% of their children’s lives!  To the spouse who sees retirement suddenly as an unattainable goal! To a grown man or woman forced to live with a relative!  I could go on and on.  The exclamation marks are an understatement.

Remember the old adage (I’m paraphrasing): We are not judged by what happens to us, but by our response to what happens to us.  Easier said than done.

It is ridiculous to suggest that the fury this situation engenders is so easily pushed to the back burner.   A fancy, Hollywood divorce is not the typical situation, where lack of money is unlikely to be an obstacle to either party’s future.   Hollywood stars may be more accustomed to absences from their children.   These people are not most people.

So how does one get to mediation- to the place where settlement is the goal; where lawyers are used as advisors and not advocates, where the neutral mediator guides the couple to a fair, practical and final result?   Follow me down the AVENUE to recovery.

Accept your rage, fury, sadness, grief and fear; it won’t go away.
Vent it in the forum which will do the most good- friends, family, a therapist is best; and lots of it.
Eject the past- what choice is there? It’s gone.  Eject it.  Exorcise it. Evolve.  Lots of EEs.
Never involve your Children.  Never. You may fail sometimes but this should be your goal.
Unwind. Take baths, yoga classes, meditate.  Exercise. Borrow a beach house.  Eat Pray Love-Style.
Ego rebuilding.  Get fit; get a job; get out there and socialize.

It’s all been said before, but when one is in the horrible moment, clutching these trite "to do" lists soothe us and chants back at our inner, angry voices.  

This is the antidote to your poisonous situation. The antidote is not retaliation.   It is specifically the opposite.   Your emotions must be handled as a separate subject outside of your spouse, so that you can focus on the tedious and practical issues of scheduling children and dividing assets and debts.

The Mediator keeps you focused on those goals. The Mediator does it in far less time and for far less money.  The Mediator provides the process to move past your past and resolves your future.  It may not be a better future at this minute, but it’s not the now-painful past.   The Mediator guides you in that direction. Privately and confidentially.  The Mediator gauges the fairness of the negotiation.  The mediator looks for shared interests (i.e. the children, your joint credit, the success of the other for the purpose of a bright financial future for the children.)   The mediator helps redirect the conversation when the inevitable emotional bleeding leaks into the negotiation.

Calling it “feminine” vs. “masculine” energy sort of seems divisive to me as a mediator so I don’t like the description although I live the concept.  But yes, it’s a conscious decision to make a positive step towards moving forward and healing.  Intellectually, most of the involuntarily separating parties understand this.  They just need a little help.  So Gwyneth and Chris, thank you.  You are not too rich, or too famous to recognize that no good comes from a process which prolongs the pain of parting; which tears the children apart; which wallows in the ugliness of the what happened in the marriage; which costs too much time, money, energy, good will, and frankly takes a toll on your health.  
Conscious Uncoupling?  OK.  Call it what you like.  It’s the mediation process by any other name.   It’s a wise choice for almost everyone going through separation and divorce.

Choose an attorney and you are choosing an adversarial process.  Choose a mediator and you are choosing a settlement process.  Choose Nancy Caplan, Esquire at Maryland Divorce Mediation and Legal Services.  

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sexless Marriage – A recipe for Divorce.

If you’re reading this it probably means that you are getting separated or divorced.  You are in good company as you well know.  Marriage success has the same probability as a coin toss.  I don’t mean that in any snarky way- I’ve lived the trauma- twice.

So I don’t know what I don’t know, but I do know what I do know.  Learning is what comes from making mistakes.  My education about couples comes from two failed marriages, my new relationship and blended family , my experience as a family law litigation attorney and now, my family mediation practice in Baltimore County, Maryland.

To me it appears that marriages fail most often based on "the big three" issues:  finances, children and sex.  The rest of the commonly cited reasons- division of chores ( see New York Times’ Magazine Article “Sexless but Equal”)  letting oneself “go” (i.e. weigh gain and/or inattentiveness to physical appearance) and in-law problems all add lesser non-palatable ingredients in the recipe for divorce.  

I think that these common marital problems share a symptom-  they all lead to sexual withdrawal in the marriage.   With Children comes fatigue, the sapping of nurturing energies, physical changes in the body (weight gain, hormonal changes), and new financial demands.  With financial strife comes anxiety, stress, physical changes in the body, depressive fatigue, and worse.  Irritants like in-laws and division of housework make us hostile towards our spouses.    But what they all appear to lead to is a decrease in sexual frequency. 

 "Sexlessness" for those who need a quantification has been defined as marital sex less than 10 times per year  (see Newsweek June, 2002 state 

Most couples pair up based on sexual attraction so explain why we so readily accept that high sexuality will be a phase and not a way of life? Am I being immature?  Are my expectations too high? If attraction is not a critical part of marriage why not resume family matchmaking as a way of making marital choices?  If we refuse to go backwards to such loveless matches, why are we resistant to the concept that sexual attraction, as the basis of love, must be monogamy's new priority?  Is the idea that marital sex is sacred in a marriage so immature? Or is it simply too hard? If so, is it harder than divorce?  Ask someone who is divorced if being divorced is less hard than marriage.  

I believe that people wear blinders and forget that  “the spark”  must be kept sparky in order to withstand the outside stress of careers, finances, in-laws, chores, body image and children.  If society reacted to a married person’s sexual avoidance with the same furious response generated by infidelity (and one often gives rise to the other) then perhaps sex in a marriage would enjoy the same open status of importance as children and finances. Does it? Be honest.

Would it be acceptable for the breadwinner to permanently slack off the bread-winning because of the distraction of a baby?   Sure the bread-winning parent is tired, less focused and perhaps forced to pitch in more to household chores.  But near withdrawal from career obligations?  Not likely.  If anything the drive to protect baby and family probably increases career drive but keeping sex alive for the same reasons does not increase sex drive.    Would it be acceptable for a parent with financial problems to simply cease efforts relating to child-rearing?  Do financial problems mean you no longer get your kids to the bus stop, supervise homework or attend soccer games?    What will it take for couples to realize that sex is not “optional” in a healthy marriage? 

Sex may be the very thing that soothes our body image problems.  Sex may provide the psychological boost that helps us perform well at work or instill a personal confidence that shines through in an interview. Sex may be the very thing that saves our children from becoming children of divorce!  And so, why the societal acceptance of sexual laziness?  Why is sex in marriage simply not the first commandment of marriage from a societal viewpoint? Is it a societal defensiveness born out of shared guilt on a problem way too many couples share?  

In short where is the outrage for sexlessness- the scourge of monogamy?  Does it help to excuse it away with the numerous available excuses?  Should we just lower our sexual expectations and more importantly, can we? 

I see so many separating or divorcing couples who have financial success, their children are successful, they have housekeepers and  they love their extended families.  They have lovely homes (and vacation homes) a cars and boats.    When I see those couples I am perplexed by  the “what was missing” issue.  The guilty party initiating the divorce invariably tries to let it slip out  at the first opportunity.  Often when I ask how long have you been separated, or are you separated, out comes the emotional leaks: “What does ‘separated’ mean?  We have been in separate bedrooms for years.”    Often (but not always) the party having an affair hints of sexlessness. The reaction of the spurned party is usually dismissiveness over the disclosure,  as if sexlessness, when everything else is “fine” cannot possibly justify an affair.  But does it?  If it is a direct culprit why doesn't it? Do you know sexual refusal can be considered "constructive desertion" as a grounds for divorce in Maryland?  I would bet that the friends and family of that couple would emotionally side against the adultering party.  The spouse donning the Scarlet Letter is rarely sympathetic and the "victim" is not culpable.   Do we engage in a collective societal rationalization that is killing many otherwise happy marriages including the divorcing couples and the ones who stay married? 

If you are reading this blog you are likely separating or divorcing, but this does not mean this issue is dead for you. Quite the opposite, you have a rare opportunity for a fresh start.  Take it from me (and most divorced people) there is romance after divorce, and if you can’t avoid the unknown mistakes you may make, can you avoid the one you have already made?

My imperfect solution?  Prioritize sex in a marriage from the onset. Put the "having sex" back into "sexy."  Trust that sexual gratification trumps  the perceived revulsion that  few extra pounds might engender, especially with a few candles, a glass of wine and music (and not tv) playing in the background.   Give it the same weight you would give children’s needs and financial issues.   Make it as important and at least as often as taking out the trash or doing the laundry.  Give it the same intensity as making sure your children’s homework is done.    If you workout more often than you have sex then you might not be making enough of an effort.  If you attend more lacrosse games then sex games with your spouse, you might reconsider.  If you travel more for business each month than you have sex, again, problematic.  If you initiated sex after every sports event you watched, how often would you be having sex.  If you got divorced, would you be looking for someone who enjoyed watching sports with you or someone you were sexually attracted to?  

Would you go a day without a hug, kiss or “I love you” for your child?  Have you gone a month without watching 30 minutes of television or surfing the net or blabbing on the phone?  One week? One day? I don’t think so.  How much of a time commitment are we really talking about here? 

 A mathematical word problem:  If a couple has 30 minutes of sex 3 nights a week (I think most couples would consider this a healthy sex life) what percentage of that couples' week would they be devoting to physical intimacy in their marriage?  Hint: [(30 minutes x 3 = 1.5 hours) divided by (24 hours x 7 days = 168 hours) = .0089%.  Less than 1% for the sexually active couples.   

Hence my outrage and here's why:   If marital sexual health protects marriage and  your children from become children of divorce, why is this the one area of parenting you are willing to forego?  I'm talking to you Mr. and Mrs. Helicopter.   If financial health protects your marriage and your children, what do you think dividing one household into two households will do for your accumulation of wealth?   I'm talking to you Mr. and Mrs. Joneses. 

I have many, many  suggestions about keeping sex alive.   But that is a different blog. First you have to accept the truth of this premise and let it motivate your relationship physical intimacy. The first order of business, now that you will most likely be embarking on new relationships (and you are statistically likely to do so) is to make sexual attraction a key component in your choice of relationship (people who marry for resources and security start a marriage with 3 strikes against them for marital bliss IMHO).  If you walk down the aisle with that new person, walk with the swagger or stagger that only comes from good and frequent sex.  Enter that relationship and marriage with the determination to keep the physical intimacy alive and well.    Sex in a marriage cannot be last thing on your “to do” list.   It should be first, the rule and not the exception.   Sex in a marriage is like water to a living creature.   Sex in a marriage is sacred.   

Monday, December 30, 2013

Separation and Divorce Mediation in Maryland 2014

Hello 2014.  Are you bringing your problems from 2013 with you in this New Year?  Or will you have the resolve to make certain that 2015 will not be ushered in still carrying the same problems with you? 

Make no mistake about it.  Separation and divorce are traumatic for all involved.  You already know the burden of living with the problems that have brought you to this place.  The future is an unknown burden and of course that makes it all the more frightening.   Still I often discover that both parties, who have been living with this horrible anticipation, do look forward to a time when this crushing journey will come to an end, and each can start again.

As a family law litigation attorney turned family law attorney-mediator, I can tell you that I feel a huge portion of the anticipated fear is about the process of getting separated or divorced.  There is no end to the ugly courtroom dramas told by couples who have taken the traditional route with a litigating attorney through the court system. So many times when couples have finished their  mediation session with me they remark on how happily surprised they are with how orderly and non-traumatic the process actually can be.  Of course the emotional fall-out does not end with the contractual negotiation process, but with mediation, the process itself doesn’t aggravate the emotional blow.    

The New Year is a good time to look to the future when the past has been so difficult.  Separation and Divorce are hard enough without adding warring attorneys who want retainers (aka the down payments) and payment of endless monthly legal bills; or worse, court dates and unknown judgments handed down by someone in a black robe holding a gavel in a public forum.

There is another way; private mediation for family law matters of separation, divorce, custody, child support, alimony and property and debt division.   It’s the future of family law that fits your future of better times ahead for 2014 and beyond.    Start with a better separation and divorce process and the rest will follow.