What Is A Divorce Coach – and Do I Need One?

A Divorce Coach can help couples maintain caring and respect through the process to help the entire family move forward in a healthy way. Photo: Josh Kenzer, Creative Commons license

A Divorce Coach can help couples maintain caring and respect through the process to help the entire family move forward in a healthy way. Photo: Josh Kenzer, Creative Commons license

by Lynn Waldman, LCSW, and Tina Mears, LMFT

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Lynn Waldman, LCSW

Couples starting the Collaborative Divorce process understand they will be working with family law attorneys to help facilitate the legal requirements. They also recognize the advantages of working with a neutral financial professional such as a Certified Financial Planner or Certified Divorce Analyst, especially when there are important assets or property involved as part of the financial settlement.

But some couples don’t initially think they need a divorce coach. They say, “Well, we get along fine and we don’t need help,” or “I’m coping with everything OK, so why do I need to see a therapist?” Sometimes there are concerns, especially in Collaborative Divorce, about paying for “all these people” when they don’t seem necessary.

After many years of experience as licensed mental health professionals working with divorcing couples through the Collaborative Process, we can tell you that the investment in your emotional well-being throughout your divorce will benefit you not only today, but for many years to come.

What Is A Divorce Coach?

A Divorce Coach is a licensed mental health professional trained to assist clients with the emotional challenges of divorce, communication, parenting plans and preparation for the future. Through Collaborative Divorce, clients work on multidisciplinary teams with attorneys, fina

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Tina Mears, LMFT

ncial specialists and other professionals, sharing information through a transparent process with the goal of a family-centered resolution.

How Can A Divorce Coach Help During a Divorce?

A Divorce Coach can play a critically important role in helping couples work through the process by addressing challenges in communication, emotional coping skills, and parenting.

Communication

  • Identify underlying needs and wants and how to express these interests clearly.
  • Teach communication strategies around decision-making and problem-solving.
  • Facilitate the negotiation so that everyone feels heard and solutions are found.
  • Communicate with each other, with attorneys and financial specialists frequently.

Emotional Regulation

  • Offer skill based strategies for managing emotions.
  • Provide structure when facilitating difficult conversations and negotiations.
  • Facilitate client control of the process and maintain the client’s vision for the end result.
  • Help a client’s attorneys understand individual roles, the dynamics of the team and how both affect the Collaborative Process to work more effectively.
  • Help professionals understand how relationship dynamics affect the Collaborative Process and prevent or address stumbling blocks when they occur.

Parenting Plan:

  • Offer parents a safe place to propose and discuss possible parenting plan options.
  • Consider developmental stages of children in parenting plan proposals.
  • Allow difficult emotions to be present in working through child sharing arrangements.
  • Offer insight into developing a roadmap for the new dynamics of the family.

Sometimes by default, couples begin to see their attorneys as surrogate therapists or coaches. This is understandable but not productive. Attorneys are not trained mental health professionals, and their role is to provide their valuable legal expertise. It is not an effective use of time or money to try to work through mental health issues with legal professionals.

In the long run, you will work through your emotional challenges far more easily and effectively with a trained mental health professional who understands the Collaborative Process to work with you as you navigate this critically important chapter in your life, and help prepare you and your family for the chapters ahead.

 

 

 

Collaborators Support Kids’ Turn San Diego

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego support Kids' Turn San Diego, which gives children a safe place to talk about their experiences and feelings when experiencing separation from parents due to military deployments, divorce, and other challenges.

Both groups share commitment to children navigating family separations

Contact: Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR / 619-997-2495 or gayle@falconvalleygroup.com

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego support Kids' Turn San Diego, which gives children a safe place to talk about their experiences and feelings when experiencing separation from parents due to military deployments, divorce, and other challenges.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego support Kids’ Turn San Diego, which gives children a safe place to talk about their experiences and feelings when experiencing separation from parents due to military deployments, divorce, and other challenges.

(SAN DIEGO) – More than 30 years of research continues to reveal negative effects of traditional divorce on children. Many of the 1.5 million children in the U.S. whose parents divorce every year feel as if their worlds are falling apart. Divorcing parents are usually very concerned about the welfare of their children during this troublesome process. Some parents are so worried that they remain in unhappy marriages, believing it will protect their offspring from the trauma of divorce.

Among the many positive aspects of Collaborative Divorce for families is lessening the potentially harmful effects of divorce on children. The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego shares this mission with Kids’ Turn San Diego, a nonprofit organization assisting children and families through separation due to divorce or military transitions.

The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego has signed on as a sponsor for the third year for the Kids’ Turn San Diego Fourth Annual “Night at the Padres” Event on June 4, 2016, with proceeds benefiting its programs bringing peace to children experiencing these difficult family issues.

“The Collaborative method of divorce came about when attorneys, financial advisors and mental health professionals saw the need to better protect the integrity of family relationships, especially where children are involved,” said Myra Fleischer, family law attorney and Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego president. “Collaborative Divorce offers a healthy way to help children through divorce.

“Kids have a safe place to talk about their experiences and feelings at Kids’ Turn San Diego. They meet other children dealing with similar challenges in their lives, so they don’t feel so alone. Caring adults offer effective coping strategies to help the children navigate these major family changes in a positive way,” said Fleischer. “We applaud the group’s work. It is important to us to support these efforts.”

Cindy Grossmont, LCSW, Kids’ Turn San Diego Executive Director, said, “We thank the professionals of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego for their ongoing support. We know the members share our mission and we value our partnership to help children make their way toward a healthier, happier future.”

To support Kids’ Turn San Diego through “Night at the Padres,” by purchasing tickets or making a donation, visit the donation page here.

About Kids’ Turn San Diego

Kids’ Turn San Diego is a caring nonprofit organization for children and parents experiencing family separations or military transitions. We offer specially designed programs facilitated by trained and experienced mental health professionals and credentialed teachers for never married, separated and divorced families, step-parents and children and families experiencing military related transitions. Visit http://www.kidsturnsd.org/ to learn more.

About The Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego

Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego members work together to learn, practice, and promote collaborative processes for problem solving and the peaceful resolution of family law issues, with an eye toward preserving the emotional, as well as the financial, assets of the family. Its goal is to transform the resolution of family law issues through respectful, collaborative processes that protect the integrity and health of family relationships and eliminate the need for families to resort to litigation.

CFLGSD is online at www.collaborativefamilylawsandiego.com.

 

Communication Tools for Collaborative Divorce

Learning to communicate during divorce will have long term benefit for your children and your family relationships.

by Tina Mears, LMFT

Learning to communicate efficiently and effectively is a progression in skills, just like learning a golf swing or entertaining for 50 people. There are many moving parts and it changes depending on who is in front of you. As you go through Collaborative Divorce, communication is a key component to its success.   Yet, it is extremely difficult to achieve because of the newness of the situation and the high emotions that

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Tina Mears, LMFT

come with the experience.

It is possible to achieve peaceful, consistent and purposeful communication with your former partner. It all begins with your mindset. Think about communication as having the highest purpose: your child’s well-being. The Collaborative Process is not about winning or losing, as we often see in litigation. It is about coming together, being supported by a team and communicating through each decision. The following are tools to practice as you take the necessary steps in restructuring your family.

  1. Curiosity – How often do we make an assumption and go in for the attack before really understanding the whole situation? It is extremely important to remain curious in gathering information before making decisions.   We can do this by asking questions, being a good listener and challenging ourselves to think in ways that we aren’t used to.
  2. Triggers – Let’s face it, we get triggered. When we aren’t paying attention and “have our buttons out” others will find ways to push them. Learning how to be more mindful and keeping your buttons in will help in more peaceful communication. It’s also knowing what your triggers are so that you can see them coming and prepare yourself with a response that will de-escalate the moment.
  3. Body Language –Our body language can really set the tone of a conversation. Our thoughts, intentions and feelings are expressed by physical behaviors, which could either help or hurt the forward movement of the process. Good eye contact and a relaxed body position can signal that you are willing to work through an issue.
  4. Listening – We can “say” a lot by not saying anything at all. Active listening is a very effective first response when working through a difficult topic. Collaborative Divorce takes a certain amount of trust and sometimes a person just needs to be heard and acknowledged before willing to consider an alternative or soften their position.
  5. Solution-Focused – Most of the language through this process is about finding solutions and keeping the process moving. Learning to communicate with resolutions in mind will help in avoiding getting stuck. This takes practice in compartmentalizing what’s painful and keeping the health and well-being of your children and yourself in mind.

The ingredients for a successful communication between you and your former partner for the sake of your children are reasonable and fairly simple to explain. They are, however, extremely difficult to achieve. With the help of your divorce coach and the other professionals involved, you can reach mutually satisfying goals that will pave the way for a new start and happy future for everyone.

If you would like to learn more about Collaborative Divorce, the members of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego are here to help you. Contact us at 858-472-4022 or email us at sandiegodivorceoptions@gmail.com

 

 

Realistic Expectations in Divorce: Do Leopards Ever Really Change Their Spots?

leopards-don-t-change-their-spots_things-wish-id-always-known-menby Shawn D. Skillin, Esq.
Collaborative Attorney and Mediator

As a mediator, I met with a Mediation couple today. I like both of them very much. We
are the same ages, have similar interests and if I wasn’t their divorce mediator, I could be friends with each of them. But what struck me again today, was how divorcing spouses treat each other and annoy each other, and yet at the same time they find this surprising and frustrating.
Shawn Skillin

You are getting divorced. There are multiple reasons why you are getting divorced. Many of them boil down to that fact that you each have a different perspective on various issues. One of you likes the house neat and tidy, the other leaves dirty socks and wet towels on the floor. One of you is fussy about the budget, the other just wants to know if the ATM card works. You each have a different set of expectations for the children and approach discipline in different ways. You both have frustrations, disappointments and hurt feelings. You have argued over these issues many times, you can recite each others point of view word for word. You have stopped even pretending to listen.

Yet when one of you decides to file for divorce there is often an expectation that somehow this will change. The other person will now see your point, change their perspective, after all you must have gotten their full and undivided attention now! Right? Mmmm … not so fast.

In divorce, your individual perspectives don’t magically change. You still see things differently from each other. These differences continue to annoy and frustrate you. Yet, both parties often continue to treat each other in the same way and expect a different outcome. These communication styles didn’t work during the marriage, they aren’t going to work during the divorce. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

This is why I love Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. In Mediation, the Mediator is a neutral third party who helps interpret and re-frame what is being said. The Mediator can put a different spin on the issue, help you both see it in a different way, or at least point out that this isn’t unusual that you each see it differently. The fact that you do, doesn’t make either of you right or wrong, good or bad, just different.

In Collaborative Divorce, there is a Coach, or two, and two attorneys who help each party take a step back and take a fresh look at old issues. Perhaps, even learn a new way of presenting information and proposals to each other. They help you see what you do have in common and how, even with your differences, you can resolve issues, co-parent and work together.

Both Mediation and Collaborative Divorce keep you focused on the present and the future; the past can’t be changed.   How you got here is not nearly as important as where you choose to go now and in the future. In the best Mediated and Collaborative Divorces the parties learn new communication tools that can help them resolve their issues and move forward with hope.

In Life and Divorce, The Greatest Rewards Come From the Toughest Challenges

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by Tina Mears, LMF
Collaborative Divorce Coach

Change can bring many wonderful gifts, but it can also be very intimidating. New ways of tina-mears-photothinking and behaving to achieve a goal can be difficult, mostly because for a lot of us, we want to do what we’ve always done.   We think we’re right or the stress of life persuades us to not put in the effort. It’s natural to say, “I already have too much on my plate and I just want to do what I’ve always done because it’s easier!”

Let me offer two strong benefits to going through any transformative process, such as divorce. First is the outcome.   We reach our goals by identifying the right steps and putting in the work. By taking the route of Collaborative Divorce, you are offered the opportunity to reach an agreement that best meets the needs of everyone. Litigation is not an option and the well-being of the entire family, especially the children, is preserved.

Second and most importantly, is what you learn along the way. When we only focus on the end-goal we miss the many parts of ourselves that develop and strengthen as we go. We can all probably come up with examples of how we’ve gained insight and wisdom because of a difficult situation. The Collaborative Divorce process offers the same benefit because it challenges you to be your best at what might be the most difficult time of your life. It’s when we step up to the challenge and commit to the process do we build on how we cope with life, and as a result, other aspects of our lives become less complicated.

Finally, when we as adults find ways to make life easier, we make our children’s lives easier. When we learn how to be patient and problem solve, we can teach them to do the same. If we aren’t teaching our children how to be flexible, respectful and self-controlled, who will?

To collaborate with someone asks you to first have an open mind and an open heart. Compromise is possible when we practice patience, knowledge and endurance. The Collaborative Divorce process will challenge you to summon your best self. But remember, the most difficult challenges will bring the greatest rewards.

 

Collaborative Divorce Method Mirrors Reality, Replacing Fear With Relief

by Meredith G. Lewis, Esq
Certified Legal Specialist-Family Law
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Lewis, Warren & Setzer, LLP

For the first several years of my family law practice, I represented clients who were looking to the judicial system to make decisions regarding their children, finances and property.  These clients felt it appropriate to provide a judge who didn’t personally know anything about them with complete control over their future and that of their family.

A release of such control never seemed natural to me.

As I slowly transitioned my practice to only Alternate Dispute Resolution (“ADR”), I saw a much higher rate of satisfaction with the dissolution process among my clients.  Until 2013 my ADR practice focused mostly on mediation. At the suggestion of my friend and colleague  Shawn Weber, CFLS, I took the Collaborative training.

The training showed me that the Collaborative process and its outcome better reflected reality.  In the artificial environment of a courtroom, a judge is limited in his or her decisions by the Family Code and case law.  However, these code sections and court opinions often do not allow a judge to mirror reality.

I instantly realized during my first Collaborative case that it is a process which understands the needs of the parties.  The key moment of this realization was during the meeting addressing the issue of spousal support. Instead of plugging in numbers into a computer program to come up with an artificial support payment, we reviewed in detail each individual’s monthly budget, and allocated the combined net income appropriately.

This process insured each spouse’s necessary expenses were met, and even allowed some discretionary expenses to be covered.  The spousal support number was based on reality, and each person walked away from the meeting feeling confident he or she could financially survive post dissolution.

Best of all, their fear about the future was replaced by a sense of relief, which resulted in having control over how their lives would progress.

The team approach of the Collaborative dissolution was an invaluable tool for working with this family. As in any case, each had their own attorney for legal advice, but both also had the benefit of a financial expert providing knowledge and insight, and a mental health professional to address their emotions during the process. These are two key components which are often missing from the traditional divorce process.

The ultimate agreement and outcome of the case was one that in fact mirrored reality, allowing each individual to have control of his or her future – control that was never handed over to the impersonal judicial system.

Ten Golden Rules for a Good Divorce

Is a good divorce possible? After 30 years of experience helping families cope with divorce and remarriage, Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego member Dr. Constance Ahrons believes it is possible.

Dr. Ahrons works with those navigating through a divorce and its aftermath as coach, mediator and/or therapist. She is among the earliest champions of collaborative divorce.

Constance Ahrons is a best-selling author of the books “The Good Divorce” and “We’re Still Family,” and co-author of the highly regarded book, “Divorced Families.” An acclaimed speaker, she he has been featured on numerous national television interviews.

Dr. Ahrons is deeply interested in the welfare of the entire family, particularly children, who are facing the challenges of divorce. If your divorce involves children, Dr. Ahrons suggests following these rules to help everyone cope and move forward in the most healthy way possible.

Ten Golden Rules for a Good Divorce

1.    ACCEPT THAT ALL-OUT WAR IS NOT INEVITABLE.

In fact, it is destructive.  Mediation and Collaborative Divorce are two choices that aim to reduce anger between divorcing spouses.

2.   STAY IN CHARGE OF YOUR DIVORCE.

Remember, this is your divorce, not your lawyers.

3.    SLOW DOWN THE PROCESS

Although adults often want to move on quickly, remember that children need time to adjust.

4.   ACCEPT THAT YOUR CHILD NEEDS–AND HAS A RIGHT–TO BOTH PARENTS.

Even though you’re angry with your spouse, remember your children’s needs.

5.    COOPERATE WITH YOUR EX FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR CHILDREN.

It’s one of the best gifts you can give your kids.  Ongoing conflict between parents increases children’s distress.

6. DON’T BADMOUTH YOUR EX IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN

When you badmouth your ex to the kids you are telling your kids that the part of them that is like their other parent is bad too. It is bad for their self-esteem.

7. DIVORCE IS NOT THE END OF THE FAMILY

It’s important to your children’s well-being for them to feel like they still have a family.  Help them to understand that the divorce means that they are now a dual-household family.

8. RECOGNIZE THAT COMPROMISE IS ALWAYS NECESSARY

This is key to helping to reduce your anger.

9. LET YOURSELF FACE AND GRIEVE YOUR LOSSES

One of the big losses is the loss of future dreams. Just beneath    your anger is sadness over the losses of those special things you might have hoped for in your future.

 10.  LET THE ANGER GO—AND MOVE ON WITH YOUR LIFE.

Holding on to hostility and anger is self-destructive.  It keeps you stuck in the past and keeps you from finding new joys in life.

 

Collaborative Divorces Save Money

by Sandra Joan Morris
CA State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist
Past President, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

How expensive is the collaborative law process compared to other methods of resolving cases? As a family law trial attorney, I heard for years that the collaborative process is much more expensive because if it ends, the team members are off the case. However, my experience is that the collaborative process is usually quicker and less expensive in most cases, and much less expensive in complex cases, than other methods.

Even if fighting it out at the courthouse was a good way of resolving problems, at this time the lack of funds and important resources for the court system make litigation drawn-out, expensive and inadequate. In law cases, what takes time, costs money. For this reason alone, more and more litigants are looking for ways to resolve their cases without resorting to the court system.

Collaborative Divorce Saves Money

Collaborative divorce can save time, and time in money in legal proceedings

Any alternative to litigation could cost more if it fails, since you have to add its cost to the cost of going back to, or starting, litigation. Even if it succeeds, it could still cost more money if it took a lot of time to resolve. However, because both parties control the outcome, and in a far less acrimonious way, the benefits are immeasurable. Some judges say that if both parties go away upset, it was probably a good decision. The collaborative process strives to have the parties reach a resolution that is a win for both of them.

Mediation and settlement conferencing are the most common current alternatives to litigation. Both usually take place after all of the financial information has been provided (the “discovery” phase of the case,) and both often represent a last-ditch effort at resolution, frequently on the steps of the court house. Unfortunately, getting to this level of knowledge is usually the most expensive part of a family law case.

In a complex, high asset case where a lot is at stake and a lot is disputed, this phase can go on literally for years. This process is polarizing. By the time it is done, the parties are even angrier and more distrusting than when it began. Sometimes the lawyers are, too.

By contrast, the collaborative law process starts at the very beginning of the case. The  financial expert on the team gathers all financial information in an informal but thorough way. When you agree to the collaborative divorce method, you agree to cooperate by providing this information, and if needed, access to your personal financial advisors.

Within months, not years, the financial expert has all of the needed information, and can provide reports on matters such as how much income is available to pay support and what is the marital standard of living. The financial expert can promptly arrange for the appraisals of personal and real property.  The economic and time savings in the costs of discovery is enormous. You have saved time, and therefore saved money.

Even if the collaborative process ends before there is a settlement, the financial documents that the neutral financial expert got can still be used. All or portions of the reports of the financial expert also can be used if both parties agree, which can help to narrow the future issues.

Most litigated cases take at least two years to complete and get to trial or settlement.  Many take far longer. At that point the “back-end” (after discovery is complete) mediations or settlement conferences can take a few sessions, but I have had complex cases that have taken a year or more to resolve in mediation or settlement conferencing. On the other hand, my experience in collaborative cases is that they usually conclude in just over a year.

The collaborative teams include a mental health professional coach for each party, an attorney for each party, a neutral financial expert and, if needed, a neutral child specialist.  Litigated cases usually have an attorney for each party, a financial expert for each party as well as possibly a neutral expert, a custody mediator and perhaps a custody evaluator. Not only are there fewer professionals in the collaborative process, but they do not overlap their work and are united in being solution-oriented. The addition of the collaborative coaches is a very valuable component. Coaches help the parties to learn to communicate more effectively and productively, which allows them to focus on their settlement issues. The education they provide is invaluable both for the settlement process, and after the case is over.

Does a collaborative divorce cost more? Since it saves time, discovery expense, and emotional stress and exhaustion, my answer is “no.”