Tag Archives: divorce

Keeping Your Head Above Water When Going Through a Divorce

By Dan Blair, marriage counselor and family counselor

Going through a divorce is one of top stressors one can experience. You may be at your worst at a time that you may need to be at your best. Everyone deals with stress differently, but if you feel overwhelmed, add structure. Getting through your day may involve additional planning. Knowing how to to deal with negative emotions and knowing who to trust is part of the plan.

When planning your day, plan for time to release emotions and to put it bluntly, get used to the idea of having emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, and guilt. Many report that when they let the emotions hit them like a wave, they come and then they go. The more it is resisted, the more painful. Staying present and caring about your emotions and needs is important. Over time the painful part gradually subsides in intensity, duration, and frequency. (This along with addressing thinking errors is the path toward acceptance). After such a release, it will be time to refocus. Refocus on one step at a time, according to your daily plan, (yes, have a daily plan to follow) which is based on your priorities and what you can realistically accomplish.

Moving through an alternating pattern of releasing emotion and refocusing on tasks may be a good template for getting through this. Obviously, the emotions are going to build and then you will need a release, and then you will need to refocus. Perhaps the release will be needed once an hour for a few minutes, or only on breaks. Go out for a walk or a change of scenery. Take deep breaths, and focus on each of your five senses and take it as much as you can. The need for release may come unexpectedly. Going to the bathroom, sitting still and act like you are working, and avoiding eye contact for a few minutes may be options at this time, but sometimes you have to suck it up and stay professional. During the time to refocus, stay active in either mental focus or physical movement. During lunch take time to list your questions that need to be answered, or read a self-help book. Set boundaries at work, like not taking calls about divorce, or from friends who are talking about divorce.

While it is important to remain professional, work productivity often suffers during this time. Work life balance is challenging. If your supervisor can be trusted, let him or her know to keep an eye on you. He or she is often willing to check in to see if you are okay, as long as it is not taking too much away from your responsibilities. Anyone you confide it needs to be safe (in other words, telling will not backfire on you), be willing to give you space, and support if you are checking out. In addition, choose one peer to do the same for you. Understand that you are not alone and that you should not be ashamed of your personal situation. Many go down this road.

When I went through an unexpected divorce, it took a long time to accept. Even though this occurred a long time ago, it propels my passion to provide marriage counseling to prevent divorce, and divorce mediation to make as many agreements as effectively as possible (still using attorney advice).  Now, I am happily remarried. Much of my work that I do now is helping parents prevent divorce and helping kids affected by conflict. I like the advice that divorce is like a bad neighborhood, don’t go there alone.

Coping with the Emotions of Divorce

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

While there is plenty to do to deal with unavoidable divorce, the emotions are usually avoided with thoughts of anger. Take some time each day to make room for the emotional side underneath the thoughts. Due to the transient nature of thoughts and emotions, the goal of mindfulness is to be aware but less reactive to your thoughts and emotions. It can help you make better decisions, albeit an uncomfortable process. It can lead to becoming less preoccupied. Here are some tips to be practiced 15-30 minutes a day: Continue reading Coping with the Emotions of Divorce

Divorce Mediation 101

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Would you say your “soon-to-be-ex” is reasonable? Can you talk to your “ex” about a problem and focus on solutions instead of blame? If so, especially at the earlier stages of divorce, you may be in the minority. Divorce magnifies communication problems in the relationship at the time of divorce due to the perception of threat and stress. Many rely on attorneys, and rightly so, to do their communication.

Divorce mediation, on the other hand, can work hand-in-hand with attorneys. Many times mediation can resolve issues that can be resolved without attorneys. Attorneys are recommended to review all agreements. Divorce mediation focuses on interest-based proposals and counter-proposals; attorneys also focus on protecting and arguing for legal rights. Litigation can be time-consuming and expensive, though may be necessary.

A skilled divorce mediator gives two people the chance to make agreements while the mediator serves as guardian of the communication process. While a mediator does not take sides, make decisions, or advise clients, a divorce mediator does not allow poor communication and problem-solving get in the way of potential agreements. Mediation values confidential self-determination based on full disclosure of all relevant information. Without these elements, one has to resort to the legal system.

How to Communicate

Arguing points and counter-points tend to generate more heat than light. Mediation involves each side stating the facts they believe are true, but debate is limited. Anticipating anger is important in controlling temper.

One or both sides can be exasperated by the other person’s position, and hearing unworkable proposals, but if the goal is not to change the other person’s position, and instead make counter-proposals based on the other’s interests, more solutions are possible. The response to a proposal is either “yes,” “I’ll think about it,” or a counter-proposal. Questions are welcome; personal attacks are not. Self-confidence is needed to reduce defensiveness. Patience is needed for a good outcome.

Other communication rules include “Refrain from blame,” and don’t interrupt, raise your voice, or point fingers. Avoid “You” statements, such as “You always…” or “You never…” Use “I” statements. Ask to take breaks, to feel refreshed or get advice.

Positive Outcomes

Divorce mediation is associated with positive outcomes. It can reduce the negative effects of divorce on children. Children are most affected by parental unhappiness, conflict and anger. Making decisions in the best interest of children is a protective factor from the harm that can come from divorce.

Mediation is also helpful for the participants, and with agreements comes increased satisfaction with the outcome on both sides, compared to litigation alone. Mediation also reduces the chance of returning to court after divorce, and overall cost.

Mediation can be used for all or part of a dispute. Mediation may also be the most flexible way to customize agreements based on your unique situation.

Mediation sessions aim to resolve:

Child(ren)’s living arrangments
Parenting schedule
Holiday/Vacation schedule
Parental decision-making process
Child(ren)’s activities and costs
Insurance and medical expenses and other child-related issues
Property Division (including house, cars, etc.)
Assets and Liabilities
Spousal support
Retirement plans
Business issues
Tax issues
Any other issues of concern

Parenting Decisions

One of the primary decisions made in the best interest of the child involves sole or joint custody. A sole custodian means that the relationship between the parents is too conflicted to make decisions in the best interest of the children.

A joint custody arrangement means that co-parents can generally work together. Parents need to work together to determine the needs of the children, like appropriate medical care, child care, parenting time, use of holidays, vacations and other special times, location of the parent’s homes, and educational and religious training. Expenses need to be agreed upon like medical bills, child support (A general guideline is 20% of net income for one child, 28% for two, 32% for three, and 40% for four), school fees and extracurricular activities, and saving for college.

Protecting Children

Protecting the children from the harmful side of divorce is often neglected, sometimes unintentionally. The goal should under most circumstances should be consistent and calm involvement from each parent in each child’s life. Most children on some level wish for a relationship with both parents. Each parent can take part in not only providing financially but also providing influence on moral, social and educational development. Ideally, contact and affection would be unhampered and each parent would not get in the way of the child’s own developing sense of perception, and feelings about the other parent. Parents would not criticize each other within hearing range, or to put the kids in the middle by making them messengers (delivering positive or negative messages can feel like a burden to kids, when the responsibility to communicate belongs to the parents). Another rule to follow is to not tell the kids about future plans that will affect the other parent without talking to the other parent first.

Financial Decisions

The other area of importance is the financial side. Many decisions have to be made including the value and disposition of the marital residence, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stock options, bonuses and other investments. Each participant should gather information from an attorney or tax accountant specializing in divorce to understand the implications of one’s financial decisions, for example, on tax filing. Mediation is not a substitute for independent legal, financial or other professional advice and all parties are encouraged to be fully informed about the decisions for which they are ultimately responsible. All terms of a settlement are non-binding until they are put into a written agreement, usually by an attorney and entered by the court. One can go to the self-help office of the court and file pro se, but it is not usually advised. Divorce mediation allows for direct problem-solving with a neutral party, focuses on effective communication to make parenting and financial decisions that benefit both children and parents, and aims to reduce repeated visits to court.

Parents, Attachment, and Kids

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

To say that a parent’s attachment to his or her kids is strong may be a negative statement. Attachment is described as secure and insecure, so it is possible to have a strong attachment that is insecure. Continue reading Parents, Attachment, and Kids

Working with Counselors and Court

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Working with the Court in managing chaotic situations involving children and counseling is challenging and requires an additional set of skills. This article should help to evaluate court-involved counseling. It is important to know how counseling will affect the legal process and how the legal process will affect counseling. Continue reading Working with Counselors and Court

Reunification Therapy with Estranged and Alienated Parents

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Aside from abuse, children generally benefit from a relationship with both mom and dad. Even if there are negative aspects of a parent, children benefit from interacting with one who “brought them into this world,” and can learn crucial coping skills and expand personal styles of problem-solving. Children usually benefit from all the resources of both homes. Also, as both parents and child age the opportunity for a more comfortable relationship develops. Research indicates that not only do children benefit from a relationship with both parents, but in retrospect, children wish they had more time with the non-custodial parent and that children can still feel rejected by estranged and alienated parents. In retrospect, adult children report that they wish someone helped them with their relationship with the “other” parent.

Parents especially in divorce can become estranged or alienated. Estranged parents generally involves the deterioration of the parent’s relationship with the child due to parental factors and child behavior. The child and parent both experience the disconnection. For children of alienated parents, the emphasis is more on what the child has been told about their experience with the other parent, which may include exaggerations and negative allegations. Even if the allegations are true about the other parent, it is difficult if not impossible to accurately measure the exact impact on the child. The child may be attracted to power, and the child may either be more aligned with the more powerful parent, or the child may find power in protecting the “victimized” parent. Some signs of alienation can be found in the post How One Parent Undermines the Other Parent and Visitation Refusal.

Reunification therapy is difficult because it requires not only the usual willingness to make personal changes but also the elusive ability to utilize (versus attack) someone else’s point of view. The earlier the intervention the better. The goal is to help kids past anxiety and avoidance to mastery and confidence. Therapeutic goals are based on each situation, but always involve the parent and child seeing the impact of their own behavior on the other, expressing remorse, the ability to refocus on a future relationship, and effective restriction on the other parent’s interference. Interventions include identifying thinking errors, improving communication, resolving attachment issues, and building self-esteem. Therapists should be active, directive and able to confront maladaptive interactions. Success is determined by the parents making agreements that stick.

What Is Parenting Coordination?

Parenting coordination is a future trend and a viable option to custody battles. When parents are not able come to an agreement regarding their children a parent coordinator will mediate the issue. If parents are still not able to come to an agreement a parent coordinator gathers information to make a decision in the child’s best interest. Continue reading What Is Parenting Coordination?

Parenting After Divorce

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Parenting after divorce presents new challenges. Each parent will have their own rules and approach. The kids have to learn that mom and dad’s house is different. The rule remains though that both parents will have better outcomes if they back each other up. Continue reading Parenting After Divorce