Get on the path to results today with separation mediation
Get on the path to results today with separation mediation
June 28, 2022
Case Study #7
What are marital assets? We had a young couple, both very fit and good looking; they ran a fitness gym and it showed. On the topic of assets, he mentioned the upgraded wedding ring he had given her. We said, ah, no; that’s a gift, not a sharable asset. What else? That’s when it got weird. Well, two years ago we spent a lot of money on breast enhancement. At this point my co-mediator and I glanced at each other. What is he saying?? Does he want them every second weekend?? We said they too are a gift and the expense related to the procedure is not recoverable unless she wants to pay you something. These are perhaps extreme examples of confused over-reach, but they do highlight the misunderstanding that can occur around money and separation. They also highlight the greed that can occur. More next time on sharable and excluded assets.
June 9, 2022
Case Study #6
I mediated for a couple for whom little-to-no trust existed between them. She was over-represented by an aggressive lawyer who encouraged mistrust that led to a list of 50 questions about his accounts and financial activities going back 20 years. He took it upon himself to answer them in great detail, which in my view, added to the problem. He was brilliant guy but his answers only encouraged more questions from the other side. I was finally able to get both sides to back off what amounted to a forensic backward-looking approach and replace it with future-looking approach.
June 3, 2022
If Westjet was my spouse, I’d divorce her. The last two times I flew, I used WJ and both times the delays were measured in hours. This last time, June 2, I flew from Winnipeg to Vancouver. The schedule had us leaving at 2:15; we left at 5:45. Three and half hours late. No compensation - no credit, no free drinks, barely an apology or explanation. And to add insult to injury, a male flight attendant was over-zealous in enforcing some odd rule about not putting a banket over one’s head. I don’t even want counselling or mediation for this. It’s straight to divorce court for me.
May 24, 2022
Case Study #5:
A husband, successful in business, dominant in his marriage, mostly self-represented in his separation and divorce proceeding, is confronted with his wife’s lawyer’s requests for information on past financial dealings. The list has over sixty items, going back decades. The implication is that he hid assets and income. His wife acquiesces to her own lawyer’s extreme approach. The mediator suggests to her that “the list” is excessive and will add thousands of dollars to her legal bill. He says as much to the lawyer, who does not appreciate what is viewed by the lawyer as interference in her advocacy for the wife.
The husband dives in with a detailed but nearly incomprehensible response to “the list”, creating a conundrum for the mediator: how to present his response in a comprehensible way? He creates a binder that lays out the replies in an orderly fashion with the hope that it will allow for some resolution. It all backfires. The wife’s lawyer rejects most of what the husband presents, demanding original documentation for items. The mediator points out that the wife and her lawyer are in essence saying the husband is lying, and if they have no trust then the process might be doomed. If they want a forensic accountant to review it all, that would be for their own account. It ends with little resolution. The parties headed for court. What can be learned from this case? More on that later.
May 23, 2022
Your mother was right: Play nice Are there really 50 ways to leave your lover?” The short answer is no. Paul Simon mentioned only a handful and truth be known, there are only a few. The ‘Traditional Way’ which, when all parties work together, results in a good legal separation agreement in an acceptable time and at a reasonable cost. But that’s if everyone works together – all 6 of you: you and your spouse and your representatives. The position-based, adversarial nature of the traditional divorce, when all are not moving in the same direction, can be expensive, bruising, stressful, and time-consuming, not to mention the potential damage it can do to your kids. The participants take a position and fight to protect it. Financial and emotional capital The deep insult so many divorcing people feel is exceedingly hard to ignore. Both spouses can feel betrayed, harmed, and can, with great clarity and a mountain of evidence, show proof of the injury the ‘other’ has inflicted on their well-being. Injury begets anger, anger begets revenge, and revenge? Well, revenge is expensive.
Financial and emotional capital can be spent for years to right perceived wrongs. And you will see yourself as a victim. Victimhood is righteous and, in its own odd way, comforting. But it can bankrupt the rich and healthy. Play nice you say? Not me! On the contrary, playing mean has a much more attractive aroma. Surely revenge will taste sweeter. And indeed it may, but only for a while. It soon turns bitter and sour. Your once pleasing visage becomes that of a baby with a lemon slice - pursed lips, a look of growing reflective shock. The main issues in divorce are financial and the kids. Under "financial" are family assets and liabilities as well as support payments – spousal and/or child support. Under ‘kids’ lies the greatest treasure you have and to get to a resolution on your children, you need to be counter-intuitive and pay attention to the money first. As we mentioned in the Marriage as Flight article, figuring out the finances first will free you to take that deep breath to discuss with your spouse how to co-parent the kids. The ‘but’ you will have is: But how do I get through the money issues without a lemon-face? He/she will want the RRSPs, the boat, the BBQ and the [fill in the blank] and I’ll be left with nothing, and I’ll be damned if I am going to give in! How to get to “playing nice?”
May 10, 2022
Case Study #4
I had what proved to be a high conflict couple engaged me to mediate their separation. The mediation was odd from the start. Our joint sessions were marked with him professing his undying love and how he wanted her back. She would sit quietly. He was a big man, emotional, prone to tears and at times suppressing his anger. They had three children ages 6, 8, and 12. She was a nurse doing contract work earning over $150k a year. He ran his own painting business which earned him between $60k and $80k a year. They had a house with a sizable mortgage, credit card debt, and line of credit but lots of assets including RRSP’s, her valuable pension, vehicles, and over $20k in the bank. It appeared that resolution was building, albeit reluctantly on his part. I screened for violence. No, nothing physical, but he did lose his temper and yelled at the kids and her on occasion. Then everything changed. She was going to take all the debt and he would get the assets. I was appalled. I called her, “What happened? This can’t be right.” She told me he had found out she was having an affair and became very threatening. I said I was sorry to hear that but truly, this “settlement” was not fair. She insisted. She was worried for the safety of herself and children. With her permission I arranged a follow up meeting with him. I asked him about their financial arrangement. He said she had cheated and didn’t deserve anything better. I said that the law is blind when it comes to fidelity, and she deserves her half of their net worth. He blew up and stormed out the room. I immediately called her, as much as a warning as an update. In the end, he got it all. They had the separation agreement signed within days. It was a disappointing experience. A bully had won. She was a strong, intelligent person and, while she knew it was unfair, had gone for a quick settlement that avoided further immediate threat to her and her kids. Who am I to judge? May 9, 2022
Case Study #3:
Professional couple separated but still living with two kids in the family [marital] home. A lack of financial acumen by the husband adds to his confusion and stress and lack of trust in process. He defaults her and is prone to anger, wants legal action over negotiation. The wife is accountant and understands the process; however, she adds to the confusion and stress by making complicated financial proposals. Problem: manipulative wife and angry husband leads to no progress and expensive litigation. What did I do? I tried [too] to mediate. They had no common ground or intent to solve their issues by way of mediation. The mediation was terminated.
March 28, 2022
The link above is to the Vancouver Sun Monday March 28 edition which discusses family violence, power imbalances and how the Province of BC has tried to address this important safety issue. “Advocacy groups that help women get out of violent situations caution the mediation process risks repeating the same power imbalances within the partner relationship and they’re urging the government not to expand too quickly without analyzing its impact.” Mediation has been shown to reduce the number going to court but there are problems with the system and it’s under constant review. I recommend reading the article.
March 24, 2022
Case study #2
A high net worth couple where the wife was a stay-at-home mom. Their three children 20, 23, 24, have all left home. The husband is still working at his own successful business. They tried marriage counselling, but it did not work. She claims mental cruelty. Both say they want to mediate before engaging lawyers for a separation agreement. The mediator perceives a power imbalance. The husband has a financial advantage and appears to lack of commitment to mediation, perhaps wanting to use the process to drag it out and wear his wife down over property division and spousal support.
March 22, 2022
Couple married for 20 years, both making very good incomes, good pensions , nice home, small mortgage, 3 kids 15-18, all at home and going to school. Husband wants out and initiates effort to divorce. She doesn’t want to divorce but being civil, she accepts it and goes along with his wishes. Then she finds out he's been having an affair during the process and her anger changes everything. Her lawyer plays upon his guilt and pushes her towards an unfair deal: he get the debt, she gets the assets; he feels guilty and accepts it even though his lawyer advises against accepting a ‘bad’ deal.
What to make of that situation? As the mediator, I was not in favour of the settlement. Yes, he did have an affair but that is not reason for unfairness when it comes to property. The affair is a symptom of a weak relationship. It's not her fault nor his; get guilt out of the equation.
March 2, 2022
The family tug-o-war that’s depicted in the Home page image suggests fun as well as stress. Both sides want to win. When a family faces separation, the tug-o-war is real and stressful. Mom and dad can be pulling in the opposite directions with the kids in between. Divorce can be, usually is, hard work, avoided until it’s unavoidable. Sometimes the best we can hope for is a kind of controlled insanity, where folks try to keep their temper and hard thoughts just long enough to get through the next meeting or next issue up for negotiation. Sometimes it gets a bit goofy:
GIRARD, Pa. -- Police have cited a 42-year-old Pennsylvania woman for disorderly conduct after she called 911 requesting a divorce and police assistance to make her husband leave. Troopers say the woman called just after 1 a.m. Saturday asking that officers be sent to her home in Girard Township in northwestern Pennsylvania. Police say they explained to the woman, whom they are not identifying, that a divorce is a civil matter and that they could not make her husband leave the residence because no crime had been committed. Instead, police have cited the woman for disorderly conduct and misusing the Erie County 911 system.
Most of you will have laughed but it probably was no joke for either the wife or husband, and for sure, the divorcing couples we see aren’t laughing much. But it isn’t all gloomy all the time – those with a view to the future and a modicum of control over their emotions can stay admirably calm and focused on the issues at hand. The emotionality of divorce starts with unmet expectations creating disappointment. One side may try to address the disappointment but feels rebuffed, which adds to the disappointment, eventually leading to anger. Both spouses are going through the same thing although each feels they are the injured party. Revengeful feelings can evolve, an expensive evolution for sure. But we try to truncate that process through mediation and negotiation.
For example, it might be that one spouse is living outside the matrimonial home but paying for the house related expenses while the other spouse lives in the MH with the kids. The payer, he or she – we have seen both situations – can feel very hard done by especially if they are living with a relative or in a small apartment where it really doesn’t work to have the kids over. So there can be a sense of loss – of the home plus the kids.
Let’s assume it’s he husband living outside the MH – he’s lonely, feeling financially burdened, angry. Yes, he fooled around but it wasn’t like their marriage was close anymore, what did she expect? If we then talked to his spouse, she could well say quite the opposite: he left me with all the responsibilities – the house, the kids, no car. Sure he’s paying the expenses but so he should. And why am I supposed to care about how sad he is, he’s the one who had the affair. He can suffer.
That is common: he/she is the one who had the affair, make then pay! The courts don’t care about that and intuitively people should get that I think. If your spouse is wandering, ask your self ‘why’. A decent marriage engenders feeling of fidelity, of faithfulness. You actually love or at least like your spouse and if everything still working ok, you go home after work, not to the bars.
In our next blog we'll look at case studies.
February 21, 20222
The crazy truck convoy issue seems to be fading but animosity over masks and mandates still resonates with some. Recently these two things melded in my small community. It happened on a pickleball court. Players are required to show proof of vaccination, a rule that’s been posted for all to see for months. Last week, a group of about six came to stir the pot. They objected to the “mandate”, saying it was up to the individual. As far as anyone knows, they were all vaccinated but that wasn’t the point.
This community is in southern California and attracts many Canadians for the winter. The group in question were Americans; the group defending the vaccine rule were largely Canadians. Voices were raised, shouts of who do you think you are, “communists!” and something about the truck convoy was heard. I wasn’t there, taking a break from seniors competing as if they might repeat their high school glory-days.
Our local leader, a relative of mine, took the brunt of their vitriol. And the folks spewing the vitriol were our neighbours, some would say even friends. Their anxiousness over the world not bending to their conservative right-wing views was getting simply too much. They stepped over a line and, while a weak apology came a few days later, things are not the same. I doubt they ever will be the same.
The Rubicon was crossed. I’m not surprised. In fact, I feel a little relieved because the tension was palpable; a rather phony friendliness was practiced. Of course, anti-social behaviour can be dangerous, and I am concerned things will get worse. But at least it’s out in the open and I don’t have smile sweetly anymore. The but is, we are so called guests in their country, and if an anti-Canadianism is growing, we are vulnerable.
February 8, 2022
The Home picture is of the Freedom Convoy anti-vax protest and a healthcare worker’s counter-protest. She is holding a sign that says: “Honk if you don’t understand science”. Brilliant. The dull-witted are honking all the time, a veritable shout-out that they do not understand science. As a mediator I am supposed to be unbiased and neutral. Not on this issue. They are dangerous.
February 7, 2022
The pandemic has pushed its way into the courts deciding parenting issues.
From a National Post article Dec 22, 2021:
"It is becoming a common conflict, in which Canadian judges have recently come down just as hard on vaccine denialists as they regularly do on other conspiracy theorists who present misinformation to courts, such as Freemen on the Land. A string of recent rulings favour public health advice against pseudolegal challenges that sometimes even cite Nazi atrocities of human experimentation to a degree that one Saskatchewan judge called “offensive.”
In a decision last month , for example, an Ontario father who refuses to be vaccinated was told he could only exercise his court-ordered twice-weekly right to parenting time outdoors or at his mother’s house, and only if both he and the child are always masked. Those rules will terminate if he gets vaccinated.
In an Alberta case, the father is now legally banned from discussing the COVID-19 with his children, or letting anyone else do it. This father caused his children stress and anxiety by showing them vaccine misinformation and age-inappropriate vaccine related material, much of it American, a judge found. His daughter, for example, expressed concern based on misinformation from her father and her friends that the vaccine might kill her. "
Vaccines have been a minor issue so far in my mediation practice. I expect it to remain so as more and more people get all three doses. It’s possible of course for the issue to return if the pandemic wears on, with new variants, more cases, and new vaccines.
The so-called Freedom Convoy of dull-witted truckers protesting vaccine mandates will be the focus of a future blog.
January 24, 2022
The Home image shows a cut-up marriage certificate alongside cut flower stems. Not a pretty sight. It brings to mind the wedding day, that day of hope and happiness. Flowers and friends and good wishes.
Have you ever met anyone who knew, just as they married, that they would separate 10-15 years later? I haven’t either. Who gets married thinking that? Now I know we all don’t get married; many start living to together and find themselves committed in a marriage-like relationship in a couple of years and that’s that. But even these folks didn’t do that thinking it won’t last.
Whether there are flowers, friends, a ceremony or a certificate, people have optimistic hearts and take the chance. We tell the other we love them, and we do love them. We tell the other we’ll be there for them through thick and thin, and we mean it. We try to be happy.
My “business” is mediation for couples separating and yes, it is a business in that I get paid for the service. But it’s not a business comparable to serving food or like doing your taxes. Family lawyers might tell you the same thing: working with separating couples, and especially those with children, can affect the service provider. No, we don’t need a hug, we’re all grown up, we’re professionals. We get paid well. The “but” is: it can affect you. You see people at their worst.
They can be so angry and hurt. They want revenge; “I want the assets, you keep the debts”. They want the deck tilted to their advantage. Fairness is out the window. My job is to remain calm, neutral, unbiased and rational, seek balance. Most of the time it isn’t really that hard. Most issues become clear after financial disclosure and the facts tell them what’s up.
But sometimes the facts are seen as round by one and square by the other. The same object is perceived in opposite ways. Not surprising, if you consider that it took them years of conflict to decide to part. If people separate after 14 years, you can safely bet that the last seven were unhappy. People don’t want to give up. They keep trying, keep forgiving, keep looking for a new beginning. The final straw might be a discovered-affair, or open infidelity, or, if anger is prevalent, verbal or even physical abuse. It is rare for me to not hear of verbal abuse charges by both spouses. Thankfully physical abuse has been rare with my clients.
People are often at their worst when separating and it can be disappointing to see. Perfectly decent folks can turn nasty, vindictive, uncooperative. If there has been a discovered-affair, the injured party can be the picture of the betrayed. How could s/he do that to me!!?? I’m the model of sympathy at first. However, it the injured party crusades too hard, too long, sure that being the injured party makes him/her the victim deserving of a higher share of the net worth or a bigger spousal support payment or rewarded with more time with the kids, I start to push back. It’s a no-fault system, and besides, if he strayed, why? There is no perfect innocence in all this. Not that blame needs to be assigned. No, he shouldn’t have done that; he had a lovely wife, and home, and he might regret it all eventually. But he did do it and here we are. I have had to tell and injured party on more than one occasion that I’m sorry but there is no extra compensation for the betrayed.
So, the day of happiness years before is a distant and possibly bitter memory. Cut flowers indeed. That’s a sorry thing and as service provider to separating couples I can feel disappointed by their behaviours and generally a little sad that they are going through a hard time. I like my job, find it interesting and of course my clients’ problems aren’t my problems. Been there done that so I try my best to set them on their new path as separated people. That feels good.
January 16, 2021
The Home page image has gone back to the Compromise one. I just completed a mediation in which compromise was on display, fuelled by open-mindedness and suggestions from the spouses and their lawyers. It was up-lifting.
Many mediators, perhaps most, work alone. They have little feedback and often do not know exactly how their clients fared after mediation. Yes, if it was successful, one can assume that things settled and they got on with their lives, that their kids are ok and that they are too. This latest mediation made it quite clear that things were going to work out.
It was not easy. They had major differences over shared property and debt [especially debt], and parenting. A looming controversy over income determination was avoided so child support was readily agreed on. Spousal support was not an issue.
On parenting, there were numerous schedules proposed. These had to fit work schedules as well as meet what at first appeared to be a wide gap in expectations of sharing the kids. But the more we talked, the more defences came down.
Zoom was used for the main two mediations. The first was a day long one, the second was half a day. Before and between, information was exchanged and private calls occurred, each a mini-mediation or, in the parlance of the business, pre-mediations.
Why dd this all work so well? I’ll explore that more next time.
January 6, 2022
The Jan 6th insurrection may lead to separation in the US and I’m not talking about the marital kind. Democracy was threatened that day and remains under severe threat in the US and around the world. It is a five-alarm fire, all hands-on deck moment.
Trumpism is alive and well. The US may lose its democracy and Canada will follow suit. The potential return of Trump in 2024, or someone of similar ilk but smarter, will surely spell the end of democracy in the US and elsewhere. An authoritarian order based on white supremacy will prevail.
Why would a a mediator talk of such things? It's because I am that worried about our collective well being and have concluded we all need to be aware and to do what we can to fight back agains this threat. If the 2022 mid-term elections in the US go against the GOP, I will relax a wee but mid-terms typically go against the incumbent Party.
Hopefully in future comments I can be more positive and up-lifting. Perhaps the pandemic will show signs of abetting [the news isn't all bad already], or perhaps rates of separation will continue to decline, or perhaps clean energy technologies will show a major jump and climate change may start to feel less scary. Fingers crossed.
December 24, 2021
Merry Christmas. I know not all of you celebrate this Christian day but the well-wish sentiment of Xmas is I think universal. Not everyone feels joyous this time of year so I hope for those folks some solace can be found in others. The new variant makes that all the more difficult but try anyway. Send an email, make a call. However others might present themselves, all carry a burden of some sort. Your effort will lessen that burden.
November 27, 2021
The home page image has been used before; the silhouette of tug-of-war between a family is both playful and suggestive of struggle. Kind of like real life. During separation, it's more struggle than play. But an important message for separating parents is: remember the playful. It will return. Seek it.
That's a hard thing to consider when you are in the throes of separating. Play? What are you talking about? I want to fight, not play. Well, try harder. I know you won't likely play with your spouse but surely you can let the anger go long enough to play with our kids? And try smiling, even a forced smile changes your brain chemistry; google it if you don't believe me. So, playfulness is hard wired and so is happiness. Get out of your own way and let it be, with a nod to The Beatles.
November 21, 2021
Booster shots and booster juice, both are good for you but neither will live your life for you. The pandemic has made us all a little afraid of each other. That can be good in some circumstances but not in others. Certainly it helped us avoid the virus. But it can also lead to distrust and even violence. The recent Rittenhouse verdict from the Kenosha street killings is a possible case in point. Now, I can't claim a direct causation between the pandemic and an 17 year old welding an assault rifle in the streets but it is not a big jump to at least consider the deleterious affects of distrust of those around you. Throw in a good old love-of-gun culture and the last jump is a small one.
Separation and divorce can be rife with distrust. So far the story is mixed about the affect the pandemic has had on rates of separation and divorce, but there is evidence that domestic violence has increased during the pandemic. Can rates of separation and divorce be far behind once the pandemic subsides?
November 12, 2021
I still have the compromise image on the front page. Usually I like to change it up every few weeks but this one strikes me as unusually important and worth keeping for a while. Can't tell if it's the pandemic, the fires or the recent floods, but my sense is that folks are becoming less prone to compromise when dealing with their separation issues.
Is it the loss of control we are all feeling? That chaos is here? Perhaps, although chaos is NOT here. This too shall pass. Stay calm, focus on who you admire, on who love, stay heathy, and patient. Your separation and divorce issues will get resolved.
October 29, 2021
President Biden just said
"No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus, and that’s what I ran on."
Couldn't agree more. And that is a good message for couples seeking help through mediation. Think of what you can give in on, be more flexible, look to the long term.
My Agreement to Mediate document highlights this need and commits my clients to compromise at the risk of additional charges being made.
October 28, 2021
The lawyers representing clients in a separation / divorce can fuel the fires of conflict or cool them. The good ones cool them while still doing a good job of protecting their client's interests. My dear departed father once said to me, "Lawyers can over protect their clients." Say what?
I've seen this in action. At great cost, an over-weaning lawyer can push for that last morsel of advantage, that last lower dollar of spousal support for the payer [usually the husband], or that last extra dollar of support for the recipient [usually the wife]. The legal bill can overwhelm any net advantage to their client. Or that same over-protective lawyer might purposefully add to the legal bill of the other side if their client is using legal aid. This can be done for example by not replying to a document on time, requiring the other side to ask again and again. A neat trick I have seen is to make purposeful mistakes in a document. That requires the other lawyer to catch it and fix it, again, all at great expense to the non-legal aid side. These examples sound less like over protection and more like unethical conduct. It all happens but fortunately not often. Ethical lawyers far out number the others. But as with power imbalances between spouses, a mediator needs to watch for such conduct and counter it as best they can.
October 26, 2021
The home page image is soothing. An intergenerational group on a dock? Is that dad with the hat and rod, arm stretched out, with grown up son, hat on back wards with daughter or granddaughter getting ready to cast her lure? It looks like dusk, but could be morning. I like the scene and the ambiguity, leaving one with more than one interpretation. We need possibilities these days. And if you are facing separation, it's all about possibilities. Try to see them, they are there.
October 25, 2021
The web is giving conflicting information on divorce rates during the pandemic. Perhaps it was up in the early days on 2020 and perhaps it fell off with time. Each period with good rationales for why. It more noise in my view. And what does it do for any of you considering separation? Who cares what everyone else is or is not doing?
Three important messages for every couple with children who are thinking of separating:
1. You will always be a family.
2. What affect is the model of an unhappy marriage with an unhappy mom and dad having on your children?
3. There IS life after such a change, things will get better.
These three ideas suggest I am advocating that you separate; I am not. Try everything you can: marriage counselling, individual counselling, prayer if your are inclined. Talk to your friends, people you trust to have your best interests at heart. Proceed only after you are completely sure you can not carry on with the status quo.
Once you are sure, there are ways to proceed.
October 22, 2021
Flu shots today, hoping for the booster vaccine soon. The pandemic has played havoc on relationships of all kinds - friendships, family, and of course marital or marriage-like ones. Within the family, parents haven't seen out of town children and siblings are suffering absences too. Life long friendships can be strained. Work relationships have been majorly disrupted. Still, there is optimism in the air. We seem to be getting through it.
A surprise bit of news: divorce rates appear to be lower durning the pandemic. Folks seem to want to hang-in. Will the trend reverse as the pandemic subsides?
October 20, 2021
The home page has another picture of a family. I want my viewers to think of themselves as part of a family - their family, which of course they are. But some folks can forget that when the emotions surge during separation. Work hard to see the future as one of family, even if it's going to be different, with different routines and traditions, new ones at that. Do not give up. It will get better and you will survive and be happy again, and with your family.
And now, some family promotion. The following links are to my son's new music videos. He's the producer and writer of the music, and director and editor of the videos. This has little to do with separation and divorce although it is in keeping with the theme that "You'll always be a family". His mother has been a great resource for him and we are both very proud of his accomplishments. Besides, it's great music.
October 17, 2021
An apology: So sorry for the lack of function for the video! Have no idea how or when that happened. I have added links to youtube and hopefully it's fully functional now.
October 15, 2021
I like the image the image that was on the the Home page October 15 - a family stepping out onto a long dock on the ocean, seemingly a little tentative. Perhaps they are in a holiday in the tropics, feeling both excited and a little overwhelmed by the beauty and the power of the swells. They are sort of together, a bit strung out on the boards but definitely aware of each other. I reminds me of almost every family at one time or another. Mom and dad with two kids, standing between them, standing with them, looking for direction. The group looks happy to me somehow. Whatever happens to them, they will always be a family.
October 13, 2021
US - Canadian border opens to the vaccinated. Great news for snowbirds and anyone wanting to drive to see friends and family just over there, just a cross that line. Maybe it will ease some pressure for those considering separation or divorce. How's that?
It's taken years for couples to get to the point of considering separation or divorce. They don't want to do it. They find every reason NOT to do it. And that's often a good thing. A relationship is hard to build and not to be abandoned on a whim. So how does the open border fit it? Well it's another distraction. "Hey honey, we can go back to our double wide in California?! " That's something to look forward to, something to plan for. Maybe in that time, they find a way to fix things, to stay together. I always hope my clients are doing the right thing, that they have tried everything and are secure in their decision to separate. I tell them, I'm not a marriage counsellor and won't give you advice, but I will help you leave each other with some dignity intact. That's always the plan.
October 7, 2021
A visit to my home town, Winnipeg, a literal walk down memory lane, always brings back fond memories. There's the house where I grew up; there's my old school, my best friend's home, my favourite 7-11 store. And over there is where my kids played, where, at age 4, they crouched down in the tall grass as a train rumbled by, all huge and noisy.
It's hot here, summer is not yet done with the Prairies. I miss the flat lands, the big sky, the waterfowl edginess. The trees are big and proud of their colours and stamina. It's fall in the open wilds. It will eventually cool down. The mythical Big Northern mallards will come down from remote northern pockets and fly south through the open world of the prairie.
September 11, 2021September 11, 2021
The twentieth anniversary of 9/11 is too big a moment for me to comment on. But the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is not. For one thing, it has parallels to separation and divorce and the abandonment of twenty million women and girls to a ruthless movement cries out for comment.
The US lost a twenty year war against the Taliban, essentially fascist group. They presented their effort as a war on terror but I wished they had presented it as protecting the vulnerable. And that this divorce did not lead to care for the vulnerable, that no "child or spousal support" was due and there is no "Parenting Plan" in place, leads me to believe this is not over, that the US will return some day.
It was summer time hot on the weekend but Fall is so close you can touch it. Really you can. Stand near a deciduous tree, reach up and touch its color-changing leaves. There, you've touched Fall. Like many of you, the Fall is my favorite time of year. Cooler, a little mysterious. Being from the glorious prairies, the Fall yields migrations and sights that inspire and brings a kind of welcome melancholy. The kind of feeling you get when listening to "Four Strong Winds" by almost anybody. My favorite versions are by Neil Young and Ian and Sylvia.
So, how to deal with separation and divorce, especially if melancholy is in the back ground? Easy, do it day by day and breathe. Just breathing helps. It won't write your Separation Plan - I'll do that for you - but it will help you get to a proper separation agreement. Once the lawyers have the Plan, it's a small step to your Agreement, all for less than the time and expense of going roque on your partner and bring in the big legal guns right off the bat. Take a deep breath and call a mediator.
August 13, 2021
My play nice message of August 9 recalls an article I wrote years ago while mediating in Winnipeg. I republished here on May 4, 2021. Some of you will rebel. I get that. That so-and-so ex-partner does not deserve “nice”. Quite the opposite you’d say. If there are no children involved, well, indulging in some animosity and anger can feel pretty good, at the time at least. Look at the public marital spats that involve vitriol. Social media posts – see? See what a jerk s/he is?!!
But truly, longer term, animosity and anger will hurt you, and those around you. It’s a bit like the anti-vaxers. It’s selfish and risk the spread of a virus. In this case, the virus is corrosive sentiments in you, and others.
So, this summer continues to disappoint. No mirrors but lots of smoke, and heat. Way too much heat. Even West Coast folks who get glum in the wet dark winters can be happy for rain. Here’s to rain, and cooler air.
August 9, 2021
There's only 137 days until Christmas, plenty of time to find a gift for your loved ones. If you are considering separation, you might be wondering who will be on that list of loved ones. I say, buy your partner something anyway, especially if they are a co-parent.
Co-parenting is a life long effort and should be done as if you still cared for him/her. That does not mean you act as if nothing happened, or that you act as if still do love him/her. It means being nice, forever. Don't show any anger, don't say insulting things about about him/her, and smile. Try being a little duplicitous if need be. It will pay off in better sleeps and happier times.
July 23, 2021,
Time to enjoy the summer. The heck with doom and gloom. Life is too short to waste a minute of it. If you feel that your relationship is on its last legs, call and fund out if mediation is for you. No charge.
July 15, 2021
Yes, we have entered the world of the Big Smoke. Just got back from Vernon and it's getting bad there, like most everywhere in the Okanagan and Caribou.
If you are facing separation, can you even begin to think about what to do about it in this almost-post-pandemic, pre-catastrophic-fire-end of the world climate change crisis? A nice walk would help, maybe, if the poor air quality doesn't choke you. How about vacation by a lake, go for a swim? Great if there is room at camp ground.
Ok, so I'm being purposefully doom and gloom. But I'll wager that for many in the depths of marital or relationship woes, my words strike a clear and true note. For those not in those depths, take a moment for a compassionate thought; maybe call someone you know going through it. Take them out for coffee. Tell them a joke. It's tough enough right now facing the systemic calamities without adding relationship collapse.
Over the many years of my mediation practise with separating and divorcing couples, almost 100% say they felt better after making the call and starting the mediation process. Action beats gloom and doom any day.
June 6, 2021
I know it's not summer yet, at least not officially. But I always start "summer-thinking" around now, even late April or early May. A previous Home page image was my official start of summer-thinking. Just because.
Parenting after divorce – developing a co-parenting plan that works
Parenting plans can address:
1. Financial issues
2. Schedule details
3. Communication and interaction
4. Travel with children
5. Decision making
7. Changes in circumstances
Today we will focus on #3 - #6.
3. Communication and interaction:
“I sent that email three days ago, the one about the kids sleep over this weekend? Why didn’t you reply?”
“I thought we agreed that if I didn’t reply with in a day then you could assume I agreed to your request. Damn, this isn’t working.”
Actually some parents find the no-reply default plan works just fine but I don’t recommend it. No reply might mean it was never received, so as with most all other communications, it takes a broadcaster and a receiver to complete the message so reply as soon as possible.
“Ok great, so I’ll pick her up at 9am Saturday, but I’ll need her passport, we are going driving 2 hours south of the border after all.”
“What are you saying? I’m supposed to have her passport? Where does it say I have it? I thought you had it!”
“ Well you’re her mother, I just thought you would take care of stuff like that.”
Not good. Too many question and exclamation marks. Those two punctuations [? and !] are things you want to avoid when separated!! The passport brings us to a big issue.
4. Travel with Children:
Your Parenting Plans will say something like: ‘You must notify the other Party within a reasonable amount of time the following: destination, itinerary, contact info, and if out of country, medical insurance, and explicit notarized permission from the non-traveling parent approving the travel.’ Pretty reasonable I'd say.
5. Decision Making:
“Dad, I want to go over to Billy’s house to play!”
“Oh that doesn’t work Peter, I didn’t get your Mom’s permission for that.”
“But Dad, its Saturday and Billy lives right next door! Mom always let me, and besides, he just spent the night here on our sleep-over.”
“Oh boy, I don’t’ know what to do. Ah, I know, I’ll look it up in that handy, ready to use Parenting Plan our mediator put together for us. Where is it… now let me see, ah here it is. It says:
‘Day-to-day decisions are to be made by the Parent who has care of the children at the time.’ Ok you can go but be home before you Christmas ok?! Love you!!”
Big decisions, such as education, religion, health, extracurricular activities, and after-school care are usually done jointly.
“Mom, can I go sky diving with Billy and his mom? It’s really safe, the use parachutes and everything.”
"Yes dear but be home before dark.”
That "be home before dark’" was a well-worn parental warning when I was a kid, last century, before time. All you had to say at 9am on a Saturday morning was, ‘I’m going out!’ and you would hear, ‘Ok but be home by dark.’ And if it was June 21 and you lived anywhere near the 49th parallel, that would mean by 10pm. If you lived in Whitehorse you never came home.
I’m old enough to remember running behind the John Deer tractor when dad sprayed DDT for the mosquitoes, perfectly safe. Made me what I am today.
The degree to which your plan addresses all the potential sources of danger is limited only by your imagination and level of paranoia. But for sure you’ll want to think about deep-sea scuba diving, motorcycles, and yes, even sky diving. If your kids are really young and you lack confidence in your ex, think about the more obvious such as use of life jackets, seat belts, sunscreen, helmets, safeguarding household cleaners, poisons, and medicines.
Your plan may say: ‘Both Parties will employ safety measures to protect the children. This includes but is not limited to the following:…’ And it will likely also say: ‘Neither Party can engage children in a dangerous sport without first getting written consent from the other Party.’ So it is ok to sky dive as long as both of you agree, and hopefully your child actually wants to do it too. The last big area for Parenting Plans addresses Changes in Circumstances, but that and more details on parenting will be for next time. Happy parenting.
May 4, 2021
Hope you found the Marriage as Flight essay helpful. Here's another: