Get on the path to results today with separation mediation
Get on the path to results today with separation mediation
December 8, 2022
The case is closed: Trump has caused separation and divorce to spike.
From the above link:
A 2017 study by Wakefield Research discovered that a significant number of divorces were now due to political disagreements within the marriage. Entitled “The Trump Effect on Relationships,” the study surveyed 1,000 “nationally representative U.S. adults,” and their collected data revealed that:
Political differences in a relationship were no longer merely annoying – they had become capable of ending marriages as well as friendships.
That’s pretty damning; Trump, the big disrupter, has hurt the psyche of regular folks to an alarming degree. When I saw the creep announce his candidacy in 2015 I said, “There’s the face of American fascism.” I didn't earn any kudos from friends, quite opposite. I had to conclude that my cohorts were much more conservative than I thought. I mean, what’s wrong with you? I thought. How can you be so blind and so right-wing?
Oh well, surely now they will see the light. What with the recent antisemitic revelations, his cancel the constitution statement, his thief of classified documents, to say nothing of his love of other authoritarian leaders, surely now my friends will demure and state that they can’t stand the jerk, finally. I haven't tested my theory yet. Will report on that later.
November 24, 2022
My new grandson just had his first bath, barely cried. Weight is 6 lbs, 4 ounces. Little guy but eating lots. Cute too.
November 21, 2022
The cycle of life just rolled over me. My son 's wife had a baby boy, my first grandson. Roll on.
November 11, 2022
Remembrance Day can get muddled when people view it only as a holiday and not as a moment to, well, remember the fallen and injured who fought against tyranny. Speaking of tyranny, the US and the world just dodged a brush with it when the extreme Right fell short in the Nov 8 midterm elections in America. Maybe there IS hope for democracy after all.
October 18, 2022
Thanksgiving is over but thankfully autumn continues. With a week in Manitoba under my belt and a long drive into the prairies for several days, my enjoyment of the season deepened. Windy, cool, up early for the sunrise, and out late for the sunset.
The Home page picture was taken at 8:20am Saturday Oct 15th. Threatening skies that did not deliver anything but wind. Growing up in Manitoba leaves a deep impression and love of the openness and beauty of the prairies. It can feel lonely out there.
Ian Tyson’s song Four Strong Winds and sung by Neil Young says it better than anything I can say:
October 10, 2022
Happy Thanksgiving to all. Such celebrations are gratifying. They do not offend anyone’s religion, and they are focused on something positive. I suppose the focus on a table full of food and family might be difficult for some, especially if they are wanting. I get that. But mostly it’s an easy day to like.
And the autumn offers my favorite types of days. Sunshine with cool air and colours. Waterfowl are restive, eager to get going. People can be a little apprehensive about the loss of summer and the fear of winter, so for those folks I am sorry. But that’s not me. Fall is my favorite season for the same reasons. Summer is over blown and often too hot. And winter is just fine, at least in the cold bright prairies.
So, enjoy the season and the day.
August 12, 2022
Case study #8
Family violence is something mediators must screening for on a continual basis. Pre-pandemic mediation, when in-person meeting were the norm, safety concerns were acute – could we have safe joint meeting? The pandemic introduced a great deal more remote online meetings, mainly via Zoom. These “meetings” presented a much less dangerous situation. Sure, seeing “the other” on the screen can and has triggered angry responses, but nothing physical was possible in this virtual setting.
Still, anger takes time to dissipate. It can fester with one or both, and possibly leave the children at risk of being with an angry parent. Is there anything a mediator can do about that?
In a perfect world, all of my clients would be in counselling throughout the mediation. Talk therapy works. In this very imperfect world, few of my clients are in counselling, so the risks remain. I try to do to mitigate this lingering anger and its related risk of family violence by follow up calls with my clients. I talk to them, ask them how they are doing at home, with the other spouse, with the kids. How are the kids doing? Showing any signs of stress related to your separation? It seems to help a little. I am not a therapist and don' try to be one, but anyone is able to help others simply by talking to them.
August 3, 2022
Been away a bit lately, summertime. First it was too cold and wet; then too dry and hot. I like cool over hot but what are you going to do?
So, sharable vs excluded assets? Here’s the basic idea: whatever you and your spouse accumulated in your time together, assets and debts, is sharable. The clock starts on the Date of Cohabitation and stops at the Date of Separation. There can be some niggly variations here but you get the idea. If s/he rakes up some credit card charges in the last few weeks, you own half, on paper.
Excluded assets can be those that you had before cohab and especially if you kept them separate from joint accounts. Let’s say you had $100k in RRSP’s and you want them excluded. No problem. Get a statement from the date before you started living together and claim that value as yours and yours only. The increase in value from then until separation is, however, sharable.
You receive an inheritance during your time together? It’s excluded but not if you used it to pay off family debts. Same goes for awards such as one from ICBC. If you want it excluded, keep it separate, clearly in “xyz” account. Again, the increase in value is sharable.
Pre-nups and agreements post-nups can help but that’s for your lawyer to opine in, not me.
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?? 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.
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