Disputes or High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

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When parents enter the Family Court System it is very confusing.  First, they want you to part ways, but at the same time keep forcing you together to “co-parent”.  They use confusing lingo and it seems like the parents do all the work, while the professionals take a lot of money for putting the hard work on you.  It is true.  They do.  A common quote from my clients is, ” I had to do all the work for my lawyer.”  Well, there is a reason for that.  The professionals do not know your children, your schedules, what matters most to you and what doesn’t,  and in particular, once you have entered post decree land, there isn’t a whole lotta law that goes on.  The law becomes the law you (or the courts if you weren’t able to agree) created for your family.  There is no law that dictates what your parenting time schedule has to be.  There really isn’t.  The time can be distributed evenly between parents or it may not be distributed evenly for any number of reasons.  Some states do a default parenting time schedule for when parents cannot create one on their own, but it is all very complicated.  Parents can choose to deviate from a schedule if they want and they are encouraged to be flexible as life evolves. Why be flexible?  Because life can change quite a bit over the span of a childhood, but the court will enforce the schedule that is in an order.

Sometimes, this confusion and lack of structure creates fear and anxiety for parents.  Some parents do not understand that the law has pretty much completed their case and they keep waiting for “it to be done”.  In other words, they want this person who hurt them so terribly to go away and never bother them again.  Unfortunately, though, that is not the way it works when you have children together.  Like it or not, you do have to talk to each other and coordinate schedules, school or medical needs, etc.  The way most parents learn to do this is to emotionally process the divorce and hurt feelings from the relationship so they can move into a new type of relationship, but some people are unable to do this.  They don’t like what has happened.  They don’t like the arrangement.  They don’t like that they have a co-parent because life would certainly be easier if you didn’t, and they don’t like that their ex never got punished for the hurtful things they said or did throughout the marriage and/or divorce process.  Is that what Family Court is there for?  Are they there to punish?

Many people who continue to push for some kind of “conviction” of their co-parent do not seem to understand that Family Court is not criminal court.  It is not a crime to get a divorce.  It can be very hurtful, but it is not a crime.  It is not a crime to want some of the stuff that was accumulated during the marriage or to want to continue to be a parent to your child after the divorce.  The fact that someone seeks a divorce, even though one parent does not think that will be good for the child, doesn’t make it a crime.  These things are the nature of relationship breakdowns and unavoidable in some marriages.  If the marriage is going to end, it is going to be end and hopefully, each spouse will learn to come to terms with that and create the life they dream about on their own or with someone new.  On top of that, when you share a child, you have to process these separate lives, while still coming in contact with the other person.  That makes it much harder to go through all of the emotions and accept the loss.  That is why your success in court depends greatly on you more than professionals.  It depends on how resilient you are.  We don’t know what you need to get to the point of acceptance.  Some professionals believe that you need time, but courts have deadlines.  They cannot just sit and wait for everyone to process their loss.  If they did, many people would continue to not process the loss and hope that their spouse will change their mind by forcing the marriage to continue forever, but there are two people in this thing.  Often, two people with very different desires for outcome.  What do you call that difference of opinion or differing needs?  It is called a dispute.

What do you do when working with two people in a dispute?  For example, let’s say that two of your friends have a dispute over some words that were said.  Suppose that the friends are Janet and Martha.  Janet told Martha something in confidence and without realizing it, Martha shared the information with another friend named James.  Her breaking confidence was not very nice, but it was not a crime.  Now, in this dispute, the words have been spoken and the action cannot be undone.  Hopefully, Martha is sorry for saying something she should not have said, but she cannot do anything other than to apologize and ask for forgiveness.  Janet can either accept her apology and work to repair the relationship or she can decide that it is time to let the friendship go.  For the two of them, that may work, but maybe since you want to remain friends with the two of them, even though their friendship has ended, and no one is upset with you about anything, each one will be able to stay friends with you individually.  The relationships are all going to change, even though you were not part of the dispute, it does affect you.  You may try t it and see how it goes and find out that there needs to be some ground rules set.  Especially if your friends are going to put you in the middle or try to win you over on one side or the other, it is going to become very uncomfortable for you and you are going to feel the ramifications of their quarrel.  As an adult person, you can walk away and say good-bye to both of them, but a child of divorce cannot do that when the dispute is between their parents.

Another thing that would not happen between the friends is this, no one would try getting the police involved or ask a court to prevent you from having a relationship with either Janet or Martha.  There was no crime committed and you have the right to have a relationship with anyone you wish.  There wouldn’t be any authority figure to come yell at Martha or order her to not be allowed to have friends again.  It was a dispute between people and no matter what anyone else thinks of it, no crime occurred, so there is nothing to be done about it.  Martha and Janet will feel the way they feel about it.  A relationship ended.  There is really no “right” outcome from what has happened.  People who care about them may want them to apologize, make up and go back to being friends, but Janet and Martha will be the ones who decide that and the way they each treat you afterward will determine how you feel about each one of them going forward.  Hopefully, they will understand that you have separate feelings and needs from them and that your desire is to remain friends with both of them separately and they will create conditions where you can do that.

For a child of divorce, they need their parents to sort this out for them.  They don’t want anyone to punish mommy or daddy because they hurt each other’s feelings or made each other sad.  If mommy and daddy can deal with their hurt feelings and put them aside to understand their child’s needs and figure out how to separately manage the child’s activities, health and wellness, that is the best thing that can happen, but when the parents refuse or keep trying to make the child choose sides or stop seeing a parent, that is when a third party neutral has to come in and try to help.  By this time, the hurts of the past are way behind the parents and they are usually already divorced.  The situation is what it is and the court orders/agreements are what they are.  Court appointed third parties are there to help everyone make it work, but if they do see a child in the middle, they will help to free the child.  There really isn’t a lot that third parties can do to help you improve the situation.  You will have to do this for yourself.  They will try to get you focused on the child to make the child’s life easier for them because children do suffer enormous consequences when they have to live through parent hostility.

Many times parents do not understand this.  They complain and complain and complain about what it is they do not like about the other parent or what the other parent has done.  They expect that if they demonstrate just how bad a person the other parent is, someone will punish that parent in some way.  That is not the nature of dispute resolution, which is what Family Court is about.  Family Court looks for solutions and moving families forward.  They want you to take your family out of court and start making decisions for yourselves.  They don’t want to parent your children for you.  They want to give you the tools to do it.

If your approach to Family Court is to try to prove fault in a no-fault system, you will lose sight of the needs of your child.  If you need help understanding dispute resolution or gaining some coping skills so that you can focus on your children more than the battle, especially if you have an ex spouse who cannot seem to grasp the nature of custody and parenting time, give us a call at 763-566-2282 or at High Conflict U, 1-800-516-2446.  We’ll do our best to help you.

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Marital Advice and Marital Mediation

Here is a video from Henry Winkler offering the secret to a long marriage.  There is a lot if truth in what he says and it doesn’t matter if you are married, divorced people trying to co-parent, a parent and child relationship in conflict or even experiencing issues between friends.  It is not about how you meant it, but how it lands!  See what Henry Winkler says…

 

 

Many people do not know that Life’s Doors Mediation offers much more than divorce services.  We also offer Marital Mediation and relationship coaching services.  Our goals is to improve relationships.  No matter where two people are in their relationship, they can move beyond conflict and reach a peaceful coexistence.  We’ve had married couples and unmarried couples come in to learn communication and conflict management skills without any mediation at all, but we have also helped parents with teenage children and couples who are struggling to stay together negotiate their way to a workable relationship through non legal mediation processes.  Agreements do not have to be written.  It gives people a chance to discuss their needs in the relationship and try to get to a place of understanding from the other side.  Many couples want to discuss their needs and desires and agree to a way forward.  Couples who use marital mediation can avoid divorce, but it has nothing to do with any court process.  It is simply an agreement between two people.  The agreement can be written or simply be a verbal agreement.  It is a matter between the two people involved whether they wish an agreement be written or not.  Because these types of agreements are usually not very involved, the fees are much lower than it would be for a court involved case.

If you would like more information on informal marital or relationship mediation, please contact Susan Carpenter at Life’s Doors Mediation via phone, 763-566-2282 or email: susan@lifesdoorsmediation.com.  You may also want to check out High Conflict U for our relationship, communication and conflict skill building classes and programs.  There are times when you may be able to save your marriage or restore a relationship.  As Henry Winkler said, both people have to willing.  If that is where you are at, despite any problems you are having, reach out and see if Life’s Doors Mediation or High Conflict U may be able to help.

I Can Only Imagine Movie Trailer

I am very much looking forward to this movie.  It looks amazing!

Many of the people I’ve worked with in the last 20 years are parents who experienced a traumatic family event.  Now, their own children struggle with a similar situation.  My goal is to help everyone get through it in the best way possible, which is not always easy, depending on the circumstances you find yourself in and the mindset of the people who are involved.  Even some of the professionals have scars that they carry, scars that create their own toxic contributions to conflict or family drama.  Still, no one should ever give up hope for a better family life.

I enjoy working with parents, regardless of what they have done in the past or how difficult their situations may appear on the surface.  While many shy away from “high conflict” families, I tend to embrace them, especially when I can work one on one with them.  Why?  Why do I do it?  It can certainly be painful and stressful.  It is often hard to watch parents who are hurting their children.  Many of them do not even realize their part in the struggle, but for those who take the little seed that I plant and let it grow, the results are amazing.  For that reason, even if there might only be a handful in hundreds, I am compelled to continue working with parents.  Once someone works through pain, trauma, abuse or anger and recognizes their own piece in the relationship puzzle, their eyes are opened.  They cannot un-know what they know.  They cannot undo the past, but they can create their future.  It is a blessing to see and the effects are not just in them, but ripple to others, children, friends, neighbors, and the community.  Parents willing to self reflect out of  pain and into peace to be awesome role models for their children are the greatest parents I know and I admire them deeply!

Please go see the movie, “I Can Only Imagine”.  I can already see the greatness within, even simply from getting a couple of minutes worth of a glimpse.  Have a glimpse of faith and hope.  I pray it plants a seed in you!

That 3 Letter Word S-E-X

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Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*The following is a report from 11-5-2011

How important is sex? Sex should not be the entire basis of a relationship, but it is important for the survival of a relationship. A healthy sex life helps couples feel connected.

Not only is sex a key ingredient to a lasting relationship, according to this article from Web MD, there are many health benefits from a healthy sex life, also.

Web MD lists among the health benefits: stress relief, an immunity boost, burning off calories, improved heart health, greater self-esteem, increased intimacy, less pain, reduced risk of prostate cancer, stronger pelvic floor muscles, and better sleep. Read the article for more details, but you cannot argue with those great benefits to your health.

Why is sex important for men?  Men need a physical release, especially when they are feeling stressed.  Sex is a wonderful physical activity that they can share with their partner.  Men can participate in sports or other physical activity, but sex is a lot more fun.  They don’t often get to share those other activities with their partner so sex is a way for men to spend time with the women they love.   Men use sex to show the woman in their life that they love them.   Sometimes men cannot communicate feelings with words.   Since being  close physically  is one of the ways men signal to a woman they love her, they can feel rejected if their partner loses interest in sex.   Ladies, if you have lost interest in sex, talk to your man about why.   He needs to know if you are not having your needs met or if there is another reason that sex no longer interests you.   If you tell a man what he can do to make sex enjoyable for you, he will want to do it.   Men want to know what makes you feel good.   They don’t always know what that is.   Never criticize, but tell them honestly what drives you wild.   You’ll be surprised at how great sex can be when a man no longer has to guess.

Why do women lose interest in sex?   Women need to have their emotional needs met in order to feel good about having sex.  If a woman doesn’t feel respected, she will lose desire.  If she is really stressed out or just plain too tired from chasing kids around all day, she  won’t have the energy.  Women sometimes feel self-conscious about sex.   As their bodies change from pregnancy and childbirth to menopause, they may feel unattractive.  Men, you can help by reassuring her that you love her body.  Tell her she is sexy and the only woman you want to be with.   Also, if you have young children and she feels run ragged, try to plan a day off for her.   Allow her time to work out, get a massage,  or have a night out with friends.   If you can take care of the kids, by all means, do that.   If that is not the best option, get a babysitter.   Schedule certain days whenever possible that are Mom’s days off.   Even if it can only be once a month, it helps.

Ladies, you don’t have to be a size 6 to be desirable.  Great sex is about confidence.  If you love your body, so will your man!  Relax and enjoy the physical time together.  Immerse yourself completely into the moment. Try not to think about the kids or work or anything else.   A woman who is distracted will not get the most pleasure out of sex that she could.

If you have become stuck in a rut and sex has become non-existent, you can change that.   Ask your partner if they are willing to talk about it.   Tell them that you would like to rekindle your sex life.  If it’s been a while since you’ve shared that physical closeness, spend some time reconnecting as a couple.   Spend time together relaxing and having fun.   Touch each other, not just as foreplay.   Touch each other throughout the day.   A simple kiss or hug, maybe just lightly touching a shoulder or back can restart that physical connection needed to bring back desire.   If necessary, see a therapist or a physician. There could be a medical reason why desire has been lost.   You can always see a relationship coach, too.  If your partner wants to talk about your sex life, take it to heart.   If sex is important to your partner, they are not going to wait around forever.  Don’t help them decide to look for someone else, help them love and desire you.

Positively Productive Mediation Experiences

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mediation can be an anxiety and fear producing experience.  it is rarely something people look forward to.  Many of the first conversations I have with people who are in the process of finding a mediator involve the following language, or something similar:

“Well, _________ says we have to try mediation.   It will probably be a very short meeting because we can never agree on anything.  I just don’t see him/her saying anything other than, “NO!”.  That’s all it ever is.”

Still, they are willing to set up that appointment and come in to mediate, and they are usually very surprised at the outcome.

Rarely does anyone look forward to mediation.  Usually, the parties have not spoken in quite some time, and if they have, the conversation quickly escalates into an argument.  Nobody wants to embrace conflict.  Conflict is unpleasant and something most people do their best to avoid.  The thought of sitting down in a room with this person seems unthinkable because of the history of the relationship and because you know this person all too well.  You can only think of all the mean and nasty things that other person has ever said to you, and every horrible experience you have been through with them or because of them.  Those negative thoughts are why it is easier to ignore the problem, rather than deal with the problem.  However, if you don’t deal with the problem, it will not go away.  Sometimes when that problem is dropped into the legal process, it will only grow bigger.  Legal proceedings are relationship problems on steroids.

If you can look at mediation not as a conflict, but as an opportunity to come to resolution, you can quickly see areas where you and the other person have some common ground.  A good mediator will point out areas where the two of you are in agreement from early in the process.  You need to remember that mediation is not only anxiety and fear producing for you, but also for the other person.  They are not looking forward to the experience either.

Mediation can be a very positive experience and it can change relationships for the better.  That doesn’t mean that you are going to repair the relationship.  That will sometimes happen, but more often, you can bring closure or a new direction to the relationship.  That may be a scary thought, but think of it this way, whatever the relationship is right now, if all it involves in not being on speaking terms, or escalating arguments, it is not working the way it is.  Putting an end to the conflict and changing the relationship going forward, can put you on a more positive path, even if that means you walk your path, and they walk a different path.

You can make mediation a positive experience for you, by approaching it in a positive way.  Don’t assume the worst.  Go about it with no preconceived notions.  If you come out without an agreement, you are no worse off than you were before, but remember, you may come out ahead.

Mediation is a confidential process so you can speak openly and not fear any ramifications in court later.  As a matter of fact, if the issue is taken into court, and the other party tries to tell the judge that you said, “X, Y or Z” in mediation, the judge will stop any further discussion of what was said in mediation.  Go into mediation and say what you need to say.  That alone can be quite healing for people.

Some other ways to ensure that mediation is a positive experience for you are to:

1. Make sure you are well rested.

2. Make sure that you will not be hungry.  If you schedule around lunch or dinner time, eat before the session if you can.  If not, bring a snack.  Feel free to take a break if you need to.  Mediators will usually do their best to make sure their clients basic needs are met.

3. Come prepared with your idea for resolution.  Do not think in terms of what you think the other party may or may not agree to.  You may come out very surprised.  It happens more often than not.  Ask for what you need, but also be prepared to compromise.

4. Consider what the other party is asking for.  If you need a moment to think about it, be sure to let the mediator know that.  You do not have to agree to something that you do not want to do, but sometimes a knee jerk reaction is to say no, when the reality is, it may be a workable solution.

5. Think about your life going forward, not about the past. Even if the relationship was bad, it may improve when you can agree to move forward after coming to some resolution of the issues that have you entrenched in battle.

6. Don’t think of it in terms of all or nothing.  Partial agreements can be very helpful, too.  You may be able to resolve some of your issues and that is a step in the right direction.  You would be surprised how often an agreement on a small issue starts the ball rolling on bigger issues.  Sometimes, people return to mediation after coming out of a first session with a partial agreement.  After having some time to reflect on a prior session, people realize that they can return to mediation and work out the rest of the agreement.

7. Keep your discussion positive and use I statements. Try not to place blame. How you got to where you are doesn’t have to interfere with a plan that moves you forward.

8. Consider mediation a new beginning.  Even when you do not find resolution, the conversation can help you clarify where the relationship is at.  You no longer have to wonder if you will or will not be able to have a productive conversation.  Let the experience shape how you will go forward with or without the other party.  Sometimes relationships do have to end, but it opens our lives up for new relationships going forward.  We can take what we have learned to make better choices in the future.

Mediation offers the opportunity to redefine relationships.  It also offers an opportunity to be creative when resolving conflict.  When you stay positive and are open to the possibility of what may happen, your experience will serve you well, even if you are not able to come into an agreement.

If you enter into a mediation session with a positive attitude, it will often spill over to the other side of the table.  You can have a positive, productive mediation, provided you go in with a positive attitude and are willing to sit down for an open discussion.  You may not get everything that you hope to, but in most cases you can both come out winners.

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Fall Into Wellness 2013


As you may have seen on my website, I have joined the Circle of Healing Arts Cooperative in Coon Rapids. I am honored to be included in a group of so many people who have a passion for the work they do, and who are passionate about helping you feel healthy and happy.

The Circle of Healing Arts has moved into our new space in Coon Rapids, MN. We are all ready to go with classes and events to highlight and expand our healing services. Please join us for our Grand Opening celebration on September 21, 2013. A week of special events and discounts will take place the following week Monday, September 23th-Friday, September 27th. We look forward to meeting you and helping you fall into wellness at the Circle of Healing Arts!

You can view our event flyer here for more details.