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TRANSITIONS MEDIATION PARENTS CO-PARENTING GUIDE

TRANSITIONS MEDIATION


So You Want to Co-parent? TRANSITIONS MEDIATION

TRANSITIONS MEDIATION

MATT SOSSI, J.D. FAMILY LAW MEDIATOR TRANSITIONS MEDIATION 2017 1


Table of Contents 1.

Introduction

2.

You and Me Together We Can Make it Better…………………………….

3.

Going through the Big D………………………………………………….………. 10

4.

Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting………………………………………………. 15

5.

Everybody Hurts, Sometimes………………………….………………………… 21

6.

This is My Fight Song……………………………………………………………….. 27

7.

Collaborative Divorce : You’re the Top, You’re the Coliseum……..… 30

8.

Mediation: You Get what you need………………………………………….. 33

9.

We can be heroes……………………………………………………………………. 38

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Introduction

TRANSITIONS MEDIATION If your goal is to co-parent your child, this book is for you. If your goal is to engage in divorce litigation and ask a Judge for answers to your problems, stop and move on to another book. I truly mean that. For those parents remaining we welcome you to join us on our journey to find ways to reduce conflict during and after the divorce process. In 1992 I passed the Bar in Texas and began litigating divorce cases in San Antonio. For the first fifteen years of my practice I fully engaged in the use of litigation to resolve family law conflict on behalf of my clients. After my twentieth year things began to change. I began to realize that parents who communicated with one another found the answers to their problems. I also began to realize that parents who enlisted the help of others, such as mental health professionals, were able to remove the emotional barriers that were preventing them from reaching resolution in their divorce dispute. 3


I went on to become a certified family law mediator as well as trained to resolve divorces through the collaborative process and write books to help parents minimize conflict in their divorce. There are proponents advocating for you to choose litigation, mediation or the collaborative process to resolve your divorce. Your choice to mediate litigate or collaborate should only be made AFTER you recognize the manner in which you and your spouse’s resolve conflict. This book is going to help teach you that the way that you resolve conflict is directly effected by your ability to use emotional intelligence. We’re going to talk about how grief effects your ability to manage conflict. You will soon discover that co-parenting is going to take a lot of work between you and your spouse. There will be obstacles along your way. Coparenting will take work.

TRANSITIONS MEDIATION Your

choice

to

mediate

litigate or collaborate should only be made AFTER you recognize the manner in which you and your spouse’s resolve conflict.

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How you divorce is ultimately up to the way BOTH your spouse want to end the relationship. Pick up the phone and talk. Ask the one question that matters: CAN WE DO BETTER?

Can You‌. 1. Work together and be great parents to our children? 2. Talk to a neutral mental health professional

3. to get direction in our case?

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4. Go to mediation?

5. Consider a collaborative divorce? 6. We learn how to avoid conflict in the future?

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“You and Me Together We Can make it Better” Beyonce

TRANSITIONS MEDIATION Divorce is the ultimate end to a relationship. For many that is a nice fantasy, a nice thought.

For spouses who have children divorce doesn’t terminate your relationship as

parents. You will need to communicate and meet the needs of your child. No matter what you will need to continue to relate to your ex over the future health, education and general wellbeing of your child. You want to co-parent with your ex after your divorce? That’s fantastic. Co-parenting is the socially accepted norm. Co-parenting requires the love and care of both parents. Coparenting requires collaboration. Collaboration means placing the child’s needs before you. Co-Parenting after divorce is going to mean maintaining some sort of relationship with your ex. Co-parenting is going to mean communicating with your ex. Successful parenting

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after divorce is going to mean working with your ex to meet the needs of your child. Parenting after divorce is going to mean problem solving, compromising and negotiating. You want to go to the courthouse to co-parent? Think about that for a second. You are going to choose to litigate to move your child’s other parent from their position. You are asking that the court impose rules upon the other party to live by. Co-parenting by force? I don’t think so. The truth is that most divorcing parents who use the court system to resolve their dispute are not going to co-parent and head back to the courthouse from time to time. Years later the parents may go back to court and then back again. The answer truly comes from within.

How do you

want to resolve issues facing you and your spouse? What is your overall strategy in how you want to resolve

You want to go the courthouse to Co-parent? MEDIATION thought I don’t think so.

conflict? For many divorcing parents, the choice to

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mediate, collaborate or litigate is one rarely

about. Your first step in what divorce process you will take may be the most important one of all.

You cannot predict exactly how your spouse will react during the divorce process. Everyone is entitled to their own reaction to the loss of a relationship. Your partner may not want to divorce and may have difficulty coming to terms with the end of the relationship. Feelings of hurt, anger, guilt also impact their ability to work through problems like they typically did when you were happily married.

Successful interaction

through the divorce process is not only listening to WHAT your ex is telling you but understanding WHY, meaning the emotional reasons behind making the statement.

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Its important that you are engaged in the process. Research has show that the terms of any settlement depends mostly on you and your spouse’s ability to state your respective positions and be flexible to craft a solution understanding the needs and wants of the other spouse.

Your ability to interact and solve problems with your ex is MORE important to your

future success as co-parents than simply being offered a solution to your problem by any third person. This is your divorce, work through and direct the process ONCE you have been educated on the overall process and the parameters that you have to work with.

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“Going through the big D and I don’t mean Dallas”… Kenny Chestnut

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If you are going to co-parent you are going to need a strategy in how you will interact and resolve short term and long term conflict.

Is it more important to share your feelings

with one another OR look for solutions to the problems you face? Is it better to be passive and rely on the opinions of third persons? Should you be pro-active and work toward solutions to your own problems?

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NOT ALL STRATEGIES WILL BE SUCCESSFUL In 2016 the University of Maryland conducted a study about the most effective techniques to conflict resolution. As a state, Maryland needed to address conflict of the highest order, as the citizens in the City of Baltimore and police squared off as to what constituted police brutality and what acts were needed to provide for the public safety. Maryland wished to avoid civil unrest that had earlier erupted in places such as Ferguson, Missouri. What Maryland study needed to answer was a way to resolve LONG TERM conflict. Specifically, how do you get parties inherently opposite to one another to LISTEN, UNDERSTAND and RESPOND to one another in a peaceful constructive manner? Was a solution possible?

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The Study identified four main strategies to resolve conflict: Reflect, Problem Solving, Elicit and Caucus.

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Reflect Expressing thought and feeling was seen as important in the short term because it made individuals feel respected and recognized. Solely expressing feelings in the long run did little however to resolving long term conflict.

Asking for Solutions The Study reviewed strategies that provided individuals with problem solving strategies to help them resolve conflict. While individuals adopted problem solving strategies to solve the problem at hand, the approach was not seen statistically as SIGNIFICANT in preventing disputes in the short or long term.

Creating Options, Solving Problems

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The Maryland study found that the most effective way to resolve disputes was to find a forum that allowed the parties actively engage and work together and provide problem solving strategies on the table. By laying out options the parties came together owned the agreement that was reached.

Caucus Caucusing happens when the individuals are placed into different rooms and the mediator shuttles back and forth to come up with a solution. The report stated: “The greater of percentage of time participants spend in caucus, the more likely participants report that the mediator controlled the outcome and pressured them into solutions.� An increase in powerlessness and an increase in the desire to understand the other participant. 11


The more time spent in causcus the less likely that the issues were resolved with a fair and implantable outcome. The more likely that the parties would be back in court regarding enforcing the mediated settlement agreement. RESULTS ARE IN The one message you should take from the Maryland study is that you will need to engage your child’s other parent and both OFFER and ELICIT SOLUTIONS from your child’s other parent to the issues confronting you in your divorce. To be successful in resolving conflict you will need to LISTEN, UNDERSTAND and REFLECT on what the other parent has to say.

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Remember working together with your spouse is going to mean interacting with them in some form or fashion.

Co-parenting is going to take work but it’s not as emotionally draining and stressful

as continued future conflict. At the end of the day co-parenting solutions provide you and your children the best approach to continued health and success. Start to see the divorce process as a training period in which you are to learn how you will need to engage your spouse now and in the future. Now that you know the best strategies to work through a problem, how are you going to handle the conflict that confronts you in your divorce?

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“Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting” Carl Davis How Do you Resolve Conflict? It has been discovered that our ability to resolve conflict is determined by TWO PRIMARY factors, the X factor = our level of assertiveness compared to the Y factor = our ability to be cooperate. There are five major ways we resolve conflict:

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Understanding Your Conflict Style It makes sense to understand not only your individual conflict management style but that of your partner. The mixture of conflict styles leads to whether or not your divorce will be resolved through the use of Litigation, Mediation or Collaborative principles.

Your wish

should be how you and your child’s other parent reach win-win outcomes to minimize and hopefully put an end to conflict so you can co-parent.

Elect the wrong model of conflict

resolution and you will end up with win-lose or lose-lose outcomes that will lay the seeds for future conflict.

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YOUR CHOICES!

Compete (Win-Lose) “I want the Judge to make a decision” Parents who score high on assertiveness and low on cooperative index compete to resolve conflict. For these parents the need to WIN replaces the desire to collaborate or 15


negotiate.

Litigation is the only manner by which parents who TRUE WISH IS COMPETE

resolve conflict.

Litigation of course sparks additional litigation with parents going back to

court to determine winner and losers of the next matter in controversy. Competing, in my opinion is a short term “Win-Lose” strategy that in the long term ends in Lose-Lose outcomes for one and all involved.

Collaborate (Win-Win) “As Parents we want to reach a Solution to the Problem” Parents who are both highly assertive and highly cooperative will be drawn to team

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based approaches to resolving conflict. Parents who are able to work together through a team based system CAN BEST resolve their differences through problem solving processes. Team based approaches usually equate to WIN-WIN outcomes for both outcomes.

Team based

approaches usually equate to the parents learning how to resolve the issues at hand and avoid future conflict.

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Compromise (Win-Win) “We went into the Divorce mediation And we both got something we wanted.” Parents who are not highly assertive and highly cooperative may fit in the compromise model of conflict resolution. Compromise allows one to resolve conflict through the art of negotiation. For parents whose natural inclination is to negotiate, win-win strategies for divorce are readily achieved.

Accommodate (Win-Lose) “I got everything I wanted, my ex just gave up”

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Typically when one parent is assertive and one is avoidant agreements are reached by accommodation. Conflict resolution may be reached by accommodation in the short term ONLY to ESCALATE years later.

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AVOID LOSE –LOSE AT ALL COSTS! Mediated Settlement Agreements can be reached by simply accommodation. Parties who accommodate parties entering a mediated settlement that is more consented to than agreed to. Accomodation may lead to unworkable solution to your problem and it might just sow the seeds for future conflict.

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Everybody Hurts

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Sometimes…. REM

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The main obstacles in divorce are not based upon a lack of intellect. Many parents have done just fine adjusting to life's problems without attorneys and court's prior to divorce. Doctors, nurses accountants and even attorneys get lost in bitter divorce litigation. Why does the divorce process confuse and alters the normal way in which that we resolve conflict? Studies show that your ability to resolve conflict is directly effected by your degree of emotional intelligence, or EQ. It shouldn’t surprise us that emotional intelligence is adversely effected by emotions such as anger, fear and depression.

Lets Talk About Grief The Seven Stages of Grief Include

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Understanding the Impact of Grief As divorce is the end of a relationship it is imperative to understand how GRIEF effects your ability to use conflict style.

TRANSITIONS MEDIATION Early Stages of Grief – Recognizing the Effect of Anger, Shock, Avoidance and Depression Parents who walk into the divorce process who are ANGRY in SHOCK or DEPRESSED are not going to make proper decisions about how they are going to resolve their divorce.

Grief blocks our ability to process the information we are receiving. Grief can

in fact shift our conflict style from one that is collaborative to one that is highly litigious. Grief can blind us and move us into a conflict resolution style that ultimately serves no true benefit to your ultimate goal to co-parent.

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Watch out For Competing and Avoiding Strategies You won’t want to cooperate with your spouse if your are mad at them. You won’t want to work with your spouse (be assertive) if you are AVOIDING them or are DEPRESSED. If your ability to cooperate and be assertive are altered significantly, the grief process ends up effecting the way you resolve conflict.

Grief can effect you to such a degree that it

may shift your conflict resolution style to COMPETING (WIN-LOSE) or even AVOIDANT (LOSE-LOSE). Competing and Avoidant strategies are not going to help you co-parent your child after the divorce process. You are going to have to be present, engaged and dialed in as you and your spouse look for solutions to the issues you at hand. Failing to present, engaged and dialed in means creating the seeds for future conflict.

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The good news is that as you shift through the grief process you find that you will LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS and LOOK for a way forward all the tools you need to successfully collaborate or focus on solving the problem that confronts you and your ex. Understanding where you are at the grieving process is crucial to putting yourself back in control of your actions in your divorce. If time is not on your side, divorce support groups friends and family members are there to help you through this difficult time. Stay motivated. Co-parenting is worth the work.

IF YOU TALK ABOUT GRIEF YOU HAVE TO TALK ABOUT EMPATHY 22


Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. You may not have feelings of anger, shock during your divorce. You may have thought about the divorce for years. You may have even filed for divorce to end the relationship. Your partner may not be so lucky. Your partner may be in shock, angry or depressed by the news of divorce. Your partner’s emotions will be an obvious impediment to the ease in which you want to divorce. Success will require you to understand the reasons WHY your spouse is taking a particular position and NOT be caught up in the positions being asserted. Understanding WHY doesn’t mean reacting to the litany of emotions your spouse is feeling. Understanding WHY should allow you to REFLECT on what is being said and provide options that may resolve the conflict at hand. Understanding WHY allows you to be both cooperative and assertive. Understanding WHY puts you on the best page to come up with a long term solution that allows you to co-parent.

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EMPATHY HAS ITS LIMITS It’s important to note that you may become EMOTIONALLY OVERWHELMED when you interact with your spouse about their fears, concerns, wants and needs.

Over time

“empathy exhaustion” could even set in, depriving you of your own ability to want to cognitively process information.

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Taking breaks between interactions is key, as is learning when you need to use empathy during the process. Not every problem involves using emotional energy. You’ll find that that many problems will be resolved more by IQ more than your EQ during the divorce process. Ultimately you need to begin to assess exactly how much emotional energy you can expend during your divorce. Talk to an attorney about your choice to mediate or collaborate. Truly use your choice to feel comfortable and in control of the manner in which your divorce will be handled. 24


Find Someone to Talk To! Find a parent who successfully co-parents their children. ASK them questions. How did you do handle your problems. Was their experience difficult or easy? Did they ever feel lost? Finding a support base may just keep you balanced well enough that you are not tapping into emotional resources you find limited because of the divorce.

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“This is My Fight Song”… 25


Katy Perry

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A majority of divorce cases begin in litigation. Why? A great many people simply do not know that there are options to obtaining a divorce. It is important that you understand the history of litigation in the context of divorce.

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Litigation historically was the only forum that individuals could use to divorce in the United States. In the 1970’s mediation was introduced to reduce the overloaded dockets family courts faced. Mediations resolved 90% of the cases that were referred out from the family court. Parents appreciated the benefits of the mediation as it: a. Reduced the cost of litigation b. Ended the Never Ending Conflict c. Gave individuals back a sense of control by allowing them to create the terms from which the divorce would be prepared.

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In truth, mediation provided parents a way to move away from litigation. Mediation types evolved and expanded over the years. In the 1980’s collaborative divorces were beginning offered to allow parents the ability to completely avoid the litigation process. So why do people begin litigating their divorce? A few responses: a. Parents are not educated on their choice to mediate, litigate or collaborate b. Litigation provides the best way to OFFER IMMEDIATE RELIEF to confront a spouse who is not fulfilling his or her financial responsibilities OR is otherwise acting unreasonably. c. We are taught that litigation is required to obtain a divorce. 27


d. Few cases, perhaps 10% actually end up being litigated at the courthouse on final hearing. e. Parents initially request to litigate their divorce out of ANGER or out of a loss of CONTROL. Parents lost in the grief process of divorce find themselves acting out to provoke a response from the other parent. Most Parents want to find a solution to the problems facing them. Parents abandoned Litigation ninety percent of the time because they simply found more appealing ways to resolve their dispute.

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The best way to resolve your issues is to find the best model, the best strategy to reduce both short term and long term conflict. It’s time to review the results of a conflict study conducted by the University of Maryland in 2016.

“You’re the Top, You’re 28


the Coliseum” Frank Sinatra

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COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE If we remove litigation as a viable alternative you are left with two options, to mediate or collaborate. Both good options no doubt.

It’s important to educate yourself about the

basics of each model BEFORE you commit to either process. If your wish is to engage interact and work through the process, collaborative divorce 29


is for you. In Collaborative Divorces you will be provided a team of professionals, including your attorney, a mental health professional and a financial specialist. You will prepare to engage your spouse through agenda meetings that are designed to help you work through the issues at hand.

TRANSITIONS MEDIATION The Collaborative divorce model makes you an active participant in the process. Being part of a collaborative divorce means that you and your spouse will be thinking through your problems and creating options to solve problems.

The collaborative model

elicits strategies to resolve problems. If you remember the Maryland study, eliciting is the optimal long term approach as “participants were more likely to report a change in their approach to conflict and were less likely to appear in court.�

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What May Stop You It will take both you and your spouse to agree to enter the Collaborative Divorce process. 1. It takes Two: Your spouse simply may refuse to agree to participate. That is his or her right to do so. 2. Perception: There is a perception that collaborative divorce is too expensive to use as it requires a team of employed professionals to guide you through the process. 3. Fear: If the collaborative divorce do not end in a resolution you will have to start the process all over again. Collaborative professionals that “starting over� is the key motivator for you to work through the process. 4. Personalities: If you spouse does not work well together in a team environment collaborative divorce may not be for you. Remember conflict models must fit the personalities in the room.

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“You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find, You get what you need.” Rolling Stones

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MEDIATION If you can’t collaborate, different styles of mediation are available to help you interact to help you develop WIN-WIN strategies to co-parent after the divorce process. Mediation styles are broken down into four basic classifications: 1. Facilitative, 2. Problem Solving, 3. Transformative, and 4. Evaluative. Through Facilitative mediation, the mediator structures a process to assist the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable resolution. The mediator asks questions, validates and normalizes parties’ points of view; searches for interests underneath the positions taken 32


by the parties and assists the parties in finding and analyzing options for resolution. The facilitative mediator does not make recommendations to the parties, give his or her own advice or predict what a court would do. The mediator is in charge of the outcome. If the mediation is referred to caucus the parties are placed in separate rooms with the mediator shuttling back and forth. Eventually an agreement is reached implementing problem solving and/or evaluative mediation models of resolving conflict. Problem Solving Mediations may introduce experts such as a psychologist, CPA or other designated expert to help resolve particular issues confronting the parties during a divorce.

The parties look for solutions to resolve problems with the assistance of the

mediator based upon the opinions of the experts proffered. The problem solving mediations can work two ways: 1. The parent’s can be offered solutions to their problems 2. The parents can offer solutions to each other to solve their problems.

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The Maryland report stated “the more offering strategies are used the less participants report: 1. the outcome was working, 2. They were satisfied with the outcome and 3. That they would change their approach to conflict.

The Maryland report went onto

state that participants that created solutions and worked together during the mediation process “ jointly controlled the outcome” of the mediation. Working through the process changed the parties approach to conflict in the both the short and long term. 33


Transformative mediation is structured differently than most mediations in that the parties are in charge of the mediation. Transformative mediation is relatively new to the family law arena. Transformative mediations offer a unique and powerful venue to REGAIN COMMUNICATION between yourself and your child’s other parent in that it places the parties in control of the mediation process.

TRANSITIONS MEDIATION Evaluative mediation is more conclusions based. The mediator, typically a former judge or highly experienced family law attorney, will provide the parties with possible outcomes if the parties go to litigation. The parties base their outcomes not by communication BUT through compromise. Certain mediation communities have refused to categorize evaluative mediations as a form of mediation, considering it more of a settlement conference. Of course two main problems with evaluative mediation. Number one the mediator is in control of the meeting with the attendees passive and listening for options to their problem. Second the Maryland study shows that “the greater of percentage of time in caucus the less likely the participants report that they were satisfied with the process and outcome.” 34


Optimum use of the mediation process requires you to understand your need to INTERACT, ENGAGE, LISTEN and UNDERSTAND. Tell yourself that you will be an active participant in the process. Don’t be given answers to your problems, option build and create solutions.

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If at all possible ask to speak to your spouse, even if you are placed in caucus. Understand WHY your spouse has taken a particular position. Find a solution that will make the problem resolve for both you and your spouse. There’s always more than one solution to a given problem, right?

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“WE CAN BE HEROES JUST FOR ONE DAY� Bowie TRANSITIONS MEDIATION

So you want to co-parent? The answer is simple. Yes you can! Interact, understand and listen to the reasons why your spouse feels the way they do, the reasons that ultimately are placing you in conflict. Be the hero for the day, make sure that your child is going to grow up safe and secure in the knowledge that he or she has two parents who can work together to provide needed love and support.

Understand what it is going to take to be an active participant in solving the problems that effect you in your divorce. Talk to your spouse AND make the best choice to MEDIATE or

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LITIGATE. Think long term and good results are sure to come. It takes work, sacrifice and dedication. If you don’t know what to do, talk to someone, find a mentor. Divorce is a painful transition but one that must be endured so you can move forward to a better life. For your assistance we’ve attached a self help assessment to help you. Can you be a hero to your child and resolve your divorce conflict, even if it’s just for one day.

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SOLVING PROBLEMS BY WORKING TOGETHER FINDING OPTIONS CREATING SOLUTIONS

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Parents Guide  

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