When the Litigation has Ended, but the Conflict has not: Alternatives to Litigating Co-Parenting Disputes

Perhaps unsurprising, your co-parenting challenges may not always end just because the divorce/custody case does. Regardless of how you got to your parenting plan, you may continue to experience frustrating difficulties navigating parenting matters from two households. So, what are your options on how to address these difficulties?

Of course, you can always return to Court. You can file a motion to change custody, modify a parenting plan, or a motion for contempt if you feel that the other party isn’t complying with the court order. However, you may not want to go to back to Court; maybe because of the stress, time, money, or simply because you don’t see how a new Court order will resolve any of your parenting conflicts.

Fortunately, there are several options to address these co-parenting frustrations. The Court and family law attorneys are all too familiar with parties’ frequent return to Court after a recent divorce/custody proceeding. What many in the field are finding is that many of these complaints are not “legal issues” that can easily be resolved in Court. Rather, we are seeing complex parenting challenges that can best be resolved with the help of parenting professionals. The below professional services are designed specifically to help families manage complex parenting challenges, which can be used without, or in conjunction with your attorney:

1) Parenting Coordination
2) Co-Parenting Counseling
3) Collaborative Law Process
4) Mediation

Check your parenting plan or court order to see whether any of these specific services are required before either party is permitted to file any new motions in Court. Then, contact Tibbs Law Office to learn more about these services and to discuss whether they are the right fit for your co-parenting challenges.

Is Mediation Right for Me?

In family law disputes, such as a divorce, you may believe that court is where you need to go — you’ll have your day in Court, justice will be served, and you and your children will have “won.” Unfortunately, people often underestimate the impact that litigation has on a person individually, and on the family as a whole.

For example, the process of obtaining a divorce involving children can easily last one year, often longer. By the one-year mark, parties are often fatigued and generally frustrated by the litigation process. Frequent complaints include having to take time off of work for pretrials, the Court not being on schedule, spending an hour in Court, yet only several minutes in the Courtroom, and of course, the financial cost of going through a lengthy court process.

Once the final trial has finally occurred, it may take several months until the Court issues a Decision. Even if you “won,” you may find that the Decision ignores major things that were really important to you. For example, perhaps the Court grants you full custody of your children, but the schedule the Court ordered is completely unworkable for your family. You, your ex, and your children all hate it. At the end of the litigation process, you’re left with an outcome that may not feel like such a “win” after all.

Because of the personal nature of family law cases, we believe that parents, not judges, should decide matters that will affect what is most important to you, when possible. In our experience, parties who reach their own agreement, compared to having a judge decide their family’s fate, are happier with the outcome. More these reasons, among others, we understand the value of a mediated agreement.

To learn more about mediation, visit our website, or contact us at (513) 793-7544 to speak with one of our mediators to discuss whether mediation is right for your family law matter.

Truth or Delusion? Busting Networking’s Biggest Myths

This book goes through approximately 48 statements and discusses whether those statements are True or false.  Most of these are common sense; however, some of these discussions are helpful.  Sometimes you can tell by the way the statement is worded.  Absolute wording usually signifies that the statement is a delusion.  The most helpful discussions for me personally were about center of influence and where to get the best referrals.  The general advice given in this book is that the obvious choice is not always the best referral source.  This book talks about the difference between visibility, credibility and profitability and how to focus the visibility and credibility to result in profitability.  You cannot move on to the next stage in the relationship with another unless the other person is also ready to move into the next stage with you.  The number one trait of master networkers is that they follow up on referrals given.  Also, the most important concept to remember is that you should treat referrals the way they want to be treated, not the way you want to be treated.  This is something that I need to work on personally.  The key to this advice is figuring out how someone wants to be treated.  The only way to find this out is by getting to know the referral source and asking key questions that will provide insight into their values.  Because I felt this book offered me little that I did not already know or that wasn’t common sense, I give this book 3 stars. 

Book Review – Crazy Time

I highly recommend this book to people in the early stages of learning about the divorce that is barreling down the highway towards them. Crazy time, as the title suggests, acknowledges the craziness that can be divorce. This book focuses on the different stages of the process and the different ways for dealing with those stages. All of this is written through the lens of the author that describes the final days of, what she now acknowledges as the end of her marriage. This book is especially important for someone that has had very little experience with divorce, which we may believe can be very few people anymore that have not experienced divorce; however, people have a tendency and an ability to refuse to believe that this could ever happen to them. This is for those people. If they have blinders on when speaking to friends about their divorce, they probably have blinders on in their own marriage. The best part about this book is that before wrapping up, it acknowledges the good that comes out of marriages ending. This is important to me because this is one of the things I enjoy about my job. I get to see the transition from scared and weak to strong and ready for the change. This book presents the greener pastures beautifully. I would give this book five stars.

Book Review – How Full is your Bucket?

The premise of this book is that we will achieve greater results from employees by focusing on the employee’s strengths, rather than their weaknesses.  The thing I like about this book is that the concept is simple.  The authors know the concept is simple and instead of writing the same thing repeatedly, like some authors might, these authors explain the concept, provide examples of their theory, provide data to back it up and call it a day.  It is a relatively short book that give some great examples.  One example is of Susan, a manager.  The first time she tried to recognize her star sales rep, she failed miserably, upsetting him in the process.  This example shows the importance of figuring out what is important to your employees and awarding them in a way they recognize as positive.   This is just some of the great advice this book provides for those tasked with managing others.  Overall, I give this book four stars.

Book Review – Parents are Forever

Parents are Forever presents a great concept for co-parenting.  It uses the analogy of owning a business together with your partner to show how people should co-parent.  Parents who work together to care for their children after divorce become co-parents.  No matter how ex-spouses feel about each other personally, co-parents who want to be successful ACT reasonably.  Parents should attend formal meetings where child-related issues are discussed.  This concept requires healthy negotiating, which requires proper distance and respect for one another.  The book provides an example for proper business meeting structure and a checklist of discussion points that need to be discussed.  I give this book five stars for parents that are serious about successful co-parenting.  Even after all of the advice, this book teaches techniques, like accepting an un-perfect result, which is important, because after all, divorce is an imperfect result to begin with.  I like the concepts in this book so much that I often formally recommend (in my GAL report) that parents read this book in cases where I am acting as a GAL.   I give this book five stars.

Book Review – Splitting

This book was given to me by a client.  The client felt this book was helpful to her in navigating her case with her husband, whom she believes to be suffering from borderline narcissistic personality disorder.

Splitting is a term used to describe a defense mechanism universally seen in people with Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

I definitely have a love-hate relationship with this book.  Let me begin by being truthful with how long it took me to finish this book. I got through the first half of the book pretty quickly and then I stalled for approximately six months (maybe longer) before finishing the book.  I was just having difficulty picking it up and getting through it towards the end.  The information was very helpful for a person going through a difficult divorce with someone they suspect as having personality disorders/defects.  The issue that I was having is that some of the legal-based information was inaccurate, and not in a, procedural differences between jurisdictions, kind of way.  Some of the basic information was inaccurate and misleading, in my opinion.

The book attempts to address the different types of evaluators that can get involved in a divorce case.  One such evaluator it discusses is “an attorney for minor children.”  Even this label is frustratingly inaccurate.  It leads the reader to believe that it is referring to an attorney representing the minor children.  What I think it is actually referring to is a guardian ad litem, which is an attorney that represents the best interests of the minor children.

There is a very distinct difference between representing a minor child, which requires you to advocate for the position your client wants you to advocate for, and representing the best interests of the minor children, which requires you to advocate for the position that you feel is in the child’s best interests, regardless of what the child wants.  If a parent wants the minor children to be represented by an attorney, the only way to accomplish this in a private custody case is to hire an attorney to do so.  A Guardian Ad Litem is appointed by the Court and the Court makes an order about who will be responsible for payment of the GAL’s fees, which are usually divided equally by the parties.  The entire section on this seems to confuse the two roles.  There are a few other sections that are ambiguous or misleading, which I feel might result in confusion on the part of the client.

The book is not all bad though.  It provides some great suggestions for how to deal with a high-tension, highly litigious opposing party.  One of the best points made by the authors is the fact that highly aggressive attorneys often don’t win in the long run and that for negative advocate attorneys focus on their performance in court.  They put on a show for their client and as a result, their client thinks they did a great job.  This is something I have been telling my clients for years.  I might add that the reason I know they are only putting on a show for their client is because, often times, attorneys go into chambers with the judge and discuss the issues before any hearing occurs.  The judge often tells the attorneys their point of view on the issue after all arguments have been made.  The attorneys and parties go on record thereafter, but at that point, it is only a procedural formality.  The attorneys already know how the judge will rule before the formal hearing occurs.  Any arguments made are only for the sake of the record and for the sake of the clients.

Another great resource and suggestion made is the open letter to family and friends in the back of the book.  The letter is provided as a “suggested script” of a letter that a person can send to their family and friends as they are going through the divorce process.  With some modifications, this letter could be used for almost any type of divorce.  In a high-tension and highly litigious divorce, a letter like this is a great tool.  One of the best pieces of information in the letter is to as your friends and family not to take sides in the divorce.  By way of example it states, “while siding with me may give me a temporary feeling of satisfaction, it is a form of all-or-nothing thinking that reinforces seeing one person as all bad and the other as all good.”  So basically, you are using the letter to ask your friends and family not to talk smack about your soon to be ex because that leads to deeper feelings of resentment and vindictiveness.  This is a great idea because those feelings usually already exist in abundance and do not need to be reinforced.

Overall, I give this book 3 stars.

Book Review – Two Homes

Clients often come to me before they have told anyone what they are going through, and that includes their children.  Clients often ask me how to have the divorce discussion with their children.  My answer is that it depends how old their children are and what the maturity level of their children is.  One option is to begin introducing the idea of divorce through books.  Two Homes is one such book that could be used to introduce the idea of divorce to young children.  The books states that it is for children 3-7 (on the back) but I would argue that it is actually for the younger end of that spectrum.  The book is very basic and could be used for a younger or less mature audience.  Maybe 3-5 years old.  The book revolves around Alex, presumably an only child and uses basic one-liners to show how things are different at each of his parent’s homes but it puts a positive spin on the fact that he has two of everything because he has two homes.  At the end it emphasizes that he loves both of his parents and both of his parents love him.  If both parents are committed to having an amicable separation and divorce, this could be a great book to introduce the changes the child will experience.  My only hesitation would be that this book paints an ideal picture of what it will look like, which, if both parents aren’t committed to making it a smooth transition, this book might set the child’s expectations too high.  But with this age group, I am not sure you have many alternatives because you definitely want to make every child feel comfortable and safe.  I rate this book 4 ½ stars and I would suggest this book for children on the younger end of the age spectrum.

Book Review- UnFu*k YOURSELF

Change starts within you.  That is the premise of this book.  There are some great takeaways from this book.  One of which is that it IS the power of the mind to be unconquerable.  We are wired to win, and we win at what we want to win at.  The only way to do this is to not be bothered by what others think about us.  We must be willing to be judged by others and not let it get to us and in the end embrace the uncertainty in what lies ahead.  If we can become comfortable with uncertainty, we will be able to adapt to the uncertainty much more easily.  I firmly believe in the message of this book and it is executed well, although, perhaps more examples to illustrate the points would have been welcomed.  Overall, I give this book 4 stars.

Mediation and Arbitration

Mediation and Arbitration
We get a lot of questions about arbitration and mediation.  There are many differences between arbitration and mediation.  One difference is that arbitration is binding while mediation is an agreement between the parties and is not binding or enforceable unless and until the agreement is made an order of the court. 
In arbitration, a third party or panel made up of several individuals, hears both parties’ arguments and makes a binding decision.  Usually, arbirtration is used because there is a clause in a contract requiring it.  It is most often used in a business setting where “thoughts” and “feelings” are not a factor. 
Mediation is usually used in family law matters or matters involving relationships, relatives, and parties that will have to work together after the court case is over.  Mediation is often chosen over a trial in in family law cases because there is a general aversion to having decisions mandated by a court.
When parties go into mediation, they are not required to have an attorney; however, attorneys are allowed to be present.  When deciding whether to retain counsel, you should keep in mind a few things:
1) The mediator is not interested in finding a fair solution- the mediator is interested in finding a solution the parties can agree upon.  You may be thinking: “Well, if the parties agree, then the agreement must be fair.”  Not necessarily.  If the power between the parties is not balanced, if one party is more educated, if one party has greater knowledge of their rights, or even if one party is just not able to stand strong when faced with pressure from the other party, then the agreement may not be fair.  You must keep in mind that you are in mediation with someone you have an existing relationship with, those patterns of behavior have already been established and will continue through the mediation. 
2) The only way to reduce the risk of having the standards of the relationship dictate the outcome of mediation is to show up to mediation with counsel.  Having an attorney present can be helpful because the attorney can provide information on what the court might do if it were making the decision.  The only way you are going to know what the court would do, is if you have counsel. 
3) Having counsel present is not only going to help you but it will also help the other side.  Once you have the knowledge regarding what a court might do, you are able to make better decisions regarding where to compromise and where to stand your ground.
4) Do not simply ask the other party what he/she wants, you must ask “Why do you want that.”  Often times you can satisfy their “why” without giving them what they originally asked for (this is really important if they are asking for something that you want as well).  You should also use this line of thinking when you are negotiating and asking for certain compromises.  If you can satisfy your “why” without taking something they are going to fight for, both parties will be satisfied.
The attorneys at our firm are in the process of becoming trained mediators and look forward to offering this service to clients in 2018.