Changing the Way People Divorce
Divorce often forces us to take a detour on our journey through life. It certainly isn’t on anyone’s “itinerary” at the time of marriage. But when it appears, we have choices of how to travel that alternate route. We certainly don’t have to do it the old fashioned way.
In 1982, mediation was emerging as a new profession. My Masters degree in Financial Counseling from Purdue University and classes in psychology provided the perfect background for working with clients’ whose main concerns were kids and money. With the evolution of computer technology, I was the first person in the country to develop computer programs to use directly with divorcing clients.
First Hi-tech model for divorce
In 1996, I formed a partnership with Lee Borden, an attorney in Birmingham. AL. Our mission was to change the way people divorce by making it more understandable, more efficient, and more effective. The results were
- Lee’s web site that receives rave reviews for offering the most extensive free information on divorce at www.divorceinfo.com
- DivorceSavvySavesMoney, the first interactive software to help divorcing parties to organize, customize and manage the required information for their divorce.
- a new model for family mediation: High Tech, Client Empowered, Conference Style Mediation.
- Stay out of court
- Divorce with your dignity in tact and money in your pocket
- Use an experienced professional to guide you in
- negotiating a property settlement and
- creating a parenting plan
- Trace separate and community property
- Receive coaching in handling your divorce
- Plan for life after divorce
- Resolve conflict with family members, boss, friends, or strangers
save money & manage conflict
Divorce can be the most challenging time of your marriage. You are likely to be wrought with emotion and concerned about kids and money. You and your spouse may not have given much thought to how you can work together to get apart. Yet this is the time when cooperation and communication can have both a monetary and emotional benefit. Use this process to keep money in your pocket and your dignity intact.
HI-TECH - The latest computer software programs and data display equipment are used to make divorce work more understandable, efficient, and effective. The DivorceSavvySavesMoney enables you to prepare for mediation sessions by doing the necessary preliminary work.
CLIENT EMPOWERED – You are in control! You are educated on various aspects of divorce so you are knowledgeable and able to make wise decisions regarding a property settlement and the parenting of your children.
CONFERENCE-STYLE MEDIATION - You are encouraged to fully participate in the process. Most of the time, you and your spouse will meet together with the mediator. However, separate caucus with each individual can be used in high conflict cases or whenever it is appropriate.
How you can use this process.
A free phone conversation
I will take time on the phone to give you information about my background, the divorce process, and answer questions about the way I can customize my service to best serve you and your spouse.
You can save thousands of dollars by doing much of the work yourself. The DivorceSavvySavesMoney software is available for you to download for $49.95. Read the description, accept the licensing agreement, go to Pay Pal to enter your credit card information, return to the www.Divorceinfo.com web site, and download two files.
The MS Word file has detailed instructions for collecting and organizing the required documents so you can enter your information. The Excel file contains various worksheets for creating your Inventory of Assets and Liabilities, Client Information, and Parenting charts. Complete disclosure must be made.
A husband and wife are encouraged to work together on this initial task. If parties do not gather and share their information, each attorney must duplicate efforts to produce the inventory.
It is best not to negotiate or make promises to one another at this point. When you receive legal and tax information, the ramifications of your promised arrangements may no longer be acceptable. When promises are retracted, conflict is increased.
Prior to our first meeting, you can send your DSSM file to me as at attachment to an email so it’s available to use during our first session.
ALTERNATIVE – If you are not familiar with the Excel software program mentioned above or if you choose not to input your own information, I can mail you instructions for gathering the necessary documents. During our first meeting, I can quickly enter the information to create your inventory.
The First Meeting
At the beginning of our first session, I will have a brief private conversation with each spouse so I can get to know both of you before I start working with you together.
Next, you will meet with me together for a short orientation. I adhere to Standards of Practice for the mediators, so I must give you details of how we will work together. Also, you will receive a fee policy statement and have a chance to ask questions.
A mediator must protect the rights of all parties, so I will suggest you each have an attorney. One attorney usually files the petition for divorce and drafts the legal document based on arrangements in your, Memorandum from Mediation. The other attorney serves as a reviewing/consulting attorney. Occasionally, the clients decide to use only one lawyer, however, that attorney can represent only one party.
Mediation is a confidential process, so I will not be talking to others about what happens in our sessions. Occasionally, I must call an attorney for a point of clarification or upon the request of clients. You will be notified prior to such a call.
I always have an agenda for meetings, but mediation is your process, so your agenda will override mine. We will deal with matters that are most important for you to discuss and decide.
If you have used DivorceSavvySavesMoney, I will access the file with your Inventory of Assets and Liabilities so we can discuss and check each of the entries. This software makes it easy to create options for dividing assets and debts, and serves as a basis for negotiating a property settlement. Calculations can be done very quickly so you can evaluate the results.
When the inventory has been properly formatted, you can number your supporting documents in the right hand corner according to the sections in the inventory. Make four copies of each to insert in four three-ring “Client/Attorney” notebooks—one for each client and one for each attorney. It is important for them to be identical.
If you have children, you will receive information for creating a parenting plan. A handout will enable you to give thought to issues that must be decided.
I start writing notes after the first session so you can review them and make corrections. These will be included in your notebooks.
The number of subsequent sessions depend on the clients’ timing, degree of conflict, and complexities of the issues, etc. Mediations can be emotionally and mentally taxing so they are usually limited to two hours or less. Most cases are completed in two or three sessions if the preliminary preparation is done prior to the first meeting.
At the end of the mediation you will receive four copies of the updated sections for your notebooks. These include revised computer pages, “Notes to the Attorneys” that explain valuations, etc., and the “Memorandum from Mediation” with the agreements or considerations for a property settlement and parenting plan. The attorney uses these materials to draft the divorce decree. One or both parties can go to court. Uncontested divorces usually take only a few minutes before the judge.
Restructuring a family during divorce is never easy. Transitions take time. Participating in mediation is seldom perceived as an opportunity, but it is a chance for you and your spouse to control of your future. Failing to participate puts decisions in the hands of attorneys and judges who never have the time to fully understand your situation and can never be paid enough to do so.
Remember that during the time of divorce, you are “writing chapters” in the biographies of each family member. How do you want these to read? In over twenty-five years as a mediator, I’ve observed that working together to get apart produces the most harmonious family relationships in the future.
Clients’ Comments (for confidentiality, only initials are used):
I greatly appreciate notes from clients who have used my assistance during their divorce. It gives me satisfaction to know they have completed a very stressful detour in their journey through life and will have the freedom to see what the future can bring.
“Again, I appreciate all your help. Divorce is a painful, complicated process but your understanding manner coupled with your professional organizational skills certainly helps take some of the sting out of it. You provide great service, Laury. Thank you” J. K.
“Thank you for all your help. You were very comforting, calm, and a voice of authority when I really needed it. Your system of organizing information & providing checklists is very effective, esp during such an emotional time. It makes the process simple & ‘easy’ to accomplish. It makes the dreaded task appear do-able! E. second note: "Thank you for your kindness and sensitivity and your expertise. You have helped me a great deal.” E.
“(My attorney) was saying to (wife’s attorney) when they were at the court that it’s almost unheard of for a couple with $3M in assets to spend $3,000 in attorney’s fees. Our costs for everything, including you, two accountants, and my lawyer, are in the $7,000 range, and I think we have as good an agreement as could be obtained regardless of expenditure.” S. W.
“Laury, thank you so much for helping us work through the mediation process. I think you have a wonderful program and given the opportunity, I will gladly recommend your services to others. Also, please feel free to use me as a reference, should any potential clients want to speak to someone who has used your services. I felt that (Husband) and I were well informed of how mediation works, what to expect and the importance of working together.” K. E.
“Thanks for everything. Laury, you do a great job and have such a calm demeanor.”
Second note: “As unpleasant as these things (divorces) are, I must say that you have been a breath of fresh air in helping us reach an accord without a lot of fighting. No matter how this turns out, I would recommend YOU to anyone.” T. L. (a high level oil company employee with 10 different benefit plans) and from his attorney who attended our last mediation session:
“Thanks for your help yesterday. I was dazzled by all of the work you had done.”
“I appreciate all the time and positive input you have put into this. I know for a fact that (Husband) and I couldn’t have done it alone.” J. T. G.
“Eternal thanks for your gift yesterday. How very insightful and concise you are. Your caring soul and knowledge have been a great source of comfort. Thank you for your unrequired generosity of your conflict analysis.” N. C.
“It hasn’t been very long since my ex and I worked with you on our divorce, so I’m hoping you remember me J I was impressed with the concept of what you do for families going through a tough time. At the same time, it’s really surprising that more people don’t take the path of mediation first!” K. M.
“I want to reemphasize I was very impressed with your knowledge and expertise and feel you will make a valuable contribution to put closure on this matter that (Husband) and I have dragged out for years and need to resolve.” D. B. Next note:
“Getting past this first step is a major milestone for us and with your help I know we can see this through to completion. I sincerely appreciate your mediation skills and your ability to guide us through the rough terrain of financial separation.” D. B.
“Thank you again for all your help through this emotional process. You are truly gifted.” D. B.
“You were a great help in getting my failed marriage ended with a minimum of pain. I really appreciate what you did for us.” H.
“Thank you so much for your help during this difficult time. Your advice was invaluable and I’m grateful that mediation was an option we were encouraged to explore. It must feel good to be able to help families like ours!” K. M.
“Thanks for a great session today. Came there with a knot in my stomach and left feeling 100 times better than I could’ve imagined.” K. O.
“Thank you for always being so generous with your time and help. Your support and compassion has been invaluable to me in navigating and surviving this process.” J. H.
Since this is the divorce section of my web site, I thought you might be interested in a couple comments from Houston Family Law Attorneys:
FYI, we got the (Clients) decree entered with the court today. Thank you very much for your help with this case. It would have cost these people thousands more dollars if they had not chosen to handle it the way they did. And, as always, it was really nice working with you.”
“ (Client) just called and I’ll help her with her divorce. She had nothing but kind words to say about your professionalism. She was extremely pleased with your work.”
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