Friday, December 31, 2010

It’s all in the writing…..

How many of you receive cards in the mail from friends, family, or colleagues? How many of you recognize the handwriting on the card? Handwriting is unique to each individual and although we recognize it, we don’t think too much of it. I remember receiving birthday cards from my father when he remarried but something wasn’t quite right. The card said it was from my father but it wasn’t his signature, it was my stepmothers. Now if you have never been a child of divorce, you may not understand what it is like to receive a card from your father and it's not his writing, it’s devastating. I would receive these cards and wonder why he didn’t take the time to ever sign them himself. I would also wonder if he was having my stepmother shop for the card and not even know she signed and sent it. This is just a little tip for all of those parents out there who send their children cards, sign it yourself, it might mean the world to your child.I write this tip because unless you have been a child of divorce, this may never occur to you but it may make a huge difference in the life of a child.

For the record...I love my step-mother and truly appreciate everything she has done throughout the years!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Divorce, Mediation, Wisdom, Humor, and the Comics

This is my 200th blog! A good way to end the year. America has a long tradition of humor in disguise that is imparting sound advice and wisdom. From before Will Rodgers to Jon Stewart there have been commentators about American life. I would also include the comics in the newspaper. For some reason, I had stopped reading the comics but have recently started reading them first every day. I am impressed how they depict the universality of our experiences and of course for me the issues of marriage, divorce, and mediation. A recent example which caught my eye was the November 30, 2010 “Sally Forth” comic strip by Francesco Marciuliano. See it above. Ted thinks the broken Christmas ornament is a symbol that their marriage is broken and Sally reassures him that it may only mean the other ornaments in the box are broken. It shows how in a marriage things can be viewed as a crisis or just an accident. As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com WM (200) 12/29/10

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why are People so weird with me when I talk about Divorce Pain?

I just got home from a night at the movies with my friend (who will remain nameless). I felt awful. The deflated feeling was what I could imagine an insect feels after being squashed and scraped across a pavement.
I had just retold my divorce story to her (ok, it was the second time) but halfway during my story, she looked out the window. Even when I stopped talking, she was so absorbed in her own thoughts that she just kept staring out the window. I was shocked. Had I said something wrong, was I boring her? Was she that disinterested in what I was saying?
Whilst I sat in silence with her absorbed in her thoughts, the conversation in my head went something like this:
  • It’s ok for everyone if I feel the pain but I cannot be a basket case
  • I am expected to discuss the break up with my friends but only once (don’t overdo it as no one wants to hang around with a miserable person)
  • I must not mope around, it’s not ‘healthy’ – it also makes people feel awkward
  • I must be productive and professional at work (don’t bring emotional baggage into the office)
  • But whilst doing all this, at the same time I must not look ‘too happy’ (or face being branded as insensitive or immature)
ARGH. I stopped dead in my tracks and realised something: I was alone in my break up. No one really understood how I felt.
This thought didn’t make me angry.
I realised that when I talked about my ex-husband’s indiscretions, she was wondering if her own husband could ever do something like that. I could see that all she wanted to do was go home to check if they were ok. (Months later, I asked her about this and she admitted this was the case too) I excused myself quite briskly and left to give her the opportunity to do that. I realised at that moment that friends are fantastic, but we all have our own lives, our own issues and if anyone was going to help me – it would need to be me.
If the truth be told, I totally avoided people after my ex and I split. The first time I told anyone was about 3 months after it happened. It reminded me of going to one of my best friend’s mum’s funeral. I felt so awkward. I was standing next to her, both of us wearing black and her face a picture of despair and grief. We had been playing dolls literally a week earlier and now I had no idea what to say to her and just looked down at my shoes. I couldn’t wait to get out of the church and away from this coffin and away from her pain.
When I got home from my dinner with my friend, I stayed up all night Googling relentlessly and the next day I took myself off to the British library for a spot of research. Surprisingly I found recurring evidence that as people, our ability to handle life’s full range of emotions is limited to the actual life experiences we have had. If nothing hectic had actually happened in our lives, we never had the opportunity to carve those learnings into our neural network pathways and experience knowing, understanding or compassion in drastic situations. For most of us, we are cool with happiness, laughter and can handle slight disappointment and some setbacks but raw despair, grief or overwhelming failure is something, that unless you have experienced it, it’s not easy to navigate through the minefield. If you think about it, did anyone ever pull you back in school and teach you how to deal with a traumatic circumstance BEFORE it happened?
When my friend looked out the window, at first it looked like intolerance but what I actually saw in my friend’s face that day was fear and overwhelm. She was scared of catching whatever disease I had because if we were so close and it could happen to me, it could probably happen to her too. She felt awkward. She wanted to help but didn’t know what to say – I really got it. I remembered feeling totally helpless at my friend’s funeral and I could imagine what she may have felt in that moment with me.
What made people like Nelson Mandela so extraordinary was he had walked through the valley of the shadow of death and he had huge experiences whilst he was in jail for 27 years. Nothing he would ever encounter in coming out of jail would be as huge as what he had encountered during his prison sentence.
So, what is the point?
Divorce grief is normal and natural but as a society we have been ill prepared to deal with it
Grieving after the loss of a relationship is about a broken heart, not a broken brain. All efforts to heal the heart with the head fail because the head is the wrong tool for the job. It’s like trying to paint with a hammer – it only makes a mess.
I found recurring evidence that as people, our ability to handle life’s full range of emotions is limited to the actual life experiences we have had. If nothing hectic had actually happened in our lives, we never had the opportunity to carve those learning’s into our neural network pathways and experience knowing, understanding or compassion in drastic situations. As human beings, we are far better prepared to deal with minor accidents than we are to deal with grief. For most of us, we are able to deal with happiness, laughter, slight disappointment and some setbacks but raw despair, grief or overwhelming failure is something that unless you have experienced it, is not easy to navigate through.

Your Friends and Family may not understand what you are going through

Although your friends and family are an important part of your life, you may find that they are ill equipped to adequately support you with your loss. I personally found that even though my friends and family were well meaning, they often said or did things which were inappropriate. Every time I hung out with them, they would try to take the pain away so we all had a pleasant time together. I would leave their company feeling superficially better but almost like I had moved two steps backwards, invalidating my emotions or my right to have them. It was only a matter of time before I realized that I was going to have to get divorce support elsewhere.
Before you find yourself getting upset with your friends or family for not being better equipped or trained to help you deal with your loss, remember that they are probably trying very hard. They have been conditioned by society to deal with loss in a particular way. It’s really not their fault. They love you very much and whatever actions they take, remember that their commitment in the background is to try and make your pain go away. They hate to see you suffering or in pain. They will do whatever they can think of in the moment to achieve this. Here are some points to bear in mind about friends and family. You may be able to relate to some of them:
  • They are afraid of our feelings
  • They offer intellectual theories and want us to stay positive
  • They have no idea what to say, try to change the subject or pretend to not hear us
  • They don’t want to talk about divorce

Give the people in your life a ‘Weirdness’ Pass

Give everyone in your life a ‘Weirdness’ Pass. This is a ticket you grant to them allowing them to say weird or inappropriate things to you whilst you are dealing with your divorce. They just don’t know any better and no one trained them in how to handle you.
  NOTE: The important thing to remember is not to take on board anything that they say. Remain aware at all times of what they are saying, the myths and possible generalizations in what they say so you guard against getting enrolled in any intellectualization that they might offer you.
Until next time, I wish you well and send you love and light!



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Divorce Automat














When I was growing up and visited New York City, we often ate at the Horn and Hardart Automat. My favorite dish was their macaroni and cheese. I never have had better. I also remember buying milk and not knowing I was suppose to put a glass under the ornate silver spout. I miss the automat and was thrilled to see a part of it at the Smithsonian. What does this have to do with mediation? Not too much but I wanted to use a picture of the automat. Although, I think many divorcing couples would like to have a Divorce Automat. They would like to put their money in the slot, open the door, and pull out the answers to their issues. Some computer programs can do a little of this but it takes a little more work on the part of the couple. More likely, they will buy a few options, taste them, and decide which one they like the best. As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com WM (199) 12/22/10

Saturday, December 18, 2010

15 Quick Tips for feeling better today

Healing a broken heart and getting over this break up means you have to build a new future but also need a new relationship with the past…
  1. Make a YOU Journal right now – decorate it with images and materials which represent you. EVEN if you are a guy and this idea sounds ridiculous, writing about how you feel could be the single biggest improvement you could make to your current state of mind.
  2. Think about the break-up of your relationship from different points of view and write about it:
    1. What are the generalisations you have made about yourself and your ex?
    2. Think of someone you admire (friend, mentor, character from history). Imagine he/ she is watching a movie of this part of your life and step into their shoes to watch it instead. What would their comments be?
    3. Now imagine a completely neutral observer is watching the movie of your life. Step into their shoes and watch it from there – what do you notice about the interaction from this neutral perspective?
    4. Notice the differences seen from each point of view – what do you notice?
  3. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or home for the aged or football training squad etc.
  4. Schedule a makeover or change your image – go for a drastic change and consult a stylist or friend
  5. Drink many hot herbal drinks and sleep with socks on – rub Vicks Vaporub on your feet (it may seem weird but it works!)
  6. Emotional Freedom Technique: Tapping whenever you feel in complete despair helps release blockages within your body. Negative emotions will literally evaporate before your eyes:
    1. Tap above eyebrow X10
    2. Tap under eye X10
    3. Tap under armpit X10
    4. Tap under collarbone X10
    5. Tap on index finger X10
    6. Tap under pinky finger on back of hand X10
  7. In these stressful times, talking about your problems and fears to them could make you more relaxed. It also makes you feel that you are part of a group and not lonely – phone your Break Up Beautifully coach Adele if you feel you cannot discuss how you feel with friends of family. You can talk about your problems privately and let your emotions out
  8. Do not see them for 60 days – this will help, I promise
  9. Create a playlist of Feeling Better music – SAD LOVE SONGS ARE BANNED!!!
10. Delete them from your Facebook account, log out of their email and delete them from your phone if possible. Following their every move will simply TORMENT you
11.  Play sports or any other recreational activity. Exercise will help pump adrenaline and other chemicals around your body that makes you feel naturally healthier and happier. Furthermore, it makes you forget about your past troubles and you might meet another ‘special’ person in your life
12. Write your ex a letter – in it tell them everything you loved about your relationship and him/ her and everything you hated about the relationship or him/ her. When done burn the letter and bury it
13. Throw out ALL your underwear and get new set – it will flush clean all the old memories you had of your ex everytime you get dressed
14. Have a DUVET day – lie in bed with your favourite movies, books and all your favourite snacks and don’t move. Enjoy the luxury of spending time doing absolutely nothing with no one bugging you or nagging you to do anything else
15. Join a book club or a women’s group. NO – these are not for old gits but such clubs will put you smack dab in the middle of intellectual loop again – AND just think how nice it will be to discuss something other than your  divorce…


With love

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Healing emotionally from your divorce in 21 days..: Hello World!

Healing emotionally from your divorce in 21 days..: Hello World!: "Dear Girlfriend I know when you are going through a divorce that the roller-coaster ride can ‘feel’ very extreme. It alternates between ac..."

Study of Outcomes of Mediated vs. Adversary Divorce


Believe it or not, as far as I know, we conducted the first statistically significant study of financial outcomes in divorces. We compared results of both mediated and adversarial cases. An article about the study appeared in The New York Times and complete results were published in Mediation Quarterly. You can see the details of our study at our web site at http://tiny.cc/cdmstudy.
Some of the things the study found were differences in percentage of family income women received, in percentage of liabilities women received, in the likelihood of receiving alimony or in the amount of alimony obtained in mediated versus adversarial divorces. Similar percentages of couples, 62% in both mediated and adversary divorces, selected joint legal/wife physical as the most popular choice of custody arrangement and identical numbers of days per month were spent by children with father, 9.5, and mother 20.5. It also found that mediated divorces took less time than adversarial divorces and were significantly less likely to result in post-judgment modification, thus sparing couples and families added emotional and financial costs.
As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com WM (198) 12/15/10

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hello World!

Dear Girlfriend

I know when you are going through a divorce that the roller-coaster ride can ‘feel’ very extreme. It alternates between activity and passivity in the very human and desperate efforts to avoid the change triggered by the divorce.
The initial state before the cycle begins is often quite stable, at least in terms of the subsequent reaction on hearing the bad news. Compared with the ups and downs to come, even if there is some variation, this is indeed a stable state.
And then, into the calm of this relative paradise, a bombshell bursts. The cycle runs as follows:
The Naked Divorce Grieving Cycle
  1. Denial
  2. Anger and Betrayal
  3. Panic and Negotiation
  4. Humiliation, Fear of Failure or Looking Bad
  5. Despair
  6. Loss, Grief and Depression
  7. Space & Nothingness
  8. Acceptance
  9. Responsibility and Forgiveness
  10. Gratitude
Let me explain the stages in a little more detail. There is the initial ‘Shock’ stage which is an initial paralysis at hearing the bad news of the break up, this is followed by…
  1. Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable
  2. Anger and Betrayal stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion
  3. Panic and Negotiation stage: Seeking in vain for a way out. Making deals with ex
  4. Humiliation, Fear of Failure or Looking Bad stage: gradually sinking into a spiral, feeling embarrassed and avoiding seeing people
  5. Despair stage: Realization that something horrible is coming and you are strapped into the rollercoaster with nothing you can do
  6. Loss, Grief and Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable, surrendering to the grief
  7. Space & Nothingness stage: Once you have grieved and grieved, experiencing loss and pain. There is a feeling of ‘nothingness’ – where you cannot cry anymore
  8. Acceptance stage: Seeking realistic solutions and finally finding the way forward
  9. Responsibility and Forgiveness stage: Taking responsibility for where you may have been responsible for the relationship not working out. Forgiving your ex and yourself for any failings you feel happened during the relationship
  10. Gratitude stage: Transformational experience – learning from your divorce and seeing positives and negatives from the whole experience
 
 
Sometimes just understanding WHERE you are and that it is a process and that you will get through it, really helps. The important thing to keep in mind is that although the graph looks linear – you will bounce between the first 6 ‘stages’ many times.
If you would like to see where you are within the Naked Divorce Grieving cycle, take the How Hung up Are you Test. Click on http://www.nakeddivorce.com/How_Hung_Up_Are_You.html to find out more about taking the test.
Till next time, sending you a big hug!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Investing in Divorce



Just when you think there is nothing new with divorce, something new comes along. I was fascinated with the article in the December 4, 2010 New York Times by Binyamin Applebaum entitled “ Taking Sides in a Divorce, Chasing Profit.” See entire article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/business/05divorce.html
Balance Point Divorce Funding, a new Beverly Hills lender offers to cover the cost of breaking up — paying a lawyer, searching for hidden assets, maintaining a lifestyle — in exchange for a share of the winnings. The article say, “Stacey Napp, a lawyer by training who has spent her career in finance, founded Balance Point last year with money from her own divorce. Since then, she has provided more than $2 million to 10 women seeking divorces. She says she is helping to ensure both sides can defend their interests.” Personally, I believe that if the parties looked at the bottom line, they would each get a lot more money if they mediated. As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com WM (197) 12/7/10

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Divorce and Fairness







In a mediation couples usually feel that the standard of resolving a dispute is usually “fairness.” Unfortunately, like beauty fairness is in the eyes of the beholder. The standard that I prefer as a mediator is “acceptable.” Contemplation of “fairness” has lead me to determine what is the popular view of “fairness.” Wikipedia gives a good overview of “fair division” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_division. It says in part: “Fair division, also known as the cake cutting problem, is the problem of dividing a resource in such a way that all recipients believe that they have received a fair amount. The problem is easier when recipients have different measures of value of the parts of the resource: in the "cake cutting" version, one recipient may like marzipan, another prefers cherries, and so on—then, and only then, the n recipients may get even more than what would be one n-th of the value of the "cake" for each of them. On the other hand, the presence of different measures opens a vast potential for many challenging questions and directions of further research. There are a number of variants of the problem. The definition of 'fair' may simply mean that they get at least their fair proportion, or harder requirements like envy-freeness may also need to be satisfied. The theoretical algorithms mainly deal with goods that can be divided without losing value. The division of indivisible goods, as in for instance a divorce, is a major practical problem. Chore division is a variant where the goods are undesirable. Fair division is often used to refer to just the simplest variant. That version is referred to here as proportional division or simple fair division.” I wonder if the “cake cutting problem” actually begins at the wedding. More about the "cake cutdtting problem" as a tool in medidation in my March 21, 2008 blog on Divorce Proverbs and Aphorisms at
http://centerfordivorcemediation.blogspot.com/2008/03/divorce-proverbs-and-aphorisms.html. As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com WM (196) 12/1/10

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Create a new holiday tradition

Starting a new holiday tradition with you children after a divorce is a great way to move on and focus on the positive. Every year my children purchase an ornament for the tree and put their name and year on the back of it.
Does anyone else have a tradition they started after a divorce? Please share by adding a comment to the blog.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What does Joint Custody mean?

Joint custody can be defined in many ways and should be detailed in a Custody Order. In many cases, parents share joint custody with one of the parents as the primary custodian. In this case, the child lives primarily with the primary custodial parent and that parent makes the primary decision regarding the child's care and well being. The secondary custodian can usually make decisions when the primary custodial parent is unavailable, such as a needed medical treatment consent or decision needed by the child when the primary custodial parent can't be located. The important thing to remember is that there is no one answer. The Custody Order dictates each situation and the terms of custody can be modified as the parents see fit or as needed.

Call an attorney today to discuss your custody options.

Divorce and Thanksgiving





With Thanksgiving Dinner this month, I thought about the divorce issues that the holiday highlights. When we mediate parenting issues we usually allocate holidays. Very often the parents alternate holiday years. For example, the Mother may have Thanksgiving with her children in even years and the Father in odd years. But there is still the issue of whether Thanksgiving is a one day or four day holiday. If it is only one day, one parent may celebrate on Friday. There are many other issues including transportation, new significant others, and of course the menu! These issues don’t go away when there are adult children. On occasion parents decide to still celebrate together. The possibility of family dinners after divorce was recently discussed by Laurie David in an article in the new divorce feature in the Huffington Post. See the entire article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-david/my-family-dinner-after-di_b_779277.html If this does not work for Thanksgiving there is always Christmas and Chanukah. As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com WM (195) 11/24/10

Saturday, November 13, 2010

No Cost of Living Increase for Social Security Beneficiaries

For the second year in a row, the SSA will offer no cost-of-living adjustment
for Social Security and SSI beneficiaries in 2011. The COLA is determined by comparing the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of 2008, the last year that a COLA was determined, to the third quarter of 2010. As there was no increase in that period (unlike the change from 2008 to 2009, which
was 5.8 percent, the largest increase since 1982), the SSA declined to grant a cost of living increase.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Passing a Baton in Divorce and Mediation

Not sure I can easily explain this but I have always been fascinated how people pass an object or a baton to someone else and usually know when the other person has it and when it can be released without the object or baton falling. I can’t explain how people know they have the object or baton but it seems to be instinctive. There may be a subtle difference in the feel of the object or baton or one of the human senses. I googled and found the following from Brainz in response to the question, “How many human senses?


“We are taught in school that the body has five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. However, experts now believe that there are quite a lot more—and the total number depends on the expert you are talking to and the definition they give to the word “sense.”
Some say that there are nine senses. Aside from the basic five, they include thermoception, nociception, equilibrioception, and proprioception. They also include the feeling of hunger and thirst. For them, a sense must be linked to particular sense organ that registers and interprets a stimuli. Hunger and thirst are also sometimes included. They do not include any interpretations made primarily by the brain. That is why they don’t think of intuition as a sense (even though many people call it the “sixth sense.” For them, intuition does not just perceive data from real experience, but makes a quick judgment based on data gathered by several sensory organs.” http://brainz.org/how-many-human-senses-are-there/


I am not sure which human senses are involved in passing an object or if it is something else. But what has this to do with my usual topic of divorce and mediation? My take is that in divorce and mediation that there are things going on which we don’t understand or are not aware of but effect the results. The parties ultimately also want a “clean handoff.” As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM (194) 11/7/10

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Keep the Thanks in Thanksgiving

There are so many articles written on how to deal with the holidays when you’re divorced that they all seem to become redundant after a while. Being a child from a horrible divorce when I was 7 years old, and now being divorced myself with 2 children, I have seen some great holidays and some miserable ones. Every family situation is different and I believe there are a few common sense ground rules to follow.

First, don’t ask the children who they want to be with on a holiday. This puts them in a no win situation and makes them feel that they must choose a parent. Parents may think the child is old enough or should have some input, but until the child is living on their own, don’t ask. As adults we allow our emotions to get in the way of making rational decisions that involve the holidays and the children. Remember, the children now have their parents living separately and it wasn’t their choice.

Second, don’t use your children as pawns to keep them from the other parent. No matter how the holidays are split up between parents, think of the children. If Thanksgiving dinner is over, and the co-parent wants to take the children for dessert because they have family in town, it’s okay. Don’t say no just to punish the co-parent, as this in turn only punishes the children.

Lastly, don’t use the children to communicate with the other parent. This is an all around rule that needs to be consistent. Using the children to communicate and relay messages to the other parent puts them in a horrible position. Sometimes the children will agree to be that go-between because they feel guilty about the break up, don’t know how to say no, or are just nosy about what is going on. It’s not healthy for the children and may lead to emotional problems for them as they grow up.

I grew up in a divorced family where my parents expressed a strong dislike for each other. I, being the oldest, was the go-between when it came to communications between my parents. Back in 1972 when my parents divorced, there were no computers for emails and there were no cell phones for text messages. It was either a phone call or use the children to communication with each other. With technology today and the experiences I have muddled through, I have created Divorce Communications. There should be no reason to use the children to communicate as both parents sign up and communicate in a safe forum where everything is date and time stamped to maintain objectivity.

Have a safe a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember to enjoy the holidays with your children. Divorce is just an obstacle that will need to be navigated for many years, but just like any obstacle, it can be overcome. Move forward, enjoy your children, and live life to it’s fullest!

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Applying for Disability Benefits – How It’s Decided If You’re Disabled

When evaluating your case, consider the following. The more you are educated about your case, the better prepared you are to present your case to the Social Security Administration.

1. Are you working?
If you are working and your earnings average more than a certain amount each month, we generally will not consider you disabled. The amount changes each year. For the current figure, see the annual Update (Publication No. 05-10003).

If you are not working, or your monthly earnings average the current amount or less, the state agency then looks at your medical condition.

2. Is your medical condition “severe”?
For the state agency to decide that you are disabled, your medical condition must significantly limit your ability to do basic work activities—such as walking, sitting and remembering—for at least one year. If your medical condition is not that severe, the state agency will not consider you disabled. If your condition is that severe, the state agency goes on to step three.

3. Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments?
The state agency has a List of Impairments that describes medical conditions that are considered so severe that they automatically mean that you are disabled as defined by law. If your condition (or combination of medical conditions) is not on this list, the state agency looks to see if your condition is as severe as a condition that is on the list. If the severity of your medical condition meets or equals that of a listed impairment, the state agency will decide that you are disabled. If it does not, the state agency goes on to step four.

4. Can you do the work you did before?
At this step, the state agency decides if your medical condition prevents you from being able to do the work you did before. If it does not, the state agency will decide that you are not disabled. If it does, the state agency goes on to step five.

5. Can you do any other type of work?
If you cannot do the work you did in the past, the state agency looks to see if you would be able to do other work. It evaluates your medical condition, your age, education, past work experience and any skills you may have that could be used to do other work. If you cannot do other work, the state agency will decide that you are disabled. If you can do other work, the state agency will decide that you are not disabled.

For more information,call our office at 803-929-0577 or email us at rita@mettslawfirm.com.

Divorce and Home Inspections



Occasionally I come across a new and useful divorce tip. An October 27, 2010 blog by Jennifer Saranow Schultz in the New York Times was very good. See it at http://nyti.ms/cdm1031 It suggests a home inspection before a couple gets divorced and before an appraisal. I have found that couples very often know that certain repairs need to be made but there could be repairs that they are not aware of. This could especially be a problem if as usually the case, retains 100% ownership of the house. Divorcing couples don’t like to spend more money but this could save them a lot in the long run. This is probably a good idea with other assets such as cars. I have a colleague, who suggests that each party also gets a physical before divorcing. As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(193) 10/31/10

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious public health problem in the United States. Each year, traumatic brain injuries contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability. Recent data shows that, on average, approximately 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury annually.

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.

TBI may result in neurological and mental impairments with a wide variety of posttraumatic symptoms and signs. The rate and extent of recovery can be highly variable and the long-term outcome may be difficult to predict in the first few months post-injury. Generally, the neurological impairment (s) will stabilize more rapidly than any mental impairment (s). Sometimes a mental impairment may appear to improve immediately following TBI and then worsen, or, conversely, it may appear much worse initially but improve after a few months. Therefore, the mental findings immediately following TBI may not reflect the actual severity of your mental impairment (s). The actual severity of a mental impairment may not become apparent until 6 months or more post-injury. We will fully evaluate any neurological and mental impairments and adjudicate the claim. (http://www.ssa.gov/)

For more information, visit our site, Metts Law Firm, LLC or call 803-929-0577. You may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits if you are unable to work for any reason.

If You Are Denied Social Security Benefits

If you are denied Social Security benefits, it isn’t the end of the world. The Social Security application process has several stages of appeal, any of which can overturn the initial decision and give you the benefits to which you are entitled.

The vast majority of applications for Social Security disability will be denied. Even if you have a strong case, the Social Security Administration may deny your claim if you don't prove your disability under the Social Administration guidelines.

Over 60% of claims are denied at the Initial stage. The Social Security Administration allows you 60 days to appeal this decision. If you decide to appeal, your claim enters the Reconsideration stage.

The Social Security Administration rejects over 80% of Reconsideration applications. If you choose to appeal again, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The Hearing stage often times represents your best chance of obtaining disability benefits, and it is important to prepare properly. Having a competent disability advocate or Social Security attorney can significantly increase your chances of being approved at this third stage.

If the Social Security Administration has denied your claim for Social Security disability and you would like to appeal, or if you have any questions or concerns regarding your benefits, please contact us for a consultation at 803-929-0577. We offer in office and phone consultations when needed.

VA Disability Compensation: Tips On Working With Your Service Representative

Whether you are seeking a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder or an injury on the job, it is always an advantage to have an experienced veterans service representative assist you in the prosecution of a claim for VA disability compensation. Regardless of the nature of the disorder underlying a claim for benefits, these individuals are familiar with veteran’s benefits law and procedures, and can provide more effective representation than trying to handle the claim yourself.

Keep in touch: You should talk to your representative at least once per month while your claim is pending. Whenever you get mail from the VA, call your representative to make sure that he or she has received a copy (as required by VA regulations) and that you understand exactly what it means.

Ask questions: If you do not understand something about your claim, ask about it. Part of your service representative’s responsibility is to ensure that you understand the claims process.

Exercise your judgment: Your service representative is supposed to act in your best interests. However, you are the ultimate decision maker with respect to your claim. Your service representative will tell you if he or she disagrees with what you want to do and why. They can make recommendations, but must do as you instruct.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Most Expensive Divorces



I always thought high profile litigated divorces settlements were high but did not know how high. Finally, I thought to Google and found a Wikipedia page on Most Expensive Divorces. It listed the following listed below at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_divorces. They are not adjusted for inflation and I am not sure if they include attorney’s fees. Needless to say when I Googled “Most Expensive Mediations” the closest I got was “Most Expensive Medications.” By the way, Alexion Pharmaceutical's Soliris, at $409,500 a year, is the world's single most expensive drug!
• Rupert Murdoch's divorce from Anna Murdoch; reputedly "the most expensive divorce in history" at $1.7 billion
• Adnan Khashoggi's divorce from Soraya Khashoggi; estimated at $874 million
• Craig McCaw's divorce from Wendy McCaw; estimated to exceed $460 million
• Michael Jordan's divorce from Juanita Jordan; estimated to exceed $150 million and was considered by Forbes Magazine to be "the most expensive celebrity divorce" in history, as of April 2007
• Charles Edgar Fipke $200 million
• Neil Diamond's divorce from Marcia Murphey; estimated at $150 million
• Harrison Ford's divorce from Melissa Mathison; estimated at $118 million
• Greg Norman's divorce from Laura Andrassy; estimated at $103 million
• Tiger Woods' divorce from Elin Nordegren; estimated at $100 million
• Steven Spielberg's divorce from Amy Irving; estimated at $100 million
• Madonna's divorce from Guy Ritchie; estimated at $90 million
• Kevin Costner's divorce from Cindy Silva; estimated at $80 million
• Kenny Rogers divorce from Marianne Rogers; estimated at $60 million
• James Cameron's divorce from Linda Hamilton; estimated to exceed $50 million
• Paul McCartney's divorce from Heather Mills; estimated at $48.6 million
• Michael Douglas' divorce from Diandra Douglas; estimated at $45 million
• Ted Danson's divorce from Casey Coats; estimated at $30 million
• Donald Trump's divorce from Ivana Trump; estimated at $25 million
• Lionel Richie's divorce from Diane Richie; estimated at $20 million
• Mick Jagger's divorce from Jerry Hall; estimated between $15 and $25 million

As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(192) 10/8/10

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grandparents and Visitation

What are the rights of grandparents when their child divorces? Do they have rights? Every state has their own set of laws regarding the rights of grandparents and visitation. http://family.findlaw.com/child-custody/custody-more/state-grandparent-custody.html Sometimes in divorce situations, the children are used as pawns when it comes to seeing their grandparents. Does anyone have a story or suggestion they would like to share?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Non-Divorce or Un-Divorce Update

I blogged about this topic on March 8, 2009 in a blog called “Non-Divorce Divorce or Separating without Divorcing.” See blog at http://centerfordivorcemediation.blogspot.com/search?q=non-divorce. Pamela Paul wrote an article in the July 30, 2010 New York Times entitled “The Un-Divorced” See entire article at

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/fashion/01Undivorced.html. She makes many of the same points I did. Couples should weigh the pros and cons of this option.

As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(191) 9/25/10

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Divorce Games Part 3

Final part of three part series on Divorce Games. What could be better than a Divorce Party and games. The following is an article by Isabella Gladd from from

http://www.lifescript.com/Body/Food/Entertain/Party/Divorce_Party_Ideas_For_The_Newly_Single.aspx?p=1

It is a wonderful road map.

“Going through a divorce is one of the most difficult events of life, but when it is over, throw a divorce party and begin a new life. No one gets married hoping to see the demise of the marriage, but bad things happen to good people all the time. It is easy to get so caught up in the downside of divorce that finding the silver lining in the cloud seems impossible. Go ahead and be frivolous and silly. Invite your closest friends to join you at your divorce party.

Who Not To Invite To a Divorce Party
First and foremost, do not invite your children no matter how old they are. Children feel loyalty to both parents and should never be put in the middle or feel they must choose. Divorce parties are no place for children. While you are at it, do not invite your parents either. Who knows what might happen at a crazy party where emotions run high?

Unless you have a close friend from work that you trust, do not invite colleagues. The last thing you need is a co-worker to go back to work on Monday morning and share the antics of your party with the rest of the office.

So who should you invite? Only invite your nearest and dearest friends who have seen you through this difficult time in life. These are the people who offered a shoulder to cry on, who held you up when you thought you would fall, and who made you laugh when tears threatened to blind you.

Divorce Party Ideas
A divorce party is a wake for a dead marriage. People celebrate rites of passage, milestones in life, beginnings and ends. Why should a divorce be any different?
A divorce is a life-altering change and should be recognized as such. Similar to the death of a loved one, you want to cry and you have that right. Perhaps your marriage and divorce was a comedy of errors and laughing sets the healing process in motion, laugh all you want. A bitter divorce battle that lagged on is finally over and you feel anger: let it out in healthy ways. A divorce party allows you to feel the emotions and move on.

If you enjoy wine and cocktails, more than likely alcohol will be involved. Be prepared ahead of time to have friends stay the night.

Make the party whatever you want it to be. It can be an elegant gathering with a gourmet dinner, wine and music. It can also be a casual affair with balloons, cake and cocktails. More than likely you will want to include your favorite comfort foods and for one day enjoy the freedom of eating whatever you like.

You can purchase divorce party invitations or make them yourself. Write up a divorce announcement similar to a wedding invitation that reads: Ms. Jane Doe cordially invites you to attend the celebration of the first day of her new-found freedom. Give all the juicy details of date, time and RSVP if necessary.
Divorce Party Cake
One of the most important parts of the dinner or party is the cake. Just as you had cake for your wedding, serve cake at your divorce party. Order a cake from a decorator and make it wild and funny. A cake in the shape of specific parts of the male anatomy may bring some form of pleasure by eating it or tossing it out. It may sound like a raucous thing to do, but if it helps heal the hurt, go for it.

For the more genteel divorcee, a three-layer cake similar to a wedding cake with graffiti written on the virginal white allows for personality. Hand the cake decorator a list of words that you would like written on the cake in bold, bright letters like: It’s over! Buh-bye! Kiss this… or your anniversary date in a circle with a line through it (think Ghost Busters).

The other way to approach the cake and the party is to view it as a new beginning filled with hope for future happiness. Be inventive and fun when coming up with ideas for a cake.

Divorce Party Games
The games you play at a divorce might not be exactly games, but think of them as harmless fun. Play pin the nose on the ex, as long as it doesn’t bother you having a picture of him blown up and an odd nose made to stick on his face.
Part of the games could be tearing your marriage license into tiny pieces and setting them on fire. Read the divorce proclamation with a voice of authority.

Rent some fun movies about divorce and have them running in the background while the party proceeds. The War of the Roses, Waiting to Exhale and First Wives Club come to mind as funny movies about divorce that should get a few hoots and hollers.

Make a list of all the things your ex did that agitated or angered you. Have guests write down things that agitated them as well. Everybody places their aggravations in a jar. The jar is then buried in an out-of-the-way place in the backyard. In essence, you are burying the past and opening yourself up to the future.

Divorce Party Favors
Let all your guests share in your independence by giving them a small token of the day. A bag of tea, bubble bath or nail polish can be purchased with the date of your divorce on the label. Create CDs of your favorite break-up tunes and share them with all your friends at the party. You can find just about anything you want online and at party stores when it comes to party favors.

Wrap the gifts in wild paper and tie with a clashing color of ribbon. Set the gifts next to the door and give each guest a divorce-party favor as she leaves.
Divorce Party Don’ts
Depending on the alcohol intake, a divorce party might instill the idea that anything goes. Keep things from getting out of hand and never allow yourself or guests to indulge in any of the following “dirty deal” divorce games:

* Forget about having a male stripper come to entertain. This is about a new-found freedom and becoming an independent woman without sexual overtones.

*Resist the urge to make anonymous phone calls to the ex to berate or humiliate him.

*Keep the video recorders and tape recorders out of the party. No one outside your close circle of friends need know how you celebrated your divorce.

*Refrain from burning love letters from you ex and especially wedding pictures. Instead, pack them away and save them for your children who may appreciate them one day.

*Do not write a scathing letter to you ex no matter how bitter and brutal the divorce battle was.

*Do no burn or mutilate the divorce decree. You never know when you might need it.

The idea of a divorce party is to help heal an open wound. No one is making fun of the commitment of marriage and love.
By openly sharing the pain of negotiations, lawyers and legal battles, divorcees can laugh, breathe a sigh of relief, and even cry with a network of supportive friends. Once the decree is final, there is no going back. Independence looms on the horizon, creating fear and anticipation of starting a new life as a single woman.

Make a divorce party a rite of passage; one that moves you into the future.”

As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(190) 9/18/10

Friday, September 17, 2010

Social Security Disability Appeals: The Grueling Truth

The journey through the applications process for Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplement Security Income (SSI) is often a complicated and time consuming process. The procedure to apply for benefits can be straining for many reasons, particularly the because of the success rate. On average, 70 percent of SSDI and SSI applicants are denied benefits when they first apply for disability benefits. Meaning if you are one of these individuals you needn’t feel alone, abandoned, or shocked. Do not give up! Another statistic is an inspirational one -- With a veteran SSI attorney on your side there is no need to feel hopeless and your chances of being approved are increased. Three out of six people who go through the lengthy appeals process will become a SSDI or SSI recipient.

You should educate yourself about the the ins and outs of the system for both applying for benefits and appealing a denial. With the help of any disability attorney your case, rights, and disabilities will be represented. There is no reason to do this alone. A South Carolina SSI attorney can take on the hard tasks, such as the seemingly endless waiting and the exasperating paperwork. Your attorney will help ensure that all the proper documentation is acquired, all deadlines quickly met, and that no errors are made when you apply for benefits. When they do finally win your case, a good disability lawyer will make sure all your income benefits are appropriately calculated, so that you and your loved ones are given the rights deserved.

Just remember that you don’t have to be alone when dealing with the monster machine that is the U.S. government’s Social Security Administration. If you have any questions or concerns regarding applying for benefits, or appealing a denial, please contact us for a consultation.

When Do Do You Need a Lawyer For Social Security Disability?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a government program that aims to provide a portion of income and medical coverage to disabled children and disabled adults. It grants financial aid to individuals with inadequate means to attain an income on their own, and consequently have meager financial support, or none at all.

This money is given out so that those who meet the income guidelines can provide for their basic necessities such as shelter, clothing, and food.Both children and adults are eligible for social security disability and supplemental security income assistance, granted they meet the necessary requirements to do so.

If you have ever attempted to become a beneficiary of SSI, then you are most likely sensitive to the fact that it can be a time consuming and arduous endeavor. Often times the preliminary application process will be a failure. But applying for SSI can be easier and less confusing. With the help of a an experienced and knowledgeable social security disability attorney, you can rest assured that someone is fighting in your corner to get you the benefits that you deserve, and if your application has been denied a reliable social security disability lawyer can help in your appeals process.

Applying for, or appealing the denial of, social security disability benefits can be an intensely aggravating process, especially when it is for a child. So a lawyer can prove very beneficial in expediting the process. Living with a disability can be hard as it is, you shouldn’t have to go through the tormenting experience of proving to the government that you are disabled. A social security disability attorney can help you in a number of aspects of applying or appealing.
Including:

* Analyzing your case and cross referencing it with state regulation
* Offering peace of mind
* Consulting primary physicians and other doctors for medical information and exam results
* Gather medical evidence
* Preparing witnesses to testify
* Taking care of telephone calls, legwork, and paperwork

There are a whole host of other reasons for consulting with a social security disability lawyer that can prove advantageous for your unique situation. It is important to know that you don’t have to be alone when dealing with such crucial matters concerning your livelihood.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Divorce Games Part 2




Usually I try to summarize articles and then give the web link. Not easy to do with this article which discusses the games parties play in divorce litigation. I am showing the entire article from Lifescripts by Laura Johnson entitled “Divorce Schemes and Power Games. http://www.smartdivorce.com/articles/dirty.shtml
“Divorce can be a dirty business when in the hands of lawyers who play power games to gain an unfair advantage over the other side. The same applies for angry, vindictive soon-to-be ex-spouses who have a "win at all costs" attitude. If this happens in your divorce, there are few things that you can do to control the other side, but there are several things you can do to prepare and manage the divorce.
The first thing to do is recognize a scheme and power play when you see it. The second thing is to not lose your cool and try to fight fire with fire. It will only cause things to escalate and your entire family will suffer. The final step is to think ahead and plan positive steps to counter your spouse's power game. Get outside help if necessary.
The following list has descriptions and examples of some of those nasty tricks lawyers and their clients will sometimes pull. If your lawyer recommends that you do this, he or she is setting you up to take unfair advantage of your soon-to-be ex-spouse. If you do these things, don't be surprised if your actions come back to haunt you after the divorce!
• Take the money out of jointly held bank accounts, put it all into an account in your name alone and don't tell your spouse about it beforehand. Then let your spouse handle the problems associated with covering the bounced checks. This causes the most confusion and distress if your spouse usually writes the checks to pay the household bills.
• Use credit cards to purchase and stock up on personal items or make large purchases. Make sure to use the cards for which your spouse is the primary cardholder. This is especially effective at the beginning or near the end of a divorce. One lawyer actually told her client to go out the day before the settlement hearing and use her husband's credit cards to purchase all the items she needed to set up her new household. Her husband would then be stuck with the bills because he had agreed to be responsible for the debt on his credit card as of the day of the divorce, which he didn't know contained the charges made by his wife.
• If you have moved out of the family home and are the primary source of income for the family, refuse to pay any household bills or send any support until you are forced to do it by the court. This is one of the steps in a routine called "Starve Out The Other Spouse". The goal is to get the other spouse in a financial position where he or she, out of desperation, will accept an unfair settlement.
• If your spouse doesn't have an income withholding order, wait until the latest possible day to pay support money, even if you've got the money to send. In some states support doesn't become delinquent until it's 30 days past due and your spouse can't do anything to you until the 31st day. Never mind that your spouse just might need the money to pay bills or buy things for the children.
• Petition the court for primary custody of your children when you will actually agree to a joint custody or visitation arrangement. The real purpose for the request is to strike fear into the heart of your spouse and use it as a club to get your spouse to give up on something else, usually a financial issue.
• Refuse to speak with your spouse about anything, including arrangements for him or her to have parenting time with your children. This falls into the category of a tactic used by some lawyers to create conflict, create issues that don't need to exist, increase legal fees and wear the other side down. It can also cause a serious break in parent-child ties if the noncustodial parent doesn't get to see the children because he or she can't set up any parenting time.
• File a bogus petition to have your spouse excluded from the family home under your state's protection from abuse laws.
These are just a few of the sneaky things that can and have happened in divorces. They are sometimes successful, but are very destructive to any meaningful and fair settlement discussions. In addition, the residual hard-feelings and bitterness they can leave after the divorce could hamper you and your ex-spouse's ability to effectively co-parent your children. What's more, they often lead to post-divorce legal proceedings costing additional and unnecessary legal fees which most recently divorced people can ill afford.
Getting a divorce is really just a risk/reward type of thing for some people. Is the risk and potential loss if you get caught by your dirty tricks worth any potential benefit, financial or otherwise, that you might get if you win the game? Think about it? Are you really the winner -- or are the lawyers the real winners?”
Any of this sound familiar?
As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(189) 9/11/10

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Divorce Haiku

“Haiku is a poetic form and a type of poetry from the Japanese culture. Haiku combines form, content, and language in a meaningful, yet compact form. Haiku poets, which you will soon be, write about everyday things. Many themes include nature, feelings, or experiences. Usually they use simple words and grammar. The most common form for Haiku is three short lines. The first line usually contains five (5) syllables, the second line seven (7) syllables, and the third line contains five (5) syllables. Haiku doesn't rhyme. A Haiku must "paint" a mental image in the reader's mind. This is the challenge of Haiku - to put the poem's meaning and imagery in the reader's mind in ONLY 17 syllables over just three (3) lines of poetry!” http://volweb.utk.edu/school/bedford/harrisms/haiku.htm
Following are some examples of some divorce haikus

Without a Parachute

"You pushed me from the
Plane. I long to hit the ground,
So the fear will end.” http://mostlyhaiku.blogspot.com/2008/02/separate-ways-divorce-in-haiku.html

Divorce Haiku
Poetry by Stephen R. Clark, http://www.stephenrclark.com/webpages/hash/p-haiku-divorce.html

Divorce I
You are wrong of course
to leave and then disappear
from even my dreams.

Divorce II
You banish yourself
from accountability
and my love. Goodbye.

Divorce III
You thought that he would
give you something more than what
I could give you. Well?

Divorce IV
You lied about what
we had and instead you ran
to what was not yours.

I am no poet. Tried my hand a haiku in 9th grade and did not do so well. Anyone have any they want to share?
As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(188) 9/4/10

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Question of the Month

"I have been divorced for 1 year and my oldest son who is 9, doesn't want to go with his father on weekends anymore. He would rather stay at home and play with his friends. His father lives 30 minutes away. Do I allow my son to stay home at the risk of his father calling the police since he has visitation at that time? Or do I make him go and listen to my son cry all the way to the car? Is there an age in which the child can decide for himself if he wants to go? Please help. Thanks- Debbie.

Okay bloggers, how about giving Debbie some feedback?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Divorce Games Part One

There are many aspects to Divorce games. So are just board games to play other are the games people play during divorce and some are party games. First, I found Divorce Board game. The web sites http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/12413/divorce say, “The object of the game is to begin play at the start position as a married person, traveling around the board in an effort to be the remaining player still married. Beginning at "Start", the players move their token along the Honeymoon Trail and around the board according to the throw of the dice. When a player lands on a space, he follows the instructions printed on that space. "Draw Fate Card" spaces give the person playing a draw from the top of the deck. On each Fate card are instructions to be followed leaving the player to receive whatever Fate has to offer. In traveling around the board, there are four Divorce Steps. They must be landed on in order of their number before they are valid. As a player lands upon each Divorce Step in order, he receives a plastic chip to signify that he now has that Divorce step. Once a player receives all four Divorce steps, he loses the game. Play will continue until only one player remains who does not have all four Divorce steps. Once a player has all four Divorce steps, he is considered divorced and can no longer play.”
Another Divorce Board game states in its web site, http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/23929/divorce-cope “A unique and fun game to help parent and children cope with divorce. Divorce cope takes you through the ups and downs of divorce. As you go around the Divorce Cope board, you'll deal with real life situations which families of divorce experience. These include child support, custody battles, school problems and step-families. Players deposit anger, depression and loneliness cards and pick up happy times, independence and optimism cards, competing for growth points along the way. 250 specially designed questions will help you and your children understand each other's feelings while having fun. Divorce Cope will open a whole new world of communication between you!”
Let the games begin!
As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(187) 8/28/10

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

When Do You Need a Lawyer For Social Security Disability?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a government program that aims to provide a portion of income and medical coverage to disabled children and disabled adults. It grants financial aid to individuals with inadequate means to attain an income on their own, and consequently have meager financial support, or  even none at all.

This money is given out so that those who qualify for social security disability can have the basic necessities; shelter, clothing, or food.. Both children and adults are  eligible for social security disability assistance ,granted they can determine that they meet the  requirements to do so.

If you have ever attempted to become a beneficiary of SSI, then you are most likely sensitive to the fact that it can be a time consuming and arduous endeavor. Often times the preliminary application process will be a failure. But applying for SSI is not a forlorn venture. With the help of a experienced and knowledgeable social security disability attorney, you can rest assured that someone is fighting in your corner to get you the benefits that you deserve, and if your application has been denied a reliable social security disability lawyer can  be a huge help in your appeals process.

Applying for, or appealing the denial of, social security disability benefits can be an intensely aggravating process, especially when it is for a child. So a lawyer can prove very beneficial in expediting the process. Living with a disability can be hard as it is, you shouldn’t have to go through the tormenting experience of proving to the government that you are disabled. A social security disability attorney can help you in a number of aspects of applying or appealing.
Including:

  • Analyzing your case and cross referencing it with state regulation
  • Offering peace of mind
  • Consulting primary physicians and other doctors for medical information and exam results
  • Gather medical evidence
  • Preparing witnesses to testify
  • Taking care of telephone calls, legwork, and paperwork

There are a whole host of other reasons for consulting with a social security disability lawyer that can prove advantageous for your unique situation. It is important to know that you don’t have to be alone when dealing with such crucial matters concerning your livelihood.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What Makes a Family? Kimberly A. Kick, LCSW

The meaning of “family” has been changing over the last 50 years. Factors that have contributed to the change in family have been both parents having to work, an increase in the divorce rate, an increase in the number of blended families, and an increase in single parent families.

A significant number of people believe that the changing make-up of the family unit has had a negative impact on families. I would caution against assuming the worst. For many families divorce has literally been a life-saver in domestic violence situations. There are also numerous examples of children who identify a step-parent as “mom” or “dad”, not my “step-mom” or “step-dad” due to the positive influence she or he has had on the child’s life.

The family unit, no matter what size, shape, or form it comes in, isn’t what is relevant. What is relevant is what happens inside the family unit. Families are the main socializing agent for children. Families are where values, morals, and ethics are learned. Families should be where children feel safe, protected, and loved.

Take a minute to think about your family, both your family of origin and your current family. Think about other families you know. What characteristics and qualities make these families good? What characteristics and qualities make them bad? What values and beliefs are embraced in your family? I’d like to hear some of your responses.

10 Tips For Moms To Productively Co-Parent


Parenting after divorce requires serious adjustment, trust, and confidence. Whether you resolve your divorce through a peaceful resolution process or through a divorce battle, the way you and your ex “co-parent” will have an impact, good or bad, on your children.

Many mothers feel that they are better equipped to care for the child than the father for a variety of reasons. “He’s never taken care of a four year old before.” “He doesn’t even know who Susie’s doctors are.” Some of these reasons may, in fact, be true. Why? Because mom always took those responsibilities. So what happens when little Susie is on her weekend visit with Dad? Unless Mom and Dad have a good co-parenting relationship (doesn’t happen over-night), Mom will probably be frantic all weekend, Susie will feel Mom’s anxiety before she leaves to spend time with Dad, Susie will likely be worried all weekend about Mom, Dad will feel that Mom is judging him and trying to interfere with his relationship with Susie, and there will likely be more court hearings to modify visitation because Susie is uncomfortable visiting with Dad, Dad is not taking proper care of Susie, Mom is “brain-washing” Susie against Dad, etc. All of these are understandable “perspectives”. Children pick up on emotion even when nothing is said to them. Regardless of what Dad says or does, you have the ability to create a positive relationship with your child. Here are a few tips for divorced Mothers wanting to improve their relationships with their children:
  1. Never bad mouth your child’s father in the child’s presence or within his/her range of hearing;
  2. Never ask your child about his/her time with Dad - let your child tell you about it without any pressure from you;
  3. When your child shares something negative about Dad (“Dad said you don’t want me to spend time with him”), don’t attack Dad. The best response is to tell your child that you’re sorry s/he had to hear that and that Mom and Dad are working on this very hard and “we both love you very much.”
  4. Don’t try to control Dad - it didn’t work when you were married, it will work even less now. Telling him to do homework with your child or not feed them cake for dinner will not work.
  5. Allow Dad to be the Dad you want him to be. When Dad has the kids and calls you to find out if, for example, he should give Susie a certain medication, give Dad the information to make the decision himself (Susie was allergic when she was first born. If you are going to give it to her, watch her breathing for the next 30 minutes and be ready to get her to the hospital if she starts wheezing, etc). Resist taking control but make sure your child is safe.
  6. Keep Dad informed about your child’s schedule. There are online services such as Our Family Wizard that can help you do this without having to directly communicate with Dad;
  7. Keep a regular routine that your child can take with her when she is with Dad. For example, make it your child’s job to always lock the doors and windows at your house. When she’s at Dad’s, guess what she’ll do every night;
  8. If you happen to be the disciplinarian or the homework enforcer, make sure you also make time for fun - your regular routine should include game nights, bed time stories, evening walks, etc;
  9. Have a support network and a stress outlet - yoga, a book club, etc. This will also help keep your mind off your child when s/he is with Dad.
  10. Try not to be alone on holidays when your child is with Dad. The last thing you need is to be so depressed that your child starts to feel guilty for being away from you at that time of year, every year. Create new traditions that you can look forward to.
Child specialists agree that children who’s parents have divorced tend to have more productive relationships in adulthood when their parents resolve their divorces peacefully. These tips where accumulated from my experience as a divorce peacemaker, from recommendations by child specialists, and from practices that have worked for my clients. There are many more ways to succeed in co-parenting. Please feel free to share what has worked for you.

10 Tips For Dads To Productively Co-Parent


Parenting after divorce requires serious adjustment, trust, and confidence. Whether you resolve your divorce through a peaceful resolution process or through a divorce battle, the way you and your ex-spouse co-parent will have an impact, good or bad, on your children.

For many fathers, this may be the first time you have sole responsibility for your child for a significant period of time. It will be up to you to feed your child, dress him, give medications, take to birthday parties, handle emergencies, etc. This can be a challenge, especially if you feel Mom will be judging you or will use any mistake against you to challenge your visitation time. Mother’s frequently complain “He’s never taken care of a four year old before.” “He doesn’t even know who Johnny’s doctors are.” Some of these reasons may, in fact, be true. Why? Because mom always took those responsibilities. So what happens when little Johnny is on his weekend visit with Dad? Unless Mom and Dad have a good co-parenting relationship (doesn’t happen over-night), Mom will probably be frantic all weekend, Johnny will feel Mom’s anxiety before he leaves to spend time with Dad, Johnny will likely be worried all weekend about Mom, Dad will feel that Mom is judging him and trying to interfere with his relationship with Johnny, and there will likely be more court hearings to modify visitation because Johnny is uncomfortable visiting with Dad, Dad is not taking proper care of Johnny, Mom is “brain-washing” Johnny against Dad, etc. All of these are understandable “perspectives”. Children pick up on emotion even when nothing is said to them. Regardless of what Mom says or does, you have the ability to create a positive relationship with your child. Here are a few tips for Fathers wanting to improve their relationships with their children:
  1. Never bad mouth your child’s mother in the child’s presence or within his/her range of hearing;
  2. Ask your child how his day was and actually listen, attentively, to the answer - ask follow up questions;
  3. Help your child with her homework;
  4. Meet your child’s teachers and the school’s staff - I personally have seen mother’s going through divorce who have rallied the school staff on their side because they talk to them about how terrible Dad is. And since Dad doesn’t talk to the staff, they believe Mom;
  5. Know the names of your child’s friends - this will not only show you are interested and paying attention, but it will make it much easier when you learn that Johnny was invited to Susie’s birthday party. Your child has a life too you know;
  6. Create a routine for when your child is with you - Father child activities are great, such as afternoon walks, bed time stories, grocery shopping (a great opportunity to include your child’s tastes for dinners during his/her visit with you);
  7. Know how your child is doing in school - Don’t use your lack of communication with Mom as an excuse. Talk to your child’s teacher (see item 4 above) and ask if she can create a duplicate of your child’s progress reports for you. Sometimes, they are available online. Get the information. It’s okay to let the teachers know your situation and the level of communication with Mom. This will help the teacher help your child through rough days (such as mid week visitation changes, when it is natural for your child to miss the parent s/he will not be seeing for a while).
  8. Compliment your child on his/her successes;
  9. Communicate directly with all of your child’s caregivers;
  10. Enjoy each day with your child and remind her how much you love her. Stress affects us all. Find an outlet when your child is not with you so that you can be properly focused when s/he is with you.

Child specialists agree that children who’s parents have divorced tend to have more productive relationships in adulthood when their parents resolve their divorces peacefully. These tips where accumulated from my experience as a divorce peacemaker, from recommendations by child specialists, and from practices that have worked for my clients. There are many more ways to succeed in co-parenting. Please feel free to share what has worked for you.

Looking Up From the Mud


I attended a wonderful lecture last week on the topic of religion and divorce. Our speaker, a rabbi, shared with us a wonderful story that I shared with my clients in two mediations following this lecture. It’s a powerful image and extremely helpful for those in the early emotional stages of a divorce. He reminded us of the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea, when the Jews were fleeing the Egyptians in search of the promise land. Upon arriving at the Red Sea, Moses asks God for help. God instructs Moses to use his magic staff. He does, and the sea parts. The Jewish people begin their crossing through the muddy sea floor. All are amazed and hopeful, because they can see the rich, safe land that lies ahead of them. All, except for two, Ruben and Ira. Ruben and Ira are upset and frustrated: their sandals keep getting stuck in the muddy sea floor, it stinks of dead fish, and they feel this is the worst experience they have ever endured. You see, the problem is that Ruben and Ira are experiencing the moment by looking down, at the mud. They cannot bring themselves to look up, towards the promise land and, for that reason, cannot see beyond the mud and the smell of fish. Ruben and Ira have two choices: either look up and walk towards the promise land or stay in the mud and be crushed by the sea.

Couples going through divorce often have difficulty seeing the promise land in the midst of the mud and stench of dead fish. With the right tools and guidance, you can look up and see the promise land: a peaceful resolution and co-parenting relationship.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Language of Marriage

Joan Wickersham wrote a wonderful op ed in the June 25, 2010 Boston Globe about the language of marriage. See entire article at http://tiny.cc/cdm82410 She notes “that most longtime couples have their own lexicon — phrases that have come out of some shared experience and entered the private language of the marriage.” She goes on to say, “There’s a clich├ęd idea that what makes people stay in love is things like candlelight and flowers and sexy glances across crowded rooms. All that is lovely, and it helps. But so does our nerdy private language.” I have found this to be the case in my marriage and I am sure many of you reading this blog have found the same thing in your marriage. Ironically, when mediating a divorce case, this private language also comes up. As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(186) 8/21/10

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Claiming for Disability Benefits

When filing for claims based on disability, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Here are 3 potential mistakes people usually make and how to avoid them.

a. Not Specifying Mental Illnesses in the Application
Applications for social security disability or SSD are evaluated on both mental as well as physical grounds. Both physical and mental conditions are evaluated in a very similar manner. If a claimant has a mental impairment, this needs to be included in the application. Sometimes, the presence of a severe mental disability coupled with a mild physical disability can be sufficient to help the applicant qualify for such disability benefits, independently or in support of a physical impairment. Cases of mental illness, such as depression, post traumatic stress, bi polar disorder and schizophrenia such be included when filing a claim.

b. Assumption that Disability Lawyers are Expensive
These days, it is easy to hire a social security disability lawyer and they get paid only once the case has been won. Therefore, anyone can afford the services of such lawyers. Most attorneys will only collect a fee if you get approved for your benefits. Disability lawyers can help you sort through the rules, laws and other guidelines to help you get approved for benefits.

c. Not Preparing for SSD Hearing
Not arriving to the hearing location at the right time can mean rescheduling of the case several months later! Not familiarizing oneself with one’s own claim file and providing a thorough record of medical history and supporting documentation can be a huge mistake for those without representation. However, claimants with access to social security disability lawyer services need not worry about this clause because the lawyer reviews and handles all aspects of the claim.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What does the Social Security Administration look for when Evaluating SSD claims?

When the SSA or Social Security Administration begins a review of a claimant’s case, they are not really looking at the exact diagnosis of the claimant’s condition. Instead, they are looking for the effect of this diagnosis of disability on the ability to earn income and work. This is a single, fundamental aspect many claimants are not aware of. It is important to know this because it helps position the case in a better light. This is where the services of a social security disability lawyer can prove to be invaluable.

To evaluate SSD claims associated with disability, the examiner for DDS will review the past employment of the claimant to assess if he or she can resume to the earlier employment or transfer skills from this employment to other gainful employment. If the DDS reviewer finds that the claimant is not in a position to resume his or her earlier employment the examiner will proceed to the next phase of evaluation. This process involves ascertaining if the claimant can work on other kinds of jobs. These types of jobs are more suited to disabled persons and take into consideration previous experience and current physical condition of the individual.

When reviewing claims based on disability benefits, the evaluation process assumes more complex proportions. Other aspects like the candidate’s ability to perform finger movements or overhead reaching activities, ability raise an arm to shoulder height in cases of severe degenerative diseases, assumes more importance. As you can well imagine, there are subtle nuances in such a review. If you stay near South Carolina, it would be in your best interests to hire the services of a South Carolina disability lawyer to help understand these aspects.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Divorce is Contagious

Divorce cases seems to cluster but I have never been able to figure it out why. I wondered if it was the weather or when children are in school or something else. I was therefore intrigued to see articles recently about a study by Dr. Rose McDermott of Brown University of 12,000 Americans living in the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The study found that divorce is contagious and can spread like a virus. The bad feelings and heated emotions that surround a marital split spreads like a disease, infecting couples with up to two degrees of separation from the rift, psychologists and sociologists report. The researchers have called it ‘divorce clustering’ and found that a split up between immediate friends increases a person’s own chances of getting divorced by 75 per cent. I assume this applies as well to high profile divorces reported in the media. This might explain why I see clusters of divorce cases. All of a sudden some celebrity is reported to get a divorce and couples start thinking maybe they should get divorced too. This may also affect how people get divorced. Adversary divorces get lots of publicity and divorce mediation gets very little if any publicity. Adversary divorce maybe contagious but mediated divorces are less so.

As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(185) 8/14/10

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Divorcing the Wedding Gown

I loved the recent article in Arizona Daily Star by Phil Villarreal about what a former husband does with his former Wife’s wedding gown. See entire article and picture at http://tiny.cc/cdm7710 I have previously blogged about former spouse’s wedding rings and jewelry but this was a new angle. What is even more interesting is the former husband has created a blog and may get a book deal. I wonder if the former Wife will want part of the money he makes? Also, why did she not take her wedding gown? The former Husband’s final line is perfect. “ I don’t see it as a symbol of my failed marriage, he said, “I see it as a symbol of recovery.” He has treated his former Wife and children very well during the project. Too bad more people don’t feel this way. I wonder if he mediated his divorce.

As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(184) 8/7/10

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Group Mediation

I have always wanted to experiment with group mediation but never have had an opportunity. There are two forms of group mediation.

An article on the internet at http://www.edr.state.va.us/docsnforms/med/Med-C.doc says, “Traditional group mediation is a voluntary process in which trained mediators assist members of a work group in an open and confidential forum to: (1) identify and discuss the issues that are affecting the group; (2) explore alternatives that may resolve the issues; and (3) reach agreement on the alternatives that would best resolve the issues. The mediators meet with the work group, explain the process and answer questions, interview each group member privately to obtain his or her perspective of the situation, identify and list issues from the information shared during the interviews and present the list to the group for approval; the group may add or delete issues, ask the group to prioritize the issues and decide the order of discussion by the group, facilitate the discussion of the issues, establish with the group a schedule of two or three meetings, 3-4 hours each, to discuss the issues, help the parties define the issues involved
• encourage and assist the parties to have open and honest communication
• do not make judgments on who is right or wrong
• do not make decisions or impose solutions

The parties:
• are voluntary participants who want to discuss and resolve the issues
• must be willing to talk openly and honestly about their concerns and issues
• must be willing to generate alternatives to resolve the issues”

I would like to experiment with a different type of group divorce mediation. It would be more like group therapy. I would meet with a few divorcing couples and try to mediate all the divorces at once. It would save the couples money. I am not sure if it would make problem solving easier or harder. Probably both. So far it has the logistics or getting couples and have them meet has prevented me from trying. Perhaps, one day it will all come together.

As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(183) 7/31/10

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Conflict can be Productive By: Kimberly A. Kick, LCSW

Conflict is an unavoidable aspect of our lives. Conflict normally has a negative connotation; most people try to avoid conflict, some at a high cost to self. From a young age children learn ways to cope and deal with conflict. I propose that conflict, when dealt with in a productive, healthy manner, can be a growth experience. Through conflict we can gain insight into ourselves, learn new ways to cope and feel proud of how we handled a situation.

Most people who divorce experience conflict at various stages of the process of divorce. An ex-partner who begins dating and bringing the children around his or her new paramour can be a source of conflict. Money is often a source of conflict as is rules and guidelines for raising the children.

Some people experience conflict and view it as a win/lose situation. When this occurs communication is doomed to fail. One can feel “wronged” and want to prove his or her point. Compromise cannot occur in such an environment. Conflict can also become addictive with one or both of the individuals seeking to remain connected, if only through conflict. It is unhealthy when an individual begins to thrive on conflict and actively seeks it out.

There are steps we can all take to deal with conflict in a healthy, productive way. One of the first steps is to humanize the opponent. Another suggestion is to avoid all or nothing thinking. When we begin to characterize another person’s behavior as “he is always...” or “she always...” it should cue us that we need to reassess our view of the situation. It is also essential to try to see the “flip side of the coin”, see alternative ways to view the situation. Take the conflict out of the win/lose context. Don’t assume that you know what is motivating the other person. The only way you can know this for sure is to ask.

In the end each of us has to decide how to deal with conflict. The most important thing to remember is that you need to respect yourself after the conflict has passed and this is achieved through your actions.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mediation Styles


People often just think mediation but there actually are different types of mediation styles. The three basic types of mediation are facilitative, tranformative, and evaluative. In jest a colleague recently suggested a fourth type – accusatory! I will discuss a potential fourth type, group mediation, in a future blog. All types of mediation require the mediator to be neutral, the process to be confidential, and self determination for the parties. The role of the mediator is different in each type.

Facilitative mediation is based on the belief that, with neutral assistance, people can work through and resolve their own conflicts. In a facilitative mediation, the mediator will take an active role in controlling the "process." Process means things like setting the ground rules for how the problem will be solved. The mediator asks questions to identify the interests of the parties and the real issues in the disagreement. The mediator helps the parties explore solutions that benefit both parties (sometimes called "win/win" solutions). In a facilitative mediation, the mediator does not offer an opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of the parties' cases. The mediator does not suggest solutions.

Evaluative mediation is based on the belief that mediators with expertise in the issues in conflict can help the parties to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their legal or other positions and to work to achieve settlements. In evaluative mediation, the mediator controls the process and suggests solutions for resolving the conflict. The focus of an evaluative mediation is primarily upon settlement. The mediators will make their best efforts to get the parties to compromise, if necessary, to achieve a result. This is the type of mediation most attorneys and former judges use. It is like a court required status conference or a meeting with a special master. I believe this is what Ken Feinberg does. It often becomes what is called power or muscle mediation and a settlement is imposed.

Transformative mediation is based on the belief that conflict tends to make parties feel weak and self-absorbed. Transformatative mediators try to change the nature of the parties' conflict interaction by helping them appreciate each others viewpoints and strengthening their ability to handle conflict in a productive manner. The mediator will intervene in the conversation between the parties in order to call attention to moments of recognition and empowerment. Ground rules for the mediation are set only if the parties set them. The mediator does not direct the parties to topics or issues. Instead, the mediator follows the parties’ conversation and assist them to talk about what they think is important. The transformative mediator does not offer an opinion on the strengths or weaknesses of the parties’ cases. The mediator does not suggest solutions.”
Some mediators prefer to use one approach exclusively in their mediation sessions. Many mediators can, and do, use many approaches. I often start with facilitative but slip into evaluative when I hit an impasse. I probably am always doing a little transformative mediation. Clients don’t usually do it but it is a good idea to ask your mediator which style he or she uses.

As always, you can post any comment about this blog or Divorce Mediation, or just Mediation by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at http://www.center-divorce-mediation.com/ WM(182) 7/24/10