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Building A Parenting Plan

The children are a main concern for divorcing parents. How will they continue to parent effectively? Can they restructure their relationship so children can continue to have the benefit of being part of a family? Will each parent be able to share the children’s lives in a way that is satisfying and gratifying to both the parents and the children? These are some of the questions that keep parents from sleeping soundly.

Mediation is an opportunity for parents to build a custom plan for the future,

for their children and for themselves. A parenting plan, required by courts in Georgia, indicates where each child will be everyday of the year. Parents can structure the plan to the needs of the children. Families have unique internal customs and traditions that work for them. The plan allows the parents to incorporate their ways of life into the children’s future.

If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan for their children, a judge will give them a plan “off the rack”. That plan might fit; it might not fit. Judges take their jobs very seriously but they don’t know your children or your family. A plan that parents make will fit the lifestyle of the family. 

In mediation, the parents will thoughtfully build the custom plan. They will think about their common goals as parents and their hopes for their children. The plan will evolve as the children grow and the parents will look at the direction they want their children’s lives to take. The mediator will guide the process and keep the parents focused on the children and the future. A custom plan will preserve the family for the children.

The Gray Divorce

Sadly, the divorce rate for couples over 50 is increasing.   In 2010, one out of every four divorces involved couples over 50 years of age. The reasons for older couples parting are as numerous and varied as the number of divorces. A few common reasons stated are: growing apart, the feeling of excitement is gone, no common purpose now that the children are gone, and all those little things that annoyed one spouse suddenly become unbearable. The reasons not stated, but believed by therapists to be common are: fear of dying, mad rush to re-capture youth and all the promise that encompassed, being on the downside of life and not having planned for it.

Financially, ending a long term marriage becomes a negotiated farewell. Typically most assets have been acquired during the marriage and are deemed to be martial property, subject to equal division. Martial debt can also be subject to equal division. Mediation can ease the discussion of the division of assets and help the gray-haired parties to make the best plans for the future financial security for both.

Health or lack of health is a concern for people divorcing in later years. Expensive treatments and medications are issues that could be addressed in mediation. Resources for personal care or suitable living arrangements could be important discussions and decisions  for this age group.

Retirement plans disrupted by separations and divorce need to be restructured to meet current and future needs and desires. For a “gray divorce”, retirement is often imminent with little time to “rebuild” IRAs and other retirement savings.  Mediation can help the parties to look realistically at the possibilities for the future.

Shared history, good or not so good, makes the end of a long term marriage especially difficult in many cases. Mediation can offer a respectful negotiated ending to a marriage instead of a bitter court battle.

Honoring the relationship and the family created by that relationship can be an outcome of the mediation process. As a couple moves on to  more fulfilling personal futures, the parting can be caring and civil.

Paul Bohannon described the six stations of divorce. These can be particularly difficult for older men and women.

I. The six stages of divorce

  • Financial divorce
  • Legal divorce
  • Parenting divorce
  • Community divorce
  • Emotional divorce
  • Behavioral divorce

II.  Unique problems for couples married 30 plus years

III. Division of assets at retirement

IV. Support for a non-working or never worked spouse

V.  Health issues, vulnerability with ageing

VI. How can we help?

 

Humble Beginnings – How and Why We Started

The vision of Above and Beyond Conflict is to preserve families one mediation at a time. Preserving the family involves a mediation agreement between divorcing parents to co-parent their children in a loving, nurturing environment even though the marriage has ended. Preserving the family involves a mediated plan for the future of an elderly or disabled family member in which caring stakeholder agree upon actions and/or roles. Preserving the family involves mediation between estranged parents and children between siblings to heal old wounds and help the family to become whole once more.

 

An important part of our vision is self- determination. The participants make all decisions. The mediator guides the process and facilitates communication. Structuring the process helps the participants to focus on one issue at a time and look to the future. As mediators, we model good communication skills such as active listening, clarifying, and reframing which serve to educate the participants for enhanced communication in the future.

 

The partners, Marti and Georgia, started Above and Beyond Conflict in the third trimester of their lives. They want to use the experience they have gathered in over seven decades of living and fifty+ years of being part of a professional community.

 

Above and Beyond Conflict rose from the rubble of the partners’ individual divorces. They vied

with each other to be kind and helpful to former husbands and the husbands’ new significant others for the sake of their children. Georgia invited the new couple to go on vacation with the family during the Thanks giving holiday. Not to be outdone, Marti invited her children’s father and his wife to celebrate Christmas with their children and grandchildren at her home. It was a friendly contest for the “Above and Beyond” award that Marti and Georgia initiated and was awarded in December each year.

 

Marti and Georgia had been therapists and mediators for many years when they decided to form Above and Beyond Conflict, LLC. They offer a unique service to families seeking to resolve internal conflict without resorting to the legal system. The Above and Beyond Conflict mediators believe that the participants in the mediation process have the answers within themselves and need encouragement and a safe place to express needs and propose solutions.

 

Above and Beyond Conflict offers a traditional mediation process during which the parties face each other and express their concerns and feelings. This approach is intense but less stressful and less expensive than a court battle or a negotiated settlement conducted by lawyers, sometimes without the presence of the parties.

 

The partners constantly read and research techniques that will improve the process of mediation. Atlanta Magazine recognized Above and Beyond Conflict for work with neuroscience in mediation.