• What happens to my pension? Cottage? Business?
  • How am I going to get through this?
  • When will I stop feeling sad? Ashamed?
  • How will we split everything?
  • How will we tell the children?
  • What will everyone think?
  • What about the kids?
  • Does it have to be a big court battle?
  • Do we have to sell the house?
  • How am I going to pay the bills?
  • Categories

  • Shared Custody, Child Support and Collaborative Practice

    The amount of time each parent spends with the children has always been a heated debate. Changes to the law a few years ago have made it even more heated.
    Normally, child support is set according to the child support guidelines. This is a chart that determines the amount of support to be paid according to the payer’s income but when the parties share joint custody, the amount of support can be reduced. Shared custody means that each parent has the children in their care more than 40% of time. Lawyers call it “the 40% rule”.
    Often arguments ensue regarding the motivation of the paying parent. Do they really want the child with them more than 40% of the time because they want to be an involved parent, or are they simply trying to reduce their child support obligation? Likewise, is the resistance to increasing the amount of time just to keep child support higher? The accusations can fly back and forth.
    It is complicated. The core concerns of the parties may be much deeper than just the amount of child support to be paid. The relationship each parent has with their child may be at stake. Perhaps there are fears about being able to afford to maintain a particular lifestyle. Maybe the amount of time they have with the children affects their self-image as a parent. Maybe it’s about how their friends and family perceive them as a parent. There are many underlying reasons for taking a particular position on shared parenting.
    Collaborative practice is well suited to deal with this issue. In Collaborative practice, the family coach will meet with both parties and help them craft a parenting plan that is best for the children and agreeable to both parents. The family coach will gain a deep understanding of what is important to each parent, and bring the voice of the children into the process, so that the best arrangement can be achieved.
    We will have a full discussion of what is important to the parties and unpack your underlying core concerns so that we can develop a resolution that addresses both you and your spouse’s values and motivations.
    If you are faced with issues related to the 40% rule, let us help you resolve them through Collaborative Practice.

    It’s all about the Money!

    On the website, www.divorcechoices.com there was a simple questionnaire on the home page that asked- What is the most important aspect of your divorce?

    A. The children

    B. The emotional transition

    C. The money

    D. The legal issues

    While I would have thought the children would score highest, surprisingly 98% of the +2200 respondents reported MONEY as the number one issue for them. If we think about it, having enough money goes to the root of most people’s fears- they don’t want to be homeless, or they don’t want to live in their parent’s basement forever. Having enough money also supports the quality of the life that they can give their children. Money goes to the root of our identity and how we spend money reflects our individual values.

    But the reality of divorce is that the total family income that supported one household, now has to support two households. The mistaken idea that you should have the same standard of living as when you were married, is just that- mistaken. Simple math tells us that you are likely to have around half of the family income, post-divorce or separation. The sooner you come to understand this sad reality, the sooner you will be able to better negotiate the financial aspect of your separation agreement.

    Money discussions in divorce and separation are not often really about the money. Since we understand that anger is an expression of fear, collaborative professionals are very good at getting to the core concerns of each party so that cooperative solutions can be found that meet both spouse’s needs. A collaborative team is your best support for ensuring that your separation agreement negotiations move through the emotions that come up around your family’s financial security.

    Jackie Ramler, Divorce Financial Specialist


    Trust and Divorce

    Trust is often damaged when people are getting divorced. It may be damaged by obvious things like an affair or a lie. But trust may also be broken when people change and just don’t understand each other. The unspoken bonds that once drew people together are damaged.

    I know how disorienting it is when I have lost my ability to trust someone who I used to trust implicitly. I feel like I don’t know the person any more. I don’t know how they will respond and what is the truth in our relationship.

    Equally uncomfortable is when someone no longer trusts me. I feel frustrated and want desperately to repair the relationship and the loss of trust.

    Have you had a loss of trust in your relationship? Maybe an affair took place. Maybe you just feel that your spouse has given up on the dream you once shared so now you feel you just can’t trust them. Maybe you feel like you and your spouse have done and said so many mean things to each other that you have become like strangers to each other – and strangers can’t be trusted.

    Some of our clients decide they should just go to Family Court because they don’t trust their spouse. The problem with court is that it can’t ensure your spouse will become trustworthy again. It won’t necessarily solve the breach of trust. The problem with going to court is you are giving up the power to make decisions about your life to the judge. Court is slow, costly and the results are often difficult to predict. Often, the court process itself increases the animosity of the parties. Court is the place of last resort. Court won’t solve the trust issue.

    As a result, I thought there must be a better way. How do we build sufficient trust that our clients can negotiate rather than go to court?

    I come across some interesting research that suggests there is a way to build sufficient trust so that you and your spouse can negotiate an agreement and avoid court. It is called using Confidence Building Measures. Essentially, what that means is offering unconditional and unilateral gestures of goodwill so that your spouse is willing to see you are genuine about wanting to negotiate a deal.

    Working with a Collaborative professional, you can develop and offer your own Confidence Building Measures so that you and your spouse can engage in negotiations. You won’t “save the marriage” but you can build sufficient trust that you can avoid the pain of the court process. We can help.

    ” I earned all of the money, and built the wealth for this family, so it should be mine….”

    This is a common lament I often hear when working with the high income earners in a traditional relationship (primary wage earner and a homemaker that does not work or earns much less), irrespective if they initiate the separation or not. They believe this so strongly that this often clouds their judgement and does not enable them to hear the reality check that the Financial Specialist or even their own lawyer has to deliver. I have seen many separation agreement negotiations break down because they believe so strongly that they are being persecuted and that the system cannot really work that way. In their minds they create a reality that sees themselves in the ‘right’ and that any judge or rational person would support them in their argument that the assets and income should be all theirs- since they earned or created it.

    Family law views family assets and income as family property – irrespective of who earned the income or built the wealth. This property and income is to be shared in the separation. The system recognizes that the primary wage earner is often allowed to focus on their career or business while the other spouse takes primary care of the home or the children. The primary wage earner is often not called on to take the children to their dentist appointments, be home for the repair person, or other obligations during otherwise ‘work hours’. This is often taken for granted by the higher wage earner and they do not often appreciate the sacrifice the other spouse has made.

    We have termed this person a naïve realist. Either you might be reading this and it is sounding familiar to your perspective, or this could describe your spouse that you are trying to negotiate with. Either way, there are ways to assist the naïve realist to gain a better understanding of how the system works.

    While this naïve realist is often well educated and quite logical, it is challenging for one professional to assist them in seeing reality. Working within a collaborative team of professionals is very helpful for this person to hear the same message from all of the professionals. When each of the lawyers, the financial specialist and the family specialist are consistently giving the same message, then this helps them to suddenly ‘hear’ the reality of their situation- they have to share. Working as a team, we also use other methods of helping the naïve realist to gain insight and understanding so that they can move forward with realistic expectations. The last thing we want to see is for the naïve realist to not get the reality message and try to go off to court for a solution- where they will be sadly disappointed and it will cost them considerably.

    If you know a naïve realist and need help with strategies in how to work with them, give a collaborative professional a call today.

    Amygdala Hijack or “I’m Too Angry to Think”

    Have you ever had a client become so angry they couldn’t

    think straight? Or so frightened they just ran away? Or maybe they were frozen
    with fear?

    You may be saying “Seen it? I’ve live it!”

    Me too. We’ve all been there. I remember being so angry the
    hair on my body stood on end and I just wanted to hit somebody. I was incapable of negotiating and just wanted to fight.

    This response is called the Amygdala Hijack. The Amygdala is a part of your brain that protects you when it senses you are under attack or you
    are threatened. It shifts you into “fight, flight or play dead” mode. In fact, it sends hormones to your “rational, thinking” part of the brain so that it
    becomes disconnected. It feels like you can’t think straight for good reason - because your brain won’t let you.

    The rational part of the brain used for making judgements, considering the consequences of decisions, building relationships and thinking rationally is called the Prefrontal Cortex. We need it to negotiate but when your client is suffering from an Amygdala Hijack, the Prefrontal Cortex is shut down.

    As a professional, you can help your client recover from an Amygdala Hijack by taking three steps:

    1) Name the threat. Ask if your client if they feel a threat to their sense of status, autonomy, certainty, relatedness
    or sense of fairness? For a good article explaining these threats go to

    2) Normalize the threat. Let your client know that the way they are feeling is normal.

    3) Diffuse the threat. Offer your client another perspective so that they can see that the threat is not nearly as
    dangerous as they first thought it to be.

    For example, if your client hears that their spouse wants
    full custody of the children with minimal access to your client, they may
    become angry and upset. They may be suffering an Amygdala Hijack. You might
    respond by saying “Are you feeling your status as a parent is threatened?”

    Remember you might have it wrong. Maybe they feel threatened
    by the uncertainty that this news introduces to their life. Maybe they feel
    their sense of autonomy is threatened by their spouse wanting to impose a resolution
    on them. All you can do is offer guesses why your client is feeling threatened
    until you get it right. You’ll know you have the right threat named when it
    resonates with your client.

    Step two is to normalize their feelings by saying something
    like “I totally understand why you are feeling upset and angry. Any of my
    clients hearing this news would be upset. It is totally normal.”

    The last step is to help diffuse the threat. You might say
    “Just because your spouse wants sole custody does not mean that that’s how this
    issue will be resolved. You will have a chance to put your position forward and
    we will discuss it. Together, we will find a resolution that works for both of
    you and is best for your children. We can work it out.”

    Amygdala Hijacks happen all the time. They may happen at
    four or five way meetings, when you are meeting with your client alone and
    especially when the clients are together without professionals present. Even
    you, the seasoned professional, might be triggered during the Collaborative
    Process and suffer an Amygdala Hijack. They are a fact of life especially when
    clients’ lives are turned upside down by divorce. Educating your client about
    the Amygdala Hijack will help them understand and control their responses to

    Using the three step process I described earlier will enable
    you to help support your client through a hijack. Give it try…before the fists
    start flying.

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