Domestic Violence Overview

A helpful diagram explaining the different types of domestic violence – all are dangerous.

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Group vs. Shuttle Mediation

I recently read an interesting article about a potential pitfall of group mediation. The article was written by Jeffrey Krivis and published on Mediate.com in August 2012. A link to the full article is provided below. The title, Why Litigators Become Less Intelligent in Group Mediation Settings, is what drew my interest so I read on curious to discover more about why my typically preferred method of mediation (group setting) may actually not be the best way to reach settlement.

If you’ve ever been frustrated beyond belief in a committee meeting or during a group project you probably have an understanding of the basic idea – in order for a group to function, a leader needs to arise and often times leaders are the most outspoken members of the group – not necessarily the smartest members. “Group think” or follow the leader often takes root as the group works toward its end goal.

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Preparing for Mediation

Preparation is arguably to factor which determines success or failure. Mediation is so much more than fulfilling a court requirement; if successful, mediation can save thousands of dollars and the agreements reached can impact you and your family for years to come – for these reasons it is best to be prepared.

Despite common perceptions, mediation is not sitting around a table singing Kumbaya, it’s not about “splitting the baby” or compromising for the sake of an easy settlement. Fully prepared parties are able to negotiate in good-faith, put emotion aside, address mutual needs and interests, and reach win-win outcomes which go beyond simple compromise.

Unfortunately, many parties come to the table not knowing what to expect, without documentation, and not having thought in advance about their own needs and preferred outcomes. This reality often results in parties being overwhelmed and unable to make thoughtful decisions.

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Should Divorce and Separate Parenting Classes be Required Before Filing for Divorce?

The following is a comment I shared about an article addressing Sen. Dan Hall’s proposed legislation to require the completion of divorce education prior to being allowed to file for divorce. Divorce and separate parenting classes are a must for divorcing couples and parents. I believe the classes should be required before filing for dissolution and I fully support the new legislation.

As a Parents Forever educator, divorce mediator and post decree parenting specialist I fully support a requirement that parties be required to take a divorce education class prior to being allowed to file for divorce with the court. The current requirement only applies in contested custody cases and has limited enforcement, primarily due to limited court resources and the fact that a case often needs to be actively involved in the court process before a judge inquires about or becomes aware of the parties’ compliance. As a result, the current legislation often results in parties being court ordered to attend classes late in their divorce process, after attorneys have been retained and positions entrenched – and often after the legal battle has been fought and the children have already been caught in the cross-fire of a high-conflict divorce. Because the classes provide information about alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options – such as mediation, early neutral evaluation (ENE) and cooperative legal processes such as Collaborative or Cooperative Law – class participation early in the legal process is critical being that the goal of these classes is to educate parties about options, reduce acrimony, protect children from conflict, and increase the use of ADR (which saves court resources and the parties’ resources); more importantly, the classes help parents focus on their children and learn skills for effective separate parenting.

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Thoughts about My Personal Experience with Divorce and Separate Parenting

I recently created a video for my website and this is the script of my message…

I’m Amber Serwat and I am a divorce and parenting specialist. I am also a divorced parent and step-parent. I’d love to tell you that my divorce was the model of cooperation – but it wasn’t. It was highly adversarial and by the time the battle ended we were nearly incapable of parenting our children together. Bitterness and resentment colored every interaction – trust was nonexistent – communication was terrible at best and our children were caught in the middle. It took a couple of years to turn things around. Today, we are a model of low-conflict and effective parenting; and our children are thriving. They have loving relationships with both of us, our new partners and two new sisters. I believe divorce and separate parenting are life experiences that you can never truly understand until you’ve experienced them. Although my journey through divorce and separate parenting is my own, it also provides a unique qualification which drives my passion for this work.

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