As a former Family Court Judge, this I know: that parental litigation makes for unhappy children. Their confused state of mind manifests itself in poor grades and bad decision-making.  Your beautiful girl is sitting in front of yet another re-run in her pajamas, unwashed and disheveled. You don’t understand where all her friends are? What happened to that laughing posse she was running with six months ago?  They opted out of your child’s unhappiness is what happened. They will no doubt resurface when she returns to her former happy self.

Clearly some parents have more insight than others into the dynamics of their children’s lives. As between two parents, one parent may very well have more insight than the other. Occasionally  I was awed by two parents who understood the trauma the children suffered as a result of their courtroom battles. More often than not, these same parents walked in with a proposed settlement to put on the record to resolve the conflict and move on with their lives.Child_Custody_Court_Battle_Showing_the_Parents_Fighting_over_Their_Child_in_a_Court_Room_Picture_Stock_Photo_Stock_Photograph_111113-135219-502001

Mediation will resolve parents’ conflicts quickly and without the drama that “court” brings. “I have to go to court” is a charged statement. It evokes drama and tension, and the belief that someone will lose.

“We’re going to mediation” doesn’t have that ominous sound.  It invites a picture of two parents entering into a discussion, together.  It generates hope that the conflict will soon be resolved and everyone can pick up where they left off.  It opens the door to that happy place the children can again reside in, laughing and growing, and free from conflict.

Gayle Nathan brings twenty-six years of experience including fours years as a Family Court Judge to every case she handles, whether it’s a mediation or arbitration.

Posted in Alternative Dispute Resolution, child custody, confidential, Custody, Divorce, effective

A VIEW FROM THE BENCH- Why it’s better to mediate than litigate!

As a Family Court Judge I wondered every day why litigants gave away their power to lawyers and judges.

           So often there is no real conflict. That is, no domestic violence, no addictive behaviors and no reason why two parents can’t co-parent their children. And yet I would have parents and their lawyers battling over the title of “primary custodian”; setting a trial, and engaging in endless discovery to find some little piece of evidence that will be the “aha” moment at trial.

The end result is that no one wins. Whatever the ruling, the level of acrimony created by litigation has destroyed any chance of a peaceful relationship of co-parenting where the litigants (by that I mean the parents) work together in the best interests of their children.

judges gavelWhen blood has been left on the floor of the courtroom by the lawyers at the request of their clients, there is no delete or reset button. There is no blue circular arrow to redo what has been done. Parents are left with the words that were uttered hanging in the air. Behavior between the parents that may have been ignored, or even forgiven during the relationship is dragged out for the judge. Wounds may have scabbed over. They may have even healed. But lawyers are engaged to crack them wide open to win.

The judge is not impressed with hearing about conduct that was apparently forgiven or overlooked within the relationship if it was not criminal or harmful to the children. Nor does it impact the Court to hear about unfaithfulness, when the relationship continued after discovery of the infidelity.

The Court is however, perplexed at how two parents can fail to see how much better off they would have been mediating a resolution to their custody issues.

In my post-judicial career I gain great satisfaction in assisting parents in mediating their divorce and custody cases. Their demeanor at the end of a successful mediation is typically touched with grace and kindness, each one leaving with their dignity intact.

Gayle Nathan brings twenty-six years of experience including fours years as a Family Court Judge to every case she handles, whether it’s a mediation or arbitration.

Posted in Alternative Dispute Resolution

Employee Productivity and Divorce

Americans strive mightily to leave their work at the office door, to not bring the problems, irritations and frustrations of their work environments home with them. The goal is simple: separate your work life from your home life. Have a lousy day? Don’t take it out on the kids. Got reamed out by your supervisor? Don’t get snarky with your wife to regain your imagined dominance. That promotion you were hoping for went to the new girl? You still have to make dinner for that ravenous family of yours.

While it’s fairly obvious how what happens at your workplace affects you when you get home, it is less evident to employers that what is going on in your personal life has just as big an effect on the business you work for. This is especially so when you are involved in one of the major documented psychological stressors, divorce. Second only to the death of a spouse, divorce (and marital separation, which sits just below it on the Holmes and Rahe scale[1]) has a profound influence on a person’s ability to function in home and work environments.

Here are some examples[2]:

The owner of a nationwide trucking company laments a sad fact. Every year his HR manager must rehire a new long-haul driver to cover a vacated position. Why did the last driver leave the company? A year on the road had taken its toll on the driver’s family life and led to his divorce – first from his wife, then from his employer.

 The CEO of a large Midwestern pharmaceutical sales group knows she can not maintain optimum productivity from employees in her distribution center and home office. The cause? Every time one of her employees divorces, she loses at least two years of real productivity. 

The principal of a large regional human resources consulting firm sees problems for organizations with employees going through divorce. She notes, “How can we expect people to be productive when they’re distracted? When you hire somebody, you’re hiring the whole person…and whenever a person is undergoing divorce, that affects their ability to focus and concentrate in their business.” (Potts, 1999)

According to the Bureau of the Census, 2003, there were 2.3 million marriages that year and approximately 1.2 million divorces. Those 1.2 million divorces cost taxpayers about $30 billion in federal and state expenditures.[3] In fact, “each divorce costs society about $25,000-$30,000 because of the increase in costs of supporting people with housing, food stamps, bankruptcies, problems with youth, and other related expenses.”[4]

According to Olson, thinking of employees as either ‘divorced’ or ‘married’ is not very helpful, because such statuses are “not static states of a person’s life.”[5] He prefers to categorize them as either ‘succeeding relationships’ (ones moving toward satisfaction) or ‘failing relationships’ (ones that end with divorce).

These failing relationships create an unprofitable workplace due to increased absenteeism (lawyer appointments and court dates), presenteeism (where the worker is present but distracted by his/her own problems), health problems, anxiety, stress, and the resultant increase in health insurance costs. It has been estimated that $6 billion is lost to businesses because of the lower productivity of employees with relationship problems.[6]

Dr. John Curtis, an organizational development specialist and former marriage counselor, estimates that an average divorcing employee (making $20/hour) costs a company over $8000.[7] These costs include not only the absences of the divorcing spouse and lost productivity while actually at work, but the loss of productivity by other employees when the divorcing employee seeks to share his/her woes with them, and the loss of productivity of the supervisor, who has to deal directly and indirectly with the divorcing employee’s performance.

Curtis has developed a worksheet that can estimate how much any company is losing as a result of an unhappily married and soon-to-be-single employee, attached as Appendix B. One copy of the instrument is shown filled out, while another is left blank.  To view the entire article and worksheets click this link  Employee Productivity and Divorce

Ray Patterson is a facilitative mediator specializing in family law and commercial mediations. He was formerly the associate director of the Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution at the William S. Boyd School of Law.

Posted in Alternative Dispute Resolution, Business, child custody, confidential, creative, Custody, Debt, Divorce, effective, Employee, experience, Family meeting, fixer, good listener, Las Vegas, Mediation, negotiator, peace of mind, solutions

Why would you want to mediate and not litigate?

Regardless of what kind of issues you have with someone else there are common threads. Misunderstandings, feelings of betrayal, financial loss, anger, control, you want them to suffer or “pay” for what they did among many other reasons. Emotions are normal and getting past them to find solutions can be done in more than one way.

In many instances the parties do not want to ever see the other person again are looking for third party endorsement that they are in the right. After all, your attorney is on your side and of course the Judge will agree with you.

Don't forget to make sure everyone understands what is required and when!

The reality is you are only representing your view of the events and the other party has a very different view that they believe is right. Now you must take the time and finances to invest in the legal process and flame the fires of dissent. Will the Judge decide you are in the right or the other party? The courts are flooded with cases that could have been resolved without litigation.

There is an alternative to consider and that is mediation. The process allows you to present your “case” in the presence of the other party and then listen to their “case”. Parties can bring their attorney if needed and present everything they feel will support their position.

Mediation is confidential which is very valuable especially in employment or other business conflicts.

A neutral mediator manages the process and the participants discuss and negotiate the outcome. The process allows everyone to have their say, saves time as most mediations can be scheduled in a very timely manner, saves money that would have been spent on litigation and court costs and statistically over 75% of voluntary mediation result in some sort of resolution. So what is best for you?

Posted in Business, child custody, confidential, creative, Debt, Divorce, effective, fixer, innovative, listen, Mediation, negotiator, solutions

On Conflict

“All polishing is done by friction.”—Mary Parker Follett

If you were asked whether conflict was a negative or positive concept, my bet is that you would choose negative. It’s what you hear regularly: Conflict in the Middle East! Conflict in Congress! But conflict can also be positive thing, a motivation for change for the better and the main engine of progress.

People who are content with the way things are rarely seek to change. It’s the ones who are not satisfied with the status quo, who see things as they might be, or as they want them to be, that push the rest of us along. And because many of us do not go willingly, there is often much conflict in society. It may not be pleasant, but history shows we tend to progress nonetheless.

The same scenario takes place in our own lives. We may go for months and years without major changes to our routines or our worlds. Then suddenly, boom! A partnership sours, a marriage fractures, businesspeople have disagreements, or neighbors begin to squabble.balance-rock-feather

We don’t like to be discomfited, so we tend to react negatively to changes. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. But the fact that others connected to us are dissatisfied with something in our relationships requires us to take a better look.

There are basically two choices before us and they both involve change. We can either make alterations to address the dissatisfaction, or take steps to leave the relationship. In either case, we will be in a different place once the change is effected.

In order to take control of any changing situation, you need to be proactive. So, if you’re seeking to repair a relationship, you’ll need to communicate openly with whoever has voiced a complaint. Often, you’ll need to identify support people and professionals who may be able to assist you. If you’ve decided to end a relationship, you have to identify your needs clearly, in addition to estimating the needs of the other person, in order to negotiate fairly. This may also require support people and professional help.

Either way, it’s important to remember that you are not incompetent, and you can deal with these changes, even if you need some help along the way. And the conflict that seemed so terrible when it first appeared may, in fact, push you to a better place in the future.

Ray Patterson is a facilitative mediator specializing in family law and commercial mediations. He was formerly the associate director of the Saltman Center for Conflict Resolution at the William S. Boyd School of Law.


Posted in Alternative Dispute Resolution, Business, child custody, confidential, Contracts, Divorce, effective, Employee, experience, fixer, good listener, innovative, Las Vegas, listen, Mediation, negotiator, peace of mind, solutions