WE HELP FAMILIES RESOLVE CONFLICT PEACEFULLY


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Holiday Message: Mediation Style

Skylark Law & Mediation, P.C. and Think Pink Law wish health, happiness and peace for all of our clients, colleagues, mentors, followers, visitors, well-wishers and even our distant relations.

Our practices focus on solutions reached as often as possible through peaceful, rather than adversarial, processes.  Even when we expect to disagree, we try to begin all of our conversations recognizing the basic human dignity of the other involved parties.  Through that approach we hope to reduce the conflict in a world that is full of conflicts that seem unsolvable.

When that fails there will always be funny internet videos to cheer us up.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gotta Find My Purpose: An Update from Skylark and Think Pink Law

One of my favorite NSFW musicals is Avenue Q, where the main character (a puppet / liberal arts graduate), spends most of the story trying to find his purpose in life.  I think it strikes a chord with me because I am constantly re-examining whether my work reflects my values.  When Attorney Trask left Kelsey & Trask, P.C. last year, I was given an opportunity to reconsider how this firm reflected what I, personally, found most important.

Throughout the last year, that self-reflection has resulted in some changes that helped us focus more on our dispute resolution work and resulted in the creation of Skylark Law & Mediation, P.C. - where we help families resolve conflict.
That has become the central theme of our work and with that focus we have removed some practice areas and added others, and we have grown our staff to cover those new practice areas.

First, what have we removed?  Skylark Law & Mediation, P.C. will no longer be handling bankruptcy, criminal defense or firearms cases.  For bankruptcy we recommend The Law Offices of Lee Darst; for criminal defense we recommend Cappetta Law Offices; and for firearms related work we recommend Julie Tolek of Think Pink Law.  Julie recently became an Associate at Skylark Law & Mediation, PC, and will continue to run her own practice as well.

Julie has helped me and Skylark to focus on the areas where we can best help our clients.  To expand the ways in which we help families, we have officially added adoption, prenup/postnup work, and probate mediation as practice areas.  Skyark also continues to have the staff and experience to assist with divorce, mediation, collaborative law, appeals, QDRO preparation, Guardian Ad Litem appointments, conciliation, and consulting services for family law professionals.  Our consulting services range from litigation and mediation advice, to business and marketing advice.

In short, we've found our purpose.  For Julie, she will continue to represent both individual and business clients navigating second amendment compliance, and she will join in the efforts of Skylark Law & Mediation, where we now focus all of our energy on a single purpose: helping families resolve conflict.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

What Divorcing Parents can Learn from #PorteOuverte

On Friday, November 13, 2015 terrorists attacked three locations in Paris, France, killing 129 people, in the most deadly attack on French soil since World War II.  I recently tried to explain to my 6 year old daughter what lessons we can learn from these attacks and from how the world reacted.  Through tears of my own, I explained to her that there are bad people in this world and there are good people.

I told her that unfortunately we can't tell who are the good people and who are the bad people just by looking at them.  But we can tell who are the good people and who are the bad people by what they do.  I explained that bad people had killed good and innocent people without reason because they are controlled by their fear and anger.

But more importantly, I explained how good people reacted.  Despite the natural inclination to protect oneself above all else, many Parisians opened their doors to strangers in the immediate wake of the attacks.  The trending message was called #PorteOuverte, french for Open Door. To open your doors when your city is under attack is an act of faith, not of religious faith, but of faith in human dignity; that despite these attacks the majority of people seeking refuge from the terror would be good people.

The #PorteOuverte movement is in stark contrast to the isolationist reaction of 53% of Americans and 31 U.S. Governors in the wake of these attacks.  It's not that I don't understand their reaction. I do.  I want to protect my daughter and my family from terrorists too.  But protecting her life is not the only thing I need to protect.  My job as a parent is to protect her dignity as well, and to make her a good person.  Good people don't shut their doors to those seeking refuge from terror, because they themselves are afraid.  Good people open their doors.

This is very similar to a lesson that I try to instill in my divorcing clients.  All divorcing spouses experience some form of grief over their divorce, and they all experience it differently.  Parents who divorce also experience a loss regarding their children.  Their children are losing an intact family, and each parent will lose some time with the children.  Separate households as a practical matter means less time with each parent individually.  People naturally grieve this loss and when they act on their fears or angers, without thinking first, their children are harmed.

This is highlighted in a typical example used in the Massachusetts Parent Education Course, which is required for divorcing parents.  The example asks how you should react if your child says to you "Mommy/Daddy said that you didn't pay your child support."  The natural reaction is to be angry that the other parent said this to the child, and to want to defend yourself, especially if this accusation is false or misleading.  Our desire to minimize the loss of our relationship with the child is to say "No, that's not true.  Your Mommy/Daddy is wrong."

But that natural reaction is actually damaging to the child, even if the answer is true, because now the child is in the middle of the argument.  In addition, if I react that way I have now demeaned the other parent in my effort to defend myself.  By defending myself I've hurt the child's own self-esteem because they identify with both parents.  To know the right thing to say I have to stop and think for a moment about what I am trying to accomplish.

The child doesn't need to know which parent is "right," they just need to know that both parents love them and they need to be shown how to resolve conflict in a calm effective manner.  An appropriate response for a young child might be "Thank you for letting me know that Mommy/Daddy said that.  I'll be sure to discuss it with her/him to clear that up."  For an older child who might have fears about money based on the comment you can still address those fears without putting them in the middle of the fight: "Thank you for letting me know that Mommy/Daddy said that.  I'll be sure to discuss it with her/him.  You don't need to worry about money, we'll clear it up. "

We all understand that a divorce is hard and it's natural to want to defend oneself, but we ask our clients to do better to protect their children.  To raise a child who understands and believes in basic human dignity, you have to demonstrate to them that every person deserves to be treated with a minimum amount of respect.  You have to help children understand that sometimes their first reaction, the emotional reaction to grief and fear and anger, should not control their actions.  The action we take in response to an attack or a loss should be informed by our values and our goals, not our fears.

I am hopeful that the initial reaction of some to the Paris attacks, the reaction of fear and anger, will eventually be replaced with a resolve to be better than the terrorists, to help those in need, and to control our fears so that they do not control our actions.


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