|Mon May 27, 2013|
Memorial Day- WCCMC Closed!
|Sat Jun 08, 2013 @12:00PM - 04:00PM|
Advanced Refresher Training: Handling Intense Conflict Energy and Getting Unstuck in Mediations
|Sat Jun 15, 2013 @12:00PM - |
The following example is provided for learning purposes only. This example is not based on real people and any similarity to real people is not intended.
Kelly and Ben are the parents of three children; Kyle, age 15, Tyler, age 13, and Gracie, age 9. When they were going through the divorce process six years ago, Kelly and Ben each were represented by attorneys in court and have a custody agreement that stipulates that the parents have shared legal custody and Kelly has primary physical custody with Ben having partial physical custody of the children. Although he agreed to the custody agreement three years ago, Ben is dissatisfied with the amount of time he spends with Gracie, Tyler and Kyle. After he and Kelly split, Ben moved into a one-bedroom apartment. Kelly kept the house, and to keep consistency in their lives, Ben thought is was better that the children stayed with her. Because Ben's job was a 90 minute drive from the children's home with Kelly, Ben decided that he would relocate to be closer to his job. Every other weekend, he traveled back to Washington County and brought Tyler, Gracie and Kyle to stay with him for the weekend at his parent's house. Kelly and Ben worked out a schedule where the children would spend time with Ben a couple of weeks in the summer, and they also alternated holidays. Ben and Kelly found that the schedule worked well for them, and the children took comfort in the routine of knowing when they would be spending time with both their parents.
Three years ago, Kelly started dating Chris. After their relationship became serious, Chris proposed to her, and Kelly accepted his proposal. Chris and Kelly were married a year ago. Tyler and Kyle were groom attendants in the wedding, and Gracie was the flower girl. Not wanting to live with Chris in the home she used to share with Ben, Kelly sold the house, split the proceeds with Ben and put a down payment on a new home for her, Chris and the children. Around this same time, Ben met Ashley through a mutual friend, and they started dating. Having been unsatisfied with his job for some time, Ben had been looking for work as a sales representative and was offered a job closer in the area where Kelly lived with their children. With a new job that he found stimulating and his relationship with Ashley flourishing, Ben decided to move back to Washington County and bought a four-bedroom home to share with Ashley.
Now that Ben resided in the same school district as Kyle, Gracie and Tyler, he wanted to spend more time with them on a regular basis. He approached Kelly with his proposal to share physical custody of the children so that they would rotate the schedule week on and week off. Ben thought that this plan to alter the schedule made sense now that he lived local and with Gracie, Tyler and Kyle getting older, Ben hoped to be more involved in their lives than he had been in the past. Ben always enjoyed playing sports, and living local allowed him the opportunity to be more involved with the children's activities. Kyle played lacrosse and baseball. Tyler played basketball and was on the swim team. Gracie played soccer and liked to roller skate. Ben was excited to sign up to help coach Kyle's baseball team, attend Tyler's swim meets and even learned to roller skate so he connect better with Gracie. Even though Ben was spending more time with the children than he had in the past, he felt as though it was still not enough. It was only a ten minute drive from his house to Kelly's place, but with the schedule set to every other weekend, Ben was limited to four days a month. When he first moved back to the area, he asked Kelly about having Tyler, Gracie and Kyle come over to his place one or two evenings a week for dinner and to be able to pick them up after school on the two days he got out early to do some activities. He felt brushed off by her response which was to refer back to the schedule through the court agreement and was told that her lawyer said she could not make any changes without permission from the judge.
When Ben approached her about his idea to change the schedule, Kelly was blown away. She was used to the regularity of the existing schedule and was not interested in making this kind of a change. Furthermore, she was suspicious of Ben's motivation for wanting to making this kind of significant change. The children had lived with her since she and Ben decided to part ways, and she saw no need to make this kind of change when the children were used to the routine of the schedule which provided stability and consistency. Furthermore, Kelly believed that Ben wanted to make the change for two reasons: he would look like a good father to his new live-in girlfriend and with shared custody, he could reduce his child support payments. Ashley, who was a single mother of two children, Parker, age 11 and Maddie, age 8, introduced herself to Kelly shortly after she moved in with Ben. Kelly met Ashley when she first moved in with Ben and found her to be a nice and friendly person. Gracie, Tyler and Kyle told Kelly that Ashley treated them well, and they also liked hanging out with Maddie and Parker too. Glad that her children enjoyed their time at Ben's place, Kelly thought everything was good until Gracie let it slip that Ben and Ashley were getting married in six months and wanted the children to have the same positions in their wedding as they did in Kelly and Chris' wedding. Ben recently asked Kelly's permission to take Kyle, Tyler and Gracie to Hawaii for two weeks over summer vacation, but when Kelly asked Ben to split the cost to send Gracie and Tyler for a month of summer camp, he told her that he could not afford it. Kelly was fuming that he could afford to get married and planning to go on what had to be an expensive vacation yet he would not pay half of the summer camp bill. There was no way she was going to agree to any changes in their custody agreement at least not without talking to her lawyer first.
Fed up with Kelly's lack of response to make the change to the schedule to allow the children to live with him and Kelly week on and week off, Ben filled papers in family court to have the judge grant him shared physical custody of Tyler, Gracie and Kelly. The court referred Kelly and Ben to mediation to try to work out an agreement that would meet their current and future needs for the children. After completing intake with the mediation center staff, they agreed to give the mediation process a chance and scheduled their first mediation session one evening after they were out of work. Ben and Kelly attended the first session with the mediators and began the process of working out their conflict. Kelly stated that she did not think there was any need to make any changes to the current schedule and that the only reason Ben filled papers against her is so he can stop paying her child support. She went on to say that because mediation is voluntary that she is not going to come back for a second session if all the mediators want her to do is to agree to his demands. She went on to say that she hired a lawyer and is prepared to go to court to let the judge decide. Ben was emphatic in saying that Kelly was all wrong about him that he was not looking to stop paying support that he loved their children and just wanted to spend more time with them. He said that he also went to see a lawyer for a consult and was told that now that he lived local in the same school district that he had a very good chance of getting shared custody.
Things began to heat up from there. Kelly accused Ben of being out to get back at her for not agreeing to his demands and not caring about what was best for the children. Ben told Kelly was acting like a drama queen and said he was sick of her trying to control his time with their children. Kelly called Ben a selfish tight-wad, said he only cared about impressing his new girlfriend and that spending time with the children was a joke because he was never involved with them like this in the past. Ben responded by telling Kelly that he was sick of being a part time dad and knew that Kelly preferred he would stay in his place and let Chris continue to take over in the father role.
In the information gathering process, the mediators heard that being involved in the children's lives was important to Ben, that he was looking take an active role in their activities especially sports and that he was looking for quality time with the children. The mediators heard that Kelly was fearful of change, doubtful that Ben's intentions were genuine and that responsibility of motherhood was important to her. The mediators explained to Ben and Kelly that in mediation they could make plans about schedule, activities and any other topics they wanted. The mediators explained that there role was to facilitate the mediation process and to help Kelly and Ben to make plans about the children and that they were not limited by what previous court orders dictated. Initially reluctant to return to mediation, Ben and Kelly liked the idea that they could determine the outcome of their conflict in mediation and did not need to use lawyers to make decisions for them. Although they were doubtful that they could get an agreement in mediation, Kelly and Ben decided to schedule another session and keep working through the process.
Ben and Kelly returned five more times to mediation and worked through their conflicts to create an agreement that worked for both of them. The mediators helped them to talk about how they felt about certain things and what was important to them to make plans in mediation. Kelly learned that Ben was trying to move back to the area a couple of years before he met Ashley and that it was his job that kept him away. She believed him when he said that it was pure luck that he was able to find a job locally that paid him the kind of money he made at his old job. He explained how the hours at his current job are flexible and allow him to spend the kind of time he wants to with the children. At his former place of employment, he worked into the early evening and said there was no way he could make a three-hour drive from his work to where Kyle, Tyler and Ashley lived to take them to their activities or go out to dinner during the week. Kelly learned that Ben was afraid that he missed too much of the children's lives already and that he was eager to spend time with them before they grew up and went off to college.
In mediation, Ben learned that Kelly was not necessarily resistant to changing the schedule because she was opposed to Ben being around the children more, but that there were certain activities that she did with the children during the week that if they were at Ben's every other week she would be unable to do. Ben learned that Kelly and Chris had family night with the children every Wednesday night where they would go out to dinner, go play mini golf or do something else for fun. Kelly explained how she and Gracie went roller skating every Tuesday evening and did not want to give that activity up if Gracie were at Ben's every other week. Kelly also said Kyle was struggling with a couple of subjects in school, and she was helping him with some of his projects along with giving homework help. She told Ben how Tyler attended youth group at their church and that she was one of the adult leaders in his group. Ben understood that Kelly wanted him to be involved in their children's lives, but that she did not want to be excluded.
Kelly and Ben developed a new schedule that allowed Ben to spend more time with the children and that did not take time away from the activities that Kelly did with them. Ben was pleased that he was no longer restricted to the every other weekend schedule, and Kelly was delighted that Ben was able to be more involved during the week days and in the summer time. After telling Kelly that the reason he would not split summer camp was because he was angry at her for not being open to talking about the schedule, he also revealed that Ashley's parents were covering the cost of the summer trip for them to all go to Hawaii. Ben apologized for shutting Kelly down about camp saying that he wanted to be more open in their communication in their future. Kelly talked about how she was wrong for not asking Ben for his reasons for requesting the schedule change and assumed it was for selfish reasons. Kelly said that she would be open working out a support modification, and Ben agreed to split the cost of summer camp.
The mediators helped Ben and Kelly to develop their own solutions to the conflict and wrote up their agreement that they could take to the judge at their court date. Kelly and Ben left mediation feeling as though they had an agreement that would both allow them to spend quality time with Gracie, Tyler and Kyle and agreed that they needed to communicate with each other differently than they did in the past. Ben and Kelly said they would take some of the skills they learned in mediation to help them to effectively communicate what they were saying so that in the future they would understand each other's points of view. Kelly and Ben said they were pleased with the mediation process and would return to mediation in the future to resolve other disputes.