Posts

divorce advice

Divorce Advice: Interview with the Divorce Resource Guy Podcast

Ben discusses his approach to divorce mediation and divorce advice with The Divorce Resource Guy, Jason Levoy!

 

Divorce Coach

Jason Levoy is a former divorce attorney, now turned divorce coach. His mission is to educate, empower and help you understand the divorce process from an attorney’s point of view. Jason’s coaching will provide you the tools and knowledge you need to communicate effectively during your divorce.

His goal is to empower you with the information you NEED TO KNOW so you can make the best decisions in your divorce and your life.

Let’s Talk Divorce Mediation Advice

Jason and I had a wonderful conversation about the ways divorce mediation can help couples resolve their divorce outside of litigation. I hope you take a moment to listen to learn how mediation might help you and the support Jason provides to his divorce coaching clients.

How can I learn more about family and divorce mediation?

If you would to learn more about divorce and family mediation schedule a free half-hour consultation with Ben.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

Two cheerful black and white recruiters welcoming female applicant on job interview, african and caucasian hr managers greeting candidate for vacant position, handshaking and good first impression

Choosing the Right Divorce Mediator

Next to the loss of a loved one it is said that divorce is arguably the most stressful experience one can have. It is important that you pick a divorce mediator who can guide you through the complex divorce process in Massachusetts.

Trust, comfort, and confidence in your divorce mediator is essential. Trust in their integrity. Comfort with their style and approach. And confidence in their knowledge and skills. Knowing how to choose a divorce mediator is an important step in moving forward with a collaborative divorce process.

Read what clients have to say

Questions to Ask When Hiring a Divorce Mediator in Massachusetts

  • How long have you been mediating?
    Look for someone with experience. How many divorce mediations are they currently working on? 
  • What is your background and why did you become a mediator?
    Some mediators are social workers, some attorneys, some financial experts, and more. Why did they get in to mediation?
  • What differentiates you from other mediators?
    Every mediator has strengths they bring to the table and they should match what you believe you need. What sets them apart from other mediators?
  • What are your rates?
    Mediators should be up front with all associated divorce mediation costs.
  • How long will this process take?
    Mediators cannot predict the future. However, they should be able to guesstimate a range of sessions you will need after asking you a few questions.
  • How does the paperwork get completed?
    Some mediators provide the court forms and others don’t. Some draft the Separation Agreement and others only a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would be brought to an attorney for drafting. A good divorce mediator should outline in detail the services offered.
  • How do you handle conflict?
    Every mediator has approaches they use to manage conflict that arise in divorce negotiations. They should be able to describe some of the ways they manage difficult conversations.
  • What does the divorce process involve?
    In any consultation a mediator should be able to provide a general overview of a 1A uncontested divorce process. Ask about the decisions that need to be made, the legal standards the probate and family court use to approve decisions, and for a description of the hearing process.
  • How were you trained and how do you keep up with current practice?
    Most mediators affiliate with mediation organizations. Others have continuing education requirements as part of their professional licensing.
  • How would you describe your mediation style?
    There are formal styles (facilitative, evaluative, and transformative). Mediators should be able to describe their own personal style.
  • What ethics, values and principles do you follow?
    Any mediator should describe the core principles of mediation. Similarly, they should describe their personal guiding values.
Schedule a FREE Consultation with Ben!

The Single Most Important Factor in How to Choose a Divorce Mediator in Massachusetts (or anywhere!)

Fit.

You will be sharing deeply personal information. Determining your financial future. Crafting a co-parenting plan to help your children have the best possible childhood. 

Bottom line: it is critical that you both feel secure and comfort with your mediator.

Trying to choose a divorce mediator in Massachusetts or New England? Contact Ben Stich if you would like to ask him any of these questions in a free divorce mediation consultation.

little girl with paper family in hands

Divorce with Children – An Interview with Ben Stich

I was honored to be interviewed by Natalie Armstrong from the Marketing Resolution YouTube Channel on Tuesday from among the many stellar divorce and family mediators she knows. The interview was fun, brief, and hopefully informative for viewers interested in learning about family and divorce mediation. Check it out!

Divorcing with Children: An Interview with Divorce Mediator Ben Stich

When there is a divorce with children an effective separation agreement can set the stage for better outcomes for kids. One of her goals from the interview was to help viewers learn how mediation helps parents craft a child-centered custody arrangement and parenting plan.

About Mediator Natalie Armstrong-Motin

Natalie is a fierce advocate of dispute resolution practices. She promotes divorce mediators and dispute resolution experts from a range of industries, including family law. Her goal is to increase awareness of peace-making resources that exist throughout the world. To that end, her YouTube Channel is a volunteer venture and does not produce income for her or the interviewee.

To learn more about Natalie’s work promoting mediation professionals check out The Marketing Resolution YouTube channel.

Her channel is all about the resolution industry. It highlights the providers – the mediators, arbitrators, collaborators, facilitators, trainers, authors, speakers, bloggers, organizations, associations, and laws. Contact Natalie Armstrong-Motin at Marketing Resolution

Woman at home holding a mobile phone with podcast app in the screen

What is a Mediator? Mediation Questions Answered on the Inside Divorce Podcast

I had a blast recently being interviewed by divorce attorney Cynthia Auckly-Barbuto of the Law Firm of Grossman & Associates (now Sassoon Cymrot Law) in Newton, MA. Cynthia hosted an edition of their Inside Divorce Podcast. We spent a half hour answering questions like “What is a mediator?” and “How can mediation help parents in high conflict situations divorce?”

Hear Ben Stich Featured on the INSIDE DIVORCE PODCAST

My interview on the Inside Divorce Podcast is described on their website as:

On Inside Divorce Episode 17, Cynthia Auckly-Barbuto, Senior Associate Attorney at Grossman & Associates, speaks with Ben Stich, LICSW, M.Ed., a Family and Divorce Mediator in Natick, MA (www.benstich.com). Ben specializes in separation and divorce mediation, parenting, modification, decision-making & communication, as well as martial issues. Ben also mediates elder issues like estate planning and end of life planning. Ben specializes in interest based facilitated mediation. In this episode Ben talks about different strategies he often uses in high conflict cases to best reach resolution in the mediation process. Ben is also an instructor for the Commonwealth’s only mandated High Conflict Parenting Education Program at William James College. The course is 9-weeks and focuses on conflict resolution & skill development.

What is a mediator? Hear me answer that and other questions about mediation, high conflict parenting, and divorce.

Grossman & Associates is a full service family law firm that prides itself on going above and beyond for their clients. They attend to the big matters and small matters with same attention and detail that all clients deserve.

If this interview was of interest please check out Ben’s interview with Alan Margulis from the Total Counselor Show on WCRN.

To learn more about divorce mediation or family mediation contact mediator Ben Stich for more information.

Illustration of chalkboard with text facts and crossed myths

Mediators Can Help HIGH Conflict: Fact or Fiction?

People tell me “I want to refer someone to you but they are really high conflict so there’s no way mediation could work for them.”

Then, I take a deep breathe, resist the urge to say something like “that doesn’t make sense!” and ask them to tell me about the situation.

FICTION: Mediators only works for couples who are amicable.

FACT: Mediation is a structured process that helps people in conflict come to resolution.

Mediators Say, Bring on the Conflict!

Divorcing spouses who hate each other?

Yup.

Co-parents who not have spoken face-to-face in years.

Yes.

Teenagers who “hate” their parents?

Uh-huh, that too.

Mediation is all about resolving conflict! Low conflict, high conflict, and everything in between.

Can mediation resolve all disputes? Of course not. But it sure can more than the public realizes.

Divorce Mediation Fiction

Conventional thinking about mediation is that it can’t work because the parties are:

  • Too combative
  • All about blame
  • Unwilling to consider another point of view
  • Resentful and vindictive

And this is just a sampling.

Challenging dynamics for sure.

Family Mediation Fact

I recently mediated a case with all those factors in play.

After nine months of paying attorneys thousands of dollars to try to settle and prepare for a trial these clients had made no progress. Not even one itty-bitty agreement.

As a last ditch effort to avoid a drawn-out ugly and exorbitantly expensive trial they tried mediation. The wife walked in and started the session by announcing that she has no confidence in the process, and this will likely be the first — and last — session.

Not an ideal starting point!

The tension was palpable.

It took some time, and lots of structure and intervention from me, but slowly they started to hear each other. They started to increase understanding of one another (NOTE: understanding is different than agreeing!). What started with hostility and blame often shifted to listening and problem-solving. And they started making decisions.

And the mediation fact is they successfully divorced.

The first step of any effective mediation must be two (or more) parties’ voluntary engagement in the process. Once engaged, family and divorce mediators have the skills and experience required to help folks navigate their disputes.

Mediators facilitate safe, constructive communication by:

  • Creating a safe and structured physical environment
  • Modelling and teaching effective communication skills
  • Helping clients stay calm
  • Guiding clients toward mutually satisfactory problem-solving (click here to learn more about positions and interests)
  • Teaching effective proposal-making approaches
  • and more….

Mediator Facts Matter…

My favorite mediations are those involving a high conflict situation. It’s when I have the greatest positive impact for my clients, and their children (if they have any).

In the end, having a skilled mediator increases the chances the parties will be able to:

  • Remain the decision-makers in their own dispute (particularly important with child-related matters)
  • Save a lot of money
  • Save a lot of time
  • Save a lot of heartache going through an adversarial litigation process
  • Improve their communication
  • Decrease long-term conflict
  • Move forward with certainty about the outcome of their conflict
  • Repair some or all of the relationship
  • And when children are involved, develop much better child-centered parenting plans (stay tuned for an upcoming post on mediating with parents in a high conflict relationship)

The FACT of the matter is this: Mediation IS an effective model for resolving high conflict disputes.

Ben's dog Brady riding in the car

A Mediator’s Best Friend Can Remedy Your Relationship Issues

I am a mediator and I recently lost one of the loves of my life.

A best friend.

A source of unconditional support.

His name was Brady.

My dog, Brady.

I provide family mediation, and yes, I am one of those pet-owners. You know the kind. The ones who consider their pet a member of the family.

I was thinking about our relationship today while on a hike that he and I had taken countless times together.

Brady was incredibly obedient.

Smart. Loyal. Goofy.

Great eye contact.

Even better head-nod.

Basically, he did everything I told him, listened whenever I wanted to talk, and always agreed with me.

And he was beautiful to boot! What’s not to love?

Is this not every man and woman’s dream scenario for a relationship?

I don’t know, is it?

As I moved briskly along the hiking trail I began to think about that question. Ours certainly was a perfect human-dog relationship.

But was it a dream scenario for good ‘ol human relationships?

Well….yes, and no.

No?

Some qualities of my relationship with Brady might be a dream scenario: a nightmare dream scenario!

I have never found a healthy relationship that was built on the premise that one has exclusive power and control.

I have never found a healthy relationship built upon universal subservience.

Or, complete deference.

No, those qualities make for unpleasant, unhealthy, and at times unsafe relationships.

If it creates such bad relationship issues, how could it also be a dream scenario?

But remember I wrote “yes, and no?”

Brady was a great listener.

Great relationship partners know now to listen.

Like Brady, they make eye contact, they maintain eye contact, and they nod their head to acknowledge their partner.

Relationship tips, from a mediator’s best friend:

My relationship with Brady was phenomenal.

Take these lessons from Brady to strengthen your relationships:

  • Brady was a great companion, as I was to him. Provide companionship to your partner
  • Brady and I complemented one another beautifully. Embrace the differences in your relationship and view them as complementary pieces
  • Always listen.
  • Play when it’s time to play, and hang out when it’s time to hang out.
  • Provide physical comfort to one another. Perhaps not a belly-rub, but human touch can be a beautifully powerful force
  • Avoid judgment. Instead, fully embrace each other, foibles and all.
  • Provide unconditional support.

And occasionally, give a good head-nod.

Please comment below — I would love to hear from you! 

miscommunication concept, cartoon couple struggling to communication through tin cans and a string

WHAT? Avoid Misunderstanding to Improve Communication in Marriage

I recently followed a thread on a blog for school counselors. The thread began this way:

“Question: If an 8th grader tells you – as their counselor – that they are cutting, would you tell their parents? Please explain why or why not…I am interested to see the variety of reasoning on this matter…it keeps coming up and I find it such a difficult dilemma…Thank You”

One of the early replies from a counselor indicated that she would, in fact, maintain the student’s confidentiality. She would try to help the student work through the issue without informing the parents.

The response to this entry was fast and furious.

Counselors from all over the country posted replies expressing dismay, anger, and incredulity that a school counselor would even consider keeping this information about a student cutting from the parents. Many safety, ethical, and clinical arguments were made.

What is Going on Here?

After about thirty posts, several made by the contrarian counselor who herself appeared enraged by the fervor her post caused, there was this post by the counselor:

“I apologize to all. . . I am of another era and I feel rather ridiculous. ‘Cutting’ to me meant skipping a class!!! No wonder, what I’ve been saying is a little ‘out there!’”

The initial question was asking about self-injurious cutting that is sometimes seen with adolescents who are depressed or anxious; the counselor who caused all the excitement thought she was asking about cutting class, that is, skipping class!

Avoid Misunderstanding to Improve Communication in Marriage

There are so many times during conflict that the issue is one of misunderstanding and interpretation. Because neither person in the argument takes pause to make sure they avoid misunderstanding the other person’s perspective, an argument ensues and emotions escalate, all because they are talking about two entirely different things!

If a partner, co-worker, or child says something that generates a strong emotional reaction in you, it can be helpful to make sure you understand what they mean (which is different from what they are saying) before responding.

Ask clarifying questions, and re-state what you think the other person is saying; these two actions alone can help you prevent needless conflict.

And improve your marriage.

Sometimes a mediator can help families who are divorcing or experiencing unresolved conflict work through misunderstandings. Or, you can do it yourself — just think of the “cutting” story!

mother and daughter or two sisters arguing

Angry at a Family Member? Learn Family Conflict Resolution Skills to Deal With Family Issues

“I just don’t understand why my brother won’t listen to me!”

I was asked this somewhat rhetorical question about their family conflict yesterday while explaining family mediation to someone.

This woman was frustrated by how her brother berated his son in front of other people. He refused to follow her advice. She felt he was embarrassing his son for no justifiable reason.

She was curious to know what I thought of the issue as a mediator.

I asked if she knew why he behaved this way and she gave her take. I then asked if she had ever asked him why he talked to his son in a way that seemed to embarrass him. She hesitated, and then answered with a simple, “no.”

What this woman came to realize was that she really had no idea what was going on for her brother when he used such a harsh tone with her nephew in front of other people.

Was he having difficulty managing his temper?

Was he upset at something else and didn’t realize he was taking it out on his son?

Was this the 20th time that his son defied him?

Was his wife giving him a hard time for not being stern enough on his son?

So, I encouraged her to be curious.

Yes, curious.

Why Curiosity is a Great Family Conflict Resolution Technique

I do not know what she will learn if she asks him.

I do know that until she understands his perspective he will remain defensive to her well-intended suggestions. Once he feels that she understands his point of view – truly listens and understands — it will be easier for him to hear her point of view.

On a practical level, it is only with a good understanding of his underlying perspective when she can offer a suggestion that addresses the real issue.

One of My Strategies When Mediating Family Issues

She is planning to employ a communication technique that I refer to as “being curious”.

Rather than offering up her solution for the nth time in a row, she is going to approach her brother, point out that she notices that he berates his son in front of others, and ask if he could help her understand why this happens.

If she is genuinely curious about his perspective, she will likely be surprised by what she learns. And then maybe he will start to understand her perspective too.

I am a mediator but I am also a father, son, and brother.

When I get frustrated there are times — like most people — when I offer unsolicited advice.

Just ask my wife!

My unsolicited adivce only frustrates her and usually worsens the situation. Yet, when I remember to take a deep breathe and shift to my “curiosity” mindset I learn a lot about her point of view.

And when I finally do offer a suggestion it even occasionally helps!

When you get frustrated with someone, try to become curious — what you learn might be quite curious!

couple in a counseling or mediation session

Lessons Learned Providing Mediations: Ben’s Mediation Blog

I am a family and divorce mediator.

When I say I love mediations to people I often get one of the following responses:

  • Really? (Translation: why in the world would you want to do that?), or…
  • Really? (Translation: I have no idea what that is but I’ll play along), or..
  • Really? (Translation: my aunt’s sister’s next door neighbor got divorced last year and I think they used a mediator)

To the first question, yes, I really love mediating. I have been helping people resolve their differences through formal and informal mediation as a social worker, an administrator, and as an educator. I love it because it works, it is empowering to those involved, and it strengthens families. Mediations help people from all walks of life communicate more effectively and work out conflict situations in a satisfying way.

Bottom line — it helps solve important problems.

Why a Blog About My Mediations?

I constantly find myself observing or participating in moments that provide me with clarity about the dynamics of human conflict. In just the last two weeks I have seen a husband make a blunder due to false assumptions; a father send a text to his son that had a double entendre (and the incorrect meaning was how it was read!); and a student trip over his words so poorly that he got himself in to more undeserved trouble. I hope that by sharing my observations readers may make personal connections that lead them to positive change.

Plus, by getting the word out about parent teen mediation, marital mediation, divorce mediation, and family mediation, I want to educate readers about the mediation process and its many benefits. The more people perceive mediation as an effective and efficient means to working out problems the better.

And I certainly aim to provide posts that are enjoyable, entertaining, and helpful.

Spreading the Word About My Mediation Services Blog

I would love and appreciate your help connecting others to the Mediation Blog. Please share this with your colleagues, friends and families. Post a link on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter (or any other social media!). Provide comments! Feedback — of the good, bad or indifferent variety — are all helpful in my efforts of making this useful and relevant to readers.

THANK YOU so much for taking the time to read; for sharing this with others; and helping me get the word out about the wonderful benefits of family and divorce mediation.