What happens during a divorce when abuse is present? How do you safeguard yourself and those you love during those tough times? Divorce can be an incredibly difficult experience, and it gets even more complicated when abuse is involved. With the help of Susan and Tracy in this episode, you’ll learn how to safeguard yourself or your loved ones during these tough times. Knowing the signs of various forms of abuse could prove vital for protecting both yourself and those around you from further harm.
Divorce Mediation can be an unfamiliar process, so what exactly is it? In this week’s episode we learn about what happens in a parenting plan divorce mediation and what happens if a plan cannot be created. The lady lawyer league of Hightower Reff Law answers your questions about Divorce Mediation with special guest Kelly Gering, who is a Nebraska Divorce Mediator here to help!
Susan Reff: On today’s podcast, we will be talking about mediation of parenting plans with Kelly Gerring. Hi, Kelly.
Kelly Gerring: Hi, Susan. Hi, Tracy.
Tracy Hightower-Henne: Thanks for coming. Hey, I’m really excited for this conversation because all of the conversations we’ve just had about this conversation are just really interesting, and parenting plans are a huge part of divorce cases with children. Obviously, when there’s no children involved, you’re not mediating a parenting plan, so imagine that. But yeah, parenting plans are a whole thing in divorces. They are required in Nebraska, by the Nebraska Parenting Act, and personally, they are something I do not want to be involved with. So, I appreciate people like Kelly that do great mediations of parenting plans. So, tell us about yourself and what got you into the crazy mess of mediating parenting plans?
Kelly: Oh, well, I’m so grateful to be with the both of you today, and thank you for the opportunity. I don’t know. I guess a little bit about me. I feel like I’ve been a mediator my whole life. I came from a divorced family. My mom and dad divorced and my dad married our next door neighbor. So, I’ve been sort of a go between for facilitating communication for a long time. My education is that I have an undergraduate degree in philosophy, and at some point I thought that I would go on to law school. But I studied abroad in Greece and Turkey and on a mountain had this miraculous discovery that I wasn’t supposed to go to law school. I came down the mountain, sent a fax to my dad and said, “I’m not supposed to go to law school.” And he said, “Then why in the hell did you get a degree in philosophy?”
Tracy: Yes, that’s what you do. You philosophize and then you go to law school.
Kelly: Then you go to law school, right?
Tracy: How tall was the mountain? How high did you have to go?
Kelly: I know. I got this incredible clarity on something that was really…
Susan: Why was the communication a fax?
Kelly: Because, oh gosh, it was 19. When did I graduate from college? Nineteen ninety seven. So like out of the American Express like embassy thing, I sent this fax to my dad. I was still abroad.
Tracy: She was in Greece and Turkey, Susan.
Susan: I was thinking there was some time – this was in the past, but I was not envisioning that you were still abroad.
Tracy: In your past, it would have been the Pony Express.
Susan: Hey, I graduated from college in ninety seven also.
Kelly: All right. All right. We’re on the same.
Kelly: And at the time, sort of this notion of alternative dispute resolution was becoming more and more on the forefront and graduate programs were becoming available. So that’s what I did. I got a graduate degree in conflict resolution and back in Nebraska, they had the Parenting Act. They had basic mediation training, then they had family mediation training. And then they had this other kind of training called specialized alternative dispute resolution training, which we can talk a little bit more about. But I took all of those and then started my practice of primarily engaging family mediation. And I also teach at Creighton in their graduate program for negotiation and conflict resolution. And then I serve on the Nebraska Mediation Association Board, and I mediate my own conflict between my husband of 17 years and my 16 year old, my 14 year old and my 11 year old and my own road rage and why people can’t merge properly onto the interstate.
Tracy: Are you pro zipper merge?
Kelly: I kind of am.
Tracy: I just feel like it’s not hard. Not hard. So I’m always the person that’s going up to the front going, “This is what we’re supposed to do. All of you people that are waiting for miles need to figure this out. Figure it out.”
Kelly: Yeah, exactly.
Tracy: That’s totally a conflict resolution issue. My resolution is I’m coming up to the front. You all can figure out how else you want to resolve.
Kelly: You’ve made it easy. Here’s the protocol. This is what we do. Yes. So, I have a practice called Shared Story, and the reason that I named my practice that is because everybody has a story. And I feel like when we were all traveling a lot more on airplanes, I was the person that somebody would sit next to and tell their whole story to. And then I would get off the plane and say, “Oh, Matt told me about how he really wants to propose to his girlfriend, but he’s struggling with these issues because he’s not totally sure,” and I would know all the details and really enjoy it. And then the recognition that there’s more than one truth, so if I were to go and interview his girlfriend, she might tell me something completely different, but probably not. Maybe she’d say the same.
Tracy: Or maybe there’s no girlfriend at all.
Kelly: No girlfriend. Yeah, that’s interesting.
Tracy: There’s always this other thing that we never thought about, like maybe it’s a boyfriend,
Susan: It’s funny that you said, I’m the person that people always want to tell their story to. When I was doing my mediation training because to be a collaborative divorce attorney, you have to do mediation training. So I’ve done mediation training. There, you’re with these same people, you know, for like a week on end and you’re with them all day. And there was a gal in there and she goes, “You’re so lucky you have blond hair.” And I said, “What do you mean?” And she had she was a brunette, and she said brunettes always get strangers coming up to them and telling them their stories. And I was like, “What?” I have never heard this stereotype before that, like brunettes are more approachable and brunette women in particular. And she told me, she had a gazillion stories about basically exactly what you just said.
Kelly: That is super interesting.
Tracy: Have you ever heard that, Kelly?
Tracy: Because you are a brunette.
Kelly: I am a brunette. Um, no.
Susan: Has anyone ever heard that before? No, I know, right? You could do a study on it.
Kelly: I can do a study on that. Yeah. And so I feel like people were sharing their stories regularly with me. And then I felt like I started to learn that there are many truths, right? So my story feels very truthful to me. Your story feels very truthful to you, and I think the philosophy sort of major piece, is that there maybe isn’t necessarily one truth, even though we want there to be. And that ultimately, I think as we move about the world that our opportunity is to create a shared story. And so that is ultimately what I try to do in my practice as a family law mediator, is to help serve as a bridge so that people can create something new to make the future look brighter than the past. And that’s easier said than done, I think. But that’s ultimately the vision.
Tracy: Yeah, we’re going to tell you all how to do that in like about forty five minutes.
Kelly: In three steps.
Tracy: Yeah, yeah. So the parenting plan is like the shared story that you’re helping them, right?
Kelly: That’s right. Because the only reason that I am with them is because of their children. And honestly, that is, if there had to be one automatic space of common ground, they can say that that’s the best thing they ever did together.
Tracy: Or their pet. Do they talk about that?
Kelly: They do talk about pets. Yes.
Tracy: Have you ever had just had a pet mediation with no kids?
Kelly: We have.
Tracy: Oh, good. Yeah, we knew it.
Kelly: They’re really important. Yes, to a lot of folks. I tried to rescue a golden retriever during the pandemic with my children, and that did not work. I feel really bad.
Tracy: You tried to rescue it from people getting divorce?
Tracy: Oh, like they started talking about no one’s going to take care of it and you’re like, “I’ll take it.”
Kelly: No, we just we tried to like, adopt from a rescue and it was not a good thing. And so now I feel terrible when I am mediating about pets because I’m like, we weren’t very good pet people. But pets are very important parts of families.
Tracy: And oftentimes sometimes pets will go with the kids, right? They will transfer the homes with the kids.
Kelly: That’s right. That’s right. Because they can’t imagine not having their dog with them.
Tracy: This is why I’m not a mediator, because my advice is, screw the old dog, get a puppy. Because the kids will love the puppy more, because everyone likes puppies more and then your dog will live longer than the old dog.
Susan: I would want the old dog, because then you know what you’re getting and you don’t have to train and deal with the chewing and the wetting and the middle of the night.
Kelly: Yeah, right? But then you have all this argumentation about who’s closer to which dog and who’s going to take care of the dog better.
Tracy: Oh, and when there’s more than one pet too.
Kelly: Yeah, splitting the pets. And then they can kind of be expensive. So who’s going to pay for all this stuff and what happens? And yeah, yeah, yes. But the parenting plan is the shared story. I mean, ultimately, they can agree that they want what is best for their children. And then that’s where we begin is dissecting what they each believe is best.
Tracy: So tell us about when you first started mediation with a couple. What does that process look like? What do you start with?
Kelly: Okay, so in Douglas County, when people when there’s either a paternity issue where they have to figure out custody and shared time or there’s a separation or a dissolution of marriage, then the case will be referred to me and I meet independently with mom and dad and do what’s called an individual private session. And I spend time learning about, at that point, what’s important to them, what the history of the relationship has looked like, what communication has been like and what they want really for their children. And then I make a decision as to whether or not it will be more productive to have them together or to have them separate. And if they’re together, that’s called a joint mediation session, and so I facilitate the dialogue. The roadmap is the parenting plan and I guide them through the conversation to build that. If they’re separate, it’s called shuttle diplomacy, and I might meet with them on separate days. I might have them in separate rooms at the same time and go in between the rooms. But that is an opportunity to create the parenting plan, but just using a different model that will hopefully help them both to be able to share what they believe is best, maybe without the influence of the other one at the table.
Tracy: And so what are some of the things that you take into consideration to decide whether you’re going to have the shuttling or a joint session?
Kelly: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s one of the most important pieces of the assessment work is to figure out the right process. So, in my questioning with them, I’m looking for power and control. I’m asking questions about who is responsible for money and how that looks in the household. I’m talking to them about who makes parenting decisions. How do they communicate with one another? I’m looking at a history of abuse, whether that’s physical, psychological, emotional. I’m trying to discern whether they can advocate and negotiate in the best interests of the child on their own behalf. And if there is any intimidation or power and control issues, I probably am not going to bring them together.
Tracy: And one of the things to remember too, at least in our jurisdiction in Nebraska, in Douglas County, it’s rare that attorneys are in the joint session. Is that true?
Kelly: I think that that is true. I mean, that’s always the prerogative of the client. If they want to have their attorney present, they can. And we have a conversation about that because we also extend that invitation to the other client as well. But most of the time, in most of the work, it’s the clients at the table, it’s the parents at the table. And they can always have their attorney on speaker phone or a phone call or consult with them before or after.
Tracy: Or text them.
Kelly: They can text them. They absolutely can text them.
Tracy: For the attorneys that text with their clients, not us.
Susan: They could fax them.
Kelly: They could fax them.
Tracy: Use the Pony Express. Facebook message. Facetime. All that stuff. All that stuff. Well, and also, let’s be clear too, the only other people I’m assuming, that are invited are attorneys, right? You’re not having your spouses – the parents – bring their own parents or their friends or anything like that.
Kelly: So that’s interesting, too. There is part of that statute that indicates that the client can bring a support person with them, if they want to. However, in my practice, that rarely happens where they bring a sister or a best friend. Sometimes, that will happen in the first session, but then they view me very much as that person who’s supporting the process and guiding the dialogue. But they are allowed, in the beginning ,if they if they want to have that, but many don’t.
Tracy: That goes to show that lawyers don’t know everything that’s in all of the statute.
Susan: That’s fine. That’s why we have experts, like Kelly, that we can rely on. So, once you’ve determined whether you’re going to be able to do mediation either in the same room or separately, then what does that joint session look like?
Kelly: Oh, that’s a great question. So, first and foremost, and I think everybody has a different practice, but it’s really important to me to set a tone for what that experience is going to be like. So I often will ask parents, “How do you want to feel when you’re all done at the end of the day and you have a parenting plan in place,” or you don’t have a parenting plan in place because there is no guarantee for agreement and mediation, there is simply the opportunity to try and see. Many parents will say, “I just really I need peace like I’ve been on a roller coaster. I’m exhausted, I just need to have some closure and I want to know that I’m going to be able to see my kids and how the Christmas is going to look and all the things.” So I’ll say, “Let’s lead from a space of peace,” and they’ll say, “You know what? At the end of the day, it’s not been great thus far, but I’d really like to have a better relationship with my co-parent.” So I will say, “Let’s talk about what that would look like and what that would take.”
Kelly: And so I ask them to set an intention for that joint session, and then I have some ground rules. So for me, it’s really helpful that I always have a pen and paper because invariably somebody is going to say something that triggers someone at the table and instead of jumping in and interrupting, I encourage people to write it down and to use that piece of paper as an opportunity to put their ideas together. And then I work really hard to ensure that we’re working through physical custody, legal custody, holiday work, all of those pieces, and that each parent has an equal opportunity, as much as is equal, to be able to share their thoughts about those. And then I’m taking notes. I’m asking all kinds of questions. For me, it is most important that whatever we create together is durable and sustainable and a living document that actually reflects what they can do, not what they think they should do, or that looks good or that their neighbor did, or that their friend did, or that their, you know, sister-in-law got through her thing or whatever. But what they can do.
Tracy: So, our neighbor character on our podcast is neighbor Plumber Joe saying what? What Plumber Joe did in his child support calculator and parenting plan is always really important, but I think it’s helpful to know to because oftentimes we get the clients that come to us and say, Oh, we’re not going to fight about custody or a parenting time that’ll be really easy. And sometimes they would like the attorney to just draft the parenting plan. And personally, I don’t want to draft the parenting plan. I want to send them to a mediator, like you, to work through these things that have a lot more feelings and and they often get to pieces of the parenting plan like holidays or how to communicate with each other that they hadn’t thought about. And they sometimes just think the parenting plan is, what is the weekly parenting schedule look like? So, tell us what are the other parts of the parenting plan other than just parenting time that you work through? That can be more difficult?
Kelly: So I think one of the most important parts of the parenting plan is how they’re going to communicate with one another and how they’re going to communicate with their children and how they’re going to make decisions. Because they will say things, they’ll come into mediation and say, “Hey, you know, this is going to be really easy, because we think about half the time at mom’s house, about half the time at dad’s house.” We both want to have joint legal custody, which means we both enter into decision making equally for what we there for final fundamental areas. So education, elective medical, religion, behavior and consequences. And then I’ll say, “Oh, that’s that’s fantastic. Tell me about how you make decisions together.” Well, when it comes to the doctor stuff, basically, she does it. She takes them to the appointments. And then we might talk about something like vaccination. And I’ll just be throwing questions or topics or things out there. We might also talk about school and say, “OK, so your child is in middle school right now. Is there agreement on high school?” Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Well, how? How will you cross that?
Susan: You’re not even going to be living under the same roof?
Tracy: Yeah, you are going to call their attorney and then have to litigate it.
Kelly: So, is it a private school? Is it a public school?
Susan: The school in Dad’s neighborhood, the school in Mom’s neighborhood.
Tracy: If I recall correctly from my mediation training, this is called reality checking. And that was, I think, the one big takeaway I got from the mediation training is like, talk about these hypothetical situations. And that’s maybe what I don’t love about, you know, doing mediations myself, is the reality checking. Because I feel like it’s ad nauseum. You can talk about it forever. But that’s the most important part. And I think somewhat of what the failed mediations that later come in for modifications because they didn’t talk about those things.
Kelly: Exactly. And I think that like like us and anything, I mean, we’re sort of in denial about thinking about what that will be like because that feels like forever away. But the truth of it is that starting to have those conversations now and thinking through, well, what do we do if we can’t agree? So you live in and I live in Gretna, we both agree that there are great school districts. You work here, I work there, you know, potentially down the road. There may be another marriage, there may be more children. There may be additional factors to consider. So let’s start talking about how will we make a decision? So maybe you’re very research focused, so you want to have test scores and you want to look at measurements of success for schools in this way for you? You might think I just want to be in the space. I want to talk to teachers, I want to see other families. But if we’ve never talked about how we do that and then what do we do if we disagree? So a lot of times in parenting plans they will have a communication protocol for decision making, and we’ll say something like when we get to this place, are we going to assign a final decision maker? Or will we go back to mediation and the mediator will help us through this problem solving process. So, it’s bigger than just what does Monday through Sunday look like? What are we going to do for Christmas Eve? But I think that that communication is where, that’s where problems have been in the past. That’s invariably where problems are going to be in the future.
Tracy: I think some of the experiences I’ve had in mediation where I have been an attorney at the table and it has been sadder, which is the specialized alternative dispute resolution where we’re shuttling, when we’re in separate rooms, is really talking through the communication piece and sometimes it gets even into the weeds of we’re not going to text unless it’s an emergency. We’re only sending emails and the emails can only have one topic and you have to respond within twenty four hours. And you know, you’re not bringing up a separate topic and you need to answer the question and resolve it. And sometimes those are really exhausting, but they’re really important because they know the problems they’ve had in communication in the past.
Kelly: Absolutely. And I don’t know if some people are aware, but there are online co-parenting apps that you can you know that that work for some parents because sometimes it needs to be. The decision on the table needs to be written. Somebody the other parent needs to have twenty four hours to process it. Maybe get more information to help make that decision to go back. And we do in parenting plan, say text messages used only in emergency situations. Emails must be responded to within twenty four hours. Phone calls are only for I mean, we get very granular because in the beginning I feel like it is a roadmap that of rigidity because things are not working when they are, we can throw that into a drawer. It can collect dust and if we can be flexible with one another, then we don’t need it. But we’re not often when I see parties and mediation at that point. So we need something that when we were reasonable that we agreed to so that when things are not, we can go back and say at some point I met with this crazy Lady Kelly and agreed to these things. And so I guess I said I would do this, so I should well.
Tracy: And it’s also enforceable by court. That’s right. And you know, in Douglas County, there’s a very rigid process two of the parenting plan of being approved by the court before it can be entered as a final order. And there’s pieces in it that are required that sometimes parents look at it like, why do we need that in there? And later, inevitably, it is nice to be able to say, Oh, there’s that situation that we hadn’t thought we would need that. But I think the other big thing, too, that so many people think I’m never getting remarried. And it’s the new relationships that, you know, sometimes these communication pieces and the parenting plans talk about how communication is going to remain between the biological parents only and not bringing in new spouses. Well, maybe you maybe you’re going to like the new spouse and if you want to communicate with the new spouse because they’re better at planning things. Have at it. And I think one of the things that we talk about when you say you can put it in a drawer and let it collect dust is what we say is there’s no parenting plan, police. You know, Kelly’s not like checking these every day and going, Oh, does dad have the kids? It’s five p.m.. Right? Oh, you know, so. So that’s the living document. Yeah, and that’s the best part about it is that you some for some people, it’s going to feel like check the box, you got to get it done. It needs to be attached to the final order. But the best cases are they never need to look at it again.
Kelly: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that if we spend time doing some reality testing up front, then hopefully we’ve walked through some of these things early on so that when they they come there, they’ve been at least starting to think about them. And then, yeah, and then hopefully through flexibility and time, they can work better together.
Susan: I wanted to ask you, Kelly, because a lot of our mediators for parenting plans are attorneys and you’re not an attorney, but you work in the legal system when you’re mediating parenting plans. And do you have any like what are you? How is it working with attorneys as a mediator? You know, if you could tell some stories about, Yeah.
Kelly: You know, I feel
Tracy: Like and then tell us the names of the
Susan: Things about, Oh, I think we already know.
Kelly: I feel like in general, I have to be honest and say that I really appreciate the partnership with attorneys. I think overall, especially Tracy, when you describe how the kind of work that I’m doing in parenting plans isn’t work necessarily that you would want to be doing, you’re doing different work with your clients. And I feel like there is a. Really important partnership that happens because you are the advocate for your client and I am the advocate for the process. So I think you have a great opportunity to be guiding your client on the side through while I am engaging both parties and mediation. And I think that also what it affords is a chance for them to have for for your client to have their own voice in process so they can tell me their stories they can share with me, their hopes, they can talk about their concerns. And if it works and they’re cooperative with their co-parent in the process, they can create something that is wholly creative and customized for their family that they probably are not going to be able to do in court, right? Some attorneys, I think, appreciate that better than others. But ultimately, if we’re just being honest, mediation is faster. So when clients come to me, I’m not waiting for a hearing date or a, I mean, I’m able to get them and quickly we’re able to to determine if there’s going to be common ground. It is less expensive and it’s entirely their voice. So it’s all about what they believe is best for their children and they retain the control. So I think many attorneys are I, at least in my experience, are appreciative. I try to be in communication with them. But others, I think it’s just it’s it’s a process for what they feel comfortable with in terms of what they’re going to do or want to do with their client.
Susan: And there are attorneys still practicing who remember the days when there wasn’t mediation Pony Express. They had to pony express their settlement offer to the other attorney, and I’m sure they view you as someone taking from their workload because, yeah, this is part of the divorce process, and they used to either pick up the phone or be litigating these issues. And now they’re like, Oh, I don’t have to do that anymore, or I don’t get to do that, and it’s now in someone else’s hands. And, you know, is there a conflict sometimes between a mediator and the attorney because there can be like that idea of, well, you’re you’re taking away part of the lawyering?
Kelly: Sure. I mean, I think that that’s a that can be a concern. More so what I see is when they’ve tried to do settlement work with the other attorney and it’s going nowhere and their client is seeing a lot of money going out the door and they don’t have anything to show for it. And so then they will say, OK, we’ve done what we can do. Let’s bring these people together in mediation and see what is possible. So I try to I try to make sure that people understand that we’re in tandem with attorneys, that we’re not in competition, although I can appreciate why, why it is perceived that way. But I think when we do the work as partners for mediators can take a lot of the work that maybe you don’t want to do off of your plate. And I hope that it’s because I enjoy the work. I enjoy getting into the details about holidays and ballet and best friends and teachers and parent, teacher and all the things. I mean, a million things that you can think of come out on the table to create the plan and that may they might not want to be spending their billable hours with you, right in that way. Yeah.
Susan: So yes. Yeah, and that’s where we and our firm really does see the value in mediation too is having the client have that opportunity to get a customized plan. And they may also, I mean, just your approach, the way you’ve described it, they’re going to open up to you. We don’t spend our time with our clients saying, you know, tell me everything that’s special about your child to you. I mean, it may come out, but we are more entrenched in the legal aspect of it and the financial aspect and all of that. So, that they’ve told you, you know, Sunday night, we have this ritual, right? And we want to continue that, OK? I wouldn’t probably ever get to that point with the client. So that’s why we appreciate mediators. I mean, we understand this is a difficult, stressful process for clients. So, the more that they feel heard and they feel like they are part of it and it’s not just happening to them and they’re going to feel better in the end.
Tracy: And I would say to the bench, that means all of the judges, really. She fully mediated to plans, and I’ll really quickly tell the story of a case that I have right now that the mediator did a parenting plan. There was two teeny tiny issues that were unresolved. We went to court and one of them was whether they are going to use a communication app like one called Our Family Wizard. So that was a very easy thing at trial. But when we were preparing for trial and we were at a pre-trial conference, the judge wants to know what are the issues that the two attorneys are going to litigate. And the first thing I tell the judge is they’ve mediated a parenting plan and he’s like, “Oh, thank God.” But we’ve spent two and a half days and we’re not even done yet with this trial on all these other tax issues. We have business valuation issues. We have, you know, how to determine someone’s income issue. So not having the parenting time issue and then also having the judges realize good, I don’t want to make those decisions about who’s going to get Christmas Eve, right?
Kelly: Yeah, I try to tell parents that the greatest amount of control that they have, particularly for the people who they love the most – their children – exists in mediation. Because if we can create that plan together with their voices, I am not a decision maker. The only decision makers at the table are mom and dad. And so why would you ever want if you don’t have to to risk giving over that? Those kinds of important pieces to a stranger who doesn’t know you, who doesn’t know your children and they doesn’t want? No, they’re not interested in that in doing that, but they will.
Tracy: I’ve had one judge. So the one issue that we had for a judge, who was about to retire, and he since retired. Literally three weeks before his retirement, we say, “Judge, we need you to make the decision on what school.” I think it was a high school. What high school the kid’s going to go to. And the judge said, “I’m not making that decision.” They have joint legal custody. They have to make that decision. And I thought, “What? You’re the judge, you have to make this decision.” And he was like, “Nope, they have to.” And it was a stipulated joint legal custody agreement. And he said, I’m not making that decision and he forced them to make a decision together. And honestly, I don’t even know what happened with that decision, but it got made. And sometimes judges are unwilling to make the decision.
Kelly: That’s right. That’s true. Yeah.
Susan: Well, and to be really honest and fair, most of our judges are not family law practitioners. They have zero experience in family law. So they have never sat down and talked about what schedule is going to work for your client. You know, so they in their mind, they may only know, OK, well, there’s a week on, week off and then there’s Wednesday night and every other weekend, and then I don’t know any other. Like, they don’t even know because they’re just not experienced. So if you’re having a trial in front of that judge, you know, and this is another thing we tell clients and anything can happen at trial, right? And one client can be asking for week on, week off. The other client can be asking for sole physical custody with every other weekend to that parent. And the judge can go, “Nope, I’m not deciding either one of those. I’m going to decide what I think is best.” Which is what they can do, right? And it’s going to be a two to three. And the parents are like, we never wanted to do that. Like, Yeah, right, I wish you would have picked what they wanted over making up your own thing.
Kelly: I think that’s one of the the hardest parts is that we’ll get really far in the process and they will get really close and then not be able to agree. And then I’ll think, “Oh, my goodness, now what are you going to get?” Because it’s, you know, we were so close. We were debating on one night or one part of a Saturday afternoon, and now you might get nothing like what?
Tracy: Yeah, I think on that note, too, I’m really interested in the idea of like how you feel when you’ve mediated a fully successful parenting plan versus those plans that you think, “Oh boy, now the judge is going to have to make a decision.”
Kelly: So three different outcomes can emerge from mediation. We can have a partial plan, which is, you know, agreement on some issues, but not all. We can have a full plan, which is agreement on all issues or we can have no agreement. And so when we do not have agreement for confidentiality purposes, I’m not allowed to share what was discussed in mediation or not. All I’m allowed to give back to the court is a statement that indicates that mediation was unsuccessful and that’s really debilitating as a practitioner because I work really hard. And then at the drop of a hat, everything can go south and we have nothing when it goes well and people have worked hard in the best interests of their kids, and we either have a partial or a full agreement. I feel so grateful, particularly as a mother, and thinking about those children when they begin a joint session. Many times I have them put a photograph on the table of their children so that we can be reminded of the only reason why we’re. There and to continue to put them at the forefront of the conversation because the blame game gets easy to do the back and forth ugliness, so when we look at that picture again at the end and say moving forward, children or minor children in Nebraska until they’re the age of 19, a lot of times there’s a lot of years of doing this and that’s the formal parenting plan years. And then you got all the years afterwards of the milestones and weddings and graduations and all the things. And so I think, look at what you did, look at how you spent your time and money and told your story and work to create a new story for these people who will forever remember your choices, right? And as a child of divorce, I know that and I know that it matters. And so I feel so grateful when it when it works.
Tracy: Yeah, that’s great. I really appreciated this conversation, and I really can’t wait to just share this podcast with all of our clients, too, because I think this is really the piece of, you know, a divorce with children that is probably more important than anything else in in their case, right? The finances and what happens with debts and assets that ultimately doesn’t really line up to really what’s in the best interest of the children as much. So I appreciate this conversation. I’ve learned a lot. It also reminds me that I still don’t want to mediate parenting plans. So thank you very much for that.
Kelly: And you’re not going to fax anything anytime soon.
Tracy: No, I’m not faxing or pony expressing, although we do have a fax machine. Actually, we don’t have a machine anymore. It comes through on email, so it’s not really a fax. So the people that say fax machines are not secure or we need to email, not fax, and I’m like, it’s the same thing it comes through in an email to us.
Kelly: Well, I always say that you can make more money, but you only have the children that you have. And so I appreciate the opportunity to be involved in people’s journeys and that’s never taken lightly for me. So thank you for having me today. I really appreciate it.
Tracy: Yeah. I can’t wait to have you back to talk about other high conflict things.
Kelly: All kinds of stories.
Tracy: All right. Thanks, Kelly.
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