Visions Anew Institute

Visions Anew Institute
Divorce is Challenging

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Friend's Divorce

Today marks the first of Spring, and my friend's new shoes have played a part in its sweet coming. It is a season of new beginnings, not just for nature's bounty, but for my good friend, too. She has weathered a long and arduous winter. A winter of the heart, if you will. Her marriage came to an abrupt end last February when her husband told her he needed a new place in his life, other than the one he had occupied beside her for so long.

It was a gut-wrenching situation.I watched as the couple walked up from their dock on the lake that chilly February day in 2005. He had told her that he needed to leave. As they made their way along the path to their house, I studied them both. I did not know what had transpired, but I knew it was not good. They moved with an air of despair. My friend had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She held her head down. As I would learn later, her heart had just been broken.

So, I stood by my friend. We spent hours talking on my back porch. Maybe the marriage could be repaired? Maybe if he had more time to think about things, he would reconsider? But no, reconsideration and repair were not options. He was determined to travel a new road.
As the weeks unfolded, I saw my friend take a journey, too. She traveled to a dark place where one struggles alone with the issues of the human heart. How did this happen? What signals did I not not see? What did I not hear?

I did not have any answers for my friend. I only saw the sorrow and the anger and the questions and the fear of the unknown and of being alone shaking her heretofore sure and firm foundation. So, I said, "Enough. Let him go and let your healing begin."
And that's what she did.

Some weeks later, we sat in her bedroom. My friend had been taking a nap in the bed that was now too full of unfilled space. The folding doors to the bedroom closet where he kept his clothes were open; the closet, empty. I studied the wire hangers. Just like my friend's heart, they were askew, left holding nothing.

Months then passed. Legal papers were signed. Property was divided. Photographs were put away. Holidays were endured.

And then, just the other day, the most amazing thing happened. With all its hope and promise, Spring was showing itself - a touch of green was appearing here and there.

With the purchase of a new pair of shoes, a healing season for my friend's heart was emerging, too. She modeled the soft, suede mules with the lavender hue and the pointy toes and the perky heels.
"He wouldn't have liked them," she said. No, he wouldn't have. They were too trendy.
My friend took off one shoe, and then other.

"But you know what?" she said, tossing them in the closet that once stood so empty. "I like them."

Welcome, my friend, to your own sweet Spring.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The "F" Word in Divorce

What do Benjamin Franklin, Mahatma Gandhi, and Tyler Perry all have in common? Does this sound like the start of a bad joke? It’s not. All three of these iconic personalities who transcend historical boundaries of time, culture, and heritage have commented on the importance of one item.

Ben Franklin said, “The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness…”

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Tyler Perry said, “It's simple: when you haven't forgiven those who've hurt you, you turn your back against your future. When you do forgive, you start walking forward.”

Those are pretty powerful words for a powerful force.

I’m fairly confident that I wouldn’t have gotten through my divorce positively without being able to forgive my ex-. Prior to forgiving him, I was angry, bitter, resentful, and full of revenge. Sound familiar? I realized one day that this was no way to live. I don’t want to make this sound like all sunshine and roses, but I was tired of my mental reel playing out my little revenge scenario. It was only hurting me, and my outlook on life, which certainly impacted my kids. When I decided to forgive him, life changed immediately. My whole outlook changed. I felt it. People noticed it.

If someone has ‘crossed’ you, and you have yet to forgive, I would dare to say that you are still angry. You are still mad. You think about it constantly. It keeps you up at night. You can’t seem to let it go. You brood about it. You may turn to vices to help you get through it. You remember every detail of the ‘infraction’ and you relive it and rehash it over and over. All this serves to do is create stress and strife in your life. It affects your health. It affects your emotions. Is it worth it?

Enter the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a selfish act. Think about it. When you choose to forgive someone, it’s a decision that you make, and then you feel better. The other person doesn’t have to give you permission to forgive. The other person doesn’t have to accept your forgiveness. You alone are in control of having the power to decide to forgive. How awesome is that?

People say to me, “I’m not ready to forgive yet because I don’t want that person to get away with it (whatever ‘it’ might be).” There is a popular misconception that if you forgive someone that it means he isn’t going to be held accountable for his actions. That is actually irrelevant. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you aren’t going to hold that person accountable. It doesn’t mean that you are going to let that person walk all over you. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences for his actions. It does mean that you are choosing to not dwell on it every day and let anger consume your every thought.

I am repeatedly asked, “Please teach me how to forgive.” I don’t know how to do that. I wish I did. I want everyone to feel the liberation and peace that comes with forgiveness. Some people like to “own” their anger. They make it a part of their life story and frankly enjoy carrying the burden. I think that’s a crazy load to carry. I tell people that forgiveness will happen if they are open to dropping some of the anger and looking forward to the future, instead of dwelling on the past.

The power of forgiveness allows you to feel peace. It doesn’t mean you aren’t still going to face noise, trouble or hard work. It does mean you can be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.

Arguably the best-known scholar on forgiveness is Lewis Smedes (1921-2002). Smedes was a professor of Theology and a renowned Christian author who wrote the incredibly popular book, “Forgive and Forget.” He said, “Forgiving is love's toughest work, and love's biggest risk. If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator. Forgiving seems almost unnatural. Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do. But forgiving is love's power to break nature's rule.”

I challenge you to focus on forgiveness and do all you can to ‘break nature’s rule!’

Adapted from “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic” in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys. The book is available at and on Monique can be reached at

Monique Honaman
Author, The High Road Has Less Traffic
770-855-7225 (m)
Twitter: @highroadthebook

Friday, August 5, 2011

Visions Anew Supports Divorcing Attorneys

By Carla Schiff, Esq. Stern & Edlin PC

“You can’t come to work and just boo hoo” said Debra Chambers, an attorney with Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers LLP, who recently finalized her difficult divorce. In addition to the apprehensions of being a lawyer who is now the client in an unfamiliar area of the law, women lawyers, like everyone else, have to deal with the emotional side when they go through a divorce.

“There’s so much pressure, it’s got to come out somewhere,” said Chambers. Hibernating in her office with the door closed wasn’t enough.

Chambers attended a weekend retreat for women with Visions Anew, a nonprofit, 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to providing support for individuals, primarily women, going through a divorce. Once arriving at the retreat, entitled “Divorce Survival Weekend,” Chambers had misgivings about being there and would have left but for a snowstorm. She was glad she stayed.

“Rise above.” This was the powerful message delivered by Visions Anew CEO and Founder, Margot Swann. As the weekend progressed, Chambers was able to share her story in a comfortable, nonjudgmental and confidential environment. By the end of the weekend, Chambers was able to let go.

Lynn Sturges, an attorney with The Law Office of Lynn H. Sturges, attended a Visions Anew retreat because of her divorce, also found a “safe outlet to tell [her] story,” as did Deborah Ebel, an attorney with McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, who noted, “very few people want to be bothered listening to your tale of woe; even family and friends tune out after a while. . . . Even those of use who consider ourselves ‘tough cookies’ need a place to break down.”

Michelle Araúz, an attorney with SunTrust who also attended a Divorce Survival Weekend, said, “as an attorney you are very good at the business side of things, you have success in your job, success in your life, how could you fail?” Araúz recognizes, “As a female attorney, you just can’t fall apart, you don’t have the luxury to check out.” Araúz knew that with young child, she could not fall apart or check out at home either.

When Araúz drove up to her Visions Anew retreat, she was immediately greeted as she drove up by a Visions Anew alumnus, who carried her bags to her room. For this “self sufficient female attorney, this wasn’t necessary but it really helped to feel taken care of.”

At Visions Anew retreats, retreat alumni cook the meals and work to make new attendees feel at home, showing that there is life after divorce. While some of the programs involve empowering information from legal, financial and therapeutic experts, other programs allow time to share and listen. Some attendees come ready to share, while others come to listen.

Ebel, who came to a retreat with a healthy does of skepticism, was surprised that she found herself actually participating, sharing and even “letting loose” as the retreat ended with Zumba dancing.

There’s no question that going through a divorce is “extremely distracting and overwhelming, “ said Sturges. Indeed, presenteeism—the problem of employees being on the job but not fully productive due to illness, conflicts at home or other stressors, “appears to be a much costlier problem than its productivity –reducing counterpart, absenteeism.” This is known all too well by any attorney with a crucial staff member going through a divorce.

Recognizing that many employees cannot afford to attend a Visions Anew retreat or seminar, Visions Anew has created a unique, panel presentation, cleverly entitled “Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage and Helping a Divorcing Friend,” which educates men and women about various aspects of the divorce process in house. In April, Visions Anew presented a similar program for the 9,000 employees at the Centers for Disease Control.

Visions Anew also encourages employers to incorporate their services into their Employee Assistance Programs by providing a confidential subsidy for employees to attend a seminar or a retreat with the goal of helping to mitigate the presenteeism caused by divorce.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mediator Changed Hats

I met with a young couple for mediation. They were referred by their couples therapist who had worked with them for several months. I explained the process of mediation and noticed how kind they were to each other. They had young children and were both working hard to put the children first in the mediation. They did not seem to be ready to "call it quits."

In the second session, I said, "I need to take my mediator hat off for a few minutes and put on my psychotherapist hat. I think I would be remiss in not telling you that I don't think you are ready to divorce. You look like you really love each other. I'm impressed with the way that you treat each other and think it would be a good idea to continue with your therapist to help put the relationship back on the right track. Of course, if I'm incorrect, I will proceed with the mediation. It's your call."

They looked at each other, then looked at me and said, "We'll give her a try." I got a call later from their therapist who said that they agreed with me and wanted to work on improving their marriage.

Oftentimes, relationships get stale. That's normal. There are many ways to revitalize them. I'm glad they chose that path!

Sharman Colosetti, LCSW, PhD
315 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Suite 621
Decatur, GA 30030

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mediation’s Most Common Mistake

By JoAnne Donner, Mediator/Mediation Coach
President, Mediation Services of Georgia, Inc.

One of the most common comments I hear when talking to people about their experience in mediation is, “I just wanted to get it over with.” I hear that with both sadness and concern.

When someone participates in a mediation session, that day is one of the most important days of their life. The decisions made that day affect their and their family’s financial well-being, emotional health, and overall lifestyle. The day of your mediation session is not the time to be vulnerable to the pressures of a fast-moving and potentially overwhelming process. It is the time to be prepared, focused and informed.

If you are going into mediation represented by counsel, make sure your attorney takes the time to prepare you in detail for the mediation process. If you are going into mediation pro se, or without counsel, make sure you enlist the services of a mediation coach who will meet with you several days before your mediation session to familiarize you with the traps, tactics and techniques of mediation. A professional mediation coach will listen to you talk about “your side of the story” from a neutral, impartial perspective and help you prepare, practice and polish the presentation of your story. What you say in your mediation session should serve you well and strategically move you along to your targeted outcome.

Maintaining focus throughout the mediation session is a key to reaching a desirable resolution and something your coach can help you with. There are techniques you can use to re-focus your attention if you find yourself tiring and heading for a sinking spell. There are also strategies you can use if the session, itself, loses focus and begins heading down side paths that are counterproductive. One of these tactics is to consider asking for a break. A break at the right time can revitalize you. It can also break the momentum of a discussion that is overwhelming you or not heading your way.

Being prepared for mediation and being knowledgeable about the dynamics of the process can make the difference between a mediation outcome you are pleased with or a mediation outcome that sadly misses the mark in meeting your financial and emotional needs. Get the preparation you deserve. Your future could depend on it.

Mediator/Mediation Coach JoAnne Donner is the President of Mediation Services of Georgia; www,;; 770/842-9400.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The key to a successful divorce is a successful parenting plan!

Who gets the house, the 401(k), the cars, and banks accounts are all tough decisions. Dealing with the division of time between children is not only the toughest, but the most emotional. I’m going to tell you how to clear the clout and confusion from this process and give you a couple unique ideas so both sides can be happy, yes both sides!

First, understand what is important to your spouse and what are the important bonds that your soon-to-be ex and the children share. Second, how can you utilize this connection he shares to gain something you value with your children. Example: John and Jane are married with two sons Jimmy and Jake. John loves coaching the boys’ basketball team. John is very hard headed when it comes to the parenting plan and he will not budge. He wants the kids every weekend, no if, ands, or buts about it. He tells you that if you don’t’ like it then take it up with the judge. You are scared because you don’t want this to go to a judge/court as you feel the boys best interests won’t be heard. The boys love spending time with their father, but you don’t think the court needs to be the last word. You could make a recommendation that the boys can stay with him on Tuesday’s every other week since basketball practice is that evening, making it easier for the both of you. I would think this will open his mind to other options such as taking them every other weekend or something that is more in line with your needs. All you did was bring something to the table that exclusively helped him and unique to his needs!

Be creative during the divorce process and you might find more of what you are looking for!!!

-David Miller CFP® CDFA℠

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spotting Abusive Tactics

By Amy Bear, LPC

Every individual in an intimate partnership has different needs, interests and personality traits. It’s unrealistic for one partner to assume the other partner will consistently meet expectations. A normal, healthy relationship between two adults may include a difference of opinion, arguments or making statements later regretted. However, it’s not normal – or healthy - when one partner always has to be right and lacks consideration for the desires, feelings and well-being of the other partner.** Here are some typical types of intimate partner abuse:

Neglect: Seldom being available for quality time together. Making plans and then canceling them at the last minute or not meeting promises.

Extreme selfishness: Making decisions exclusively based on his own needs and desires. Not including the welfare, wants and desires of the partner or children.

Being secret as to whereabouts: Staying out until late at night or overnight and refusing to disclose where he has been or getting angry when questioned.

Blaming: Refusing to accept responsibility for his or her behavior. Whatever happens is always the fault of the other partner.

Rage attacks and criticism: Making personal attacks against his partner, such as her way of doing things or criticizing her body.

Bullying and controlling behavior: Controlling what his partner does, who her friends are, what she spends, where she works, where she goes. There may be excessive questioning, angry accusations, harassment and badgering.

Public humiliation: Embarrassing his partner in public by criticizing her or bringing up personal matters. Making jokes about subjects he knows make his partner feel vulnerable.

Destruction of personal or family property: Throwing items, smashing glasses or dishes, punching holes in the wall, breaking his partner’s possessions.

Shifting sands: Sending out conflicting and contradictory messages or changing moods and emotional positions frequently and unpredictably. The partner has no clear idea of what is coming next or what she has done to evoke such behaviors.

Gaslighting: This is a term coined in the classic 1944 film Gaslight, in which the lead character comes to doubt her sanity as her husband deliberately manipulates her reality.

Extramarital Affairs: Covertly or openly having affairs or inappropriate relationships.

Inducing fear: Intentionally frightening his partner, such as driving at high speeds when she is in the car or making threats.

Physical abuse: This can range from unwanted touching to pushing and shoving to hitting or choking. Sexual abuse includes demanding sex, forced sex, and sexual humiliation.

Parental alienation: Criticizing his partner in front of their children, lying to the children to turn them against their other parent.

These typical types of abuse are by no means the full extent of ways that abusers can hurt their partners. People who are abusive can get creative in their methods of harm. Regardless of the means, a hallmark of people who commit abuse toward others is that they refuse to take responsibility and often claim the partner deserved it.

If you or someone you know has experienced emotional or physical abuse, I encourage you to seek help. No one deserves to be abused.

** Intimate partner abuse can happen in any couple whether they are opposite sex, same-sex, unmarried, married or in a civil union, and regardless of gender, age, religious or spiritual orientation, disability, or racial, ethnic or cultural identity. People who abuse their partners can be male or female.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Groucho Marx said it best …

Groucho Marx said it best … “I have just one day, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
Last year was the first time I woke up on Christmas morning and didn’t have my kids with me. It sucked. When I became a parent, I certainly didn’t intend to spend any Christmas morning away from my kids … not for years and years … perhaps not until they were on their own, married, and balancing that careful dance of compromise of where to spend the holidays. But life happens, and as it happened, I found myself ‘kidless’ last Christmas morning.
I distinctly recall waking up and thinking how quiet it was. The kids hadn’t barged into my room at 5:30AM asking if it was too early to get up and race downstairs to see if Santa had arrived. I missed that. I got a little sad. I got a little angry.
And then I thought to myself, “You can choose to be sad and angry and have a bad day, or you can accept the hand you’ve been dealt and carry on.” I think Groucho Marx said it better when he said, “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.”
I decided I was going to take my Christmas Day and be happy in it. I could have grumbled and moaned all day about the unfairness of not having my kids on Christmas Day, and when I’m honest, I do still think it’s unfair, but I also know that life doesn’t always appear to be fair. I’m blessed and fortunate. I have been able to spend every single Christmas Day of my entire life with my mom. That’s over 40 Christmas Days if you’re counting! My daughter will never be able to say the same thing. Through circumstances beyond her control, she stopped spending every single Christmas Day with her mom at age 10.
And so it goes. No, it’s not fair for my kids to be punished and not be able to spend Christmas Day with both of their parents. It’s not fair for their father not to be able to spend every Christmas Day with them. Frankly, my mother doesn’t think it’s fair either. Since her grandkids have been born, she has spent every Christmas with “us.” Now, through no fault of her own, every other year, that “us” doesn’t include her grandchildren. No, life isn’t always fair. But, we have to learn to roll with the punches and make the most of each day and just “be happy in it.”
This Christmas morning, I will be awakened by my kids (hopefully not at 5:30AM) wondering if Santa has arrived. They actually don’t believe in Santa anymore, but still, it’s all part of the tradition. And, while some traditions have had to change since our divorce, others still remain the same. For example, my mom will be here; we’ll start with the stockings; we’ll take a breakfast break half-way through openings the gifts; and Santa always brings underwear!
The positive attitude side of me relishes knowing that we are also creating new traditions to be cherished. The realistic side of me realizes that those traditions will remain intact only until such time that life evolves and those traditions so too come to an end. And so the cycle continues!
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic” in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys. The book is available through Visions Anew. Call 770 953-2882.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wisdom from the Velveteen Rabbit More Lessons on Becoming REAL

Written by
Linda Martin

I chanced upon a dream one night
Where I was sitting face to face
With a shabby little rabbit
Within a childhood place

His fur was soft like velveteen
But spots were worn and bald
His eyes were somewhat droopy
His whiskers scrunched and mauled

The little rabbit spoke to me
Just like a wise old sage
He said “I brought you back to when
You were such a tender age”

“Remember who you used to be
With wonder in your heart?
This REALness of your one true self
Was lost and did depart”

“To gain the shards of destiny
Lost to the worldly din
All you need is trust yourself
And lovingly look within”

“You don’t understand” I said to him
“You speak of love and trust
These are what I gave away
Now in my heart are crushed”

Then the droopy eyes held mine
And one more thing he spoke
“REALness happens most of all
Just when your heart is broke”

“The wounding of the broken heart
Is when love’s funeral fire is burning
But the fire only burns the dross
And leaves love’s gold enduring

When the hurting gaping wound
Is drained of all its grief
Love’s pure gold that’s left behind
Becomes your soul’s relief

When this golden treasure
Comes home to soul’s own worth
That’s when the magic happens
And death turns into birth”

The little rabbit winked at me
And gave a knowing grin -
“Being REAL is love’s return
To its rightful place within”

Then the dawn light summoned me
From this amazing dream
But a REALness glowed within my heart
With Love’s golden treasure gleam

I knew right then without a doubt
That life’s an ebb and flow
Of love we keep and give away
And loss refines its glow

The wisdom from the velveteen
Is when love’s loss we feel
There is a suffering and a dying
That brings the magic to be REAL

Alimony Is Alive And Well

By Barbara E. Keon, Esq.

Alimony is alive and well, but the advents of the working woman and women’s liberation have frequently eroded its award in court. This has made representation of the middle-aged homemaker displaced from a long-term marriage a problematic area for the divorce practitioner. The husband typically wants to move forward in life by dividing assets and paying alimony for a few years until his wife can be retrained and get a job, instead of subsidizing her needs for life. Aggressive and innovative legal representation, however, can win a substantial share of assets as well as long-term alimony for the female client, as the following case shows.

A very gracious, intelligent and charming homemaker came to my office this past year. She is what many would refer to as a “deserving woman.” She subsidized the family income in the early years of their 23-year marriage, but stopped working after the birth of the first of their two children and assumed full responsibility for all household duties and childrearing.

Her husband, a bright and driven workaholic, tenaciously pursued his career. At age 48 and at the pinnacle of his career, having reached the level of partner with one of the top six accounting firms, he had a handsome annual income of over $300,000.00 and wanted to start life over. During their marriage, they accumulated a marital home, a summer home, retirement benefits, and life insurance and investment accounts. However, the liquidation of all these assets and their re-investment to generate income would not provide sufficient support for the wife.

The husband wanted to pay his estranged wife a few years of minimal alimony to meet a bare-bones budget until she could retrain in nursing and get a job. He wanted to sell the marital home and other tangible assets then divide equally, after first deducting marital debts, such as the second mortgage on the house, lines of credit and current tax liabilities. He wanted everyone to ignore his non-vested retirement benefits and his earning capacity or regard them as having no real value or being too speculative to value.

The law permits awards of alimony based on ability to pay and need. Certainly, the husband in this case had an ability to pay alimony to sustain the wife’s $5,000.00 monthly budget in the marital home. Having been out of the workforce for almost 20 years, she certainly had a need for spousal support. The issue of how much support and for how long was hotly disputed and ultimately resulted in a contested temporary hearing and contested trial.

As in any trial, mental ability and legal skill must be matched with common sense, and wants must be realistically evaluated. Utilizing his numerical dexterity, the husband pared down, or perhaps the better term would be “hacked down”, his $250,000.00 gross monthly income to only a few thousand dollars of spendable monthly income after payment of taxes, retirement, partnership loan, health and life insurance (all benefits to him), his living expenses and the living expenses of his college-aged son. His efforts were intended to show that he could not possibly pay more than he had proposed and his wife’s demands were unreasonable and excessive.

Our strategy was to focus on his earning power as a marital asset in addition to an income stream for periodic alimony purposes. After all, he accumulated this earning capability during the marriage with the support and assistance of his wife. She took care of the children and the household responsibilities so that he could work 70-hour weeks. She attended functions in support of his career and entertained his colleagues and clients. Using an excess earnings approach, we assigned this asset a dollar value. He was then shown to have excess dollars each month after he paid his budget, his wife’s budget, the children’s budget and taxes. These excess earnings were then projected out over his future work life expectancy and discounted to present value. In short, his professional experience allowed him thousands of excess dollars each month, and he developed this expertise while married; therefore, it should be considered a marital asset, the value of which should be offset by awarding the wife more than 50 percent of the existing tangible assets.

In this particular case, there was another intangible marital asset – the non-vested retirement benefits. We assigned a value to this defined benefit plan using a formula based on partnership shares owned, projected out to retirement age and reduced to present value. The husband argues that this was a purely speculative value, since he would never benefit from this plan if he left the firm before retirement age and the value of the plan could not be accurately determined until retirement age. True enough. The court ordered, however, that the wife receive the marital home, subject to the first mortgage, all of his 401K, most of the cash assets of the marriage, and alimony until she turned age 62, when retirement income would be available. Her husband was ordered to pay most of her legal fees and all other marital debt from his income.

Obviously, results like this depend upon good judges, good facts, and effective courtroom presentation. Typically, courts award alimony for an amount less than a dependent spouse needs to maintain the marital lifestyle and usually only for a term of years, not for life. But, as this case illustrates, it is important not to discount the impact of future earning power on the issue of alimony and asset division. Thus, alimony is still alive and well and sometimes the court should be educated that equal division is not equitable division.

Family attorney Barbara E. Keon can be reached at 770-350-8582;; or

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dating After Exiting an Abusive Marriage

I am a Visions Anew Class of 33 Graduate. I was in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage. While I am capable and successful in my professional career, I'm a great example of how anyone with unresolved childhood issues can end up in a destructive relationship. Over the period of time I was with my husband, the continual subtle "jabbing" and putdowns were a constant assault on my soul. Over time, I became a shell of a person, walking on eggshells, trying harder and harder to please this person who was not even polite to me, much less loving. Thank God for the day I had the strength to leave that destructive marriage, and start on a self discovery journey that has been difficult and scary, yet fulfilling and exciting.

It has been 2.5 years since my divorce and I wanted to share my views on dating. First, I don't think it is wise to date unless and until you know who you are and what you want. I spent 1.5 years getting steady on my own two feet. Until you are steady on your own, you are a haven for a controlling, insecure man who will try to define you to meet his own needs. These guys are often charming, but normally incapable of love. While I know it sounds corny, I truly believe that until you can love yourself you are incapable of giving or receiving true love with a grown-up, mature man.

I have been dating for a year now. I have not slept with anyone as I believe that women sleep with men too quickly and then ignore red flags. I have met number of guys, but had few second dates. I expect to be treated like a lady, including the concept of courting etc. I will be honest and say that is not an easy ideal to live up to. However, if a man really wants me, he will work for me.

I could not have gotten to this point without all of the wonderful women in my life, started with those friends I made at our Visions Anew retreat. It is so important to get support through the difficult journey of divorce. It doesn’t just all go away after the divorce is final.

Today, I'm happy. I am no longer needy. Though I don't need a man to complete me, I do believe there is someone special out there who will treat me with respect and dignity. I had a very nice first date Saturday night with a guy who seems to fit that bill. I’m not holding my breath though because dating does tend to be a numbers game. But one thing is for sure: I can look myself in the mirror with pride and self love, knowing that I have found true love in my life. It may not yet be with a man, but I have a good foundation for that to happen because I do love and respect myself.

Best wishes in your journey. Always remember, you are not alone.

Christine Malek
Graduate of '33

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When Does Mediation Really Start?

By JoAnne Donner, President/Mediation Services of Georgia, Inc.
Mediator/Mediation Coach

People usually believe that mediation begins when all concerned parties meet in the mediation room and take their places at the mediation table. The truth is that mediation begins when disputing parties agree to participate in a private mediation or when they are notified by the Court to appear in a mandated mediation session.

This pre-mediation phase is frequently overlooked and underestimated for the potential power it has over the outcome of a mediation session.

Would you perform in a stage play without holding a dress rehearsal? The answer is obviously, “No.” Yet, people go into mediation everyday with very little or no preparation for what could be one of the most important days of their lives. This is even more significant when you consider that decisions made during mediation can have critical, life-changing effects for not only the disputants, but for their families as well.

Why is the lack of thorough preparation for mediation so prevalent?

One reason is that while we all have seen frequent television and film portrayals of litigation and courtroom trials, mediation is a relatively unfamiliar form of dispute resolution to most people. The need for prepping witnesses and clients for trial and depositions is widely expected and accepted, while detailed pre-mediation preparation and coaching receives little attention and has much less importance attached to it. The result is that people attend mediation sessions unprepared to deal with the dynamics of mediation and the decisions that will dramatically affect their future and their well-being.

Another reason is that professionals who assist disputing parties with mediation are typically very familiar with the mediation process. Understandably, it’s easy for them to overlook the fact that mediating parties, unfamiliar with the process, can become overwhelmed by the many challenges inherent in a mediation session. This is especially true when emotions kick in and tensions run high. Thinking clearly in a charged atmosphere is difficult. Successfully handling the potential for emotional fall-out is a key area that professional mediation coaching is designed to address.

Other landmines that await disputants include the lack of pertinent paperwork, unorganized paperwork, not understanding the significance of important documents, losing focus during the session, and not being prepared to “tell your side of the story” in a clear, concise and persuasive manner. These are all issues that can be addressed in pre-mediation preparation.

Experience shows that when asked about their mediation experience, people frequently respond that they wish they had been better prepared. And, they report, if they had received more in-depth coaching, they feel they would have realized better results at the mediation table. In fact, a common post-mediation response is, “I just wanted to get it over with. I felt pressured and I felt overwhelmed.”

If you are a disputing party heading into mediation, “just wanting to get it over with,” is selling yourself short. Mediation is your chance to be heard and to take an active part in creating a resolution that works for you and meets your needs. Increase your chances for mediation success by ensuring that you receive the detailed, in-depth preparation you deserve. Professional mediation coaching can prepare you to help steer your mediation to the win-win proposition it can be.

Mediator/Mediation Coach JoAnne Donner is the President of Mediation Services of Georgia; www,;; 770/842-9400.