Moving Forward Through the Divorce Process

Full Transcript – Divorce etc… S3, Episode 17

Interview with Jennifer Medwin FL Supreme Court mediator

T.H.: Welcome everybody to the Divorce etc… podcast. We are so happy to have Jennifer Warren Medwin with us today all the way from sunny Florida. I hope it is today. Jennifer is a Supreme Court of Florida family mediator and a certified divorce coach, and so much more, as you will hear in this podcast. Welcome to our show today.

Jennifer: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here with you.

T.H.: We were so motivated after our initial conversation with you, and one of your sayings in terms of either being a victim or a creator has stuck with me. I just had a brain freeze when we were trying to figure out what it was a minute ago. But I love love, love that phrase. You do focus a lot on mediation, so why don’t we start with that? Why don’t we start by helping our audience figure out what are the tips they need to know to prepare for mediation.

Jennifer: So first of all, the most important thing is to own your process, to be the boss of your process. Many times, people give away their power to the other professionals, whether it’s their legal professionals, or their accounting, or financial advisors. It’s really important to own your own truth and own your own process. Part of owning your process is understanding that no matter what the situation is, you’re always at choice. What I mean by that is, here is whatever the situation is, you either can be a victim of it, or you can be a creator of it. The more empowering way to be is to figure out how you can move the process with set objectives so that you can come out with what you want and what you need.

Jessica: So sorry, there was a fire truck passing by. When you say that people are giving away their power in the process, I mean, obviously, to a certain degree, you have to let your hired professionals speak for you. But are you talking about they’re letting them make decisions for them? They’re saying, “Well, what do you think?” and they’re not expressing what they want the outcome to be?

Jennifer: Exactly. Exactly. And that’s one of the benefits of having a divorce coach prior to going to mediation, to really think about, what are your personal objectives? What is it that you want from the settlement? So that when you get to mediation, if your proposal is not met with agreement, you can come up with different solutions that meet your needs. Remember, your attorney is not going to be with you a year from now, five years from now, 15 years from now, depending on whether you have children or if you’ve been in a long term marriage. It’s really important that you have some time to process whatever decisions you’re making. Does that make sense?

T.H.: Yeah, but let’s just look at what the team is right now. You’ve talked about a lawyer, a mediator, and a divorce coach. So I’m getting a divorce, Jennifer, where do I start? Do I hire a divorce coach first? Do I find my attorney? Who should I be checking out first here?

Jennifer: That’s a great question, and I’m really so happy you answered that. I truly believe the best place to start is with a divorce coach, because many people come to me in the “should I, shouldn’t I” process. They’re not exactly sure whether they want this divorce and how they’re going to work through the process. Let me just say that is a big difference between a divorce coach and a therapist, and I do advocate for all four professions to be part of the process to guide you through. But with coaching, we deal very much with where you are now, where you want to be, and how do we help you get there. When you were growing up, I’m sure your mother said to you or an adult said, “Ignorance is bliss”. You heard that expression. Ignorance is not bliss when you are going through the divorce process. Knowledge is power. Having a divorce coach on your side will help educate you as to what process is better for you. A lot of people lawyer up too quickly. Well, maybe you could do mediation. Maybe collaborative law is better for you. Understanding the different avenues that you can to dissolve your marriage is really important and very empowering. So your question is I would go to a divorce coach first and understand the process. We also help you put together your professional team. I’ll tell you, here’s a really big mistake that a lot of people make. They’ve heard this attorney is a shark. They’re going to come in like a bull. They’re going to well, guess what? If they are a bull to the other opposing counsel, do you think they’re going to hold your hand every step of the way from a personality standpoint? I always say to my clients we want to find an attorney that is excellent at what he or she does. If all of those criteria are equal, the most important thing is personality. Do you feel safe? Can you communicate with this person? Are they giving you the time? Are they patient? And if they’re not, then that’s not the right way to go, because there are many good attorneys.

T.H.: It’s really a very daunting process. I was speaking to somebody in our community yesterday, and she’s frantic because she’s definitely on the defensive right now. She feels she’s being attacked by her ex and his lawyer. She just has not found the right lawyer for herself yet, and she’s scared. We’ve met many divorce coaches. Everybody who’s a divorce coach, who we’ve met so far in our community, is great. There are a lot of people who are divorce coaches now. What are the criteria? What should you go in and ask a divorce coach, just like you have questions for an attorney? What should you be asking a divorce coach to know that you’re with someone who’s really qualified to do what you’re saying a divorce coach should do? Because I’m not sure all of them do what you’re suggesting.

Jennifer: Okay. Well, first you should just know that in 2013, the American Bar Association defined divorce coaching as the fourth element of the divorce process. The American Bar Association definitely saw a need. By the way, right now with the mental health crisis, we are now more important than ever. But in terms of criteria, and it’s a really good question, it depends on where the person has been certified, how many years they’ve been doing it? Are they only a divorce coach? Are they also a mediator? Are they a co-parenting instructor? What is their reputation in the community? These are all really important things. And I have to say, also have they walked your walk? Now, divorces, I always say to my clients, and it’s in my book as well, they’re like snowflakes. No two are the same. Just because somebody went through a divorce doesn’t mean that they’re experts on the divorce process. However, there is a path that all people walk down who have been divorced, experiencing all the different tentacles and navigating that and having compassion and empathy. Those are really important characteristics I think that make divorce coaches even healthier partners for you, as you’re navigating through this process.

Jessica: It’s funny, it’s like a weird analogy, but I’ve spoken to people about this. The analogy that I’ve used is like, honestly, a gynecologist. Someone’s who’s actually had a baby, I think might understand all of your weird aches and pains and all of the symptoms that you’re having throughout your pregnancy. I know of a lot of women who have been to male doctors and they’re blowing stuff off because–

Jennifer: Yeah. Yeah.

Jessica: –so that’s very funny. It’s like, okay, well, you might want a divorce coach and a divorce lawyer who’ve been divorced, because they just understand it at a different level. That makes complete sense, I think.

Jennifer: For sure, for sure. Yeah, and that’s a really great point, and I like that analogy. I really do because I have to say, it’s very funny, I mean, this is a little off topic, I was reading an article the other day about how to empower yourself through the process. They used an expression that I never heard before, having to deal with the word “must”, because “must” is not an empowering word, and they said, “Stop musturbating all over yourself.”

Jennifer: I was like–

Jessica: We can appreciate that!

T.H.: I think that’s going to be the title of this podcast.

Jennifer: Isn’t that funny? The author said, “It’s not mine. I read it somewhere.” I’m like, oh, that’s really funny. When you can put humor into things that are challenging, if you can lean into it with a little bit more lightness, it really helps you move forward. 

T.H.: And you’ll receive it better if it’s coming from someone who’s walked in your shoes.

Jessica: Yeah.

T.H.: If it’s someone who knows nothing about it and they’re being a little snarky or whatever about something, I would be like you don’t even know what the hell you’re talking about. But if it was in our circle, I’d be like, oh, yeah, totally.

Jessica: Yeah, it is.

T.H.: It’s different. It’s different.

Jennifer: Yes, right, and you’re more open.

Jessica: Okay, so let’s get back to the practicality of what people need to do when they are working with a divorce coach who’s going to be able to help prepare them, in your case, with your expertise as a Supreme Court of Florida family mediator, but also as a certified marital mediator, helping people be prepared to go into that realm. You talk a little bit about what you call the empowerment dynamic and how people can use that when divorce is on the table, because it is important to have the right mindset going in so that you’re getting and accomplishing what your goals are in that process. Tell us a little about that.

Jennifer: It’s a framework that was developed by David Emerald. I don’t want to say that it was mine, although, really, I live by it. One of the choice points that we discussed is whether you’re a victim or creator, right? The other ones are: are you going to go in as a challenger or persecutor? If you’re in mediation and you want X, and your soon to be ex wants Y, are you going to start persecuting that person and shutting him down? Or are you going to start challenging, maybe coming up with different suggestions as to how you might figure out a way of negotiating? I like to call that, and this is my framework, it’s the Gray Rock Framework. Most people when they go into mediation, they’re so position based, right: 0 to 100, black or white. Well, guess what? There could be shades of gray. I had a case where the mom was asking for 100% college tuition. Now, neither parent is responsible to pay for college, by the way, at that point. But the mediation almost fell apart because she would not listen to the fact that 100%, she wasn’t getting. I called a timeout, because as a divorce coach, I often go with my clients to mediation to help separate the emotional side from the business side. I said to her, “Listen, we talked about the Gray Rock Theory. You’re not going to get 100. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to get zero. What could we go in and ask for?” She came up with 80%. And guess what she got? 80% – because her ex felt she was giving a little bit. That’s really important.

T.H.: Yeah, you need to have a sign that you’re willing to give up a little. It’s all negotiation, all of it. Mine was a total power play. But if I could placate the things that were important to him and less important to me, that weren’t really even on my radar, but I knew if I gave it to him, it would help. That’s the only way I made any headway. 

Jennifer: And by the way, I want to acknowledge that, that you said that. It’s important that some of the things that we work on in divorce coaching are to strategize what might be really important to the other person that you might be willing to throw into the pile, but we’re not going to let them know right now. We’re just going to keep it in our back pocket like a chess game. So it’s important to figure out how you can strategize, because you don’t want to be caught in a deer in headlights of what happens when you become so emotional, particularly when mediations are going longer and longer these days in terms of the number of hours you’re sitting there. You don’t want to get to the point where you’re making a big mistake and throwing in the towel, right? And often people do that.

Jessica: Sorry, I keep muting because there keeps being sirens and crazy traffic.

Jennifer: It’s New York City!

Jessica: Exactly. But I remember a conversation that we had, I don’t remember with whom, but one of our exEXPERTS who had said something to the effect of, “A successful mediation is when both parties walk away a little unsatisfied.”

Jennifer: That’s right. That’s right. That is right.

Jessica: Talk to us about the LEAN Framework and how they can apply it to move forward in the process.

Jennifer: So, I love that framework. First of all, acronyms that can help us move forward, I always find very helpful. And so the LEAN Framework, the L stands for “let it be”. So often people will say to me, or my clients will say, “Someone told me I have to let it go.” No. It’s almost impossible to really let something go. But you can let it be. You can decide, and it’s your choice, it is the way it is. Again, I can fight it and be a victim, or I can let it be and create whatever I want to create in my next brave bites forward. Okay, which by the way, I call them brave bites. My clients are not allowed to use baby steps, because babies have no control. It keeps them empowered

T.H.: Right, that’s true.

Jennifer: So I call them brave bites. And that’s Lady Gaga. I didn’t make that up. Lady Gaga says brave bites. 

T.H.: You’re just consuming a lot of information from Lady Gaga and this coach, and it’s great.

Jennifer: Listen, that’s what it is. I’m a lifelong learner, and I feel that everybody has a story or a golden nugget. 

T.H.: I love it.

Jennifer: But I never let it pass that it’s mine. I always like to give credit where credit is due. But the LEAN Framework is mine. The LEAN framework is. So learning to let it be and really focusing on letting it be. Then the E is “How can you empower yourself?” And I think we discussed this before, but by the way, in the word “empower”, the first two letters are EM. If you turn them around, it’s “ME” power, ME, right? And that’s where all your power stems from, yourself. Happiness is an inside job. So what can you do to take your brave bites forward and empower yourself? Empowering yourself, you hire a divorce coach, so you have a thinking partner with you. You have a sounding board. You have someone who can prepare you for your meeting, so that you’re in and out in an hour instead of regurgitating your personal narrative as to why you’re in the position you’re in. Once you tell your attorney one time, you never need to say it again, right? They’ll listen, because that’s part of their job, but it’s not necessary. So clients go in and they focus on the business of divorce. We’ve taught them great communication skills, great conflict management skills, and so they’re in and out in a much shorter time, saving them money and also personal distress.

T.H.: I want to stop for one second, because I want everybody to know that everything that Jennifer is talking about is critical for divorce, but it’s a life lesson. So it will help you with any future relationship. It will help you move forward in your life, whether you’re going through divorce or not. I mean, just dealing with shit in the world and whatever comes at you.

Jessica: Right, it’s a skill.

T.H.: Right, this is great learning for your own self as you go through life. So I don’t want you to think this is like, okay, I’m going to use this now, and then when I sign the paper, I’m done. This is really, really important for you to be able to have the strength to move forward. So I just want to make sure I got that in there between the LE and the AN. So now we’re on the A.  

Jennifer: And thank you for saying that because these are very transitional, all of these frameworks. When I wrote the book, I said to so many friends, the second half of the book can really apply to anyone, because it applies to all challenges in life, divorce being one of them. Okay, the A is “accept”. Now, as human beings, we have a hard time accepting what is. Some of us believe, okay, if I’m accepting it, that means that I–

Jessica: You approve that it’s okay.

Jennifer: Right, that it’s okay. No, that’s not what it means. It doesn’t mean that you approve of it. It means that you’re going to come to terms with it. You’re working on coming to terms with it. You’re working on having an open mindset so that you can move forward. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, because again, happiness is an inside job, and your strength comes from inside. And then the N is “nourish”. Nourish is probably the biggest part of LEAN because it incorporates so many different aspects of self-care. And I will tell you something that when my clients first come in, we talk a lot about self-care. Because guess what? They haven’t been taking care of themselves, right?

Jessica: It’s crucial.

T.H.: No, because you get caught up in everything, and you have to take care of everybody else. Sometimes, as much as it’s overwhelming to take care of everybody else, it’s easier than taking care of yourself and facing your own issues and taking responsibility. If you just fix everybody else’s stuff, then maybe you’re good. But you’re really not. You’re just postponing it.

Jennifer: Yeah. It’s deflection, right? And whatever you resist persists, okay? And so it’s really important to set the intention. This is what I work on, right from the onset, creating a program of self-care. One of the things I teach my clients is called the GLAD principle. I really love it because I like for people to do it when they’re brushing their teeth at night because you create a habit with something you already do, and believe it or not, brushing your teeth is a habit. But creating a positive intention before you go to bed, and reflection, really helps you. And so the GLAD principle is so easy. Okay, it stands for 1) gratitude – one thing during the day that you’re grateful for that happened. It doesn’t have to be monumental. It could be, listen, I went to the bathroom. I mean, it doesn’t have to be–I say to my clients it doesn’t have to be–

T.H.: Amen for that.

Jessica: It could be walking up a flight of stairs.

Jennifer: I’m talking to all the women out there. No, and the men too, but you know what I’m saying? Okay, so one thing you’re grateful for. One thing you learned that day. We are all learning, and there is something to learn in each and every day. That could be just I was able to take a deep breath, something as simple as that. One thing you acknowledge about yourself. That is something that very few people do on a daily basis. You do multiple things in a day that you can be proud of. And then the D is, what are you determined to do the next day? Set the intention. It literally takes less than a minute, and it’s a great time to do when you’re brushing your teeth at night. Because usually when you’re brushing your teeth, you’re either rehashing the past, or forecasting the future. This is a very mindful activity that will help you go to bed in better spirits. And sleeping at night is really challenging during times when you’re feeling very overwhelmed. And it’s critical. It’s really critical.

T.H.: I have very vivid dreams that my entire day will play into, or sometimes I feel like I’m seeing the future, which scares me a little bit. But it would be great for me to actually do that. I feel I need to put a note on my mirror because I’m not going to remember. I literally put all the beauty products that I buy, that you’re supposed to use before bed–my whole sink is a mess because I buy all this stuff. I spend all this money and I don’t use any of it. 

Jessica: Right. So if it’s not out, you’re not using it.

T.H.: It doesn’t exist, as far as I know.

Jennifer: But that’s self-care. That’s okay.

T.H.: Right. No, but so if I put a little sign up with this, it would really help me because I’ve had the funkiest dreams lately that are really pissing me off.

Jennifer: Okay.

T.H.: Some are like, T.H., just get it done, or this didn’t feel right. But others are just, I should have taken a bath before bed. Do you know what I mean?

Jennifer: That’s another one.

T.H.: I should calm down to move on.

Jennifer: Have you ever heard of the expression, “Stop shoulding all over yourself”?

Jessica: Another good one.

T.H.: Yeah, well, good luck with that.

Jennifer: And by the way, two words that I want to call your attention to, so with the word “should”, that’s a disempowering word, right? And the words we use, and the words that we speak in our internal dialogue and also externally, they matter. They help to either empower us or disempower us. So the word “should”, let’s all focus on eliminating that. “I will” or “I can”, those are more empowering. I heard you say, “I need to put that on my mirror.” It’s a great intention. I would encourage you to reframe that and use the word “want”, because that’s more empowering. When you need something, it’s disempowering. When you want to do something, it’s more empowering.

T.H.: But I don’t know if I want to yet, but I feel I could do it. Then when it’s up, then I’ll feel like, okay, I’m glad I did this. There are a lot of things that you don’t want to do, that you could do, but you’re not going to do. So I’m trying to avoid the word “should” right now.

Jennifer: And you did an excellent job. You’re a quick learner. You’ll see if you start hearing yourself say “should” and you self-correct. Practice makes better. That’s how we all grow.

Jessica: That and that’s just an also an important lesson when it comes to, just bringing it back to the topic at hand, where people need to pay attention and be conscientious of all of those things, your inner dialogue, what you’re putting out there, the energy that you’re putting out there, the words that you’re using, because it will affect directly your mindset, the way that you proceed, the way that you can accept what’s happening, or like you said, be a victim of the situation. These are the things that you have to be thinking about when you’re going into divorce, which is, by the way, everyone, why you need to have the right team on your side. Because you need to be moving forward with people that are advocating for you, that you feel like understand where you’re coming from, that are on the same page with you, what your intentions are, what your goals are, and what your wants and needs are in the divorce process. If you are feeling any person on your team would walk into a meeting without you, and you would not be comfortable with that, with them speaking as you for your voice, then you need to think about replacing that person on your team. Because you need to have people who will understand everything that goes into your specific circumstances and can best represent you and help you see through your own block sometimes. The college tuition example was a great one. You get so caught up, and we all do when we’re getting divorced, we get caught up in what we think is fair and just and reasonable when it comes to whatever settlements, mediation, whether it’s financial, spousal maintenance, whether it’s child support, whether it’s custody time, all of these things. You have to be with a team who’s going to be able to guide you the right way by making suggestions that may be less than you had your heart set on. But that will allow for a better outcome overall, and where you will get other aspects that really were really important to you. I think that that’s all super valuable advice. I love the acronyms. I love the empowerment part of it. And I love the LEAN analogy, because those words are things that people do need to think about as they’re going through the process.

Jennifer: Yeah, awareness is the most important element. Having all of these professionals on your side helps illuminate the awareness, so that you can start working on acceptance and then action instead of forward and action.

Jessica: Which is crucial. Positive forward action, people, that’s what T.H. and I advocate all the time. It’s hard when you’re going through it. We know. We’ve been there. We’ve lived it, so we get it. But that’s really the most important thing. You have to try to get into that mindset to be able to move forward in a positive way. So that’s a great place for us to end this conversation. Jennifer, honestly, thank you so much for taking the time. We really appreciate it. It’s an ongoing conversation, so we’ll have to pick up more in another episode.

T.H.: And everybody, you can listen to this as many times as you like and take out your notebook for the next time you listen to this podcast. And start leaving notes that you want to leave on your mirror.

Jennifer: That’s right.

T.H.: So you can do and be empowered. There you go.

Jessica: That’s right.

T.H.: Thank you, Jennifer.

Jessica: Thank you.

Jennifer: Thank you. Thank you.

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