Tuesday, December 28, 2021

On Winter, Slowing Down, & Making Decisions

Around this time of year I usually get a flurry of calls. People reaching out to talk – often for the first time saying the words out loud – “I’m thinking of getting a divorce…” I listen and answer their questions as best as I can – the legal stuff, the expectations, the fears – and also often what I hear is hesitation. Although I’m not sure I have the best answers for someone who is “on the fence,” actually, I think some hesitation regarding this major decision is a healthy approach.  Once that divorce ball gets rolling, especially in litigated cases, it grows and often takes on a course of its own. (I usually suggest that divorcing parents watch “Marriage Story”, which is a pretty accurate representation of what can happen.)

Divorce is a very personal decision and only two people know best – the divorcing spouses. Friends and relatives usually mean well; their approach is couched in love and concern. But only the two people in the relationship, those people intimately involved in every aspect of the marriage, are in the best position to make the decision: Should I stay or should I go? (Caveat: In situations of dangerous domestic violence, the victimized spouse often is unable to see and accept the facts and can need active assistance in walking away.)  When I talk with people about divorcing, I do not tell them what they “should” do – initiate divorce or stay – instead I listen and try to help them make this decision.

Over the years, paying attention to my clients, I’ve noticed that December brings an interesting mix of emotions.  Anticipation – the new year with new beginnings is just around the corner – and also a slowness, which seems akin to the human need for hibernation. At first glance these seems to be polarities – one is all about action and the other is all about rest. I have come to see the beautiful value in each of these reactions, and in their interplay.  If we can allow ourselves both of these experiences, I think we can connect with our true hearts and make good decisions about all of life’s choices, and truly, seeking a divorce is a big decision, worthy of our best efforts….

If you want to talk, and want someone neutral to listen, please feel free to contact me:

karen@karenjusterhecht.net or @divorcewellnessguru on Instagram or @ 510.210.3796. 


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Working through Conflict in the Zoom Room -- A New Era for Mediations


(Working Through Thick Paint)

“Zoom” – which before the last year mostly meant to “move fast” – has taken on a whole new meaning. Prior to the Pandemic, thirty to forty percent of my work with clients was via Zoom. When the Quarantine hit in full force, naturally, 100% of my work pivoted to Zoom. Video conferencing became one of the most talked about topics among colleagues. I attended several (Zoom) meetings about whether we “could” and “how to” hold Zoom mediations. I felt lucky – it was already a platform that I’d been using and I felt pretty comfortable at it.

               A year later, as we contemplate some sort of return to in-person work, I have been thinking about the look of my “new office” – virtual, in-person, a hybrid? Part of my cogitating has been about what face-to-face mediations looked like before the Quarantine, and also about how Zoom mediations have offered different, useful, perspectives.  I haven’t done an empirical study (after all, I’m a mediator, not a scientific researcher) but based on anecdotal observations, what I have noticed is that when I’m helping people work through some difficult conflicts, when emotions are very high, working in the Zoom Room actually seems to be more effective than working face-to-face in my (lovely) office setting. When Zooming from different rooms – brought magically together through the video conferencing platform – in the safety and comfort of their own spaces, people seem to be able to access their emotions much easier than if the “source of the conflict” is sitting three feet away from them, breathing the same air, taking up the same space. The distance afforded by the Zoom Room seems to give people greater tolerance for the emotional spikes that are inevitable – both for the other person and in themselves. I have noticed that as difficult emotional conversations are unfolding, people in the Zoom Room seem to be able to breathe and hear the words which the other person is speaking, instead of simply reacting to the words (which is of course a very common human behavior). Perhaps that nanosecond delay in the video conferencing software provides some literal breathing room, which helps defuse emotional tensions….

               I’m still evaluating what the “post-Pandemic” reality of my mediation practice will look like. Of course, I will be taking into account the prevailing public health recommendations (which at this point are not wholly embracing fully unrestricted in-person meetings).  I am going to also be very mindful of how video conferencing might actually offer something better than in-person, old style, mediations. At the very least, I think that video mediations have provided an effective – unexpected – benefit that can be very helpful to clients. And, as this last year living through the Pandemic has taught us in no uncertain terms…the future is hard to predict and is wide open with possibilities….

If you have any questions about how mediation might work in your situation, please reach out to me: karen@karenjusterhecht.net or 510.210.3796…and in the meantime, I hope that you are staying well and feeling hopeful about your future!


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

 A Quick Update

                 2021, it seems, started off with quite a whoosh – it’s hard to believe that we’re nearly halfway through January already! I am planning a nice new year’s post before January slips totally away…in the meantime, a really brief greeting to say happy new year and, last week I gave my first-ever podcast interview, discussing all things mediation with Ryan Lockhart at McKenna Brink Signorotti.  I really enjoyed our conversation and hope that I shed some light about mediation. You can find the interview at this link, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me @ 510.210.3796 or karen@karenjusterhecht.net .

               Happy 2021 and I hope to be back here soon with some thoughts about divorce and the new year!

Friday, September 4, 2020

Creating Your Foundation (Not A Panacea)


(Yucatan, 2018)

                          Working with a Divorce Coach isn’t going to solve your problems. (Sorry.)  Following advice to meditate, eat well, walk on the beach, and get plenty of sleep won’t make your divorce issues (or any other issues) go up in a puff of magic smoke.* That would be great, but it probably won’t happen quite like that.

               Your Divorce Coach – even the most excellent and wise coach – isn’t going to tell you “the answers.” Instead, your hard work (and there’s no way to sugarcoat: it will be hard work) is to listen to your coach – even when you don’t want to hear what you know deep inside is true, as you build up your own strength, find your own solid ground, and determine the best answers for yourself.  When you’ve done the hard work, when you solidify your center, you will emerge knowing how strong and wonderful you are. You will trust yourself and from this grounded place, you will be ready to meet every challenge that you have to walk through.

               If you want to get past your divorce issues – if you want to thrive – there is no other option other than walking through.  It’s like that children’s book: Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, you have to go right through it. And although there isn’t a magic pill that someone can give you, maybe after all there is the magic that you find inside yourself….

*To be clear: walking on the beach, meditating, etc. are wonderful and I enthusiastically recommend. If you want to talk about other things that I would suggest for you, let’s talk: karen@karenjusterhecht.net – until then, take good care and try to find something beautiful every day!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Finding Your Divorce Wellness

              Divorce wellness is a real thing.  It isn’t an oxymoron. And it doesn’t magically appear. Divorce Wellness isn’t something that I (or anyone) can give you. You can’t buy Divorce Wellness off the shelf. I can tell you about it, can help lead you through it, but the work, the commitment, must be done by you.  I’m sorry – if I could give it to you, all wrapped up with a perfectly tied ribbon, I would, but that’s not how it works. I can, however, help you to find Divorce Wellness for yourself.

               For those of us who have been divorced, or who are divorcing, we know that there is a special kind of awful that often comes with the process and although a lot of people say “It is what it is” – The truth is: it doesn’t have to be this way! You can learn how to step through the muck and emerge into a new beautiful joyful normal. Really. I promise you that you can do it. I’m not saying it’s always easy.  For sure, divorce can throw us into a kind of grief and, as a wise grief counselor said, “You can go through grief, or you can grow through grief.” Yes, in a big way, divorce can suck AND, the great thing is that you can attain Divorce Wellness and live a really happy life thereafter!

               As a first step, try giving yourself permission to create the space for your own Divorce Wellness. Get intentional about it. Start by allowing yourself to acknowledge that there is a need and that it is permissible – necessary even – to allocate time and resources to get yourself where you want to be. Next, come up with “A Plan” – this could be done working on your own, working with a divorce coach (or a therapist), scouring the Internet for tips, or some other method. Your plan might not look the same as another person’s. The basics that I usually suggest include a regular meditation or grounding practice, creating a support network, getting physical, connecting with nature, and then more detailed actions (which could include learning about the divorce process, choosing an attorney, etc.) depending on what is needed in each situation.  

I have created a day-long Divorce Wellness Retreat to help you get back your joie de vivre, and then some. The retreat includes specific tips for how to achieve your own Divorce Wellness, general divorce information, restorative Yoga, a delicious catered lunch, and the creation of a safe and nurturing space in a beautiful location. If you want to learn more, please reach out to me with any questions – 510.210.3796; karen@karenjusterhecht.net   Early bird registration before 9/20/2019.

Whatever path you choose, I wish you joy and contentment….

Divorce Wellness Event Details:
What: A day-long retreat designed to help people find their joy before, during, or after their divorce
When: October 26, 2019, 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Where: Gorgeous Sonoma County (address given upon registration)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Mediation: A Different Approach to Family Law

Door Knockers, Rome

            I saw a “joke” on a German Instagram for lawyers. It goes something like this: “Ending your marriage is really tough because you have to deal with feelings…and with lawyers….”  Yes, I chuckled when I saw it. And I also recoiled a little.  I’d like to see the narrative re-framed: “We got to work through some really difficult issues and with the help of a lawyer we came up with a great workable mediation agreement!”
It doesn’t make a good snappy joke and perhaps it does sound a little ridiculous – who wants to deal with feelings and with attorneys, and who would ever believe that the acrimony that led to divorce could move over so that an agreement could be reached??  But the truth is, getting a divorce doesn’t have to add to the emotional minefield. There are effective ways to divorce that don’t add gasoline to the raging fire. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, based on my years of life and work experience, I hope to convince you that mediating a peaceful settlement is actually a great way to obtain a divorce. 
Dealing with the underlying feelings – the reasons for the disputes – can work miracles to help the divorcing parties come to understandings of themselves and of their former partners, leading the way for agreements regarding custody and property and all those other thorny family law issues. The benefits of this approach can include saving substantial amounts of money by not going to court – litigation is horribly expensive. Mediation also saves emotional wear and tear for every member of the family – divorcing spouses and children and siblings (and also friends and co-workers) – as unfortunately litigation often brings out the very worst in otherwise nice people.  There are also significant long-term benefits because an agreement where each person has a say is much more likely to be adhered to in the future, which reduces the likelihood of having to go to court to make changes.
I love my work as a family law mediator and I’m on a mission to help people get divorced without feeling like they’ve bounced through class five rapids without a raft. Coming to an agreement on important issues like custody, support, the family home, the family dog, etc., etc., feels really good for the people getting divorced, which can be an important step toward living a happy post-divorce life.
I try to help divorcing parties to focus on the long game and not just the pain and anger which they are currently feeling (all of which is valid and has its place too). Sitting with their ex in a mediator’s office might not be the way that most people would choose to spend their afternoons, however, more often than not, the end result is great and makes it well worth the effort. 
If you think mediation might be right for you, please feel free to contact me with your questions.  Tel: 510.210.3796 Email: karen@karenjusterhecht.net

Monday, February 18, 2019

Divorce Wellness Positivity Blog ~~ Let’s Be Honest: Some Days Are Super Bad

In some ways divorce is a microcosm of life. Ups and downs just like always (except probably more extreme when you’re divorcing than most daily challenges). Some moments you’re feeling great, exuberant even, free from the marriage that has been troubling you for a while. Other times you feel really low, too exhausted to continue (and at that moment, you learn your ex has filed for a court date, or your attorney is demanding to be paid, or your kids are acting out, or etc.)  Divorce is often referred to as one of the most difficult life events – but you already know that. At times during your divorce, the highs might feel really marvelous, and the lows might challenge you more than you feel you can bear. And still, you must go on, even when you don’t have one more ounce to spare.  You can’t give up.  Somehow you have to muster the strength – for yourself, for your kids, for your future….
               If your divorce is getting you down, you gotta get yourself up, not give up. Of course I’m not saying it’s easy. Many things that are worthwhile don’t come easy. You will have to seriously engage in order to make things better. Create your own “boot camp.” Get tough with yourself so that you can take good care of yourself.
So here’s what I suggest:
  • ·        Consciously decide that you, your life, your future, your happiness are worth it
  • ·        Give yourself a limit – for example, let yourself feel weary and blue for another 48 hours – and then be ready to find your boot straps and move on
  • ·        Make a list of all the things about your divorcing life that suck; make a list of all the things about your divorcing life that are great – include the things that will be better post-divorce; you might be surprised by what is on the lists
  • ·        Get physical! Take a walk, ride a bike, engage in Yoga (in a class or online), or scrub your bathroom – each of these activities will release positive endorphins
  • ·        Visit with a good friend or loving relative
  • ·        Start making plans of what you will be doing post-divorce
  • ·        Thank yourself, the Universe/your god, for all of the great things that you do have (e.g., running water, a roof over your head, people who love you, great children, your special talents for ____, etc., etc.)
  • ·        Remind yourself that you are strong and that you are not going to give up – have faith
  • ·        If you need help, ask for it – utilize your support network, including loved ones and divorce coaches

Try to remember that tomorrow or the next day (or the next month), the sun will shine again….