Keynote – 8:30
Revolutionizing the Divorce Process Starts with Better Discernment
William J. Doherty, PhD
Any one of us could be a spouse's first stop on the blind journey toward divorce. How will you guide them down the healthiest path possible?
Dr. Doherty will teach us how to help couples at this most vulnerable, yet most opportunistic stage in a divorce process, and why this is the "sweet spot" for a healthy divorce to happen.
Coming back to his Philadelphia roots, Dr. Doherty will reflect upon his own life experiences and struggles growing up in a working-class Catholic neighborhood in the 1950s and how that has influenced his own work around helping couples on the brink. He'll take us deeper into our own reflection on why our personal beliefs around divorce matter.
Also drawing from his surprising new research around why couples end up in litigation battles, Dr. Doherty will open us up to a new and acclaimed methodology he developed called Discernment Counseling and how we can apply its principles in our everyday work.
Breakout Sessions – 10:15
Managing Client Expectations and Perceptions through the Divorce Process
Michael Bertin, Anna Balfour
Get a glimpse of the view from both sides of the desk. Learn about a psychologist and attorney’s perspective on navigating through the emotional aspects of divorce. This session will cover how therapists, attorneys, and clients can work together and achieve a fair and reasonable result in divorce by understanding the make-up of their clients and managing client expectations and emotions. This session will also address the importance of understanding the impact of the clients on the professional and to manage it personally.
Participants will understand where the parties to a divorce are coming from emotionally and psychologically, gain awareness of the professional's triggers that can impede their ability to properly address the party's issues and negatively affect their personal well-being, and learn tips for managing client expectations and strategies on how to handle difficult issues with clients.
This session will be an interactive session for therapists, attorneys, clients, and professionals who intersect with divorce matters.
Helping Clients Make Emotionally Intelligent Choices about their Finances
Jerry Davidse, Julie Terrana, Nancy Vanore
Help your clients avoid behaviors that have an influential impact on financially managing and getting through the crisis of a divorce in a family. This session will identify these common behavioral pitfalls and the financial mistakes that can occur as a result. Once we locate the problem, it’s easier to develop a solution. Learn about the differences in outcomes when viewing both family life and financial planning in the long term vs. short term. We will discuss strategies that focus on developing positive relationships, encouraging strength and coping skills, and minimizing anger and discord in a way that allows your clients to better plan for their financial future.
This session is ideal for therapists and coaches, financial advisors, parenting experts, and all divorce professionals interested in gaining greater insight into the client experience and ways to make it healthier.
Eliminate the 'He Said/She Said' as Parents Divorce
OurFamilyWizard.com and its mobile applications are often made part of the parenting agreement in an effort to reduce litigation and improve co-parent communication. Learn how parents and professionals utilize its features to manage and document communication. Learn who may access the communication activity and obtain declarations on authenticated records.
Breakout Sessions – 11:30
Empowering the Dependent Spouse
Stephanie McCullough, Pamela Elaine Nichols
Money is power in relationships. Often a contributing cause of the breakup, money also serves to continue the contention and animosity between the exes. In particular, when a woman is “dependent” on her ex for support, the emotional impact on both contributes to an unhealthy divorce.
In this workshop, the presenters will define the dependency mindset, examine the truths and implications of financial dependence and its emotional impact on both the client and her children, consider the semantics and impact of the term “dependence” and explore more empowering language, discuss the importance of changing the dependency mindset, and share strategies on how to change it. When the mindset changes, dynamics change. When dynamics change a healthier divorce is possible.
Being the Calm Before the Divorce Storm
Ruth Feinblum Conviser
Working with couples who are divorcing or considering divorce can be very challenging. The couples often express very intense and contradictory emotions and can evoke strong emotions in the professional provider. Yet, if providers become escalated, it can increase the escalation of our clients. It will also lead us to be less effective and more likely to experience “burn out.”
This talk will outline strategies from Cognitive Therapy and Mindfulness to help professionals stay calm and have equanimity with divorcing clients. In this way, we can most effectively help clients to stay balanced and move towards a healthier divorce.
What are My Rights, Entitlements? Powerful Ways to Shift Mindsets in a Divorce
Cris Pastore, Shelby Riley
The speakers, a therapist and an attorney/mediator, will explore clients’ perceptions and pre-conceived ideas about their rights and entitlements in their relationship and the legal divorce process. In both the therapeutic and mediation settings, properly guided clients may shift away from the legal and adversarial connotations traditionally associated with these terms and towards a more holistic, family-centric model that addresses the more personal and practical needs as well as the concerns of spouses and their families. The shift leads to clients feeling much more comfortable and satisfied with the settlement they chose together as it provides for the specific needs of the entire family, which in many cases do not necessarily comport with what the Courts might provide. Ultimately, the speakers will show how their two complementary models and approaches are vital to one another if spouses are to achieve the healthiest divorce possible.
Roundtable Discussions – 1:30
Roundtable discussions pull together professionals by their respective industry to generate and discuss principles and practices that make divorce healthier.
** LEGAL **
Is Modern Family Law in Sync with Reality?
Led by Alicia Kelly and John Culhane
Join us for an “educational” look into modern family law and how it may NOT be in sync with the reality of current life and its complexities. Our family law system continues to be organized around a litigation model, with legal outcomes that can be hard to predict. It also assumes a “clean break” dissolution rather than reorganization of the family, even when there are children. Further, is the system fair to women and to men given current gender roles and practices? How well does it serve LGBTQ families? Is family law too marriage centric, given the enormous increase in cohabitation rates? Professors Kelly and Culhane, both Co-Directors of Family Health Law and Policy Institute of Widener University’s Delaware Law School will raise some questions and share their outlook from a research perspective and as current educators of tomorrow’s attorneys. How can we as divorce professionals better sync modern family law with reality?
Compassionate Communication in the Legal Field
Led by Michael Bertin
This roundtable will focus on communicating with your client, opposing counsel/party (if not represented), witnesses in litigation, and the court in an effort to achieve an amicable resolution or a litigated result with the least amount of damage to the family.
Building a Better Legal Practice
Led by Diana Schimmel Avena
Topics we will discuss include: Best advice for start ups, Planning: Best & Worst case discussions, Who’s your target client, Infrastructure of the office, Marketing your practice, Social Media – that’s how it’s done, Connectors – how to align with others.
** EMOTIONAL **
Encouraging Healthy Divorce Using Coaching and Mentoring
Led by Tara Eisenhard
Participants will review the current culture and obstacles to a healthy divorce and discuss productive methods of coaching and mentoring to inspire a more mindful process and encourage healthy healing. Content will encompass information gleaned from the morning sessions and focus on actions we can take to be a part of the change we wish to see.
Topics will include: Reviewing current culture and challenges; Identifying key issues; Adopting a positive attitudes; Encouraging clients effectively; Exploring mentoring.
Using Compassionate Communication with Divorcing Clients - Help Resolve Their Conflicts and Learn from Their Experience
Led by Max Rivers
Many clients expect that once they are divorced, their relationship will end and all their problems will go away. But many couples continue to share important aspects of life like: children, a business, family, living in the same neighborhood, belonging to the same organizations. Dissolving a marriage without addressing both parties’ personal contribution to the dissolution of the marriage is likely to perpetuate the pain and its impact on the clients, their families, and other shared relationships.
In this roundtable we’ll dialog about how to use Compassionate Communication (also called NVC: Non-Violent Communication) and other communication tools as a way to show clients a path to peace. We’ll be discussing how we, as divorce and marriage professionals, can address underlying beliefs which keep our clients locked in conflict, even after the divorce is final.
Topics to address include: How do you relate to blaming; Name calling or other communication styles which lack compassion?; Is coaching clients in communication useful, advisable, or even possible while carrying out your role?; How do you relate to a client using support or money for revenge?; Is it ethical to dissolve a marriage (especially one with children) and leave the conflict in full bloom?; Do you coach your clients in conflict resolution? If so, how? If not, do you refer clients?
Business Strategies for More Educated and Prepared (aka Better) Clients
Led by Shelby Riley
This roundtable discussion will help participants refine their business skills so they can create thriving practices and more effectively serve their clients. We will cover: Networking strategies to attract ideal clients; Effective business policies to model healthy boundaries; Work-Life balance to model healthy self-care
** FINANCIAL **
When is a Dollar Not a Dollar?
Led by Stephanie McCullough, Judy Sciaky
Splitting the dollars down the middle doesn't always end up in an equitable settlement. Taxes, regulations, and college financial systems make some marital assets more valuable than others, yet clients often don't understand that. Let's discuss that factors that play into this reality and how we can do the right thing for our clients
Talking points include: Pension income vs lump sum; Qualified (retirement plan and IRA) assets vs non; Equity in the home vs selling.
Compassionate Communication and Finances
Led by Jeff Weaver
Topics will focus on the marital home and will include: What options do spouses have for the house; The unique risks the house poses as an asset in divorce; How divorce professionals can protect themselves from the liability of the house; Special mortgage and financial considerations during divorce.
Building a Better Financial Practice
Led by Walter Reed
Topics will include: Embracing fiduciary responsibility; Service line expansion; Referrals to other competent professionals; Cyber security of practice; Practice succession planning; Finding quality people; Documented processes.
** PARENTING **
How to “Tell the Kids”: Dissolve the Pit; Plant a Seed
Led by Sandi Sherr, Larry Schwab
Until parents talk to their children about their plans to divorce, their dread of that conversation hangs like the Sword of Damocles. Life is about to change; but unspoken words hinder progress. Parents can’t plan for a healthy future while stalled in the “purgatory” of anticipation.
We’ll discuss the when, what, and how parents can talk to children of all ages in a way that quickly and lovingly helps children begin to move through challenges they did not ask for or create. We’ll focus on parents’ use of language that accentuates the positive without being dishonest; and on the importance of nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions during the telling.
Come prepared to role play!
Compassionate Communication and Parenting
Led by Stephanie Newberg
How can we guide and support parents to better communicate with their children so that they will open up to you about their feelings, needs, and wishes? Topics will include: specific communication strategies that will help parents communicate openly and empathetically with their children; the underlying principles of compassionate communication and how it empowers and enables calmer and kinder interactions between parents and children.
How to Celebrate Parenting Separately
Led by Hilary Katz
Gain insight into how to challenge negative thinking around what the other parent is “not doing” and reframe ideas about what it means to be a good parent. Learn how to focus on being the best new version of you as a parent!
Speaker Panel – 3:00
The Future of Divorce
Joselyn Ewart, Judge Kelly Wall, Stu Webb, Craig Weiss
Our panelists will pull together the symposium objectives to discuss ways to make divorce a healthier process as well as offer recommendations for next steps as a community of divorce professionals. These objectives include: Integrative and collaborative models of practice that foster high quality work teams, educating the public, tools and tactics for achieving fair settlements without court, compassionate communication and resolving conflict peacefully, as well as the role of divorce ambivalence on the divorce process. Emphasis and distinctions will be around Millennials and the Gray Divorce.