Making the Holidays Special When Divorced

Making the Holidays Special When Divorced

holidays can be hard for divorced families

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The holiday season is upon us, and holidays can be a difficult time for divorced families!!

That’s because more and more people are feeling so possessive over their children and their time with their children that they have difficulty seeing a broader picture. If you alternate holidays – which is common in divorce – don’t lament that you won’t have your children with you on what was formerly a special day.

Instead, accept that it’s just a fact of life of divorce that you have to recreate some traditions — or create new traditions – to weather this major change. Things are not going to be the same. And people have to accept that it’s just part of the divorce.

A divorce is a change in family and marital status – for everyone involved. That means  your way of living life will inevitably change – and not always to your liking.

But part of getting divorced is creating new ways to celebrate – not only holidays, but everything good in your life. And a lot of good remains.

holidays when divorced can be challenging - create new traditions!

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So this season, ask family members to have your Christmas gathering at a different time if your kids won’t be with you on December 25th. Or plan a special celebration with you when your kids will be around.

Whatever traditions you can hold on to, do so, but if you can’t, create new traditions. And involve your children in coming up with ideas and observances, so that you can own them together!

If you have an amicable divorce, you can always try to celebrate together as a family. For some divorced couples, that will work.

If it doesn’t though, don’t lash out, lament or otherwise focus on what you’ve lost. Anxiety will ease when you accept the parameters of your Parenting Time Agreement, and communicate openly and well in advance of the holidays with your ex to create ease and understanding with your children.

when the holidays approach, celebrate when you have your kids - and don't lament when you don't

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When parents are ok with the situation, the kids will be too. So make sure to articulate as early as you can what can be expected for this season, so there are no surprises.

And if you don’t have your children for a special day, do something good and fun for yourself. Make a Thanksgiving meal with friends. Pour bubbly and bake appetizers for New Year’s Eve. See a play on Christmas, or go ice skating for Chanukah.

Figure out ways to make it all OK rather than compete for time and attention. That way, everyone wins and you can move forward with grace.

Let’s Talk about Mediation!

Let’s Talk about Mediation!

divorce mediation

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Divorce mediation is a true first love of mine, and that love informs all the other approaches to family law.

I have always loved mediating cases, even as I continued to practice in other ways. Litigation. Collaborative Divorce.

Mediation is different from the act of practicing law in that the Mediator is a neutral third party, whose role is to help divorcing couples discuss and resolve their disputes. This happens outside of court.

One method I use for Divorce Mediation is the Insight Approach. It comes pretty naturally to me because I’ve always been more curious when asking questions.

The idea of insight is to not have judgment, to ask questions to get at what really matters to the clients. To help them make decisions and get to a resolution that they’re both happy with.

Let’s say a mother and father are at an impasse, and very angry at each other. I can take them into separate rooms and ask a simple question such as, what do you hope will be different if you are able to engage in an active conversation with the other person. Just asking the question gives them pause to reflect.

Many mediators just want to get the job done. This is true in any profession! But such an approach is at odds with the very nature of mediation.

You can succeed in mediation by telling people what they must do. But you haven’t really mediated their case. You’ve just finished it for them.

What about when you can’t get people to find a way to work things out, and you all agree going to trial is not a good idea?

divorce mediationThat’s why I look at Divorce Mediation as a process that needs to involve the engagement of both parties.

I ask four questions from the Insight Approach, which I keep on my desktop at all times. They are a really good way to start a conversation with clients to get them thinking about what’s important to them.

I’ve used the Insight method during a Collaborative Divorce meeting, too, by asking a question instead of making an assumption.

It’s imperative to not make assumptions. We often ask questions with assumption as part of the question. A lot of us are problem-solvers, especially attorneys, and we come with good intentions. But if we don’t provide all the ideas or feel like it’s our responsibility to solve all the problems, it opens us up to creative solutions that fit that particular situation.

Because I love Mediation so much, the mission and vision of my law firm guide us to provide a different approach when we must litigate. Someone who is not litigious can end up in court, and they need someone who shares their values and understands why we’re doing what we’re doing and can handle it with compassion. A lot of litigation attorneys are missing compassion.

But at Transitions Legal, we are dedicated to bringing compassion, insight, and listening to every case. And that comes from my expertise in Mediation.

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd: Legal Entrepreneur

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd: Legal Entrepreneur

It’s an interesting challenge to be an entrepreneur who owns a business but also a practicing attorney focused on family law.

Nine years ago, I formed Transitions Legal as a law firm that serves family law clients without judgment, and with respect, dignity and compassion. When I hung out my shingle, I was the sole lawyer in the firm, doing everything from human resources to writing briefs to litigating cases.

Since then, I’ve hired staff, including an associate attorney to handle cases, and eventually, I hope to be able to shift from working in my business to a balance between building the business and still serving clients. I want to devote time to professional development and entrepreneurial brainstorming. That said, I don’t think I’ll ever fully shift away from client work because I love being in the thick of things and serving my clients!

Now, I not only do professional development to build my legal skills, but also to become a better entrepreneur. I read articles about business ownership, I follow entrepreneurs on social media, and I think about how to better lead my team and serve my clients from an existential and intellectual perspective.

I ponder what my firm brings to the marketplace. What mission drives us. How we show up each day. How we interact with clients, other attorneys, even employees of the court. The mark we make on the world by how we do our jobs.

It’s a fascinating and challenging role to lead a company. It hasn’t always been easy, but I believe I am better for it – as a person, and as a lawyer.

The word entrepreneur comes from a 13th century French verb, entreprendre, which means “to do something” or “to undertake.” By the 16th century, the noun form of the word – entrepreneur – appeared, and it referred to someone who undertakes a business venture.

Just like the name of my law firm, Transitions Legal, conveys that we view divorce as simply a transition from one phase of life to the next, the word entrepreneur is neither good nor bad. There is no judgment to it. Only fact.

It absolutely applies to me, and I wear it proudly. I undertake to provide a service, a way of practicing law and supporting clients, that I believed was not already existent in the marketplace. I brought a new vision, a new approach, a new view to the practice of family law.

And that is a charge I do not take lightly. I am equal to the task, and renewed by it every single day.

Delving Into Diversity & Inclusion in Collaborative Law

Delving Into Diversity & Inclusion in Collaborative Law

logo for the International Academy of Collaborative ProfessionalsRecently, I was invited to be one of the speakers in a special program hosted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, IACP. I am an IACP member, and I sit on its Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility Committee (IDEA).

Last month, I led a discussion in partnership with Rajan Chettiar, a Barrister, Lawyer and Mediator in Singapore. Our topic was to focus on diversity and inclusion in Practice Groups.

collaborative professionals around a table

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IACP Practice Group Leaders (PGL) from around the world host quarterly meetings where we come together to learn and share information. This was the first PGL meeting with a specific theme and focus.  I am part of the Southeast Michigan Practice Group and regularly attend IACP PGL meetings.

It’s also where we network, learn, form stronger teams of Collaborative professionals, and have opportunities to get to know people on a different level and share information and best practices.

Our mission at the September meeting was to offer ideas for Practice Groups to increase awareness and be more inclusive.

While diversity and inclusion are buzzwords these days, at IACP, it’s our goal to use those terms to become aware and intentional in the work that we do and how we relate to colleagues and clients. Some people host a book club and discuss issues that come up in the titles they read. Others plan webinars, share articles or recommend books. Some committee members share personal stories to better understand each other’s background and beliefs.

Civility Project Logo showing how to gather collaborative professionalsA while back, I hosted a Civility Session through the Great Lakes Civility Project for my Practice Group, as a way of launching a conversation about civility and bridge-building.

At the recent session, Rajan and I discussed the IDEA committee, what we do, and what IACP is doing to expand inclusion and diversity. These values are embedded in the organization, which is why I am proud to be a part of it.

In this politically divided time, it can be nerve-wracking to imagine discussing some of these sensitive issues. They can become explosive or offensive. There is so much hatred and vitriol encircling our communities and nations.

But we must press on, so we can come to common ground, and all be better at the work we do.

Professional development isn’t just about learning new tricks of your trade. It’s also opening your eyes to the world at-large, to better help your clients and do better work yourself. In the end, the effort changes us, making us better as people, and as professionals.

Happy Anniversary, Transitions Legal!!

Happy Anniversary, Transitions Legal!!

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd celebrates the ninth anniversary of her law firm

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, principal and founder of Transitions Legal family law firm

This month marks nine years that Transitions Legal has been in business! Happy anniversary to us!

I’m thrilled to share on this ninth anniversary, that this law firm, which focuses on divorce and family law, continues to grow and evolve and serve clients in ever-new ways under the mandate of our name: Transitions Legal.

In case you don’t know the story, I chose this name for my law firm – unconventional, I know! – because it perfectly expresses what I want to convey about family law: that it is neither good, nor bad, just a “transition” from one stage of life to the next.

In short, I never judge clients choosing to divorce.

Unfortunately, so many people do. Divorce is not necessarily bad. Sometimes it’s the only thing that can save a family. And it is the mission of my law firm – TRANSITIONS LEGAL – to aid and support good people going through a tough time.

We listen. We are constantly learning. And we shape each case according to the needs and desires of the client, and their family goals.

Transitions Legal logo on its 9th anniversaryEvery day, I am grateful but shocked by how my business has grown. When it all began, it was just me and an office manager sharing office space with other lawyers. We’ve moved twice since then, into larger and larger spaces, and the team has grown to include an associate attorney and legal assistant, too. These days, we are so robust with cases that we may need to hire another associate soon!

An anniversary is a great opportunity to reflect and review. To see how far we’ve come and where we want to go.

I’ve also grown in my leadership and in my role as an entrepreneur. Back when I was contemplating hiring an associate attorney, I was probably working more IN my business than ON it.

Now, I’m ready to bring in clients and trust my team to guide them through their cases. I am still learning how to run a business, of course. Anybody who thinks they’ll start their own business and know everything right away is fooling themselves.

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd and Lynne Golodner celebrate the anniversary of Transitions Legal

Alisa Peskin-Shepherd and Lynne Golodner have worked on the marketing and branding of this firm for nearly a decade, carving out a niche in the family law industry!

There’s a constant learning curve. Things change. Employees come and go. You must be flexible. You must constantly engage in professional development. You must be open to learning and changing.

This rapid growth is challenging, yes, but it’s a great problem to have! And believe me, I’m not ready to stop growing. As long as we can serve our clients with the highest level of satisfaction and expertise, we will keep going.

Thank you for making the past nine years a fantastic experience. Here’s to many more successful years ahead!!