Mediation: My hourly rate is $250 per hour for mediation services related to divorce, post-nuptial agreements, estate disputes and elder care.
Corporate Trainings: My fee for corporate training, speaking engagements and coaching is $300 per hour.
Coaching: My fee for couples work, individual communication coaching, family meeting facilitation among adult and minor members of the same household and work with families supporting young adults in their transition to independence is $200 per hour.
Sliding Scale: Reduced fees are available on a limited bases to couples who can demonstrate financial need as determined by Family Tree Mediation.
For mediation, there is no charge for first session if you decide not to contract with Family Tree Mediation. This way there is no risk. Even if you decide not to continue, you get the free benefit of gaining further understanding about the options available to you for resolving the dispute you are experiencing. To schedule an appointment, you can call me at (650) 762-TREE [762-8733] or email me using the email form on our Contact Us page.
In a standard divorce mediation, the costs of obtaining your final Dissolution of Marriage Judgment fall into five parts: (1) the fee for the mediator's time during the mediation process, (2) the fee for the mediator's time drafting the marital settlement agreement, (3) the fee for assistance with the initial filings and required disclosures, (4) the fee for assistance with preparation and filing of the judgment and standard attachments, and (5) filing fees required by the court. A sixth type of cost is sometimes required: the fees charged by experts required to appraise property, prepare and file more complex orders requiring attorney assistance, provide forensic accounting appraisals, or other provide any other type of service beyond the scope of mediation.
1. Mediation Fee: My fee for mediation is $250 per hour, payable at the end of each session.
2. Marital Settlement Agreement Fee: My fee for drafting the marital settlement agreement negotiated in the mediation is also $250 per hour, but I require payment up-front for 5 hours' work ($1,250). In the event drafting an agreement does not require 5 hours work, I will refund the portion of the up-front payment not used. If the agreement requires more than 5 hours to produce, I will either request another up-front payment based on the estimated time needed to complete the agreement or I will require further payment at the same hourly rate, payable at the time the final agreement is provided.
3. Fee for Assistance with Petition and Response: I charge a $500 flat fee for assisting the mediating couple in preparation of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the Response. I do not provide you legal advice in helping you fill out and file these forms, but only administrative assistance. This assistance does, however, relieve you of the great majority of the work involved with preparing these initial filings. As part of this assistance, I will also help each of you collect and organize the information required to make the required disclosures to the other and help you prepare and file the associated declaration concerning service of these disclosures.
4. Fee for Assistance with Judgment and Related Attachments: I charge a $750 flat fee for assisting the mediating couple in preparation of the Dissolution of Marriage Judgment and various standard attachments. However, this flat fee does not cover preparation of QDRO orders and a range of more complex motions and orders that, if desired, often merit the involvement of a specialist, whose fees will be additional to those charged by Family Tree Mediation.
5. Court Filing Fees Not Included. Filing and other fees charged by the court are not covered by either the flat fees or hourly fees charged by Family Tree Mediation. The mediating spouses will write checks covering such fees to be included with the documents to be filed by the mediator on behalf of the divorcing couple.
6. Fees for Expert ServicesBeyond the Scope of Mediation Not Included. Where the divorcing spouses choose to seek a QDRO or various other orders warranting legal help or where they seek the services of experts in valuing property or providing services beyond the scope of mediation, they will be responsible to pay the fees charged by the experts used.
Risk Free! There is no Charge for first session if you decide not to contract with Family Tree Mediation. This way there is no risk. Even if you decide not to continue, you get the free benefit of gaining further understanding about the divorce process and the options available to you. To schedule an appointment, you can call me at (650) 762-TREE [762-8733] or email me using the email form on our Contact Us page.
Are you looking for a way to better handle conflict with your spouse, a close friend or a colleague at work? Do you have an issue with your spouse that you would like to mediate, but your spouse refuses to participate? Would you simply like to strengthen your ability to stand up for yourself while still respecting and caring for others?
If so, Family Tree Mediation’s conflict coaching service may be right for you. While it is always a great opportunity when two parties in conflict are willing to work on improving the way they communicate, especially with the assistance of a mediator, a relationship can be greatly improved on the initiative of just one person.
In the past four decades, a great deal has been learned about the nature of conflict, the communication patterns that help individuals navigate such conflict, and those that don’t. We have greatly increased our awareness of the way that culture, emotion, information, past experience, worldviews, and communication models complicate our participation in conflict. In the heat of the moment, however, we rarely have the capacity to make effective use of this understanding, if we are fortunate enough to have obtained it. We find ourselves reacting according to the models for dealing with conflict we learned long ago and now apply unconsciously.
That’s why conflict coaching can be so helpful. Breaking old patterns and learning to consciously and effortlessly apply new ones takes practice. When one person in a relationship begins practicing using more productive communication tools in conflict, the old pattern of exchange is no longer the same, space is created, the temperature cools, and connections are made. Each small adjustment in the exchange is assisted by other small adjustments. As with the tumblers in a lock mechanism, it can be a wonder to witness how these little pins can open a door that kept two people from really hearing and appreciating each other’s experience, needs, and intentions.
Amid hard economic times, the skyrocketing burdens of college loans, and an inaccessible housing market, there is a growing trend increasingly reported in the news of adult children moving back in with their parents following graduation from college. No doubt for many parents and many young adult children, this new living dynamic is stressful and even painful.
We have all grown up with an expectation of increasing prosperity from generation to generation and for many moving out on one’s own is an important symbol signifying that that expectation of prosperity is on its way to being fulfilled. The symbolic disappointment of that expectation inspires all kinds of different emotional responses from both parents and young adult children.
In addition to the emotions that attend a graduate’s moving back in with his or her parents are a host of practical issues relating to any household. How do the housing costs get covered? How does the home get cleaned? What impact do visitors have on the other members of the household? How do people communicate about important household needs? How much privacy do household members get? The list of such questions that may come up is a long one.
Often attending the practical aspects of these questions is a diverse range of value judgments, personal experiences, relationship histories, and awkwardness before uncharted territory that together result in very different perceptions on any given issue.
With all of these factors at play at once, it’s understandable if the peace and contentment of home has been shaken.
A small minority of parents involve their children in their estate planning process. The reasons for this fact are understandable, but not sufficiently well founded to make this trend a smart one.
Sources of the Traditional Route to Estate Planning
Often, the estate planning process is initiated while the children are still too young to be able to meaningfully contribute understanding of how the estate plan might best meet their needs. For a time, it is true, the parents know best.
In addition, people often feel reasonably well justified holding the view that the fruit of their life’s labors is theirs to do with as they please. The children should appreciate the gifts they receive, not seek to tell the parents how to make them.
And then, the habit and, indeed, ethics of legal practice have long required avoiding representing multiple interests. An estate planner serves the individual seeking a plan for distributing his or her estate, not the estate’s beneficiaries. The inertia of habit and the simplicity of serving a single interest funnels estate planning out of earshot of the children in a way that reinforces a sense that the estate plan is none of their business.
There is no need to quarrel with the reasons that estate beneficiaries are not allowed or invited to participate in the estate planning process. All of these reasons can be legitimate and still fail to serve the real interests of the individual that needs a plan for distribution of his or her estate among his or her heirs and beneficiaries. And the reason the traditional way of doing estate planning often fails to achieve its desired result is simple: it assumes that the parties receiving the estate gifts will embrace the estate plan without having been involved in its creation. This is an unwise assumption.
Just think of how often much smaller gift giving goes awry. Think of the long return lines in the department stores the day after the Christmas holiday, for example. And this is after Santa has gone out of his way to invite children to write him letters telling him what they want!
A terrific book about mediation and negotiation that is aimed at the general public is Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight, by Robert Mnooken, Chair of Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation. The book explores disputes in a variety of contexts where the relationship between the parties in conflict has grown so hostile that at least one side views the other as immoral, even evil. Thus, the title, Bargaining with the Devil. I will say a word about Mnooken's advice in such situations at the end of this post, but my real interest in mentioning Bargaining with the Devil is that, at the end of this book's last case study, Mnooken offers an important gem of advice relative to proactive, preventative communication in the estate planning context.
The case at hand involved three siblings’ inheritance of a large and valuable vacation property. The conflict had escalated to the point that two of the siblings were no longer talking to each other. If nothing was done to change the situation, the parents' gift to them threatened to permanently injure all the siblings’ relationships with each other, which certainly was not their parents' intention in making the gift.
A core belief here at Family Tree Mediation is that one of the keys that makes mediation successful is each party feeling that the other has really heard what he or she had to say. If you think back on your own experience, whenever you are in an argument or even just a conversation where you do not feel like you are being heard, you will probably recognize that internally all your mental energies become focused on the fact that you are not being heard and on your continuing need to make yourself heard.
It makes sense that when your mental energies are held hostage in this way that you are not able to think further about how it feels to speak your own words or what thoughts reveal themselves as your own words sink in. All your energy is just focused on the fact that the other didn’t listen.
It’s like that old saying in Monopoly: “Do not collect $200; do not pass go.” Our thoughts are a process like a board game. They have a course to run that must be run one move at a time. Each move has its own unique challenge or reward that cannot be predicted until the dice, our words, tell us which square we have landed on.
Today, I am celebrating the first post on this blog and I thought a good first topic to discuss is the name I have given my mediation practice. I call my practice Family Tree Mediation because, to me, the metaphor of the Family Tree expresses many values and beliefs that I think make mediation an extremely valuable tool for getting the most out of our lives:
Striving for Organic Self-Development
First, the Family Tree image reflects the positive growth of each of our lives through all of life’s changing seasons. As we grow older, the strength, peace and grace we embody are a reflection of our authenticity, integrity, and self-awareness. Mediation is a process that provides the opportunity for navigating deeply painful conflicts with all of these desirable qualities so that you feel yourself growing stronger, more peaceful and more graceful no matter what challenges you face.
Managing Essential Relationships
Growing up involves a lot of challenges and a lot of emotion for everyone involved. As a parent, as a former elementary and middle school teacher, and as a mediator, I appreciate how difficult it can be to have conversations about behavior, choices, needs, family decisions and conditions at school. From a mediator’s perspective, what evokes both compassion and hope is the good heart of each that often gets dismissed amid the vulnerability and defensiveness each person feels with so much at stake. It is painful to see such goodness overlooked in the midst of conflict and emotion, but it is hopeful to know that that goodness is there and is a certain foundation upon which to build a collaboration that will respect everyone’s needs.
The student’s heart, no matter what behavior is manifesting, is still full of youthful goodwill and the needs of innocence. The parent’s heart is self-sacrificing, protective, wise and nurturing—humanity at its best and most vulnerable. The educator’s heart shares these qualities in a democratic, public service-oriented way that is heroic in its civic devotion, but that is also constrained by the requirements and realities of professional and institutional structures. Among the unique qualities student, parent and teacher or administrator each possess, there are many shared interests and yet many different ones too.
A Different, Better Conversation Is Possible
If each person affected by a given concern or involved in a given conflict is able to get down to their core needs, a completely different type of discussion is possible than the one accompanied by tensed jaws, distrustful words muttered under one’s breath and angry words flung in raised voices. A conversation is possible where each participant is able to acknowledge the legitimacy of the others’ needs and concerns, identify the interests shared, and think about ways to meet all needs, even the ones that conflict. In this place, there is a lot more room to find creative solutions to problems that in the other, triggered conversation seemed non-existent.
Given the daily interactions and nature of the relationships between kids, parents and schools, however, it’s no wonder that adults sometimes struggle in their efforts to help the student find the comfort, self-awareness and courage to identify and speak his or her most important needs.
Helping parents to establish the inward composure to identify and speak their most important needs is often difficult too. On one hand, children are experts at pushing buttons, as well as at finding ways to call into question one parenting skills. On the other hand, trusting your child and his or her development to the authority and judgment of a school can be extremely disquieting especially when one feels left out of the loop and that the choices made at school go against one’s natural instincts.
And teachers and administrators at school are also in a highly vulnerable situation that makes it hard for them to quiet their fears and focus on what needs and interests, if met, would make a world of difference. Teachers, after all, get their buttons pushed and skills called into question, not just by one, two, or a few children, but by a room full of them, each additional student multiplying the challenges involved exponentially. While the teacher’s good heart is bravely open to such prodding, professional and economic risks also attend their effort to serve the individual development of each and every child in their care. It’s not easy being answerable to the student, the student’s parents, and the school administration.
10 Ways Mediation Can Help:
Given these dynamics, a neutral, third-party mediator with no investment in the issue at hand can provide valuable assistance in facilitating a conversation about a child’s behavior, development and wellbeing in ten important ways:
Importantly, issues concerning the behavior, development and wellbeing of a child come in all shapes and sizes, some involving only a child and his or her parents, some involving only a child’s parents and a school’s administration, some involving parents of different families, etc. Consider the following list of potential issues that families sometimes find get caught up in unproductive, painful communication patterns. Discussions over:
Grades • Hostile speech to parents • Peer pressure • Individualization to child’s educational needs • Chores • Divorce • Drugs and alcohol • School discipline • Conflict with a teacher • Conflict with administration • Curfew • Driving • Bullying • Social media bullying • Extracurricular obligations • Friends • Jobs • Parental remarriage/parental dating • Moving the family • $1000+ Proms
Mediation is a flexible tool that can be modified and applied in many contexts. Of course, some issues that may come up, such as eating disorders, drug addiction, or depression, are not as much about a failure to communicate about a conflict as they are about deeper mental health issues that require other expertise than a mediator offers. If you have questions about whether mediation might be suitable and helpful in resolving an issue concerning a child’s behavior, development or wellbeing or if you would like to schedule an appointment for mediation, you can call me at (650) 762-TREE [762-8733] or email me using the email form on our Contact Us page.
Proprietor of Family Tree Mediation
Serving Redwood City, Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View,
Los Altos and the wider Peninsula & San Francisco Bay Area.
These days, the cost of higher education is soaring higher and higher indeed. Just to get into a good college, increasingly large numbers of students are relying on SAT and Achievement Test preparatory courses at considerable expense. Many families take the additional step of hiring a consultant to help their child put together the strongest possible college application packet.And before the application stage, substantial investments are also frequently made in athletics coaches, music teachers, educational camps and programs outside of school, and a host of other opportunities aimed at developing the interests and talents of their maturing children. Thus, in addition to the obvious emotional investment families have in seeing their young adults find their way happily into the world, there is also an astounding financial investment as well.
In offering communication facilitation and education coaching services to families with young adults in the midst of their transition to independence, Family Tree Mediation seeks to help young adults and the families who support them to make the most of the opportunity of college and to begin their adult life well equipped to navigate their own pursuit of happiness through whatever challenges may come.
Here’s why communication/education coaching for the whole family during a young adult’s transition to independence is worth your consideration.
A few examples: When might a mediator be able to help your family navigate a difficult, but important topic? Answering this question is easier with the help of a few examples. Consider the following scenarios:
The thing that these three scenarios share most in common is that each involves a network of intersecting family relationship and a sense that the wellbeing of one or more loved ones is at risk. In addition, there is an implicit question whether the family members will be able to communicate effectively about the issues at hand in order to adequately care for each others’ wellbeing and the family bonds they all share.
The question Family Tree Mediation asks you to consider is this:
Can a skilled and neutral, third party mediator help your family take care of each other, navigate difficult transitions, repair old rifts, and/or otherwise help you to improve the quality of your communication and relationship patterns?
For many, mediation is a legal word that brings to mind divorce settlements, testamentary challenges, or business breach of contract suits. This understanding is rapidly changing, however, as a result of four decades of intense activity and growth in the mediation field. During this time, mediators and researchers have developed and proven many new communication tools that are not necessarily legal in nature, but are universal to the types of conversations we have every day, all day long. Appreciation has also grown for the wide applicability of mediation and the unique function a neutral, outside party can play in structuring and facilitating a conversation that would otherwise be hard to free from negative emotion.
Here are ten ways that Family Tree Mediation can help your family navigate difficult conversations and decisions by facilitating your family meeting:
If you have questions you would like to ask about Family Tree Mediation’s family meeting facilitation services or if you would like to schedule an appointment, you can call me at (650) 762-TREE [762-8733] or email me using the email form on our Contact Us page. Also, please call or email if you have any questions you would like to discuss.
Proprietor of Family Tree Mediation
Serving Redwood City, Atherton,
Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View,
Los Altos and the wider Peninsula &
San Francisco Bay Area.