Hosted by Debbie Mora Evans and Colleen Honquest

Episode Notes

Join Colleen Honquest and Debbie Evans from DivorceMD as we speak to Stacy Freeman (Linkedin profile) , Family Attorney, about how to write a solid parenting agreement when divorcing a Narcissist or Borderline (high conflict) personality.  Stacy tells us what must be included in a parenting agreement to insure less conflict and more compliance by both parties.  Stacy notes that if there is a clear parenting agreement with very specific clauses for all of the major areas -visitation time, medical, mental health, and vacation/holiday time, then there will be less chance for conflict and  the need for trip(s) back to family court.  Learn how to have more peace and less stress while co-parenting and more quality time for you and your children.

Stacy Freeman email:    website:

Transcript of Podcast:

Producer:                         00:01                   I’m going to buy you a diamond so big. It’s gonna make you puke . Divorce- it don’t gotta be painful. Not like this. What happened to the girl that I fell in love with, a girl that believed in me. It can be done without wreaking havoc on the lives of the innocent, but how? Well, why don’t you stay tuned to find out. You’re listening to the divorce MD podcast with host Colleen Honquest, divorce mediator, and certified divorce coach. Here’s Colleen.

Stacy Freeman:               00:39                   Welcome to the DivorceMD podcast. This is Colleen Honquest. I’m a certified divorce coach and divorce mediator. Today. We’ll be talking to Stacy Freeman who’s a partner at Beattie Freeman Onorato Law group, LLC. We’re going to be talking about how to write a joint parenting agreement in a high conflict divorce. Hi Stacy.

Stacy Freeman:               00:58                   Hi, Colleen. Thanks so much for having me.

Stacy Freeman:               00:58                   I appreciate you coming on. And this is a tough subject. It’s also a very important subject. At the end of the day, the most important thing that everybody wants to take care of as part of their divorce is making sure their kids get through it in a positive way. And one of the best ways to do that is to have a clear and concise joint parenting agreement. So this is very important subject.

Stacy Freeman:               01:20                   I agree.

Stacy Freeman:               01:20                   And especially in those, the divorces where there is conflict and possibly a very difficult personality on one side, you want to have it black and white so that there are no, I mean, there’s going to be issues of course, but there’s ways to help hold someone accountable. And if, if need be, you can go back to court and it’s pretty clear to litigate. Is that correct?

Stacy Freeman:               01:39                   That’s absolutely the case. You need to remember that this is always going to be viewed by a third party. It’s not somebody that was part of the negotiation. This is a judge who was not sitting in the room with you when you had these conversations. So it needs to be very clear on its face, what was intended by the parenting agreement.

Stacy Freeman:               02:01                   And one of the things that, you know, I talk to my clients about if they are in a difficult high conflict situation I really stress the importance of having absolutely everything in there. You know, the drop off and pickup locations, times, and who does what. And sometimes they say, Oh, that’s, that’s too much detail. I mean, we don’t need that much detail. And I say, well, you can always deviate, right?

Stacy Freeman:               02:23                   That is the case. And, I do sort of guide myself by the amount of conflict and this dictates the number of pages that these parenting agreements are going to be. The more conflict, the more pages, because we want to get as much detail in there as possible. Parties are always free to deviate from their parenting agreement by agreement. The parenting agreement is intended as the default position and a blueprint, but if you guys are in agreement and you want to move away from that parenting agreement and do something else and give yourselves a little more flexibility, you’re welcome to do that by agreement. But this is for the times that things are not going well, and you don’t have an agreement. This is the baseline that you’ve set for yourself. So it is important to have those details in there.

Stacy Freeman:               03:12                   A lot of my clients will say, well, we get along just fine. And I say, well, you know, you always have to account for possibly another person coming into the relationship with your ex spouse And then they’ve got an opinion and they’ve got kids and so just account for everything without having to go back to court. Try to avoid court. So in different States, they call this different things. Now in Illinois, we call it a joint parenting agreement, right?

Stacy Freeman:               03:38                   That has changed just a little bit. The law has changed recently in the last couple of years here on parenting issues. We’ve moved away from the term custody, and now we address it as allocation of significant decision making. And as to what we used to call visitation, we now call parenting time. The idea behind that change in the language was to soften things a little bit and make it a little less litigation based language and a little bit more of something that everybody can get behind. The idea is that we divide up various areas. And when we’re allocating significant decision making into primary issues such as medical activities, education and religion. So it’s interesting now, whereas we used to talk about either joint custody or sole custody. Now you can actually divide up who will be making the primary decisions on those four different subject areas. So you could actually have one parent who’s in sole decision-making as to medical issues and have a different parent making, let’s say education decisions, or you can decide that those issues are going to be made jointly by both of the parties across the board. So there’s kind of, it’s kind of a way that there’s a little more room for negotiation as opposed to a hard line joint versus sole position. So it’s kind of a softening of the law a little bit.

Colleen Honquest…:      05:08                   So they call the agreement. What, in Illinois,

Stacy Freeman:               05:12                   Usually we just keep it at parenting agreement. Sometimes people like to add in allocation of significant parent. It really depends from practitioner to practitioner. I usually keep it simple and just say parenting agreement.

Colleen Honquest…:      05:25                   That’s good to know. In the parenting agreement, one of the biggest points of contention or things to think about is your parenting schedule or placement time with the children. Give an example of, you know, one of the most used or even a couple of the most used variations of switching back and forth with the children on placement time.

Stacy Freeman:               05:48                   Exchange of the children? Yeah, that’s it, this is some place that I really encourage my clients to think outside the box and to think about what’s going to work best for their schedules. You know, we don’t have the same kind of jobs that people used to have in the 1950s. You don’t have moms staying at home and dad going to a nine to five job. And then, you know, dad maybe just getting visitation or parenting time on the weekends. So really people have really expanded the way in which they do parenting times. We see a lot of cases now where there will actually be an equal division of parenting time. So the parties may have a situation where one parent has parenting time for an entire week. Then they exchange the child and the child goes to the other parent’s house for an entire week.

Stacy Freeman:               06:36                   So we call that a week on week off, schedule. Another very common one is a situation where the kids will go to one home for, let’s say five days straight, they’ll be with mom and dad for that period and then would switch for a two day period and then stay with the other parent for another five days. So it’s five days with one parent, two days with the other parent, and then you switch. There’s also a situation, what we call nesting or bird nesting. And this is a situation in which the children actually remain in the primary home. And it’s the parents that come in and out of the household and the parents will actually have a separate residence where they go, but they will come into the primary home to exercise their parenting time.

Stacy Freeman:               07:27                   That’s, that’s a, that’s a dicey one. I recommend that in very few cases, it’s very challenging because the parents end up kind of sharing that space still. So unless they have a very amicable relationship, a bird nesting situation is rather challenging. So, but I do encourage people to think about, you know, think outside the box and to think what’s going to work for you. You do need to have a schedule in place. So again, you have that foundation that blueprint that you can always come back to if things get rocky, but do be mindful of the fact. I mean, people travel a lot for work. There’s a lot of different work schedules out there. So I think that thinking creative creatively is key.

Colleen Honquest…:      08:07                   No, that makes sense. And the bird nesting is never going to work in a high conflict situation, but for those people that are getting along well, obviously you could have a more economical outcome for the couple. You’d have maybe a small apartment on one end and then the marital home that’s larger for the children. That would be saving some money instead of two large homes.

Stacy Freeman:               08:29                   That could definitely be the case. And a lot of people think it’s a nice option because there’s no disruption to the kids. The kids don’t have to go back and forth. They’ve got that stability component, which is nice. But again, to your point in a high conflict situation, that’s never going to work. So just buyer beware on that.

Colleen Honquest…:      08:48                   And in high conflict, there’s a lot of things that have to be different than your average couples. Including things, like holidays and special events, you know, you want to be clear and make sure the schedule very fair and clear from year to year. There’s different ways to split up holidays. Right?

Stacy Freeman:               09:09                   Absolutely. Some people will like to look at holidays, like let’s say Thanksgiving is a real common one where maybe we don’t just divide up Thanksgiving itself, but maybe we’ll say, okay, the kids get done with school on Wednesday. So we’re looking at Thanksgiving as an entire weekend from Wednesday to Sunday. So then that gives you a little more flexibility to break up that weekend. Some people are very particular about celebrating the actual holiday. So maybe that’s not the best solution for them, but otherwise it’s kind of a nice option so that you don’t have that running around within the holiday itself where it’s like, Oh, we’ve got to get over to this side of the family by 5:00 PM and everyone’s rushing around and no one’s enjoying the holiday. So that’s one way you can look at the holidays and instead simply looking at them as more of a full weekend rather than just the dates.

Colleen Honquest…:      10:00                   And if they switch off every year, there’s going to be one year that maybe you don’t get the ultimate schedule that you want, but next year you do. So I try to encourage people to think of it that way, you know, either break things in half, like you said, and not have the kids going back and forth during the days. That includes birthdays. It’s very important. I have a lot of parents that say, well, we both need to be there on the birthday. And I think, well, what does your child want? You know, maybe you could just do one year you have that full day, the next year, you have the following day and, you know, switch it up and make it easier for the child.

Stacy Freeman:               10:35                   Absolutely. And there’s a way to look at it too, that maybe, maybe you’ve got that maybe one parent has the actual birth day and then the other, then the person who doesn’t have the birthday that year is designated as the parent that is allowed to have the child’s friend’s birthday party. Right? So then each party has something nice to look forward to as it relates to the child’s birthday, the actual celebration itself versus celebrating on the actual birthday. So there’s a lot of creative ways to address these things. You do have to get them in writing, but being creative is one way that you can reduce the tension so that you don’t end up going back into court repeatedly. So everybody feels like they’re getting a win, right. If you can create a situation like that and think outside the box, that’s a great way to make everybody feel like they got a little something in the deal.

Colleen Honquest…:      11:27                   And not only that, but those people that are going to be difficult or, you know, try to push the limit on things as long, if it is clear on paper, there’s less ability to say, well, it doesn’t really say that and I can do this. You know, it makes it easier for the both parties involved and for the children a hundred percent.

Stacy Freeman:               11:46                   That’s so another area that you mentioned that’s extremely important to get very clear. The medical and mental health, all of those issues.

Colleen Honquest…:      11:56                   So w what do you see as some important things to clarify in the parenting agreement?

Stacy Freeman:               12:02                   So if you want to kind of draw a distinction and address both situations where you’re dealing with routine medical care, such as checkups your annual checkups versus more emergent situations where, you know, something’s happened during one of the party’s parenting times. So you do want to draw a distinction about how to handle each of those situations and each party’s involvement in those particular situations. You want to be real clear that if, if there’s, if, if you’ve got a joint medical situation that both parties can be present at a routine medical appointment and are notified of routine medical appointments, and as to more of an emergency situation, the party that has the child at the time that the emergency occurs is able to make the decisions that they need to preserve life, or to preserve the wellbeing of the child. And that the other party is notified and allowed to join in on the decision making when they can get there. But that there’s nothing hamstringing the party who is there with the child in the emergency from caring for the child at that time. So that’s the key to kind of draw those two distinctions so that you’re not getting hung up on a parenting agreement language when you’re in the middle of an emergency.

Colleen Honquest…:      13:19                   Again, I’m going back to high conflict couples, but I’ve found, too, that it’s important to put in the parenting agreement. The providers that we are going to use, you know, unless of course someone retires, but just to put the names in the agreement and also language that says, okay, if someone does leave their practice and we need to find a new provider, here’s how it’s going to proceed. Does that make sense?

Stacy Freeman:               13:44                   Yes, absolutely. A hundred percent. This is something that ends up coming up quite a bit. So you do want to have those names spelled out right in the agreement who those providers are for your medical, for your optometrist, for your dental. So those are already in there for you and mental health professional that your child might be seeing all those names are right in there, ready to go. And then you also want to provide, as you mentioned, Colleen, that procedure for what do we do if this doctor is no longer around. Usually we recommend that whoever was the prior provider, that they refer the parties to a new provider. That’s usually the least conflict and best way dealing with that issue because that’s already a trusted care provider. So there’s no reason you shouldn’t trust their referrals.

Colleen Honquest…:      14:32                   That’s a good one. That’s a very good one. Having a referral from the family practice doctor from whom you’re presently receiving care. That made me think of when you mentioned mental health. I see a lot of clients that later on want to get their kids into therapy, but that’s a battle because one person says, no, they don’t need that. What kind of language do you put surrounding the therapy question for kids?

Stacy Freeman:               14:54                   Yeah, the therapy issue is definitely one that’s become increasingly contentious in the last, I don’t know, five, 10 years, In my practice, we just have that language in there to begin with that states that the child is able to see a mental health professional and we clarify what is the procedure for selecting the mental health professional. Usually again, we go to the child’s pediatrician to make that determination and give some in network referrals. So just again, spelling out that, yes, this child is allowed to have mental health treatment and this is the way we do it.

Colleen Honquest…:      15:33                   I’m always surprised at how many times that’s left out of the agreement or if it’s in there, it just says they will attend therapy if f both parties agree to it. But again, if there’s difficult person on one side that can be virtually impossible to agree on therapy and the therapist.

Stacy Freeman:               15:48                   I actually have a case right now where I’ve got somebody who has an older agreement that doesn’t, it wasn’t in the agreement. Not drafted by our office. They have an older agreement that doesn’t address the mental health issue and getting that resolved now has become quite a contentious issue in their case.

Colleen Honquest…:      16:05                   I had the same experience in my own divorce. Actually, we went back and had to re-litigate, and it was thousands of dollars and hours and hours in Court. So I recommend getting very clear. I liked the idea that the family practice physician could refer someone. Like you say, go back to that trusted physician. So there’s not so much chance of conflict.

Stacy Freeman:               16:23                   And the opposing party is going to have a harder uphill battle explaining why that family physician’s recommendations shouldn’t be taken into account. So it kind of gets you ahead of the game to begin with.

Colleen Honquest…:      16:38                   One last thing on the medical. I see that the couples don’t really delineate who exactly will stay home. If a child is sick. Is the child with the parent whose parenting day it is? That’s very important to spell out.

Stacy Freeman:               16:55                   Yes. And we do spell it out that let’s say for that person it’s their parenting day. Then that is who should be staying home with the child. We do spell that out in there. The thing I actually see more conflict about is what do you do if say, mom’s got the child and the child has a fever the night before but it’s supposed to be dad’s parenting time. Then the conflict comes up. Dad says, Oh, I want the child at my house. Even though the child is sick. And mom, mom says, no, no, child’s got a fever. We can’t do this. What I’d like to include in there is language of, okay, when will the child remain at mom’s house, because they’re too sick to go over to dad’s. So to kind of spell out what that line of demarcation is. Is it a high fever? Is it that the child is, you know, hick to their stomach? What, what that line of demarcation, where the child remains, where they are. So you’re not disrupting their illness. As opposed to focusing more on the other parent’s upcoming parenting time. That’s something I like to spell out as well,

Colleen Honquest…:      18:04                   Another area that can be touchy is holidays. It’s also very important to spell out exactly how vacation time will be planned. You guys probably put very specific language in your agreements.

Stacy Freeman:               18:19                   Yes, we certainly do. I mean, you know, everybody’s free time is at a premium, right? So this is certainly something that if you only get a couple of weeks of vacation every year and you’re going to want to have it timed out so that you can have the kids with you on, on your vacation, we usually set some kind of a date that the parties have to say, okay, I’d like to take my vacation time this week. And the other person says I’d like to take my time this week. If there’s a conflict of the dates that both parties want, then we say, okay, in odd years, mom gets her first choice, in even years, dad gets his first choice, or vice versa. So, you know, so that there is, again, just that very clear line of how we decide these things from year to year, so that you don’t have to go back into court to decide whose vacation time is going to take preference in a given year.

Stacy Freeman:               19:20                   And then of course you want to have spelled out what kind of information do these parties need to provide to each other when they’re traveling with the child. We’re going to want all the airline information, the hotel information, phone numbers, and who are you traveling with. And so what’s the deadline for providing that information prior to travel date? So that’s all stuff that you want to have in there, so that there’s not anxiety leading up to the children traveling with one of the parents. I mean, I’ve seen some, some other agreements from other firms where it’s like, there’s, there’s just no deadline for providing all that information. And then, you know, dad and the kids are set to go away in 24 hours and mom’s concerned because she has no idea where the kids are going. And dad, hasn’t bothered to give locations or phone numbers. The more you can put that information and those deadlines in there, the better off you are and it helps to lower everyone’s anxiety level,

Colleen Honquest…:      20:30                   Common courtesy, but not everyone is on board with that!

Stacy Freeman:               20:34                   I do think that it’s not very common anymore. So that’s right. You end up with these very long parenting agreements,

Colleen Honquest…:      20:41                   Right? Common courtesy. That’s an oxymoron. Yeah, it’s funny. All of these little things really can, as long as they’re in there, you can do other things, but if you have a way to behave, that’s court ordered, you know, like you said, it’s a default. It’s a harder time to not do what you’re supposed to do. Another, you know, there’s so many areas, but one other area that I think we should talk about is the education clause. Do you guys say parents should try to live within 25 miles of each other?

Stacy Freeman:               21:22                   It’s hard to divorce the education piece from the finances, because maybe it’s not practical for the parties to continue to live in the same community or, you know, someone has a different job and has to relocate. I mean, so we don’t usually dictate who needs to be living, where in the agreement, we just maybe we’ll state that they stay where they are living at the time. So again, to provide that baseline, so the courts know where everyone was living and we do designate a primary parent for education purposes. Only the schools require that there be somebody that’s designated as the primary residential custodian for school purposes and for school enrollment purposes. It does have school enrollment consequences but it doesn’t have a legal impact if that makes any sense.

Stacy Freeman:               22:25                   So that’s kind of, it’s more of an administrative designation. We kind of look at education in two phases. We look at their elementary through secondary school education. And then we look at their college education. So they’re kind of treated as two separate things. And as to the elementary school through secondary school education, you have considerations of are the parties agreeing that the children will only go to public school or will they only go to private school? And how are we making those decisions? Again, this is significant. It falls into one of the four categories of significant decision making. So are the parties making those decisions with regard to school together or is somebody designated as the sole decision maker as to those education decisions? So that’s a big one.

Colleen Honquest…:      23:26                   Yeah. And I’ve seen several couples who do have that public versus private problem later. You know, if it’s not delineated in the agreement, they say, well, now I can’t afford it and I’m not going to pay for private school. , So it’s important to, to say, well, we’re doing this now, let’s continue this very specific things unless circumstances significantly change. It’s all spelled out in the agreement. What about college? That’s another thing that gets kind of left out when the kids are really young. Is it important to spell out who’s going to pay what percentage and what all is involved with the kids’ college education expenses?

Stacy Freeman:               24:09                   I see it kind of both ways. The younger, the kids are, the more reluctant people are to spell out the cost piece of things. I do think it can be important to include and, if you leave it out completely, you will be back in court, but you may want to be back on this. If you have lost a job or you have a significant change in income, ability to pay for college will definitely be different. So it’s a little challenging to be able to figure that out. And I guess one thing that I should also point out is that we don’t address the payment portion of college in most parenting agreements. We don’t address the finances. We address the finances in the marital settlement agreement, which is a separate document. So you do need to be careful in negotiating your parenting agreement, that you’re aware of what the financial piece is going to look like in the marital settlement agreement. Because that may influence what you’re willing to agree to in the parenting agreement.

Colleen Honquest…:      25:15                   Yeah. I agree with that. I guess when, what I see as client conflict is when a child says, I want to go to Stanford, but it’s never been written in the agreement that a child can go to whatever school they choose and the parents will pay for it. The marital settlement agreement will spell all that out, as you mentioned. Percentages that each parent is going to pay based on the statutes for each State.

Stacy Freeman:               25:44                   The language is usually that the parties are going to make the decision together with the input from the child. And the statute as to college, the payment of college expenses has changed that it now kind of caps things, absent a separate decision from the parties. It caps the expenses and the costs for U of I in Champagne, Illinois. At least in Illinois. So that’s according to the law, that’s your starting point and that’s the max we’re going to do is for four years at U of I double occupancy room for room and board. So that’s sort of where the law is at. And then you’re welcome to agree to do something else. If you can reach some separate agreement. So it used to be more of a free for all and sort of a wild West one parent would say, I want my kid to go to Harvard. And the one would say, I want my kid to go to a community college. So the statute is nice in that it gives us some kind of a point of departure, whereas we didn’t use to have that.

Colleen Honquest…:      26:54                   Well, at least now they might not have to go back and litigate and spend the equivalent of the Harvard tuition in family court. You know, that’s what you try to avoid. So one last thing I know there’s a couple of things that we’ve not talked about, but communication between the parties, I think is huge. And what do you say to a high conflict couple about communication methods? Are there some certain apps or certain things that you write into the agreement for individuals to abide by in their communication?

Stacy Freeman:               27:23                   Yeah, we’re real clear on what is going to be the preferred method of communication. I really recommend, especially, in high conflict situations, that the parties do use some kind of an app that will work for them. Typically we recommend our family wizard, people also use talking parents. These apps allow you to have kind of have a hub for everything related to the kids. There’s a parenting schedule. There’s the ability to input information about school events or activities that the children have to be in as well as for the parties to communicate. And it provides almost like a texting option. What’s nice about it then too, is that you can give your attorneys access to our family wizard. And so then if, if there’s some ongoing issue going back and forth and you need your attorney to weigh in on something, they can access it without you having to send them, you know, 5 million text messages and trying to piece together, what everyone is saying. So that access feature is nice so that you can resolve things that way. Some people do prefer to just forego the apps though, and, and stick with text messaging. And if, if that’s the preferred method, that’s fine. But again, it’s just important that whatever that preferred method is, is spelled out in the agreement.

Colleen Honquest…:      29:00                   And with high conflict situations, you know, and I’m sure you see this with clients, you can have 20 texts a day or 10 emails. And the thing that I’ve found with our family wizard is not only is the communication better but when the parties know someone’s watching or can watch, like you said, a lawyer can weigh in or a therapist can get access, or even a judge. So there’s a little more oversight and a little less, you know, potential for threats and accusatory type things, but it still happens. And the best thing I find for my clients, as I say, is that your information is all right there. You’re not going to have to go back and find it and file it and pull it all together.

Stacy Freeman:               29:42                   I totally agree. That’s huge. And I think people really underestimate that if you’re getting ready for a hearing and you have to go back and search through your phone for text messages that may have happened months ago. I mean, then you’re putting your energy and your time in the wrong space. It’s worth it to, to spend a little bit, you know, Our Family Wizard is not free. It does have a little bit of a cost associated with it. But if you know, this is something you’re going to be dealing with for the long haul, to me, it’s a good investment.

Colleen Honquest…:      30:11                   Yeah. $9 a month. Definitely is affordable. If your sanity is at stake it is worth it. And another thing, and you might’ve mentioned this, but on our family wizard, they can also exchange expenses and other financial information and document it.

Stacy Freeman:               30:26                   Yes, that’s really nice too. So that you’ve got one place because what we usually have in our marital settlement agreements is a requirement that there’s an exchange of information if someone wants to be reimbursed for a child related expense, there needs to be a receipt that’s provided. So this is a nice way that you can exchange the receipts. And again, you’ve got it all in one place and it’s documented. So you know where to go. If you need to prove that to a judge.

Colleen Honquest…:      30:54                   Again, Talking Parents is one app, I looked into it, I’ve used it. People say it’s free. It’s better because it’s free. But there are certain things between the two that, that really you have to look at and decide, which is right for you. But both have their benefits. If you don’t want to have to be getting calls and emails and texts all over the place, it helps shut down some of that conflict. So there are a lot of things that go into a parenting agreement, but I think we’ve hit the highlights if I’m not mistaken.

Stacy Freeman:               31:24                   Yeah. I think that’s, you know, that’s definitely a good start if we could see all of these things being included. Oh, one last thing I would mention- mediation clauses. That is just one, one that I will mention it didn’t use to be required in parenting agreements, that you have a requirement that you mediate issues that arise in parenting situations before you litigate them. I think that’s a very important inclusion, both Colleen and I do mediation. And I think we’d both agree that that’s a much better route to go, especially where your kids are involved. You know that these are, I always want to remind my clients, these are public filings. So whatever horrible thing you think you need to say about your spouse or your ex spouse in a pleading that’s submitted to the court, that’s out there and your kids can go back later and see that stuff. Will they? I have no idea, but what’s nice about mediation is it’s confidential. It’s private, it’s one on one, and then you can figure out these issues and really get to the heart of the matter. And it’s especially beneficial where kids are involved. I think it’s a much nicer environment to figure out all the nitty gritty of parenting.

Colleen Honquest…:      32:42                   You’re right. We’re, we’re both a little biased towards mediation because we’re mediators, but we see the good part of mediation. You’re on your own schedule. You decide, okay, when can we mediate? If you’re a working parent that is huge. Yes. Going to court means that you’re on the court schedule,

Stacy Freeman:               33:00                   You’re on the court schedule. And I think, I think the, the best commercial for mediation that I can give you is to go sit down in the Cook County courthouse for one afternoon and see how horrible that experience is. And, you know, I think more people would consider the mediation option. But regardless of how you feel about mediation, there is a requirement that you include a mediation clause in parenting agreements. Now you may not see them in older agreements, but that is the current standard that it be included in your parenting agreement.

Colleen Honquest…:      33:36                   Oh, definitely. That’s, you know, it’s funny. I had it highlighted here on my paper and I still didn’t remember to talk about it. But another thing I tell my clients, if they are thinking, “Oh, we’re going to end back in court” because of ongoing issues, I tell them to start doing a little bit of documentation and requesting things in writing to the other party. I tell them to send a series of emails over maybe a month or two that say, you know, this is not working. Here’s what I’d like. Can we resolve this? So that you can show, if you do have to go to either mediation and later court ,you’ll have documentation that you tried to resolve it without involving a third party.

Stacy Freeman:               34:18                   That’s great advice. And we definitely include in our parenting agreements, what is the procedure? If an issue arises, you know, here’s the email that you’re required to send. The other party has an obligation to respond to that email in X time. Usually, you know, seven to 14 days. If you get a response, here’s the procedure. If you don’t get a response, here’s the procedure. I mean, because I agree with you, in high conflict, the more we can spell out the better. So we really do walk through those steps of here’s how you resolve an issue. And here’s how we get to mediation. If we’re unable to resolve that issue, then here’s how we set up mediation so that you don’t get into fighting about that, too. Who is the mediator when we start mediating? We try to forecast those questions and address them in the agreement.

Colleen Honquest…:      35:10                   That’s interesting that you even tell clients, here’s the email that you send. Can you give an example and then we’ll wrap this up, but you said, okay, here’s an example of an email that you would send if X happens, how to spell that out?

Stacy Freeman:               35:24                   Let’s use an example of currently COVID this here’s kind of a good timely example. So, you know, so we know for, for certain that the kids in the private schools are going back because the archdiocese has said as much, but we don’t know yet necessarily what all of the public schools are doing. So let’s say the issue is, you know, I’m really concerned. Mom says I was trying to do homeschooling with Timmy last year. It wasn’t working. I’m really concerned that the school is not going to open back up and we’re going to have to do remote learning again, I would really like to move Timmy over to St. Matthew’s school. So, send that email to dad, please kindly respond per our parenting agreement.

Stacy Freeman:               36:13                   And the parenting agreement would say, dad’s now got 14 days to share his position with regard to moving over to private school. So yeah. So let’s say dad says, yes, I’m in agreement to go forward. Well, now you’ve just short circuited the whole thing. Right. And you’ve gotten a quick prompt response. Let’s say, dad says, no, I’m not in agreement to do that. Then that moves you forward to the mediation clause because now you’ve got known conflict. So then the mediation clause would provide, okay, from the time that says that dad says, no, I’m not in agreement to the private school. Then you’ve got 14 days to set up a mediation with an agreed upon mediator and provides all the terms for who the mediator is going to be if you don’t have one specifically named in there. What I really like to do with people is have one already in there ready to go.

Colleen Honquest…:      37:14                   Definitely. That really helps. Or you can have three in there that you know of that are good mediators and you worked with , in the past.

Stacy Freeman:               37:23                   Sure. So, yeah, I mean, just to have that teed up and ready to go, so there’s not this downtime in between mediation and, and something like this, like the example that I gave of, of the change of schools. Well, that’s something that’s pretty timely. That’s something that needs to be addressed right away. Because school’s starting. We need to know that sooner rather than later. So if you have that in place, you can, you know, address it sooner rather than later.

Colleen Honquest…:      37:56                   All good advice. And as I said, there’s some other things in here, but we were pretty inclusive. We got most of the stuff, especially if you don’t want to be back in court, you don’t want to litigate later for more money, do it right the first time. Absolutely. So thank you, Stacy, for joining me today. And Stacy, what is your contact information?

Stacy Freeman:               38:19                   Contact information? You can reach me at Beattie Freeman Onorato family law group. My email address is, And my phone number is 312-361-503-. And we handle all family law matters as, as we mentioned, and we do some mediation as well. And I’d love to hear from you. So please reach out if you’ve got any questions or concerns,

Colleen Honquest…:      38:48                   That makes sense. Yeah. And, consultations, can they call you and do a consultation?

Stacy Freeman:               39:24                   They just call the office, set that up. You just call into our office and our assistant, Jennifer, will be nice enough to set you up with that. We are doing free consultations right now. We’re doing these over the phone or if you prefer, we can do them by zoom as well. So whatever’s more comfortable for you. Zoom has become a very popular mode, even for mediation. We do a lot of Zoom. Mediation works out fine. It’s been going pretty well. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the product that we’re getting from Zoom mediation. So that’s great. Well, again, with high conflict people, it’s sometimes better not to be in the same room.

Colleen Honquest…:      40:02                   True story. Thank you, Stacey, so much. I’m Colleen Honquest, certified divorce coach and divorce mediator. And I thank you so much for listening.

Producer:                         40:11                   The DivorceMD podcast. You’ve been listening to the DivorceMD Podcast with Colleen Honquest. You can find all the answers to your divorce at where you can schedule a free consult or listen to podcasts and read informative blogs.