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Separated and Under One Roof- for now.

“This recent article in The Boston Globe discusses a living situation that has grown prominent enough in the past two or three years that it has got a name, “nesting.” The arrangement has various permutations, but essentially a separating couple retains their primary home for the benefit of kids, who can maintain familiarities like bedrooms, neighborhoods, and schools. Spouses either continue to live in the home, in separate spaces, or they alternate living in another shared space during off time. This way, instead of establishing two new homes, they’re only investing in one. According to the article, nesting has become more common for a number of reasons: * An increased focus on the family and stability for the children. * The preference of children to stay in their home and not be dragged from house to house based on their parents’ choice to divorce. * With joint custody becoming common, nesting offers a way for couples to successfully minimize disruption to children. * For some modern couples, nesting offers the perks of separation without major financial duress and transition. It’s not for everyone. Warring spouses who can’t stand the sight of each other or who are entangled in affairs aren’t likely candidates. But for amicable couples who maintain mutual respect, nesting can be a child-focused way to ease the myriad challenges of divorce. Ground rules are crucial, nesters say. Parenting styles aside, potential pitfalls — clandestine trysts with new paramours, arguments over bills — can be avoided with clear parameters. Still, at its best, nesting is a short-term fix. Eventually, a new relationship might evolve, making such a set-up rather awkward. And the longer such an arrangement lasts, the easier it could be to resume bad marriage patterns.”

January is International Child-Centered Divorce Month

As the holiday season and 2013 come to an end, there are many couples who will soon separate and change their family dynamics in the months and years ahead and many of them will need help and guidance.

parents fightingIn case you were unaware, January is International Child Centered Divorce Month and there are many little known highly effective resources that are available for separating couples and their children.

Parents coping with divorce get free ebooks, coaching and other gifts during January, International Child-Centered Divorce Month!

Throughout January, Divorce Professionals around the world will be commemorating the 9th International Child-Centered Divorce Month. Divorce attorneys, mediators, therapists, financial planners, coaches, parenting experts and other professionals around the world will be providing free gifts to parents offering advice and insights to help them best cope with divorce and parenting issues.

More divorces are initiated in January than in any other month of the year. That’s why my friend and colleague Rosalind Sedacca, Divorce & Parenting Coach and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, chose January as the month dedicated to educating parents about how to prevent negative consequences for children during and after separation or divorce.

At the special website, simply enter your name and email address. After a confirmation message, you’ll immediately receive Rosalind Sedacca’s ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting. Then click on the FREE GIFTS link. That will take you to the gift delivery page where you can access free ebooks, coaching services, videos, audio programs and more – all delivered by simply clicking links. Select a few or all – the choice is yours!

This special website will be available throughout January:

Parents will also find listings of free teleseminars, workshops and other special events taking place during January on the Events Calendar.

Divorce professionals around the world will be participating. For my small part I will be offering a free downloadable copy of my book, Stop Fighting Over the Kids: Resolving Day-to-Day Custody Conflict in Divorce Situations.

For more information about International Child-Centered Divorce Month plus access to all the free gifts and special events taking place in January

Please share this invitation with friends, colleagues and clients who may appreciate sound divorce advice and resources. Remember, this month-long commemoration ends on January 31st so be sure to visit the International Child-Centered Divorce Month website soon:

Sincere best wishes,

Mike Mastracci

You better watch out ! Someone just told us why !

Okay folks,  the text in italics is what a friend emailed to me. It came came from a post that someone made on a Listserve that he belongs to. If you are separated or divorced and have kids you should read it. Here it is:

When I first joined the Listserve, I knew immediately what I would write about if I ever got my turn—divorce. My own parents divorced when I was five years old, and in one of those great ironies of karma, I fell in love with a divorced dad and am now getting to see it from the other side.

I have a better understanding now of some of what my parents went through. It had never occurred to me, for instance, that my dad once had to have a conversation with my stepmother where he explained how much money he made, and how much got taken off the top in child support. And on the other side, there was the time my Beloved, after spending an afternoon dealing with an ex-caused frustration, angrily vented ‘well, at least I know that when he’s eighteen, I can tell him everything!’ I had to gently explain to him that HE couldn’t be the one to do that!

Here’s the thing: when kids are involved, you have to be the grown-up, and that sometimes means sucking it up. Sucking it up doesn’t mean staying married to someone you can’t be married to. But it does mean letting go of your own petty stuff in the service of a good life for your kid.

Between my childhood with divorced parents, my adulthood as a stepmom, and my career as a teacher, I have seen it all, and I think most divorcing parents would do a better job if they spent less time thinking about how much they hate their ex and more time thinking about how much it would suck to be the kid in the middle of the whole thing—the kid who is told they can’t go to the family holiday party with dad because it’s not his weekend; the kid who can’t keep a picture of Mom’s new baby in his room because Dad doesn’t want to hear about it; the kid who can’t go the baseball game with Grandpa and the cousins because his other parent won’t drive a little out of their way to drop him off; the kid who misses an appointment because one parent won’t let the other one pick him up a few minutes before the official access time; the kid who is housebound for a weekend because Dad’s carseat broke suddenly and Mom won’t loan him hers for the weekend; the kid who spent 20 minutes crying on the front step of her school because yesterday’s parent didn’t tell today’s parent that the usual pickup route had some road construction going on which would make them be late…

Please, divorcing parents, don’t be that person. Loan Dad the carseat. Tell him about the construction. Let the other parent swap weekends for a family party. Sign the consent form so they can take the child on a special trip. Let them have an extra hour so that an out-of-town relative can see the child during a visit. Don’t make your child a victim of your desire to be right, to win, to prove you know better. Maybe you do know better. Maybe you really are right. But please, be the grown-up and let your ex spend their emotional energy on being a parent, not on fighting you.

The lady made some good points didn’t she? Oh, by the way,  next month is International Cild Centered Divorce Month. For the 9th consecutive year January will be devoted to alerting parents about the effects of divorce on children – especially the impact of parental decisions on their children’s well-being during and long after divorce. Go to to access special giveaways including free ebooks, coaching services, videos, audio programs and other valuable gifts by simply clicking the links, The website will only be available in January.



Holiday special: A free PDF version of the award winning book: Stop FIghting Over the Kids: Resolving Day-to-Day Custody Conflict in Divorce Situations



Children, Divorce, Babysitters

Re-posted from with permission.

Divorce is never easy for an adult, much less a child who feels he is losing an essential part of his family. When parents separate, it’s common for children to have deep feelings about the changes that are occurring and those that are coming in the future.

The key to helping a child understand divorce is to put yourself in his shoes and show compassion and support when he is expressing his feelings. Once you can understand his perspective, it will enable you, as the parents or the caregiver, to help him cope and adjust to the family changes.

How A Child Feels

All children, regardless of how well parents have tried to explain the situation to them, tend to feel that they may be responsible for the divorce, says Barbara Lavi, psychologist and author of “The Wake Up and Dream Challenge.”

“They also usually wish for their parents to get back together so that their family will be normal again, like other children’s families,” says Lavi. “This is often true even when the marriage has been stormy and the children have witnessed the conflicts.”

The age of your child also plays a factor in how he feels and processes the divorce. “Children around age five or six are most likely to believe they have caused the divorce since they are still struggling with magical thinking,” says Lavi. “Teens are more likely to be outwardly angry and act out, although this can happen at any age. Unconsciously, this may be an attempt to bring the parents back together; however, this often backfires and leads to more conflict after an initial attempt to get the teen back on track.”

According to Dr. Judy Rosenberg, California-based psychotherapist,  a child coping with a parent’s divorce often experiences some or all of the following thoughts:

  • “It’s my fault that you are leaving each other. If I wasn’t so difficult, you wouldn’t be so stressed and you wouldn’t have argued as much.”
  • “You are ruining my life. Because of you two, I have to disrupt my entire life to go back and forth between two homes.”
  • “I’m not safe. Because I don’t have two people to protect me at all times, I’m more vulnerable.”
  • “I hate the other person you left mommy or daddy for.”

These thoughts and feelings will surface sooner or later, Rosenberg warns, so it is important for both parents and nannies to be prepared for these reactions.

How You Can Help

During this difficult time in your child’s life and development, he needs to know that you sincerely care about what he is feeling. Lavi suggests encouraging open discussions about the divorce, the family changes and the plans for the future. “Talk to your children. Find out what they are thinking and feeling,” she says. “Don’t feed them the words. Ask open-ended questions that leave them room to express whatever they are feeling.”

As your child begins to open up, validate his feelings to avoid conflict or total shut down. “Let them know that whatever they are feeling is okay and that you will try to help them with whatever is bothering them about the divorce,” says Lavi. “Let them know that it is between the parents and that even if both disagree about parenting issues, this is not the reason for the divorce.”

It also helps to explain to a younger child that there are some issues or disagreements he will not understand fully until he is older, but that you are willing to speak with him whenever he has questions or concerns.

The more a trusted caregiver or parent can reassure a hurting child, the more he will be willing to talk openly about the divorce. The child just needs to know that he is loved by both parents, says Lavi. “Make sure they know that you and your spouse love them and will always be their parents, that the two of you will do your best to make sure that all their needs are met,” she says. “Be clear and consistent that you are not going to get back together, if that’s true.”

The key to helping a child cope with his parent’s divorce is to use the strategy of perspective, according to Rosenberg. “If you can, make it easy for them to go back and forth between two parents,” she says. “Spend extra time with your child or children and make sure that you take the pressure off of them when they blame themselves for the divorce.”

As you hopefully develop a stronger bond with your child emotionally, resist the urge to project your feelings of sadness, anger or resentment onto him. “Never lean on your children to be your best friend and ear for your own pain and sympathy,” says Rosenberg. “They have enough to deal with.”


Divorce Consultation 101

Why should a person hire an attorney that specializes in divorce?

If someone is getting divorced they should hire an attorney who specializes in divorce rather than a general practitioner, for example; just like a person who needs a heart transplant should seek the services of a cardiologist rather than a proctologist. Enough said.

How can a potential client be best prepared for their first meeting with you?

Client should have all of the relevant facts written down to save the attorney time, as time is money. Start with the basics like Who? What? When? Where? How and Why?

You want to spend time getting your questions answered and formulating the best course of action and not just answering form questions from an attorney. Be prepared to talk about money and fees as it relates to doing things the easy/collaborative way or the contentious, litigious way.  Be clear on what you want to accomplish and why, and then listen to the options. Ask questions and make sure that your personalities are a good fit, as this person will be entrusted with your future and it can be a long journey. If the chemistry is not there, abandon ship.

What type of questions should a client ask of a potential attorney?

What is your philosophy on when to settle? How well do you know most of the judges in the jurisdiction where my case will be pending? What all do you charge for and what about your paralegals, secretary and associate attorneys? What is your caseload like and what percentage of your practice involves handling cases similar to mine? If this case goes to court, what are some of the common and/or possible outcomes? What does a case like this generally cost? Do you know the opposing attorney and what are your thoughts about him/her and the likelihood of working things out without going to court?

What type of questions do you ask your potential client during the first meeting?

What is it you are looking to accomplish? Why? What is your plan? Who left whom (what is the motivation for the desired result)?  What are the worst things that your ex will likely say about you and to what extent are those things true? What would it take to settle the case, as in what would be “acceptable” to you?  What do you think the other side would realistically accept in order to resolve the case without unnecessary litigation? How much do you think this is likely to cost and why do you say that?

What do you see as being the most common fight of high-conflict couples?

Whether it is money, children, property, support or anything else of importance to one or both of the parties, it is often about “being right, looking good and having the other party look bad.” Most often it ends up being about money and kids and both are used to make the other one pay for perceived wrongdoings or shortcomings. Anger, fear and revenge are big obstacles to resolution.

What advice would you give clients to get a divorce with the least possible conflict and pain for all of those involved?

Grow up, get a grip and do what you have to do to work it out.  If people would spend half the amount of time, money, and effort trying to come up with acceptable solutions as they will otherwise spend on litigation, most cases would settle.

What advice would you give a woman who states she has a physically abusive spouse?

It would be important and helpful if she could give very specific and detailed examples of any alleged abusive behavior and an appropriate risk assessment/evaluation would determine what course of action, if any should be taken. Discuss options for assistance and prevention of escalating and potentially dangerous circumstances.

How do you help a client determine what she should fight for and what she should let go of?

Try to settle all issues and any issues that can’t be settled should still be settled, if possible. If one has to fight to be treated fairly or for the best interests of the children then the situation might have to be litigated, but should only be done as a last resort, in my humble opinion. Fight to move on and put this all behind you and if something leads you in that direction and is an otherwise acceptable outcome then strongly consider it.

What is your view on mediation? Do you recommend it and can you explain what it is?

Mediation is where the parties come together with the assistance of one (sometimes a team of two) person specially trained in the area of communication techniques and conflict resolution, in an effort to come up with agreements. The mediator is a neutral person who cannot give legal advice to the parties, even if he or she is an attorney.  Often, mediators encourage the parties to take any proposed agreement to independent lawyers for review and consultation. In my opinion, collaborative practice is more efficient. See www.

What is the best divorce advice you have to offer women who are just beginning this journey?

Educate yourself on collaborative law, communication skills and self-improvement. Don’t use children as pawns, try not to escalate things, and be reasonable. Do not listen to all of your friends, co-workers and family members.  Take control of your circumstances and recognize that this is a process and you will get through it and most likely come out stronger in the end.

Michael Mastracci

Michael A. Mastracci
(410) 869-3400

614 Edmondson Avenue

Baltimore, Maryland 21228

Years in Practice:  24

Is there anything else that you would like potential clients to know about you?

Divorce and custody battle survivor, founder of The Child Access Center, Inc., significant litigation experience, collaboratively trained, mediator, Court Appointed Best Interest Attorney and author of the award-winning book Stop Fighting Over the Kids: Resolving Day-to-Day Custody Conflict in Divorce Situations.  Get a free PDF version here:

I believe that more often than not, going to court over custody and visitation is the wrong approach. If you want to fight just for revenge, to screw the other side, or to prove a point, then I am not the right lawyer for you.  –  recent interview 

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