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20 Years Later

Dear VOA*,

I’m writing this email to give a belated “Thank you!”

After surviving the expenses of a lengthy divorce, and finally being awarded custody of my sons in 1997, I found myself spending thousands of dollars more for legal representation to modify our parenting plan five years later. Fortunately, I insisted that my 2nd attorney insert a clause in our parenting plan stating that “any future disputes were to be handled through mediation.” That’s when we were introduced to VOA in 2005. The following investment of just a few hours, combined with the expertise and practical advice of one of VOA’s mediators turned a dysfunctional parenting situation into a partnership.

I’ll be the first to admit that the thought of partnering with my ex-wife and her new husband was not an easy concept to get my mind around. However, our counselor gently reminded us that we will forever be tied to one another by the threads of our children. Although we are no longer married, we will always be in the business of parenting our children together, and she showed us different ways that this could be accomplished, starting by lowering our defenses, opening our lines of communication, and listening.

As with any good business practice, and following our mediation, my boys’ mother and I would make it a habit to meet regularly and go over things like the parenting calendar, school calendar, and doctor appointments in detail. We usually met the last week of every month.

Whenever we had a disagreement, we would “put a pin in it” and revisit the issue at a later time, so that we could finish the task at hand. Usually, if there was a conflict, we’d figure out a way to work through it or compromise.

During a 5 year stretch, we were both able to sustain a healthy, functional parenting relationship when it came to our boys. In fact, we decided together at one point that it would be best if our youngest son moved back in with his mother to be successful in school. We took care of the paperwork for DSHS together, and from that point on my oldest son lived with me, and my youngest lived with her until they were out of high school. Our boys still maintained the same parenting plan/schedule for weekends, birthdays, and holidays until their mother suddenly passed away in 2010.

Could we have accomplished any of this together without the assistance of Volunteers of America? Possibly, but I seriously doubt it. Sometimes, it’s easy to overlook the people or events that helped you make changes in your life for the better. I realize now that VOA’s work, thoughtfulness, guidance, and practical insight that was shared during mediation is worth its weight in gold, and helped salvage an unmanageable situation. I can’t thank you enough.”

*Some content has been changed or omitted for confidentiality and clarity.


VOA’s dispute resolution center has served Snohomish, Skagit, and Island Counties since 1982. With your help, we can continue to support those in conflict in finding a path to peace. To donate, visit

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