A Father’s Love: Erik Feig on Navigating Divorce in Neurodiverse Families

Are You Ready for Divorce?

TAKE THIS QUIZ and Find Out. 

Minute Read

Episode Description

Erik Feig is an attorney, a mediator, and the father of three neurodivergent children.  Navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic with his own complex family inspired him to leave the practice of law and create a mediation practice focused on helping other families with neurodiverse children navigate conflict more effectively.

In this podcast episode, Erik explains – both from personal experience as well as professional expertise - the tremendous amount of extra coordination and energy that families with neurodivergent kids require.  It’s not unusual for parents in such families to experience conflict in how to best manage the extra challenges they face.

Erik helps parents mediate those inevitable conflicts – both in the context of divorce and in intact families.  He facilitates discussions to bridge divides and helps parents cooperate to meet their kids' needs in a way that causes minimal disruption.

If you know any parents who have a neurodiverse child and are experiencing conflict in their family, this episode will open their eyes to new and effective ways to resolve that conflict and get the help and support they need.

Check out the first online mediation program created by a veteran divorce professional that gives you reliable information about what mediation really is, how it works, and how you can create a mediation plan that sets you up for success.

Show Notes

About Erik

Erik Feig, a dedicated parent, mediator, and Certified Co-Parenting Specialist, specializes in supporting neurodivergent and special needs families. At Feig Mediation Group, he helps parents and families navigate important issues and decisions with empathy and understanding, whether they are separating, divorcing, or co-parenting after divorce. Drawing from his own journey as a parent in a neurodivergent family, he brings both personal experience and professional expertise to support other families with additional needs. He doesn’t just help parents find common ground, he helps them build bridges for a more hopeful and aligned future, benefiting both parents and children.

Connect with Erik

You can connect with Erik on LinkedIn at Erik Feig or on Facebook at Feig Mediation Group.  You can learn more about working with Erik on the Feig Mediation Group YouTube Channel or on the Feig Mediation Group website. The best way to get in touch with Erik is via phone at 301-485-9272.

Key Takeaways From This Episode with Erik

  • Erik has three neurodivergent children himself and draws from his personal experience as well as professional expertise to support other families with additional needs.
  • Parenting neurodivergent children presents many additional challenges, logistics, decisions around therapies/supports needed. This can lead to disagreements between parents about how to handle their child's needs.
  • Erik helps parents bridge gaps, facilitate difficult conversations, and align on a plan - whether they are still together, separating, divorcing, or co-parenting after divorce.
  • Erik mediates for parents at all stages - when together to prevent divorce, when separating to create a parenting plan, and when divorced to modify plans as children's needs change over time.
  • He uses a facilitative approach, asking questions to help parents consider different perspectives rather than telling them what to do.
  • For families going through separation/divorce with special needs children, he advises finding the right resources to help them navigate the transition smoothly while minimizing harm to the children.
  • His advice is to get the right support, even if it means asking for outside help, to "do it right" rather than just fast when going through major family transitions like divorce.
  • He uses the metaphor of WD-40 to represent his role in helping "unstick" families when they get stuck on difficult parenting issues.

Do you like what you've heard? 

Share the love so more people can benefit from this episode too!


A Father's Love:  Erik Feig on Navigating Divorce in Neurodiverse Families

Erik Feig


mediation, neurodiverse, coordination, support


Karen Covy, Erik Feig

Karen Covy Host00:10

Hello and welcome to Off the Fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision making so we can discover what keeps us stuck and, more importantly, how we can get unstuck and start making even tough decisions with confidence. I'm your host, Karen Covey, a former divorce lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, turned coach, author and entrepreneur. And now, without further ado, let's get on with the show.

With me today, I am so delighted to have Erik Feig, and. Erik is a dedicated parent mediator, lawyer and a certified co-parenting specialist. He specializes in supporting neurodivergent and special needs families. At Feig Mediation Group, Erik helps parents and families navigate important issues and decisions with empathy and understanding, whether they're separating, divorcing or co-parenting after divorce. Drawing from both his own journey as a parent in a neurodivergent family, Erik brings both personal experience and professional expertise to support other families with additional needs. He doesn't just help parents find common ground, he helps them build bridges for a more hopeful and aligned future, benefiting both parents and children. Erik, welcome to the show.

Erik Feig Guest01:35

Thank you, Karen, I'm so glad to be here.

Karen Covy Host01:38

I'm thrilled to have you and I want to start with a little bit of your backstory. So why is it? What made you go from lawyer to mediator to doing what you're doing today?

Erik Feig Guest01:55

Great question, and it starts with my kids. I have three kids, all of them neurodiverse. My oldest is almost 20, my youngest is 13,. My middle is 16, I have a small, a medium and a large, and all of them are neurodivergent and they're different from each other in terms of their strengths and the supports they need. So in our family, as parents, we've been doing this a long time, and when I say this, this means making sure that they get what they need for support, that they get what they need in order to have their strengths, have the opportunity to thrive, and that we, as parents, do the hard work.

It is stressful and there is a lot to keep track of and to coordinate and just to do to keep everybody on track. It's not easy, it's complicated, and what brought me to doing this where I was an attorney for more than 25 years and during that time as we move, it was really during the time when we were all at home, during COVID and I had all three kids at home, three different parts of the house, one in our family room, one in our dining room.


Our other child, I think, was hiding under her desk upstairs in her bedroom, trying to get a little bit of space from their siblings, and what we had was we were supporting each one of them through the school day while trying to do our stuff as well. It was a lot. It was stressful talking to other parents with similar situations, not just families that were neurodiverse. It was a lot for them too, and what that's what got me thinking about how we have so many supports available now for our kids and we do have a lot of supports available for us to help our kids as parents but we don't have a lot of our supports to help us as parents stay on track with each other. So I decided to do something about it and that's what led me to create my practice, because, candidly, if there were more resources to do the work that I'm doing now, we would have had them on our bench.

Karen Covy Host04:19

That makes a lot of sense and I want to get more into that. But before we do, let's start with a definition. What is neurodiverse, neurodivergent? I've heard people talk about special needs children, autistic children on the spectrum. There's so many ways to describe kids that are different. How do you? What does neurodiverse mean and how does it fit into all of these different descriptions?

Erik Feig Guest04:52

You know. I'm glad you asked that and it's an important point because for parents and families who have kids that are wired differently, there's a whole vocabulary that we learn and that we use, and that's for parents that have kids that are more. I'll use another term neurotypical. The terms like neurodivergence, neurodiverse and some of the others it's not familiar. So when we use the term neurodiverse, it's one of those terms that there's not one definition but how I tend to think of it.


It's kind of an umbrella way of talking about the ways that our neurology, our brains, our wiring, if you will, can affect the ways that we interact with each other and the world around us. It's kind of a shorthand way of acknowledging all of the differences and all of the ways we think, we process, we learn and experience things. So you mentioned some ways that it will commonly express itself. So we talk about ADHD, we talk about autism and the spectrum. I have kids, my kids and our family. ADHD is part of our family. The spectrum is part of our family. We have other learning differences which also express themselves in many different ways, but these are all differences in the way that we learn, think and interact.

Karen Covy Host06:21

So when a family has a child or multiple children who are as you put it and I love how you put it that they're wired differently? What kinds of extra challenges are going to show up in that kind of a family versus a family with kids who are, as you put it, neurotypical?

Erik Feig Guest06:43

Thank you, it can be an all-day, every-day type of well I'm going to say. The challenge is, I also want to mention as well the strengths, the opportunities. It's not just we tend to think of some of these things in terms of where it makes things more complicated, but it's also with those complications is also great strengths too. Another term that we can put out there is kids who are twice exceptional, which are kids who might be gifted, talented and with learning differences as well. So they have the big peaks in terms of their strengths, but where they need support, there are also deep valleys. So it's important to, I think, to recognize and acknowledge both and acknowledge that we need to be able to address all of that.


But the complications can be from the time we wake up as parents, right, waking up and saying I hope today is going to be a good day for them and a good day for us, and hoping for the best and bracing ourselves for when something is going to go off track, going through the day and maybe saying you know what? Now? How are we going to coordinate all of the things we need to do at school and after school? That could be everything from supports to activities, to therapies, to therapeutics, to the things that they need in order to stay on track. And when you talk about the challenges as parents, it raises a question of what happens when we're managing all of those logistics or managing all of those decisions. You can feel like every day, like we're running around with our pants on fire. Sometimes I describe it as you know we feel like we're the person that's trying to keep all the plates spinning right without dropping any of them. While riding a unicycle, the stakes can be high and if something drops, it can get really messy really fast.

Karen Covy Host08:45

I love that description. What I'd like to dig into, like can you give our listeners an example, like some place where because I can see that a parent with neurodivergent one or more children right, you've got a lot more plates to keep spinning while you're riding that unicycle, right, but what happens? I mean, what kind of decisions can parents face? Where do the parents come to loggerheads? Like? What kinds of choices or decisions do they start to be at odds about?

Erik Feig Guest09:24

There are so many ways and there are so many times again, there's decisions throughout the day that are small and there's the big decision.


Let me give you two examples. So one and I expect that there are people that are watching and listening to our conversation that are probably going to nod their heads One is when the parents might not agree even about the needs that their children have. So let's say you have a child in school let's say elementary school, middle school, it could be high school, it doesn't matter but the parents see that the child is struggling, they're working hard, they're getting frustrated, they seem to be trying, but they're not getting to where they think they should be. And you have one parent will say you know what? I think something else is going on here. Maybe we need to get them evaluated to see if there's a learning difference or there's something else that they need. And the other parent says no, no, what? I think I think they just they need to work harder. And I think the answer is they need to work harder and they really need to buckle down. So what happens? You have one parent that says we need something else, something different. You have the other parent that says no, they need to work harder and meanwhile both of them may be doing what they think probably are doing, what they envision is best for their kid from their own perspective.


But there's a gap and how they bridge that gap can make all the difference. And if they can't bridge that gap themselves, without help, what happens? Their child continues to struggle, their child continues to be stressed out and they, as the parents, continue to watch us and they get stressed out and often what happens? It becomes an issue between them, it's in the family, it becomes part of the family and it stresses everybody out. But they all want to help.


It's the alignment of what do we do and having those conversations to bridge the gap and say, okay, how do we get on to the same page? Can we get on to the same page? That's so hard. That's one example. That's not uncommon. Another one could be that you have a child where the question is not about whether they have additional needs, but it's how to serve the additional needs right. It's not uncommon, for instance, to have disagreements about issues like what supports will be engaged, whether meds will be involved, or when or to what extent. There's so many ways that this can again that this can be an area where parents have their the best interests of their kids in mind and in heart and at the same time their vision is so different that it becomes a sticking point. And you mentioned at the beginning you're helping families and parents when they get stuck. It's about helping them to bridge the divide and get to a point where they can get unstuck. Sometimes that just needs that need. Sometimes they need help.

Karen Covy Host12:34

Yeah, you know, and it's interesting. And now I'm curious because the way you're talking about this makes it seem like you help parents deal with, mediate their differences or their different approaches when it comes to their kids, whether those parents are trying to hold their marriage and the family together or whether they're going through a divorce. Is that true? Do you help parents in both circumstances?

Erik Feig Guest13:03

Every stage. When they're together, I mediate them. When they are getting apart and even when they are apart, because parenting doesn't end. The co-parenting begins when they're apart. So when they're together, I call it divorce prevention. It's about how to keep them on track with each other and keep them aligned with each other so that the smaller disagreements Sometimes it's small, but the smaller disagreements if they don't get resolved in a way that works for everybody, they can become big issues over time and they can accumulate and they become. Then they move on to a different level.


And when parents are getting apart, when we think about, let's say, in a parenting plan, all of the issues and decisions that are involved, how we communicate, how we spend time, how we're going to manage all of those logistics and the logistics now are not just about extracurriculars, they're also about those supports how we provide continuity, predictability.


All that we're trying to provide when parents are together now needs to be transitioned to a situation where the parents are going to be doing this in separate homes for the kids, and doing this in a way that keeps them in the center of the conversation, but without putting them in the middle of what's going on with the adults. And then, once they're apart, the plan for that you might make today may need to change as their needs change. In two years, one year, who knows? Five years, the plan you make for a five-year-old is not necessarily going to meet the needs of the 10-year-old. So I try I'm there as a resource to help them have these conversations in a way where they could sit down and look at what they need to do and be able to hopefully bridge those gaps.

Karen Covy Host15:02

That is so helpful and it makes so much sense to me, especially because, as you and I both know that when it comes to special needs children, the law doesn't necessarily it's different, right? Those kids might need support, probably will need support, long past the age of 18, right? So it sounds like what you do is you help parents figure it out for themselves, bridge the gap, as you put it, and come to decisions about what to do with and for their children now and long into the future.

Erik Feig Guest15:47

The future becomes the present very quickly and parenting doesn't end when your child turns 18. We can talk about it as families that are more complicated because they might have additional needs, but this is for any family. If we're talking, if we're making a plan, and we're talking about a minor child and want to make plans for them to maybe go to college or other paths that will come afterwards, where decisions are still going to have to be made together, or the parents would want to make decisions together, or just how they will be able to do things when they're apart, when their kids, when their children are older, their adults, when you add in special needs and they might need, for instance, lifelong care, lifelong support, more support into their 20s, their 30s or beyond, parenting becomes a much longer. You're looking at a much longer horizon where you have to cooperate with each other and do that transition. As they are getting older and hopefully becoming more independent, the transition in what your relationship with them will be and what your supports for them will be.

Karen Covy Host17:03

Yeah, I have a question. I don't know if you can answer this or not, but when parents have a child with special needs, I know that that often becomes a factor not only in the breakdown of their marriage but in their decision about whether to go forward with a divorce or not, because they're afraid of destabilizing their kid. Do you think it is possible for parents who have a special need child or children to navigate that transition from marriage to divorce without sending their kids in a tailspin?

Erik Feig Guest17:45

It can be done. It's complicated sometimes, and that's why I use the word complicated. Complicated is not the same as saying impossible, but when we're talking about these types of situations, sometimes the conversations go a little into a little more detail, let's say, or into areas that you might not go into at a level of depth that when these added issues are not present. So you might go into more depth. For instance and it's not uncommon if we're talking about children that have additional needs, we'll have a deeper discussion, perhaps about how medical decisions are made, just to give one example.

Karen Covy Host18:36

That makes so much sense.

Erik Feig Guest18:38

We'll have a deeper discussion about what the time spent and what the logistics look like. It's not just about where the kids are staying. It's also about making sure well, if they have supports, for instance, that those are also part of the discussion. So it can be done and it is done. Yeah, I know people do it.

Karen Covy Host19:04

The question I guess maybe the better question is can it be done well, Can it be done without really seriously harming the children, who may interpret things in a different way?

Erik Feig Guest19:21

It takes more cooperation, which can be hard. Look, when a decision has been made to go apart, to get apart, there's a lot that goes into that. It's a decision that is not just. I know I'm talking a lot and we're talking about the logistics of it, but there's also the emotions, there's also the relationships, the transitions that are involved there. These are all part of the mix. And having the right supports for everybody it's not just the supports for the kids, it's the right supports for the parents for what they need and for what they need in order to move forward once they're apart. These can include financial decisions. They can include the supports for themselves. They can include the supports for when they need to work together. It can be a team effort. It is possible, and it's possible that those are resources that they might need intermittently.


One of the benefits, I think, and one of the things that makes mediation so powerful, I think, is that it can be a resource for when you need it. When we're talking about going through the divorce, yes, when we're talking about afterwards, it may be that you come to me. A parent will come to me. Parents will come to mediation. When they get stuck on an issue. They come back to talk through that issue because they need help there. If they can get through that, they might not come back for some period of time again, but it's a resource that they could draw on when they need it. I think that's so important, because that's what we need as parents, is to be able to say here's our toolbox, here are the people that we can draw upon that are going to be there to help us, to help them.

Karen Covy Host21:13

I love that idea of looking at mediation, which I don't know what, how Webster's defines it, but it's basically dispute resolution helping a couple resolve a dispute when they can't do it themselves. A mediator, you facilitate that discussion. Most people, I think, think of mediation in association with divorce as a discrete event. Okay, you're going to get divorced, go to the mediator, figure it out. I don't think people think of mediation as being the place where, whether you're still married, divorced or post-divorced, you can go and get help resolving the disputes you can't resolve yourself.

Erik Feig Guest22:02

I take a very functional view and maybe it's a broader view, but I don't describe myself as just a mediator for divorce. I'm a mediator for parents. I'm a mediator for families. There are innumerable ways where there might be a need for someone that, like you're saying, that's not us. When we get stuck to help facilitate that conversation that we need to have but is hard for us to have without help.

Karen Covy Host22:34

Yep, exactly. But I'd like to talk for a minute, if you can, about that facilitation, right? Because I think a lot of people have misconceptions about mediators and they think that you're going to decide for them, especially because, hey, you have experience in this area. You have children who are neurodivergent Okay, well, just tell me what to do. How does that work?

Erik Feig Guest23:03

Great point, and people will, when we're working together, will often say explain to them why this is right, or explain to them why I'm right.

Karen Covy Host23:11

I love that exactly.

Erik Feig Guest23:14

It's as if I'm a judge and that's exactly what I'm not there to do. That's what you're saying, Karen. It's a role that's facilitative. What I bring to the table, as a parent and a family that's neurodiverse, is I have experience, I have my own mileage that brought me to this. It helps me ask questions and the questions are my tools. I don't make decisions, I don't force outcomes, I don't tell anybody what to do, but I do help them by asking questions.


To ask them have you considered different ways of looking at things? Right, Like, let's go back to you know, negotiation school. What do lawyers do? Very often we're making we're not just making proposals, but the idea is what's a successful negotiation? How often is it said it's something where everybody gives something up and everybody walks away a little bit unhappy, right, Exactly how often, how often do you hear that In mediation we get to look at things differently and not to say we're going to find a point somewhere between that straight line between where we are right now. Let's look at what else is possible, let's look at something that you haven't thought of maybe. What other ideas do you have?


I tend to think of things, as you know, instead of that straight line. Some people talk about, you know, finding solutions as assembling a puzzle. Right In the puzzle, the pieces go together one way. You're trying to find how piece A fits into piece B. My family is more of a Lego family, and what do you do with Legos Besides step on them, which is you know very painful, but we spread them out Right. We look at here's what we have, here's our inventory, and in mediation this is how I think about it we get to stand at the table, hopefully on the same side, but even if we're looking at it from different sides of the table. We look at what's on the table and we say how do we want to assemble this to accomplish what we're trying to do? And there might be a hundred ways to do that. In mediation we unlock, hopefully, some of those hundred ways to think about it.

Karen Covy Host25:27

Yeah, I love that analogy, and I think what I'm getting from you, too, is the answer to a question that a lot of people come to me with, which is how do I find a mediator, how do I know who is the right mediator for me, for my family, for my situation? And I think that our conversation is highlighting, at least for me, the value in having a mediator who has experience or expertise in the issues that are going to be facing your family, or you and your partner, business partner dispute. Whatever you're trying to mediate, you've got to look at what those issues are, and it would be helpful to, when you're looking for a mediator, find somebody who understands that. Right, what do you think about that?

Erik Feig Guest26:25

I think it's a really important point and I think, look, every family is unique, every situation is unique. Finding someone that is the right fit. It's not as simple as just getting a list and starting at the top and you're working your way down the list to say who is the most, whatever the criteria is going to be. I think it's important to have that conversation and to see if you get that feel like they get it in terms of what your issues are, what your hopes are and what the areas are where you might need help 100%.

Karen Covy Host27:06

So let's say that there's a family and it's breaking apart, and there are children in the family that are neurodivergent. What advice would you, as a mediator, give to those parents to help them navigate the transition that they're about to make?

Erik Feig Guest27:30

I think it's what you just mentioned. The advice is to help them find the right fit, to find the right resources to help them when they need it. One of the hardest things.


I think that and I imagine you see this also, Karen that where we push against this, this idea of should we should be able to do this without help, we shouldn't need help, right, and being able to not just ask for but to accept the help that we need and design that support system so that, when they're going apart, when the parents and the family are transitioning to what's next, be able to step back and look at it and say okay, what do we need? To help us get from here to there, to do it in a way that is going to be the most well I'll say the smoothest for something that's not smooth and something that is hard but to do it in a way that will get us there, with doing the least harm along the way and setting the stage for what's next. I think that's critical and that's for families that are neurodiverse and families that are not, that are more neurotypical. It's being able to say you know what we're moving past, just saying we need to do it fast. How do we do it right?

Karen Covy Host29:00

That's perfect, because so many people I mean look, going through a divorce is ugly, it's uncomfortable. You got to face a lot of things you would rather not have to face. You've got to deal with things you'd rather not deal with. Everybody wants to get done as soon as possible and that makes complete sense. No one wants to be in locked in uncertainty and high emotions and all the things right. But I love the way you put that. Do you want it done fast or do you want it done right? Such a difference.

Erik Feig Guest29:36

It can make all the difference, and it can make all the difference in the longer term.

Karen Covy Host29:43

I could do more, but okay.

Erik Feig Guest29:49

When you add in complications again, I'm going to say complications when you add in families that are more complex, fast and have a price that comes later on.

Karen Covy Host30:02

Yeah, I think that's very, very good advice. And okay, now I just have to ask you this question. All right, we're going to switch gears a little bit, but for those people who are listening to this on a podcast, they can't see you, and behind you, you have a shelf and it's got all different kinds of things on it that I'm assuming have some sort of significance. But I'm looking at a little bottle of WD-40. Why do you have a bottle of WD-40 sitting behind you?

Erik Feig Guest30:39

I love that you asked that and I have it there. Well, it's about what we've been talking about. It's about what I do. It's I help parents and families when they get stuck. I help them to get unstuck.

Karen Covy Host30:57

I love it. So the WD-40 is to grease the wheel, so to speak.

Erik Feig Guest31:04

It's a small visual that sits on my shelf right behind me, and very often people will ask me why? Just like you did. Why is it there? And that's what it's all about. It's also recognizing that we are going to get stuck. We are all of us. It's how we deal with it when that happens. That is going to make the difference.

Karen Covy Host31:33

That is very, very good advice and, I think, the perfect note to end on. So, Erik, thank you so much. I think what you do is so important there's not enough of you, but so why don't you tell our listeners what's the best place for them to find you?

Erik Feig Guest31:54

You can find me online on the website, which is www.5mediationgroupcom. You can call me if you're interested in learning more. I offer free consultations so we can talk about if you have a need, if I might be the right fit. Phone number is 301-485-9272. I work with families all across the country.

Karen Covy Host32:24

That's perfect, Erik, thank you so much for sharing your words of wisdom with us. I think that it can benefit and it's going to benefit a lot of people. So thank you so much for being here and for those people who are watching or who are listening. If you like this conversation, if you want to hear more conversations like this, please do me a big favor. Give this a thumbs up, like subscribe, and I look forward to talking with you again next time.

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


divorce mediation, off the fence podcast

You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

What if You Could Get Exclusive Content, Stories, and Tips Delivered Right to Your Inbox for FREE every week?

[Not convinced you want to be on one more email list? I get it.

Here's why THIS list is different]

"I read every word you put on line and listen to all your podcasts and encourage you to keep up the good work you are doing. I wish I had known about you in the early stages of my divorce as it would have saved me a lot of hell. I have referred numerous friends who are in various stages of going through “divorceland” to your articles. The attorneys do not cover what you do, and in order to lessen the pain your approach is really helpful."

Don't Miss Out. Subscribe Now.