In Whose Best Interests?

What are the best interest of the children in divorceWhen couples come to me for mediation, one of the most difficult subjects for discussion is working out a parenting plan, which used to be called “visitation”. Parents don’t usually like to think that they are “visiting” their kids so the word “visitation” is discouraged. They are spending parental time with their children and, hopefully, that parental time is also “quality” time.

For many parents, who do not live with their children on a day to day basis, the proverbial “every other weekend and dinner at McDonalds on Wednesdays” is not enough. For most parents, “quality time” means, living life that includes regular life activities like helping kids with their homework, getting them up and ready for school, taking them to their extracurricular activities, and just “being a parent”.

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Cost of Divorce

Litigated Divorces cost much more than Mediated DivorcesIn 2004, Parade Magazine reported that a typical American divorce costs $20,000-$50,000 in attorney fees! You can be sure that the cost is much higher today! Another, more recent article, reported that the average cost of a litigated divorce in California averages $45,000 for each party. Most of these costs are attorney fees, and in litigated divorces, attorney costs rise rapidly, and continue for a long time.

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It’s Never Too Late to Mediate

Time out from litigation to try mediationMary and William have been divorced for 2 years. They have one child, Donna, who is 8 years old. Their divorce was a hotly contested one that took almost 2 years to finalize. During that time they had been to court on various motions all related to their daughter Donna, who lived with Mary. The disputes ranged from how much time William would have with Donna, to what school she would go to, what summer camp she would go to, what extracurricular activities she would be enrolled in, and how all of those things would be paid for. Both parents lived in Bergen County, New Jersey, close to the George Washington Bridge.

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About Alimony

About AlimonyOriginally, Alimony (sometimes called “maintenance” or “spousal support”) was designed for a system where the husband’s role was to support his wife. If a couple divorced, the husband continued to be responsible for supporting his ex-wife financially until she remarried.

In modern times, the purpose of alimony is to allow the recipient (usually the wife) to maintain financial independence and, if possible, to maintain a lifestyle similar to the lifestyle that she enjoyed during the marriage.

There are a number of types of alimony, designed for particular circumstances.

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Reconcilable Differences

Today we celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
Before he was president, Lincoln was a very successful lawyer who represented a variety of clients,
including railroads, and he won many cases. Here is what he said about litigation:

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can.”

compromise in divorce mediationAbbie and Jorge came to me when they wanted to get a divorce through mediation. They had been married for 15 years. They had 2 young children, ages 7 and 9. Jorge worked in a civil service agency and earned about $60,000 per year. Abbie had a part time job in a hair salon and earned about $25,000 annually.

At their first mediation appointment, Abbie and Jorge they told me that when they first married they bought a brownstone “fixer upper” in a rather undesirable neighborhood. Over the years they slowly fixed up the house using a combination of their own “sweat equity” and paid contractors. Meanwhile, their neighborhood became extremely desirable, and since their mortgage had been a 15 year mortgage, they now owned their house “free and clear”.

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Back To School (part 1)

Children Going Back To School When Parents Are DivorcedFear and trembling? or Slightly nervous excitement?

I clearly remember the Back to School stress that I had almost every year from Kindergarten through college, and even in law school. Although it has been many years, I remember my big sister who was 12 years older than I was, taking me to my first day at kindergarten. Everyone assembled in the auditorium, and I felt miserable when the adults had to leave. For several years thereafter, my first day of school was preceded by a day of anxiety and fear.

It is normal for children to feel anxious as they prepare for a new school year. Hey, most adults feel nervous when they are starting a new job, or going for an interview. For children each New Year is a new beginning – New it is scary. Being afraid of the unknown is human nature. However, children who see conflict between their divorcing or separating parents may feel these fears more intensely. Their fear of what will happen at home, can increase their fear of the “unknown” school year ahead of them.

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They started to fight when the money got tight…

Started to Fight When the Money Got TightBen and Clare were married for 18 years. Their daughter, a high school student, was 17 years old. Ben was a contractor who had made  quite a good living until two years ago when the economy tanked. Before that Clare  had occasional part time jobs and she volunteered for several charities. The glue that held this marriage together was  Ben’s ability to support the family. When that started unraveling, so did the marriage.

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? Independence Day?

Celebrating-Divorce-IndependenceI know a woman who, on the day that her divorce was finalized, put a large Statue of Liberty on her lawn!

On July 4th we celebrate our independence from England. And, although there were stormy years after Independence, the two countries had common interests: There were times that the USA had to help England and that England had to help the USA.

Many people think that divorce results in complete independence. In some ways, it does. But if there are children, there will always be issues that the Parents must resolve.  For example: Divorced couples will need to adjust parenting plans as the kids get older. Problems like job loss or serious illness may make it necessary for them to change their plan or agreement.

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Sitting on a Million dollar apartment in Brooklyn!

Mediating a Divorce - Dividing an ApartmentAlbert and Diane were married for 19 years before they decided to get divorced.

Soon after they married, they bought a one-bedroom condominium in a neighborhood that, at the time, was not very desirable. A few years later, the 2 bedroom apartment next door was up for sale and they bought it. They combined the two apartments into a 3 bedroom unit. Over the years, the neighborhood improved a lot and they had two children.

When they decided to divorce they came to me for mediation.

Their main issue was the apartment which was worth a lot more than what they paid for it. They agreed to divide it to the original 2 separate apartments, but they couldn’t agree on who would get the larger 2 bedroom which faced the street, and who would get the smaller 1 bedroom apartment which faced a brick wall. The children were preteens and old enough to have strong opinions: They both wanted to keep their own rooms!

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