The PT Blog

Divorce TV Style

Sarah Jessica Parker in “Divorce.” Photo courtesy of HBO

I get a kick out of how many people come to Peace Talks and talk about their divorce concerns and situations referencing plot lines from television shows. Being in Los Angeles that makes sense even though it may have nothing to do with the reality outside the studio walls.

The messages we get from television about families and relationships actually do hit a nerve when it gets realand familiar.

One show recently portrayed the wife of the main character leaving him and taking the kids. This is not an unheard of scenario even in mediation, but it does send the message that some things need to be addressed in marriage sooner rather than later.

How to address the underlying problems that caused the divorce is dealt with in another T.V. Show “Divorce” with Sarah Jessica Parker.

As Carrie Bradshaw on Sex And The City, she helped change the perception of single women on television. Her comedy series in which she plays a woman going through a messy break-up, hopes to do the same for divorced women as well as men. The message here seems to be an echo of many divorce specialists’ words of wisdom about identifying and accepting responsibility for adjustable negative behavior. Her character, Frances, has finalized her divorce and is now contemplating the next chapter of her life, including dating again and launching her own business, but it dawns on her that simply being rid of a broken marriage will not solve everything.

If you think you might need to talk please contact us and we’ll find some time and make some suggestions about additional resources.

Divorce Lawyer Secrets

Peace Talks, by definition, gives people the opportunity to talk about everything that is relevant to reaching an amicable agreement. This applies, as well, to all the legal advisors that come to our mediation table. We get to listen to the perspective of the lawyer in many different types of divorce situations representing a wide range of individual styles. Many of these lawyers have shared personal “secrets” about advice they offer, and techniques they employ, that help ensure the best results for a client. If anything you see provokes a question about your situation please contact the office to find a time to talk that is mutually convenient.

“Don’t think assets in your name can’t be claimed by your spouse in a divorce. “Almost all assets are divisible, including airline miles.”

“It’s going to cost more money”. More often than not, the costs will often be higher than your lawyer’s original estimate.

Contested divorces cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000, which is the primary reason for the suggestion of mediation.

“Solo practitioners may not be able to give you the level of attention you need from your lawyer and costs may compel you to live very frugally, necessitating some dramatic cuts in expenditures”

While it is dispiriting, to “downsize” it’s better totemporarily cut corners in your lifestyle than miss opportunities in getting a faster, favorable outcome.

“Lawyer fees may be negotiable.” This doesn’t mean an attorney will always be willing to lower their fees, but for mediation cases there is usually a different fee schedule.

“If your divorce is uncontested, then you may be able to perform several parts of it on your own.” This means that you and your spouse agree on child custody, spousal support, child support, visitation, and division of property. This would be the ideal circumstance for mediation.

“You may still decide to retain an attorney, but their role will be limited to the navigation of court procedures.” The mediation team handles the paperwork to save time and money.

“An initial retainer fee does not equate to the actual cost of handling a divorce matter”. It is only an advance on work undertaken by the attorney and does not represent the thirty thousand dollar threshold reached by most divorce cases.

“That you should meet with multiple attorneys”

One secret your divorce lawyer doesn’t want you to know is that it is extremely beneficial to have multiple consultations. As with all partnerships it has to be a good fit and you have to sit down with someone to decide that for yourself. We have introduced many clients to people they eventually selected for representation.

Co-Parenting: Your Own Way Is Best

Fortunately, most of the couples we see at Peace Talks are already focused on the common goal of an amicable agreement, the only choice that is always best for the children. One of the first things we do is help set up a structure for times and places and the necessary exchanges to be performed. There is still always work to be done as far as all the holidays, and vacations, that are in addition to the day-to-day coordination of school or day care handoffs. In order to solve just this part of the “Rubik’s Divorce Cube” it takes cooperation and patience, never mind the inevitable emotional twists that come with raising children in a house divided.

We see what has worked for some couples trying to do the right thing for the kids and hopefully, in our mediations, pass along those learned experiences. There are strong similarities in the suggestions and examples that experts point to in describing various positive co-parenting tools but it all seems to point towards findingyour own style. What works for you and your kids will always be best for the family.

Parents can usually sort out whatever comes up when they work as a team. When Flexibility, Consistency, Courtesy and Consideration are shown by both parents it creates a safer environment for resilient development on the part of the children. It also works to prevent playing one parent against the other, an almost “goes without saying”for nearly all children of divorce.

Divorce Counseling is something that many couples have discovered as a helpful tool that also incorporates a team approach which, in turn, reinforces that sense of consistency.They find this sort of counseling helpful as it gives them a place where it is ok to talk, for the sake of the children, without the influence of the children”

One thing that isn’t often talked about, but it’s more important than parents may realize. When you’ve dropped your kids off with your ex, it means you have something few parents ever do: free time.This is the time to go out with friends or take in a grown-up movie. Taking some personal time can help you be the best parent possible for your kids.

Keeping sometraditions after the divorce takes work but it all seems to help everybody at some level. As we move into the holiday season if you have some questions about what may help your situation please give the office a call.

Divorce – Ready or Not?

Recently, I’ve been encountering a lot of feedback related to people “rushing” to a divorce, before being informed, as to what needs to be done ahead of time. Here are some of the recurring themes that many therapists and advisors caution about when facing this decision. At Peace Talks we offer discernment counseling to help you decide whether to get divorced. We believe the most important agreement is HOW you go through the process and we offer a free orientation to learn all the options.

Most couples starting a divorce are unprepared and this lack of preparedness can cause a marriage to end prematurely or deteriorate into a competition.

Pondering divorce for a long time before acting on it buys into the false belief that they’ve thought about it thoroughly and are ready.

There is a natural tendency for people to want to get the divorce over with as quickly as possible in order to move on with their lives.

 At Peace Talks, as with all mediation specialists, one of our first considerations is finding the proper guide to help deal with the inevitable stress and emotional difficulties to come. The right professional help with the intangibles is at leastas important as the financials. Having someone who’s objective and experienced advising you through these difficulties can be invaluable. It’s all too easy for anger to take control without a co-pilot.

Once you feel after you have sought professional help for a few months and accepted your own responsibility, that a divorce is the right choice, thenmake a plan. Many therapists are suggesting mediation instead of litigation when appropriate to spare the patient money and pain. For people that come to us from a lawyer or financial advisor we have a group of therapists listed on our website.

If you’d like to ask some questions about your situation please contact the office anytime.

Common Questions About Divorce

Here are a few of the questions that come up most often when people are their evaluating their options in relation to the divorce process. If you have some questions about your own situation please contact the office anytime.

How can I avoid going to court?
If you use a mediation service the court will be provided with what is known as a stipulated judgment, and you never have to appear before a judge. At Peace Talks we use a service to hand deliver all court paperwork to the court.

Does Divorce Mean We Have to Sell the House(s) or Can We Still Own Property Together?
In mediation the parties are free to decide between themselves how they wish to dispose of marital assets. Parties who were once married can continue to own property together as single people. Just the same way that people who were never married can own property together as “partners”. In mediation we will discuss how to continue to co-own.

How Much Dpousal Support Do I Get?
Spousal support is not based on a formula. Spousal support is the result of the careful weighing of the factors set forth in family code §4320. What happens in mediation is that the parties negotiate together so that in light of the applicable resources, income/expenses and needs, a workable, mutually agreeable, solution is arrived at. At Peace Talks we use divorce financial planning software to help you optimize your financial situation.

Can We Provide for Shared Custody of Our Pets?
Yes, although courts of law are traditionally reluctant to get involved in “custody battles” involving animals, parties in mediation are free to make any agreements they choose and that agreement will become the order of the court.
(Note that CA Gov. Jerry Brown just signed Assembly Bill 2274 that affects this process in the court system.)

 

Kanye West’s Crazy World

Kanye West. Photo courtesy NBC

Hear Ye Hear Ye, but don’t believe “Ye”, as Mr. West now wants to be called by his fans, some of whom might be your kids. The untelevised pro-Trump rant, while wearing a red MAGA hat, will eventually be seen and heard and should be put into some sort of context. Whether single or co-parenting the dirty work of explainingunusual behavior by popular icons has to be done without foisting an opinion on anyone. Kids need to draw their own conclusions, and should, as long as they have factual material as an information source.

This is not about censorship. Even if you don’t agree with someone, it’s ok, as long as the disagreement is based in reality and not in “Reality TV”. Speaking of which, it will be interesting to see if Kim (Mrs. “Ye”) Kardashian, will be morebothered by being “Trumped” than she was while watching the show. Is this first celebrity Trump-related divorce in the making-who knows but is someone is designing aMake America Grope Again” hat?

This could be a rare opportunity for some effort to go towards an actual common goal, as impossible as that can be for some separated families. We stay away from politics for very good reasons but right now our futures seem to dictate that we stay clear on what we really want for our kids, and do whatever is possible.

Click here for a link to an article from the Washington Post by Amy D. Wang

New Tax Law Prompting Flood of Accelerated Divorces

New tax law prompting flood of accelerated divorces as Dec. 31 deadline looms

David Garrick, The San Diego Union-Tribune

The term “accelerated divorces” got my attention yesterday when an edited version of this article appeared in the Los Angeles Times. The indications, from 2018 first-half data, are that there may be even more of a scheduling problem than was anticipated.

Attorneys and judges are scrambling to finalize a flood of accelerated divorces prompted by new federal tax laws that eliminate the spousal support deduction starting Jan. 1.”

Even if your situation does not involve spousal support, you may be affected, as that mutual benefit prompted a rush of divorce filings before June 30, because a divorce can’t be finalized in California until at least six months after proceedings begin. In response, San Diego Superior Court officials say they expect an increase in divorce cases, and have begun clearing a backlog of judgments so they will be ready.

The article doesn’t go into mediation but one time that it can come in handy is when a quickagreement is necessary:

“There is also a caveat to the Dec. 31 deadline to finalize divorces. Through a process called bifurcation, a couple can agree on the spousal support portion of the settlement and get it approved by a judge even if other parts of the divorce remain unsettled.”

The article is worth a read and if you are concerned about something please contact us and we’ll tell you if there’s any way we can be of help.

Link to full article here

Divorce Does Not Equal Failure

Divorce isn’t a failure, therapists say. In fact, it could mean the marriage was a success.

The overwhelming feeling of failureis almost impossible to avoid when divorce becomes a reality. We see this even in mediation where both parties are in agreement and it is, of course, worse for those in long litigations. The difficulties that accompany this feeling can lead to more uncertainty in making important valuations and decisions during the process.

This interview with Hal Runkel, a marriage and family therapist, makes some excellent points about shaping a positive viewpoint on the situation. What makes mediation different is the choice to “take control” of the process instead of leaving it up to a third party.

Here are a few key ideas from the interview:

“Marriage, he told me, ” is perfectly designed to help you grow up. It challenges your blind spots.”

 Marriage will expose your selfishness.

What sometimes happens is that one or both partners change so drastically that they come to the realization that their marriage isn’t helping them live the life they want.

Making a mature decision in that direction may be the best outcome of all.

Shana Lebowitz Senior Reporter, Strategy (Business Insider)

Link to full article here

Mediation vs. Arbitration

These two terms are being tossed around a lot as people prepare to meet the December 31st deadline for divorce related paperwork and try to avoid going to court. I’ve left a link to an article by Armita Azad from Mediate.com that gives a clear, concise look at the differences between the two from the participants’ point of view.

Here are a few highlights that I think are important and as always, if you need a hand with clarifying something, please give me a call

“MediatioIn and arbitration play a role in resolving disputes outside of the court. These methods of conflict resolution are tailored to the trend of judicial relief and assist parties into resolving disputes according to the party’s needs. They take in account personal or business priorities and interests that no court judgement is able of addressing. 

In arbitration, a judge and jury decides the merits of the case based on the law and facts that may lead to one sided results; and has become more adversarial in the sense that the parties are obliged to proceed with both their lawyers and a third-party decision maker that will impose the judgement. 

The whole idea of mediation is to use a neutral third party to facilitate a deal amongst the parties. It has the advantage of reorienting parties towards each other, not by imposing rules on them. It assists the parties with achieving a new-shared perception of their relationship with an innovative view that will redirect their attitudes towards each other. When parties mediate, their relationships can be restored.”

Link to full article here

Stress Rehearsal

Every now and then even a “general” survey can be of use for a “specific” purpose. Dr. Grande highlights four common stress sources, from the Harris Interactive survey, for couples today and two of them are about sex. The other two are about money, (surprise! surprise!), making it and spending it. There is no delineation made as to whether a divorce was involved, by either partner, but the issues transcend marital history, as stress is a problem before and after separation of any kind.

For example, the issue with what can go wrong when you can’t leave the work-related stress behind before you hit the front door is universal.

The suggestion she makes about de-stressing during the commute is one I’ve heard from professionals echoing the mantra of simply turning off the phone for at least thirty minutes prior to your arrival. Good luck with that.

There are no simple fixes for complicated matters but be assured that noprogress will happen without a dialogue. If meeting with someone is not possible then look into an online consultation so that you can explore all your options.

If you need some help contact my office anytime.

The Top 4 Stressors for Couples Today
A recent survey identifies the most common problems.
by Dianne Grande Ph.D.

1. Work-related stress was identified as a key factor in relationship conflicts by 35 percent of the respondents.
“Depending upon the type of commute you have, you may even be able to de-stress on your way home.”
2. Being too tired for sex was identified as a key factor by 33 percent of those who completed the interview.
“You can plan times when you are least likely to be tired.”
3. Low sex drive was identified by 28 percent of respondents as a key cause of stress in their relationship.
“One common underlying problem may be a negative body image-shift your thoughts and focus on what you like about yourself, rather than the flaws you perceive.”
4. Arguments about money were identified by 27 percent of the respondents as key to their distress as a couple.
“It is far healthier to equalize power than to use money in order to assert control over a partner.”

Read the full article from Psychology Today here

More Sleep, Less Screen for Kids

I don’t know how to get the kids more sleep but this letter certainly presents a solid case for making it a cooperative priority whenever physically possible.

This response to an LA Times editorial about adjusting school start times to favor the biorhythms of students made a strong case but will face enormous resistance from the establishment.

I’ve added a link to getting a library card as most health professionals suggest avoiding electronic screens for thirty minutes or so prior to sleeping.

Get your library card here

To the editor: Your editorial, “It’s too early to move all California middle and high schools to a later start,” ignored the overwhelming body of research showing the definitive benefits of more sleep for students — something researchers have known for more than 25 years, much of which has been reported in the Los Angeles Times dating back at least to 1997.

Furthermore, the editorial contradicts itself, stating, on one hand, that “better sleep for teenagers is associated with improved mood, higher academic achievement and reduced rates of drinking and drug use,” while also claiming the research does not make a convincing case for delaying California’s middle- and high-school start times.

Although we know from hundreds of different school districts that students and communities benefit when classes start at 8:30 a.m., adult interests have prevented most local districts from acting on this knowledge for a generation. That is why California’s SB 328 is a landmark piece of public health legislation. It empowers every district to start at times that align with the biological sleep shift in the adolescent brain, enabling all students across California’s socioeconomic divide to obtain more sleep and, as a result, stay in school, do better academically and live healthier, safer, more successful lives.

Amy R. Wolfson, Ph.D, Baltimore
Judith Owens, MD, Cambridge, Mass.
Rafael Pelayo, MD, Stanford, Calif.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D, Severna Park, Md.

Wolfson is a professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland, Owens is a professor of neurology and director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Harvard, Pelayo is a clinical professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Science and Medicine, and Terra Ziporyn Snider is executive director of the group Start School Later.

Read full article here

Thanksgiving Briefer?

A lot of us will start booking planes, trains and medications in preparation for November 22 when we get reminded that we all were once, literally in the same boat(s), so to speak.

There have been a lot of stories about divided family gatherings back in November 2016 and now coming full circle to Thanksgiving 2018.

Of course given recent events there are reasons to believe that there will less vitriol from fewer people as most people now agree that the emperor has clothes but no clue. Still there will some differences of opinionand it will be to experience family disagreementwithout disengagement.

A friend sent me a piece from The Scientific American by Lydia Denworth that very nicely juxtaposes the atmosphere at the turkey dinnertable in 1976 with 2016. Maybe something in the piece will come in handy in avoiding discomfortor frustration before it really kicks into gear. In her words:

“Mixing family and politics has always been fraught. I know—my mother was a Democrat, my father a Republican. The night Jimmy Carter won the presidency, dad slept in the guest room. For the U.S., the bitter campaign that ushered in Pres. Donald Trump in 2016 was a lot like that of 1976 in my house. Many families were politically divided, and the calendar forced the issue: The cherished American holiday Thanksgiving came just days after the election.

Anecdotal reports suggest family feasts that year were less festive than usual, with many Americans struggling to sit across the table from relatives whom they knew had voted for a candidate they loathed. Now there is hard data showing political polarization caused quite a few people to skip the pie. A new study published this week in Science reveals families with mixed politics spent 20 to 50 minutes fewer at the table than politically like-minded groups.

Even the amount of the difference was partisan: Republicans left earlier than Democrats (some by more than an hour); Democrats were more likely not to go at all. The effect was three times stronger in areas with heavy political advertising. Overall, partisan differences cost Americans 73.6 million person-hours of family time that Thanksgiving, the study says.”

To read the full arycile click here

Some Co-Parenting Needs an Assist

One of the most frustrating constants we see in Divorce Mediation is that a surprising percentage of the children involved will have adjustment issues that will need to be addressed by a an outside specialist. It’s a difficult decision point to face as I can bear witness to in my own life.

Now matter how amiable the atmosphere may be, somekids are going to have a tough time with the divorce and its personal consequences.  These conflicts will continue so the tone that is set will be important in the years, and with the adjustments, to come as situations change.

The therapists I work with emphasize the importance of not hesitating to make a call, explore situational options, and talk to someone. It’s only through a dialogue that you will find the right person for your child and for you. Your insurance will dictate your institutional choices but there may be private avenues to explore that are accessible through personal connections.

If you’d like some suggestions for yourself or a friend contact my office about some associate referrals.

Family Disputes: Money Matters

Of all the issues that come up with co-parenting “families of divorce” none are as insidious or downright ugly as “matters of money”. Having attained status as a C.F.P. over the years, I witnessed some of the acrimony the author describes and she is, unfortunately, not exaggerating.

The end of the year will often be an important “plumb line” for decisions about finances and investment assets, in particular. So with the changes to Alimony Payments along with some other adjustments in the Tax Code there might be a few unpleasant surprises that warrant discussion and, as the author points out, a lawyer’s office may not facilitate thebest overall result. If you, or anyone you know, comes into a situation like this and help might be needed please contact me with your questions.

Here is the link to an article by Carolyn Rosenblatt in which she advises F.A.’s to consider a mediator if and when they come up against a real struggle.

What Can Advisors Do When Family Disputes Threaten Client Wealth?

Mediation can be an effective way to reach agreements.

Carolyn Rosenblatt | Aug 20, 2018 | Wealth Management

Sometimes it’s fighting between parents and the next generation. Sometimes it’s sibling conflictsthat have existed for many years. Unresolved family disputes can destroy successful intergenerational wealth transfer with or without a family business at stake. When you’re managing the money, it can feel like torture seeing your clients behave so destructively. Expensive lawsuits or standoffs that damage businesses the family is arguing aboutcan threaten the very work you’ve done over time. You’ve tried to preserve wealth and keep families on track. They can ruin your best efforts.

Mediation is one underutilized way to resolve conflicts. You may be able to help your clients by suggesting mediation and finding a good mediator.

It starts with the help of a trained and qualified mediator who understands conflict resolution principles as a professional. The purpose isn’t to change any individual’s personal traits; rather, it’s to see if the family can come to some rules of engagement on the path to reaching agreements on specific issues. Focus isn’t on who’s right or wrong. It’s on the tasks at hand. Reaching an agreement about division of authority can be a major step forward.

Based on my own experience over many years of being an advocate at mediation in lawsuits, I saw that most of the time, matters get settled by the mediation process.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of a family mediation is that the underlying emotions that typically drive the conflict can come to the surface in a neutral setting. The mediator guides the discussion and helps each party identify and clarify what they want, guiding them to their own solutions.  Generally, this isn’t something they can do on their own. They’re too caught up in resentment, anger, fear or other feelings.

Read the full article here

Notes On Divorce and Tax Changes

This article by Dr. Halem seemed very timely as we hit the Labor Day weekend and all too soon will be staring Halloween and Thanksgiving in the face. I really liked what she said about keeping you informed after your mediation is finished.

Here are a few highlights and a link to the entire article along with reminder that help is available if you get stuck with a question.

The Tax Reform Law Impacts Families

By Dr. Lynne C. Halem from Mediate.com

Dr. Lynne C. Halem is the director at the Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution in Wellesley, MA

Helping you stay informed, even after mediation has ended, is a central part of CMDR’S long-term mission.

Child Tax Credit:
For children under 17, single parents earning up to $200,000 can receive a credit of $2,000 per child. This is a major improvement. Prior law limited parental earnings to $75,000 and provided a credit of only $1,000 per child.

529 Education Plans:
The new law allows parents to draw up to $10,000/year from 529 Plan(s) for pre-college private schooling or, say, tutoring. There is still no limitation on the amount of money to be drawn from 529 Plans for qualified college expenses.

Other Education Provisions:
You can still deduct student loan interest of up to $2,500/year. The Lifetime Learning deduction is also still in effect.”

Click here for full article

“Maverick” and “FL Madness”

Even people that did not agree with John McCain about public policy had to admire him for his service and for having the cajones to stand up to bullies.

If your kids are video game enthusiasts and seem in any way disturbed by the tragedy in Jacksonville don’t hesitate to stop and let them talk or ask questions. You may not have enough answers and be looking for resources.  Whether you are co-parenting or not this is something that needs attention.

I came across a really clear and concise encapsulation of the “gun problem” in our country today. It might come in handy for your older kids but the younger ones will need as much attention as any and all “parental units” can provide. This is, of course, the first shooting “Live Streamed”to be seen and heard by anyone with the proper access.  How many kids were watching isn’t known yet. Here’s the link and a few facts:

America can prevent shootings like Jacksonville.
But it must come to terms with its gun problem.

By German Lopez
@germanrlopez | german.lopez@vox.com |  Aug 27, 2018, 10:40am EDT

“The research, compiled by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center, is pretty clear: After controlling for variables such as socioeconomic factors and other crime, places with more guns have more gun deaths. Researchers have found this to be true not just with homicides, but also with suicides (which in recent years were around 60 percent of US gun deaths), domestic violence, and even violence against police.

But as far as homicides go, people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims, not perpetrators, of violence. And Michael Stone, a psychiatrist at Columbia University who maintains a database of mass shooters, wrote in a 2015 analysis that only 52 out of the 235 killers in the database, or about 22 percent, had mental illnesses. “The mentally ill should not bear the burden of being regarded as the ‘chief’ perpetrators of mass murder,” he concluded. Other research has backed this up.

None of that is to say that milder measures are useless. Connecticut’s law requiring handgun purchasers to first pass a background check and obtain a license, for example, was followed by a 40 percent drop in gun homicides and a 15 percent reduction in handgun suicides.”

 If you’d like to contact people in the government to let them know how you feel here is a link:

https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

 

Divorced Dads and Poor Health

This recent article from Divorce Magazine caught my attention because it highlights a very real problem that plagues a significant percentage of divorces in general.

I have heard some long-time professionals suggest that some of the angst in the White House is related to post-divorce health problems on a multiple scale.

One of the primary reasons that we see for Divorce Mediation being effective is that cooperation towards a common goal is the driving dynamic.

Anything that reduces the frustration and the duration of the divorce process only serves to facilitate the recovery process.

Some couples, especially where the wife has handled healthcare coordination, continue to communicate to ensure Dad is “taking his medications”. Here are a few highlights and a link to the whole article.

Divorced Fathers Face Increased Health Risks Because of Divorce

By Joseph E. Cordell Updated: August 07,  2018

“Divorce is the second-most stressful life event behind only the death of a spouse or child. After experiencing so much anxiety, heartache, and general upheaval, your health is bound to suffer.”

“Research shows that divorce puts men at risk for a number of long-term health problems. Divorce increases the rate of early mortality for men by up to 250%. They also are more at-risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and cancer.” 

Men are less likely to go to the doctor for regular check-ups.

“For many reasons, it seems tougher for guys to get back on their feet after divorce than it is for women. Research shows that women might experience more emotional turmoil after a split, but men have more difficulty recovering.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “Duncan’s Campaign Dough = Nuts”

In case you are trying to show your kids what’s wrong with the country, I wanted to pass along an appeal from Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“It’s unbelievable, Within just hours of unveiling my new anti-corruption legislation yesterday: Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter—one of Donald Trump’s first supporters in the House—was indicted by the Department of Justice for misusing $250,000 of campaign money for personal expenses.

There’s something that you can do right this minute to take on this corrupt machine:You can help Duncan Hunter’s Democratic opponent—Ammar Campa-Najjar—so we can kick one more corrupt politician out of office and get one seat closer to taking back the House in 2018.

Ammar worked as a grassroots organizer for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and then went on to work in the White House and the Department of Labor.

Ammar has pledged not to take any corporate PAC money in his campaign for Congress, so he’s not going to be bought by corporations.”

Click here now to chip in $3—or whatever you can afford—to help defeat Duncan Hunter, elect Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, and end GOP control of the House this November.

Thanks for being a part of this.

–Elizabeth

Supremely Important Court Decision

Senate Chambers

I don’t need to emphasize how important this is to all of us. Anyone can write to any United Sates Senator to urge action on a matter of concern to citizens of the United States. This is one source for facilitating the contact process:

https://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_correspond_senators.htm

On August 26, all across the country, Americans will stand united in commitment to our freedom and our future to demand that the U.S. Senate stop Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for a lifelong appointment to the Supreme Court.

In Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump chose a nominee who not only has extremist, ultra-conservative legal views on a range of issues, but who has repeatedly argued that the Supreme Court should put the president above the law.

Kavanaugh would rule against reproductive freedom, health care, the environment, voting rights, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, and immigrant rights for generations.

Senators in all fifty states must listen to their constituents, do their jobs to uphold the will of the people, protect the soul of our country and Constitution, and block this nomination. United, we will fight to ensure Brett Kavanaugh never gets confirmed by the Senate. We will #StopKavanaugh. Join us.

Rise Up for Roe Tour at the El Rey Theatre

I just got this message and wanted to pass it on as quickly as possible in case some people might want to join in on making some noise.

A woman’s right to safely and legally seek an abortion is under attack. 

Donald Trump made it very clear—far before Justice Kennedy stepped down—that his choice for the Supreme Court would come from a list of pre-approved candidates, all of whom would overturn the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade. And now that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for September 4, there’s no time to waste to mobilize Americans of all walks who want to stop a nominee who would rule against reproductive rights.

Join us on Saturday in Los Angeles to get loud and rally with the Rise Up for Roe Tour at the El Rey Theatre.

We can’t go back. If Roe is overturned, abortions will not stop. They will simply go back to being unsafe, unregulated, and an option only to those with access to the money and transportation needed. Women will die, and every senator who didn’t do everything they could to stop Kavanaugh’s nomination will be to blame.

Respecting Aretha

Aretha Franklin

If you have kids that aren’t sure who Aretha Franklin is please crank up the music box to eleven (Apologies to Spinal Tap) and let that big beautiful voice fill the room.

Her voice “demanded” respect from anyone that heard it from her beloved Detroit to the LA “Freeway of Love” whether you were in a Volvo or a “Pink Cadillac”the ride was justbetter with Aretha on the box.

What better time to stress the importance of respect when we seem to see such a lack of it in our everyday lives.

Aretha took a stand when “colored people” couldn’t sit on the bus and she lifted up those same people like a song from the choir when they saw how much “Respect” a brilliant black woman could generate even amongst those that didn’t go to the same church.

Divorce and the 2018 Tax Law Change Snapshot

I came across this exchange with Jim Tankersley who covers economic and tax policy for The New York Times and Ailsa Chang from NPR. Jim gives a nice summary of the dynamics involved that are driving financial advisors to get a strategy in place for all their clients that are party to a divorce settlement before the end of 2018. He also points out that the men do not have as much to lose with the new deal.

There’s a link at the bottom to the whole conversation but here’s a few examples of how Jim lays it out:

CHANG: So the couples that will be most impacted by this are those wealthiest ones in the top tax bracket.

TANKERSLEY: Absolutely because it means the most for them because they’re getting the biggest break from their taxes ’cause they pay the…

CHANG: Right.

TANKERSLEY: …Highest marginal income tax rates. 

CHANG: And I can imagine most couples that have severely disparate incomes – it’s usually the woman who earns less. So this tax law change will probably have women bearing most of the cost.

TANKERSLEY: That’s what divorce lawyers and tax professionals and financial planners have been telling me – is that, yeah, it’s largely women who receive alimony. And particularly with wealthy couples, it’s largely women who leave the labor force to take care of kids or for whatever reason. And women earn less in the economy for the same work than men do. This is a potentially big loss for women…

CHANG: What was Congress’ rationale for getting rid of the alimony tax break?

TANKERSLEY: This is a way to raise revenue for the government. So by closing this loophole, they’re going to get more money in taxes, and therefore they help offset some of the enormous other costs of the rest of the tax bill.

 It’s also, again, a drop in the bucket of a $1.5 trillion tax cut.

To read the full interview click here

What Would Your Petition Say?

A lot of parents that I meet have expressed frustration at trying to explain certain current events to their kids that we seem powerless to stop. Inspired and energized as we all were by the Parkland Shooting survivors we still need to explore ways that enable our kids to feel connected to whatever causes they deem worthwhile.

This message from MoveOn might provide a serviceable outlet for anyone to call attention to a situation they feel needs to be addressed by as many people as possible. I’m not advocating for a group just passing along what might be a helpful opportunity.

“In May, just months after the Parkland massacre, MoveOn member Andrea Smith started a petition asking Publix, her local grocery store, to stop contributions to the campaign of an NRA-backed candidate for governor. Within a week, in response to public outrage, including the petition and inspiring student-organized protests, Publix changed its corporate policy.”

“Here’s another example: last year, MoveOn members Sandy and Lonnie Phillips used our free petition platform to help convince the Democratic National Committee to reject money from the gun, tobacco, and payday loan industries. More than 20,000 people from across the country signed on to say our politics shouldn’t be bought off by special interests―and their voices were heard.”

People took action together and made change. You can make this kind of change too.

Click here to get started right now. Starting a petition can take just a few minutes, is totally free, and can have big impact.

MoveOn’s petition platform is a resource that lets you not just start petitions but also send follow-up mailings to your petition signers and coordinate petition deliveries to decision-makers. It’s an amazing tool for anyone who wants to power progressive change.

Hollywood Asks Star of Trump to Walk

Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

This is something that has been bugging o lot of people in Los Angeles and now seems to be a great time to let the Mayor hear your voice.

The marker has been pummeled by a pickax and a sledgehammer, but now the West Hollywood City Council has voted to remove President Trump’s star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The council will send a formal letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles City Council and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to consider removing it.

But, according to a statement from the chamber, it’s unlikely it will act.

“The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a registered historic landmark. Once a star has been added to the Walk, it is considered a part of the historic fabric of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Because of this, we have never removed a star from the Walk,” said Leron Gubler, the organization’s president and CEO.”

The resolution disagreed:

“Having a ‘star’ on the Walk of Fame is a privilege that is highly sought after by those in the entertainment industry, allowing Mr. Trump to continue to have a star in light of his behavior toward women, particularly in the #timesup and #metoo movements, should not be acceptable in the Hollywood and entertainment industry communities,”

Because the Walk of Fame, which holds 2,500 stars, is the property of the City of Los Angeles, the city has the final decision.”

Here is where you can let the Mayor know how you feel:

mayor.garcetti@lacity.org

From Mark Moore of the New York Post read original article here

Ms. Nightingale Would Approve

The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project is the only organization in Arizona that provides free legal and social services to detained men, women, and children under threat of deportation.

This got my attention in connection with a story about the horrible backlog of separated families created by inept policies and procedures. It’s difficult to focus on how to help when there are so many unjust situations but I think this one deserves a spotlight. They don’t get a lot of attention and could certainly put to direct use any support from any source.

On any given day 5,000 immigrant men, women, and unaccompanied minors are detained in Arizona.

Detained immigrants facing deportation in the U.S. do not have the right to a public defender. Without representation, many will lose their case and get sent back to the conditions they are fleeing. To some, this is a death sentence.

firrp.org

You can use the link if you’d like to find out more.

FYI: Ms. Nightingale was indeed named for the city of her birth in Italy and felt she “had a calling from God” so she went to nurse soldiers in the Crimean War.

Here is a quote from Florence that pretty nicely sums up what people are facing at the border:

“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”

Flipping The House

There was a letter generated by Robert Fox of MoveOn that highlights why this push for the Midterms is so important. There is a link at the end to assist you should you want to show your support.

“Recent polls have Democrats ahead by a whopping 12 points in the generic ballot but Democrats would need a tremendous electoral wave not seen in more than 40 years to overcome Republican advantages from gerrymandered districts in key states.

Poll numbers for Democrats have been consistently climbing over the past few weeks. That increases the odds that we can make a decisive difference and take back the House.

To win this fall, we will have to beat Trump’s propaganda machine and we can expect billionaires such as the Koch brothers to pour as much money as possible into races across the country to keep Republicans in power.  

To stay on track with our field-organizing program, we need to hit our fundraising goals. Your support will help determine how much support wecan give to candidates.

Click here for more information

 

Elizabeth Warren: Georgia On My Mind

Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams

It was a backyard barbeque where serious conversations are rarerthan the steaks, and someone was overheard referring to Ms. Abrams, “…and she can’t even balance her checkbook…”This was a reference to a comment made by the candidate herself, admitting to something that most of us have experienced, in spite of QuickBooks and Excel.

So when I saw the letter from Sen. Warren it seemed like a good idea to share this with as many people as possible. For anyone inspired to support her this is a rare opportunity to be part of “outside money”being used for a progressivepurpose.

Here is some of Sen. Warren’s appeal and I’ve put a link to a Time Magazine article about Ms. Abrams herself to provide some perspective.

“Democrat Stacey Abrams is INCREDIBLE—she’ll make history by being elected our country’s first African American woman governor, EVER.

The national Republicans and their powerful friends know that Stacey can win—and they’re terrified of it. As the top Democrat in the Georgia House, she fought to level the playing fields for women, students, seniors, veterans, and working people. I know that as governor, Stacey Abrams will build a Georgia where more families can get ahead.”

Please, click here to chip in $3 right now to help Stacey Abrams fight back, win, make history, and get things done for Georgia’s working families.

Thanks for being a part of this.

–Senator Elizabeth Warren

Read the Time Magazine article here

Fuel For November

I want to pass along a heads up on an encouraging piece by Noah Berlatsky from the LA Times. It’s been tough to focus on positive slants about the chaos we’ve seen in the headlines but there are some rallying points the article highlights for us.

“Voters are not angry at the left’s efforts to preserve healthcare, or to protest vicious policies. They’re angry at right-wing extremism, tax cuts for the wealthy, and monstrous border policies designed to separate children from their families.”

“Overall, Democrats have flipped more than 40 state and local special election seats since 2016, and the average swing toward Democrats in special elections is more than 13 points.” 

It’s nice to see movement in the right, make that correct, direction, but Berlatsky couples this with a strong warning about complacencywithout using the word. (We can’t take our foot off the gas with so much ground to make up.) 

“We can’t know for sure if Democratic wins will continue. Republicans have many advantages because of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and structural biases in favor of rural voters. Democrats are by no means assured of winning the House, much less the Senate.”

Read full article here

Swing Shift

It’s tough enough to be a parent without having to try to explain to the kids what we’re seeing in the news on a daily basis.

A lot of the families that walk through my door have never experienced a political dark cloud like Watergate so there’s no frame of reference for the stonewalling and blind submission currently on display in Washington.

The people I talk to echo the general mantra of wanting to do something positive but their choices are limited, as is the case with the majority of the population.

There is an organization “Swing Left” that supports many different types of action movements and encourages people to create their own.

There’s a link below to their website where you can explore options to help fight that feeling of powerlessness that we all endure.

https://swingleft.org/take-action

Rob Reiner’s Petition

The outrage that followed the images from the “Summit” between President Trump and “President” Putin has been overwhelming the media across the board.

If you would like to add your voice to the growing (over 100K) population of people that want to show their disapproval over what we just witnessed please consider signing Rob Reiner’s petition.

“In front of the world’s media, standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin after their closed-door Summit, Donald Trump said that he believes Putin over the findings of EVERY SINGLE U.S. intelligence agency that the Russian government committed cyber warfare against the U.S. in the 2016 presidential election.1

Meanwhile, Trump still won’t meet with special counsel Robert Mueller, the man leading the federal investigation into Russian interference and the Trump campaign’s possible conspiracy with Russian agents.”

I started a petition demanding Trump meet with Mueller and tell the truth. Will you join me in defending our democracy by signing?

We, the American people, demand that Trump meet with special counsel Robert Mueller and answer his questions about possible conspiracy with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election and obstruction of justice to cover it up. It’s imperative that federal investigators have all the information they need to get to the truth.

Sign Rob’s petition click here

Thanks for taking action.

–Rob Reiner

Summer Reading Autumn Voting

After the circus act the Senate put on with grilling Peter Strzok followed by the Mueller indictments naming Russian GRU members with everything but their spy school nicknames you might want relax with some stimulating reading material.

There’s also a link to the story of a fascinating candidate (Richard Ojeda) in West Virginia-that got beaten with brass knuckles by a Trump supporter at a barbeque.

Tea Party Liberal’ Promises To Bring A Blue Wave To West Virginia

If you, or the kids, do somehow find the time for some background reading related the bizarre political events that we’ve seen, here are a few suggestions from other readers:

 Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

He spent a night in jail for not paying his “Poll Tax” and came out with some radical ideas about what a propergovernment should strive to achieve. Here are a few gems from “Mr. Walden Pond”:

“Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?”

“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation?”

“It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience.”

“Thus, under the name of Order and Civil Government, we are all made at last to pay homage to and support our own meanness.” 

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis is a great tribute to what catastrophes can happen when the “popular wool” is pulled over the eyes of the populace. Like Orwell a lot would come true.

If there are any future, or current, lawyers in the family here’s a link to the “Mueller” indictments.

Roe, Roe, Roe, the Vote

Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) and her lawyer Gloria Allred on the steps of the Supreme Court, 1989.

The SCOTUS nomination is at the center point of what women are facing with respect to their fight for access to the proper healthcare to which they are entitled.

I saw one idea suggesting people send postcards to individual Senators by the millions if they can’t mobilize in any other way but want to do something. You’ll see more information about opportunities to raise a voice as they appear.

In the meantime here are a few points from an article by Katha Pollitt, author of “Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights,” published in The New York Times:

“The president promised to nominate only justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, …and there is no reason not to take Mr. Trump at his word”…at least on this point.

“So tattoo this on your brain: Sixty-seven percent of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade to be overturned.”

“We need to mobilize in the states. If Roe is overturned, each state will be free to make its own laws.”

“People need to know that the risk of death due to childbirth is about14 times greater than the risk of death from abortion, and that contrary to stereotypes, 59 percent of abortions are obtained by women who are mothers.”

Link to full article in the NY Times: “Roe Isn’t Going Down Without a Fight

In 2016, Senator Mitch McConnell had this to say after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia prompted President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.”1

The same should hold true about Donald Trump’s replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy which means that the Senate must reject Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Will you join with me in calling on the Senate to not vote on a new Supreme Court justice until after the midterm elections? Click here

Divorce-A Coach Might Help

At Peace Talks we have been doing a lot of “coaching” with the overwhelming process of divorce, from divorcing parents and premaritals as well as legal and psychological practitioners.

Here’s a description of “Divorce Coaching” from the American Bar Association:

“Divorce coaching is a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate, and guide people going through divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs, and concerns. Divorce coaches have different professional backgrounds and are selected based on the specific needs of the clients.  For example, some divorce coaches are financial planners, mental health professionals, lawyers, or mediators who have experience dealing with divorcing clients.”

Here’s some additional feedback about the potential value of a coach from an attorney:

“I love them, and if I had my way, I’d never work without them,” says Brigitte Bell, a Chicago divorce attorney. “They help manage the clients and support them by bringing a different set of skills to the divorce process than we do.”

If you want to explore the “Divorce Coach” idea to see if it’s something you want to pursue, whether as a potential client or certified practitioner please contact me.

 

A Tough Climb

Before the fireworks were lit and showing some “rockets red glare”, there were some different fireworks set off at the feet of the Statue of Liberty. 

“A woman who climbed up on the Statue of Liberty and sat on the monument’s base is in detention, police say.

US officials identified her as Therese Okoumou, a 44-year-old immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ms. Okoumou was reportedly protesting against President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration”

You can read the whole BBC News article using the link below but it does seem to be the perfect metaphor for America’s “struggle to climb out from under British oppression”.  I’m sure the irony of this being reported by the British media on American “Independence Day” gave a lot of people a chuckle.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44718811

This kind of inspired action may come in handy as we begin the struggle over the nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice.

Family To-Do Ideas List

 

“When you can’t do what you want you do what you can

Whether or not anybody ever actually said that doesn’t matter; it’s the message that counts. The power that exists in the hands of the people looking for a betterway to handle our current problems was exhibited this weekend across the country. I have included a graphic, to enhance the optics of the event.

Here are some links to sources of action. Some of this is tied into the retirement of Justice Kennedy and the inherent potential threat to Roe vs. Wade represented by President Trump’s likely nominee.

“Family Separation Protests Shift the Narrative”The Atlantic, June 30, 2018

“Protesters flood US cities to fight Trump immigration policy” – Associated Press, July 1, 2018

“In 50 states, hundreds of thousands protest immigration policy, with focus on midterms” – USA Today, June 30, 2018

June 30th For Families and MD Shooting

There are thousands of events across the country scheduled for Saturday to give people a chance to make a statement about the administration’s approach to handling requests for asylum.  Here are a couple of familiar names that are encouraging people to add their voices and signs:

America Ferrera
“Seeing thousands of immigrant families torn apart, I am devastated and beyond furious.”

Alyssa Milano
“I believe that what this administration is doing at the border is a “crime against humanity,” and it is on us to stop it.”

Make sure you and everyone you know has signed up to take action this Saturday, June 30th by sharing this image on Facebook:

Join me on June 30 in Washington, D.C., or in a city near you to demand an end to this disgusting family separation policy.

I will pass along any information about special funds for the benefit of the families affected by the MD shootings. Hopefully we will figure out a better way to do things…soon.

Helping Reunite Border Families

by Stephanie Maloney

Helping Reunite Border Families - Reunite Families - Los AngelesWe were at a local demonstration piling our donation of blankets in with the flood of relief materials from supporters as frustration ran deep throughout the crowd. Our pics are on Facebook but I wanted to pass along some other ways for us to actually “do” something about this nightmarish situation.

This is from my friend Jonathan Verk cofounder of coParenter describe the trip:

75 neighbors, friends and community activists are on our way home from San Diego. And what an absolutely powerful trip it was!

We did it! We delivered 200 toys, blankets, necessities and other items to their children currently being held at Casa San Diego detention center!  By the Time we arrived at the detention center, we had basically no confidence that we would be let in. After all we’ve seen on the news- and everything we’d been told, we didn’t even think they’d let us near the gate. Politicians, authorities—  even clergy haven’t been let near the gate!  we were told by everyone not to bother.

But honestly… I’m not that great at listening.

We parked across the street, about 40 yards down the block. We were explicitly told that any sign of protesters would force the facility to put the kids in ‘lock down’, which- as it sounds, probably sucks. So, One of my fellow protesters and I walked two huge boxes and an envelope full of letters of hope, written by kids- to the kids on the inside.

We walked up to a very industrial looking, tarp-covered fence and very calmly rang the buzzer. Nothing. We rang again… nothing. We rang it 7 more times— and then started strategizing how we could lift the boxes over the fence and gently lower it down the other side.

And then they answered.

A soft voice with a Spanish accent asked “Hello? How can I help you”.  We told them that we’re just some kids from LA who came to drop off some toys, would they let us leave them for the kids….

Silence. A staticky click. And then the voice came back… “we’ll be right out”.

The lady (wouldn’t give us her name) looked friendly but exhausted. Clearly, It’s been an emotional, hard week for them (YES- the kids have it worse, but this poor woman didn’t sign up for this insanity either).

We explained what we were doing and why we were there… and after a minute, she allowed us to brings the toys in. We weren’t allowed to cross the property line (they were afraid they’d get ‘caught’ on their surveillance cameras letting us in) and we certainly didn’t meet he kids. But we did share the letters and the toys and the blankets and the absolutely wonderful items that the LA community donated.

It was an amazingly joyous and spectacularly cathartic experience for everyone on the buses.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this ‘Rally to the Border’ so incredible. There’s lots more to share, but right now I wanna get some shuteye.

Because tomorrow is another day…. we’ve got to get some rest… and fight on!

1500 people. 10k toys, books and other items. 75 people down to San Diego on 2 buses.

200 toys delivered to the kids of Casa San Diego!

Below is a link to a great article (Melanie Gleason) about sources of help that you can contribute to that also provide legal help “on the ground” along the border. This, especially as Gleason points out, President Donald Trump’s executive order on Wednesday trades family separation for indefinite detention of children.”

You can call your members of Congress through the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121

What You Can Do To Help Families Separated At The Border

Rallies For The Right Thing

Here is some info about the national day of rallies taking place for people that want to be seen and heard about the families being separated at the border.

Let them know that this is no way to run our country.

Thanks to powerful public pressure, the Trump administration has been forced to shift its outrageous treatment of immigrant children. We have momentum—but we’re far from done.

The executive order that Donald Trump signed today is not the solution. It allows the indefinite incarceration of immigrant families in federal prisons, and there is still no plan to reunify the thousands of families that have been forcibly separated. Which is why we must continue to stand together at hundreds of events nationwide on Saturday, June 30, to say that families belong together—and freeClick here to join the June 30 event near you to Keep Families Together and free and reject Trump’s brutal policies.

Add Your Voice for Families

It’s very difficult to watch any family go through separation anxiety, of any kind, just ask anyone that has dealt with Family Law and Divorce Court.

I’m passing along this email in case you’d like to let the policy makers know that you disagree with this policy and they must immediatelychoose a better option.

In no way is this a solicitation for funds for any organization or group; just one way to speak out against something that is wrong.

I you decide to participate just click on the “Not Michael-Click Here” to bring up a fresh request.

Will you click here to add your name and declare that children and their families belong together? The petition says: “Stop tearing children away from their parents. Families belong together.”

Let’s keep raising our voices to stop this tragedy—and show love and support for these children and their families.

—Natalie Portman

Stop Separating Families

by Stephanie Maloney

As we get ready for Father’s Day we might take time to show some thanks by supporting an incredibly worthy family cause.

I’m not advocating for the organization other than this subject makes a lot of parents I talk with physically nauseous, especially the heart rending photographs.

It’s not possible for most of us to make an appearance for the deserving causes that we face but I wanted to pass this along for anyone that might want to be there.

For those that need another way to show support, here is an example of one link to sign a petition for Congress to take action. https://act.credoaction.com/sign/no_family_separation

MoveOn members across the country are joining Families Belong Together events on Thursday, June 14, to oppose the cruel, inhumane, and unjustified separation of children from their parents at U.S. borders. Communities are seeing the devastating and lasting effects this policy could have and are ready to speak out. Local activists planned this day of action across the country, not a national organization, because they know families can’t wait. Action is needed now.

Under this Trump administration policy pushed by Attorney General Sessions and defended by Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen, ICE and Border Patrol agents have torn more than 650 children from their families in just two weeks in May! Thousands of children have been taken from their parents and detained in cages since this policy was adopted in 2017.

With Father’s Day approaching, now is the time to protest these abuses and demand reform.

JOIN US TO DEMAND AN END TO THIS INHUMANE PRACTICE!
WHERE: MACARTHUR PARK  (IN LOS ANGELES)
WHEN: THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 5:00 PM
WHAT: JOIN US TO DEMAND AN END TO FAMILY SEPARATION AND DETENTION

Helping with the City Homeless Problem

by Stephanie Maloney

Helping with the City Homeless Problem - Los AngelesLately the media has been overwhelmed with this problem and the getting rid of the trash that goes along with it. It’s a Herculean task that’s long overdue for overhauling as to the methods used to attack its many different aspects.

One issue inexorably linked to the deeper roots of the problem is the amount of “bulky items” that go along with the people. This has led to serious incidents and in some cases fires. Fights have broken out over these “possessions” between the homeless themselves as well as sanitation workers. It’s not something easily addressed unless energy is focused on timely removal. Unfortunately, in too many cases, they are not picked up and made available to the families with children that need help.

Some local parents that have encouraged their kids to alert a charity about items they see on the street as they always have access to a phone. This way at least some of these items will find their way to people instead of a trash barge.

Here are some sources for channeling your used goods to needy families:
www.pickupplease.org/Donation/Pickup
www.goodwillsocal.org/
www.donationtown.org/donation-pick-up.html

Divorce And Suicide – All Too Related

by Stephanie Maloney

Divorce And Suicide – All Too Related - Divorce Mediation - Los AngelesEven if you don’t shop for “Designer” fashions there’s a good chance the name “Kate Spade” is one you’ve seen somewhere before her recent suicide.

Suicide is still near the top of the list of tough subjects to discuss with the kids. Trying to find the “middle ground” for co-parenting on almost anything can be difficult but explaining “choosing to die” would be tough even for “Papa Freud”. We can only imagine what it’s like for the families that have gone through it and keep talking with each other to keep issues from festering into a toxic situation.

There are several pieces that I recommend for ideas and perspectives about this haunting subject:

NY Times by Vanessa Friedman 

The husband, Andy Spade, said there were no plans to divorce. Mr. Spade was speaking publicly for the first time since her death was announced on Tuesday.

“We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock.


CICERO ESTRELLA

MERCURY NEWS | June 6, 2018, 11:59AM

Kate and Andy Spade were having marital difficulties before she died of an apparent suicide by hanging, according to a number of reports.

“Kate and Andy were having relationship problems,” according to a source who spoke with People.

Law enforcement sources told TMZ that Spade was depressed in the last days of her life because her husband wanted a divorce, and she didn’t want to end the marriage. Andy Spade also wasn’t living in the home, but in a nearby apartment.


Divorceinfo.com

Helping real people move through divorce

Suicide and Divorce

I’ve got bad news for you about suicide. One recent study by the National Institute for Healthcare Research in Rockville, MD indicates that divorced people are three times as likely to commit suicide as people who are married. The Institute says that divorce now ranks as the number one factor linked with suicide rates in major U.S. cities, ranking above all other physical, financial, and psychological factors.

“Free-Range” Parenting

by Stephanie Maloney

“Free-Range” Parenting - Divorce Mediation - Sherman Oaks, CAIt seems that childcare and its “do’s and “don’ts” keeps coming up as one of the most emotional issues dividing couples that are co-parenting even with only one child in the mix.

I came across an article from the “First 5 California”* website that has some valuable viewpoints about this incredibly difficult and rather constant problem for a lot of divorced parents. *(First 5 California was created in November 1998 when California voters passed Proposition 10 to invest tobacco tax revenues in programs that would help improve the lives of children in California.)

“Recent headlines have prompted the question over what situations a child is considered independent enough to walk home unattended, play outdoors without supervision or be left alone in the home?”

“Free-range” parenting has been highlighted and criticized in recent months, due in part to, a Maryland couple recently cleared of neglect charges in one of two cases after allowing their 10-year-old and 6-year-old children to walk home unsupervised from a local park. 

On the flip side, a father in Tennessee used a drone to keep tabs on his 8-year-old daughter as she walked home by herself.

So, what is considered lenientor overprotectivewhen it comes to raising our children is a question to be openly discussed on a regular basis as they develop.

“We should also allow children the freedom to explore by teaching them to speak up(ensure your child can contact you or an adult at all times) and speak out -with respect and not defiance.”

This question about how much to be involved in parenting can often be a challenge when trying to co-parent. Parents can differ in their parenting style and want to impose it on the co-parent. Our advice is to balance the fight with what you are fighting for.

You can view the whole piece on their website: www.first5la.org/

Will “Calendar Crush” Push “Hybrid Settlement”?

by Stephanie Maloney

Will “Calendar Crush” Push “Hybrid Settlement”? - Divorce Mediation - Divorce - Sherman Oaks, CAIf you are getting a divorce before the end of 2018 you should be aware of the 30th of June as the final day to file your paperwork. 

If however, you need to finalize or amend your current settlement agreement then early October is when the clerks need your paperwork to review. That’s very important to a lot of people because of the uncertainty created by the changes to the tax laws added to the fact that we are looking at the start of summer vacation. [S1]

Lawyers, despite the bad jokes, are just like the rest of us when it comes to “time in the sun” and their personal calendars will reflect that proclivity through the Labor Day holiday.

I’ve been talking with some lawyers and mediators about contingency plans for improvising a way to help address what might become a scheduling nightmare in the months ahead.

Hiring independent judges has been the traditional strategy for litigators to turn to in times of overwhelming demand for their time but that might not be the best choice for the client.  The factors of time and cost, in this specific application, might open the door for mediation to replace “independent adjudication” as a matter of “the greater benefit” to the client. 

Because mediation can usually be more efficient as a process it would be possible to save time and money without interfering with the relationship between the client and the lawyer. 

If scheduling and the calendar become “speed bumps” for you in terms of making the December 31 deadline please ask your legal advisor to consider contacting a mediator about a faster and possibly less expensive solution.

Tax overhaul may throw a wrench in your Prenup

by Stephanie Maloney

An article by Ben Steverman (Bloomberg News) from Sunday’s LA Times dealt with some tax-related issues that are going to affect a lot of divorced couples and their respective families. It’s an extremely informative piece that’s well worth the read.

I wanted to highlight a few things he brings up that are directly related to why people, in the right sort of circumstance, are turning to alternative ways of dealing with divorce issues to avoid going to court.

The changes end the deduction for alimony and open new avenue to court challenges. Prenups often contain provisions about how much a partner would pay in alimony, also known as spousal support. The agreements can be thrown out if judges deem them unfair, or signed too quickly or under duress.

Now the tax revamp offers another avenue for challenges because courts probably will have to consider how the law has changed since the contracts were created. Starting in 2019, payers no longer will be able to deduct their alimony payments.

For divorcees in the top tax bracket, the change could mean they, in effect, pay double in post-tax costs compared with what they agreed to in their Prenups. 

It’s fair to say that Prenups have become more popular in recent years as younger Americans delay marriage, and the divorce rate has skyrocketed for people over 50, who often use Prenups if they remarry. More than 60% of divorce attorneys said they had seen a rise in the number of clients seeking Prenups in the previous three years, while just 1% reported a drop, according to a 2016 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

If agreements aren’t amended to factor in the tax changes, it will be up to divorce attorneys to settle — or judges to decide— whether the amounts or formulas still stand for couples who divorce starting next year.

Even if both parties agree to an adjustment in alimony, they’ll need to agree on exactly how much to cut the payers’ obligations. Divorcing couples could end up hiring rival accountants as expert witnesses to sway judges.

“No one knows the outcome of that kind of dispute,” Linda Ravdin (Pasternak & Fidis) said. “When you go to court, it’s like rolling the dice.”

 Ultimately, the change could hurt alimony recipients. Payers could plead with judges to revise their obligations given the new law — a valid legal argument given that many Prenups specifically mention that the payments are intended to be deductible.

Divorce attorneys already have been warning that killing the alimony deduction could make splitting up more acrimonious.

Don’t Be Neutral On Net

Don't Be Neutral On Net - Divorce Mediation  - Los AngelesYou wouldn’t spend more money on a slower car than the one in your garage no matter how many warm, fuzzy, family vacation commercials were sandwiched in between the ones for sleeping pills.

A piece by Bill Chappell and Susan Davis about the new battle over “Net Neutrality” and the fight to overturn the FCC’s repeal of what made things a level playing field got my attention.

This is not a political issue. It’s an issue that may be decided by politicians with vested interests in the decision to be made in the House with the Senate having already voted to overturn the repeal.

This is something that all family members can be involved in by making every voice heard about objecting to being assigned an Internet access speed according to account tiers created by the providers. Here are a few key points they make:

“Today is a monumental day,” said Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., during debate over the resolution. “Today we show the American people who sides with them, and who sides with the powerful special interests and corporate donors who are thriving under this administration.”

Critics of the FCC rollback say they’re worried about consumers being forced to pay more for less consistent or slower service. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, part of the Republican majority, has said the Obama rule was “heavy-handed” and isn’t needed.

The net neutrality rules expire June 11. I will post any links possible to where you can send a message about being manipulated into a very unfavorable position.

Keeping Faith With Your Hopeful Charities

by Stephanie Maloney

Keeping Faith With Your Hopeful Charities - Divorce Mediation - Sherman Oaks, CAI saw this piece and was shocked. Bryan McQueeney is the chief executive of the nonprofit Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship in Los Angeles and he sums up nicely some of the unfortunate possibilities.

The new tax law, according to estimates from the Council on Foundations, will drain $16 billion to $24 billion a year from the nonprofit sector going forward. At a time when discretionary government services are diminishing, and as deeper cuts are contemplated, the role of nonprofits in filling the holes in the social safety net is becoming more essential.

The problem is that while the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act preserves the deductibility of charitable contributions, it restructures the system so that millions will lose incentives to give.  It is undeniable that the reward for giving will go down and the cost of giving will go up.

Here in California, the effect of the new law will be particularly painful. The tax reforms limit the deductibility of state and local income and property taxes to $10,000. This is a high-tax state, and many residents’ state and local tax bills will far exceed this limit. The loss of this valuable deduction will leave them with less to give to their favorite charity.

The Tax Cuts Act simultaneously raises the standard deduction to $24,000 for a married couple. For millions, it will no longer make sense to itemize, and that too means fewer charitable gifts: You can only deduct donations if you itemize.

For those who want to give, it is more important than ever to donate with your heart and your mind. Get to know the charities that interest you. Pick a cause that’s close to your heart, whether it’s answering an urgent call to help victims of disasters or supporting long-standing needs.

We know we can’t change the world, but we can change lives.

Interest Rising In Credit Rates

by Stephanie Maloney

Interest Rising In Credit Rates - Divorce Mediation - Los AngelesOnce in a while, something related to my previous incarnation in the investment world catches my attention, especially when it relates to the credit markets.

A piece in The Washington Post by David Lynch shed some light on important recent developments in the economy, particularly affecting consumers, as we moved into the second quarter.

Here are a few things David points to that are relevant to most of us, especially those people that are young and maybe first-time users of a credit card. Including, of course, our kids.

“For most of the past decade, as the U.S. economy marched through the second-longest expansion in its history, Americans enjoyed a rare trifecta: soaring stock values, cheap loans and consumer prices that rarely rose”.

” Consumer prices by a key measure are rising at their fastest point in seven years, mortgages and business loans are becoming more expensive, and after peaking in late January, the Dow Jones industrial average is now roughly flat on the year.

“The result is that Americans have to spend more money on staples, pay more to borrow money to buy big-ticket items such as cars and homes, and are seeing less growth in their investments. These factors will probably pinch Americans particularly during spring and summer when home-buying and driving peak.”

But today’s rising borrowing costs will hit an economy loaded with debt, meaning that people and businesses will have to spend even more on interest payments. Corporations outside the finance industry at the end of last year owed creditors more than $49 trillion.

Rising consumer prices have not been a significant problem for years. That may be about to change as the Commerce Department reported that prices, excluding food and energy products, rose at a 2.5 percent annual clip in the first three months of 2018.

It’s not difficult to “do the math” and figure out that a lot of us are going to have to make adjustments and make the time to talk about any major expenditures or purchases while conditions are still somewhat favorable.

Women: Separate But Not Equal Pay

by Stephanie Maloney

Women: Separate But Not Equal Pay - Divorce Mediation - Los AngelesSince I get reminded on a daily basis of why a lot of moms are finding it harder to celebrate things sometimes this seemed a bright piece of news. If these bills actually make progress I will pass along the word on what we can do to support their passage. Enjoy the hopeful Senator’s wishes and in the meantime let’s hope that next year we’re a little slimmer and the bank account is a little fatter.

NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says Congress must do more to help working moms and their children so she is sponsoring two bills to address the issues of paid work leave and equal pay for equal work. Here’s how she put it:

In May 1914 Congress created “Mother’s Day” as a celebration but hasn’t done nearly enough with policies to give working mothers the support they need.

“The United States consistently ranks at the bottom among industrialized nations for paid parental leave. Many families spend over 25% of their income on childcare, and that number climbs to over 50% for single parents.

The obvious pay gap between men and women, which is even worse for women with children, means that working moms are getting shortchanged.”  This is important because nearly two-thirds of mothers in the United States are the primary, sole or co-breadwinner.

Her paid leave bill is called the FAMILY Act. The FAMILY Act would guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid leave, with two-thirds of your paycheck.

Her other bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would help end wage discrimination. Right now, on average, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes only 80 cents, and if you’re a woman of color, it’s even worse.

Studies have also shown that there is a “motherhood penalty” in our economy, where having children hurts women’s earnings while working fathers get an increase in pay for every child they have.

It’s that simple.

Every Judge Is Not A Solomon

by Stephanie Maloney

Every Judge Is Not A Solomon Copyright: <a href="https://www.123rf.com/profile_stockbroker">stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo</a>There’s a lawsuit filed by the ACLU aimed at preventing families seeking asylum from being separated at the border. It’s a cruel tactic implemented to discourage refugees from coming to America and if you disagree with this decision there is a petition you can sign on their website to stop this practice.

Split Custody, as it is referred to in divorces with children, is very rare in general because of the potential harm but percentage of responsibility comes up in many court-driven divorces. When the judge decides how the financial responsibilities should be divided it is not necessarily done by “cutting them in half”. That court decision can have some seriously negative repercussions for at least one parent and ultimately for the children.

Maintaining control of the settlement process is one of the main reasons for utilizing a mediator and working towards a mutual agreement, rather than leaving it up to the court. You may not be risking custody but you might encounter what you consider to be a slightly “one-sided agreement” and end up in a financial bind. Let’s remember that the judge may also come up with visitation schedules that present logistical nightmares for vacation time and holidays. “Who gets the kids for Christmas?” is a question that you will want to decide when necessary not a third-party adjudicator.

I do encourage you to make your voice heard, if you are so inclined, to stop tearing families apart when they’ve come so far by staying together.

The People “Nextdoor”

by Stephanie Maloney

The People “Nextdoor” Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_olivierl'>olivierl / 123RF Stock Photo</a>There was a recent article by Joel Stein about “Nextdoor” the social networking service and requisite letters in response representing various points of view. Since one of the main goals is to keep neighbors apprised of suspicious behavior it’s not difficult to understand how people’s paranoia could get in the way.

The most disturbing aspect of this dynamic is the amount of apparent racial profiling coming through many of the community posts. If I understood correctly, people in certain neighborhoods, have been reporting activities based solely on the color of an individual’s skin, with no additional particulars. There were, however, no reports of suspicious activities of white strangers observed in South Central Los Angeles. Steps are being taken to address this inequity.

The idea of connecting neighbors is as old as the back fence and has been an important part of the real “Neighborhood Watch” the one that starts with paying attention instead of ignoring. We have no excuses for not using the phone that’s probably in our hands to call for help when you see something happening. But we need to avoid jumping to the easy conclusions. Look out for your neighbors and in LA call 1-877-ASK-LAPD for help while providing where, and why you need them with as full a description as is possible.

Banking on the Post Office

Banking on the Post OfficeThere was a piece by the LA Times contributor David Lazarus the other day about the possibility of a “Postal Bank”. NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation to allow the Post office to conduct banking services such as checking and small loans.  All at reasonable rates and that’s the problem.

This idea has been beaten down before by the lobbying of the “short-term” loan industry. Since it would give low-income consumers a cheaper alternative to a safety net and cash management system it represents a threat, not a benefit.

The US Postal Service, Lazarus reminds us, is losing money on first-class mail delivery; not the third-party package deals that are actually a main source of revenue. Being able to offer banking services would provide recurring revenue that Postal Service needs along with an option that would greatly benefit customers. There are many parents that would love to have their kids learn about financial responsibility without the fees incurred by using a large bank.

I will pass along any further information about how to support this piece of legislation.

Teach Your Children Well By Treating Teachers Better

by Stephanie Maloney

Teach Your Children Well By Treating Teachers BetterWhen Crosby, Stills, and Nash sang their song they had no idea that the people actually teaching our kids were in danger themselves.

They may have to start a “Fund Me Page” for Arizona where the teachers are on strike to force the lawmakers that voted for tax cuts, to increase funding for the schools not just for salaries. One of the teachers was quoted as saying her district’s schools have worn out central air conditioning and fire alarm systems: “The fire alarm system now at (one) school goes off so often the students are starting to ignore it,” What a headline that story will make followed by the hollow cries of “How could this happen?” when a fire finally does break out. Please contribute if such a fund appears.

This caught my attention because there has been an increasing number of voices being raised at local levels about any elected position that influences decisions about education. Even here in California, we are going to have to pay attention to those local elections at the bottom of the list. It’s a little like eating our “civics” vegetables but I am determined to teach my kids that primaries and mid-term elections are of the utmost importance for a “healthy body” of voters.

Mental Health First Aid

by Stephanie Maloney

Mental Health First AidLiving by “The Venice Beach Boardwalk” for the past twenty years has provided my family many opportunities to experience a wide spectrum of residents and visitors. As co-parents, we’ve all had to try to explain to the kids why there are people sleeping on the sidewalks and in the bushes no matter whose house they are at. They even have street people in Beverly Hills.

Trying to explain how somebody’s Dad was stabbed in a restaurant in Ventura is something of an impossible task. I am at a complete loss for words when faced with the inevitable “How can this happen, Mom?”  A letter in the LA Times, from David Eckhouse of Long Beach, led me to an organization that might provide some hope for forming a proper response and a proactive conduit for change.

“Since the National Council brought Mental Health First Aid to the United States a decade ago, more than 1 million individuals have been trained – including everyone from police officers, teachers, and employers to former First Lady Michelle Obama, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall and television personality Dr. Oz. Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation partnered with the National Council to train 150,000 First Aiders.”

Eckhouse further explains, “Decompressing an agitated person and staving an assault is an often-performed task that provides a valuable community service”

This is exactly the kind of training that all responders should be given access to and our lawmakers should hear from us about making that happen.

Earth Day-The Last Straw?

by Stephanie Maloney

My hat’s off to the “Green People” that go to great lengths to conserve and recycle almost everything possible in very creative ways.  I never knew about the straws.

A piece by Renee Lynch in the LA Times reporting that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day got my attention. This information came from “Strawless Oceans”, an advocacy group targeting the problem with support from people such as Martha Stewart, Adrian Grenier, and Ellen Pompeo. They gratefully accept donations but they also offer some ideas about things you can actually do to feel like you’re making a difference, even if it’s one last straw at a time.

Here are a few of the ideas you can look at for addressing the problem in new and different ways.

Skip plastic straws when not at home by telling the server upfront before they bring the water.

Reach for the compostable paper straws wherever available.

You can also get a set of reusable straws that are stainless steel and dishwasher safe. Yes, one of the kids reminded me it was Earth Day and shame on me.

 

Apps That Spy on Kids?

by Stephanie Maloney

Apps That Spy on Kids?I’m a technology fan but there are times when we have to pay close attention to “the little man behind the curtain.”

According to researchers, from UC Berkeley, the University of British Columbia and Stony Brook University, Nearly one in five of the most popular free children- and family-oriented apps in the Google Play store improperly collects “identifiers or other personally identifiable information”

The study, which analyzed 5,855 apps, found that 281 — or about 5 percent — collect contact or location data without first seeking parent approval and the apps could be violating 1999’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA.

“This study has just given the FTC hundreds of companies that they could be going after right now,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

“I think that if there was better and more regular enforcement, that it could change the industry,” added.

Twenty-eight percent of the apps studied bypassed Android permissions to access “sensitive data,” the study found, while 73 percent of the apps in question collected “sensitive data.” The worst offenders were apps that collected users’ geolocation information.

“Geolocation data not only reveals where individuals live, but could also enable inferences about their socioeconomic classes, everyday habits, and health conditions, among others,” the study reads.

Golin said he hopes the research spurs parents to think twice before downloading apps for kids.

The study comes a week after a group of privacy and children’s advocacy groups, including the CCFC, filed an FTC complaint against YouTube, arguing that Google’s video platform was illegally collecting personal data from children.

Google, in a statement, said it takes the study seriously.

Women’s Place is in “The House”

by Stephanie Maloney

Women’s Place is in “The House”Apparently, women have had enough of being on “the short end of the stick” when it comes political policy in this country.

record number of women — 309 — had filed to run for the U.S. House as of April 6. That’s a nearly 90-percent increase over 2016’s numbers.

That wave of women candidates has sent the share of candidates who are women skyrocketing…to 22 percent. Along with the number of women candidates climbing sharply this year, however, the number of men running for office has risen. As a result, the number of women candidates — despite a large spike — is still dwarfed by the number of men candidates.

In many places, women are running for congressional seats that have never had a female representative. Just over half of the US population is female, but 80% of the members of “The House” are men.

I’ve noticed that with our awakened youth on the march they seem to sense that having more women involved in policy decisions would be a very good and smart plan.

There are thousands of our kids that can’t vote but they are doing their damnedest to help register and actually pledge to escort travel-challenged voters to the polls.

Maybe we can offer to pay for the bus fare and the gas.

Throwing The Book at The Face

by Stephanie Maloney

Throwing The Book at The FaceMark Zuckerberg has kind of been the “Bill Gates of Social Media” in bringing his “dorm dream” of Free Global Connectivity to reality through his creation of Facebook.  “Aye, there’s the rub” as Shakespeare had Hamlet put it; that word free, unfortunately, has an agenda all its own.

By using data as “coin of the realm” in dealings with advertisers costs are covered and profits are made; very large amounts of capital indeed have been generated from these relationships.

The problem is a lot of us feel as though they have been less than conscientious about the bartering of personal data and informing users of incredibly widespread data breaches-that happened years ago.

Adding insult to injury in his testimony Mr. Zuckerberg confirmed what Sheryl Sandberg had stated previously about people having an option for “no data retention” but it would “fee-based”.

We would have to pay Facebook to keep our data to ourselves-so much for that “free” part of the dream.

It would appear that “Convenience made cowards of us all ” but it’s not too late to send a message to Mark since he has said that he is responsible.

There will plenty of opportunities for all of us to voice our displeasure but whether we will be motivated enough to actually “wean” ourselves off of Facebook for important interaction with those closest to us remains to be updated. Check your status.

Temporary “Phonelessness” Is OK

by Stephanie Maloney

Temporary “Phonelessness” Is OKCo-parenting is tough enough without having to wonder if you’re one text away from that phone call from the Highway Patrol. Nobody wants to be the cop in the family even when it makes sense to everybody else.

We all abuse the privilege of using the phone while driving so it’s tough being tough on the kids without hearing “you both do it and you’re the only one that gives me grief about it”. Just what you don’t need-playing mom & dad off each other.

With 400,000 “distracted driving” related injuries recorded in 2015 the (growing) numbers are too much for parents or teens to ignore and teens are four times more likely to be unlucky.

There are no easy answers but I keep reading about families that set their own guidelines and act on the “honor system” when driving alone-parents included.

The Good The Bad and The Women

by Stephanie Maloney

The Good The Bad and The WomenWomen are going to play at Augusta National the home of the “Masters”. Even if golf is just another four-letter word to many of us this is the gender politics version of Jackie Robinson’s first game for the Dodgers. In another “Tear Down That Wall” moment an obsolete fixture tumbled because of social pressure from the “common sense” movement. Who knows next might be pay equivalency-be still my foolish heart.

Unfortunately, the first female shooter appeared thinking YouTube executives were blocking her broadcasts. While not involving a school it is still a very disturbing image for our daughters to process and I’ll pass on any helpful advice that pops up from my reading. Please feel free to do the same.

According to the statistics, most of us know of someone that needed help from a Planned Parenthood Clinic having nothing to do with the concept of termination.There are millions of examples showing that economic factors are preventing women from receiving very necessary assistance with serious health problems that they should be entitled to without question. This is a gender issue that should never have to be countered with pointing out that VIAGRA, for example, is often covered even though it’s not exactly a serious health medication.

With any luck and the necessary will perhaps it won’t be that long until we stop having to explain to our girls why the boys seem to be getting the better of the deal.

The Small Outdoors

by Stephanie Maloney

Small OutdoorsHere it is again that time to start getting out and planning out some “away from the house” time. It seems to get tougher each year so we have to get more creative.

Actual vacations involving travel are kind of a special event category and require detailed coordination never mind extraordinary cooperation.

It’s no small accomplishment to find ways on a daily and weekly basis to get some fresh air with the kids without wasting hours of time in traffic. So we’re seeing stories about people taking turns hosting “yard parties” that are geographically user-friendly and BYO “whatever” toys for the group.

I know of parents that are taking walks and bike rides in the neighborhood instead of driving to a park. In a real switch there are stories about some single parents renting a local Air B&B with a backyard just for a few hours on an afternoon for fun & games.

This is a reach but if you have teenagers-ask them about a baseball game-funny things can happen in the spring.

Unplugging To Connect

by Stephanie Maloney

Unplugging to ConnectEvery family that I interact with has difficulty creating and managing their time together. By definition, Divorce creates two entities from one source. With our technology, it sounds crazy to admit that we have trouble connecting with each other but that is the reality for a lot of people. This is all about spending time together not time spent typing together.

There was a nice piece in the LA Times a few weeks ago by Catherine Price who writes about “Breaking Up With Your Phone” and avoiding screens not people.

It made me think about how easy it is to mistake texting with talking when someone asks about the kids and we say we just spoke and we mean text messages were exchanged.

Actual “Face Time” not the video application is sort of the Holy Grail of raising kids and excruciatingly so when divorced. It’s tough to compete with all the available options for kids out there but some people are getting creative in efforts to bring new spins on things to the table.

One family that caught my attention is using the bowling alley and the miniature golf course with their phones turned off until they are all finished. They all take turns keeping score and making reservations as well as handling the gear. Some people are applying that technique to the dinner hour or other shared activities in order to really connect with each other instead of their equipment.

Whatever it is I’d like to think that there’s something we can do together that doesn’t involve screens-unless it’s the screen on the back door of a cabin on a lake.

March Against Madness-Madness Actually Responds

by Stephanie Maloney

Imagine Frances McDormand outside your house of white with 500,000 walking, breathing, two-legged billboards demanding action about the killing of her child.

Apparently, if all politics are local, then all school shootings are now personal. Isn’t it about time we all find some unifying spirit through these kids for actually doing something and isn’t a pity that what’s holding us back is people with a “philosophy” like that of Rick Santorum:

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said Sunday that students would be better off “taking CPR classes” than marching for “phony gun laws.

“How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes…so that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that,” Santorum said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’

The onetime presidential hopeful, said participants in Saturday’s nationwide March for Our Lives events were “passing the buck to their representatives when they should be preparing to respond to the next mass shooting”.

This must be precisely what is enraging these “kids,” when they hear the words “…the next mass shooting…” with the same echo of acceptance as if there is nothing that can be done. They are indeed “passing the buck” but it’s going back to people that are supposed to paying the tab for safety not to the people hiding under the desks.

In cities across the globe people marched in support of common sense and as even The Pope had advised they shouted that we’ve had enough of parents burying children and children burying friends. In Denmark, for example, Finnish exchange student Iida Keskinen told CNN the idea that mass shootings have become the norm “…has really shook me…I wanted to make sure I had even a small impact in supporting this cause,” she said.

Maybe if she were Norwegian Mr. Trump would listen.

50 Million People Can be Wronged

by Stephanie Maloney

50 Million People Can be WrongedIt’s an old advertising ploy used by promoters for everything from cigarettes to soap; postulating, “If so many other people are doing it how can they all be wrong?” The simple answer is they were sold out – literally.

Mr. Zuckerberg has stepped up in a somewhat delayed timeline to acknowledge that like the captain of a ship he is responsible for whatever happens with his vessel.

He will now face a barrage of questions in D.C. to explain the massive borrowing of personal data by Cambridge Analytica for the purposes of obfuscating information related to the candidates in the 2016 elections.

Facebook gives away its services in return for our data. If you’re not familiar with “Bedazzled” you still might recognize the “made a deal with the Devil” dynamic and what your soul is really worth.

I admit that it never occurred to me that 50% of us rely on Facebook for news about the country and the planet, not just vacation videos. So if we thought that we were getting a free ride with our friends and family “pics & clicks” we were wrong.

There are any number health professionals suggesting that we find, no make, the time to unplug for a while every day. It might not be a bad idea to show the kids what it’s like to get an actual letter in the mail-no the other one-with a stamp and their name on it-and it can’t be hacked.

Spring Cleaning

by Stephanie Maloney

Spring Cleaning Your FinancesAs we finally are getting some much-needed rain I keep thinking about things, besides the social and political black holes, that are ripe for clean up.

With a clearer picture of your finances under the new tax laws it’s probably not a bad idea to get an overview from your advisors about all your options.

I used to talk with my brokerage clients at the end of the first quarter, especially after a turbulent year, so they could position themselves for any changes their tax advisor might suggest.

We already know the landscape has changed but we’re just learning about the effects on our individual situations.

You might very well need to talk about some adjustments with your ex-spouse about your co-parenting parenting plan in light of what is not working so well and any increased levels of stress on the kids. Worries about money have a habit of affecting all family members.

As I have noted please let me know if you think I might be able to be of help even if only for a referral to someone with a very specific area of expertise.

Also let me know if you or a friend might be interested in our Tuesday Support Group.

The Ides of Marches

­by Stephanie Maloney

Things did not go well for Julius Caesar when he ignored the soothsayer and his advice about being wary of the “Ides” (15Th) of March and was struck down on the steps of the Senate. The kids in Florida never made the steps but the survivors and thousands of their contemporaries across the US are taking what they feel are the necessary steps to put an end to this madness.

When you listen and watch what is happening the obvious questions stick out about why it has taken children speaking out and marching to get the adults motivated to action. The Florida legislation will not be enough for these young men and women; apparently you grow up fast post-gunfire.

I know parents are having difficulty with trying to explain the scenes of “17 Minutes of Silence” and with split families that kind of time is not always available.

On March 24th there will another demonstration “March for Our Lives” and here is a link for information and an opportunity to make a donation: marchforourlives.com

I am going to encourage my family to participate in any way possible as well as anyone in my circle of friends.

Hopefully we’re not the only ones listening.

 

Crypto-Scams, or, Old Wolf New Online Sheepskin

by Stephanie Maloney

Crypto ScamEvery year around “Tax Time” consumers, across the board, get hit with opportunities to “turn that refund into a lot of money” and this year some of it is coming a “Bit Coin” at a time.

Scams that have historically targeted retirees, widows and widowers are now bleeding out to include the newly single. The promise of fantastic returns on even small investments involving “Crypto Currencies” and “Block Chains” is a familiar tale echoing the old hustles of Oil & Gas and Gold & Silver back in the eighties. These scams always prey upon the “fear of missing out” and for a certain percentage of people it always works.

If you, like many of us at a certain age, are engaged in parental care you’ve already heard about some “incredible” offers being made online to “make those retirement funds really pay off”. It’s a relative new development for people to say ‘I know Dad ever since the divorce those things started showing up every day”. Since it’s all online one bad decision might open a “Pandora’s Box” of connected problems.

One of the insidious aspects of this “currency investment” is that it has become all too easy to use the pitch “no traditional broker can make money from it so they steer you away from it”.

That strategy plays deeper into the “missing out” fear and makes it a lot easier to push those buttons and “get in” on something they think is a deal “too good to miss”.

You’re going to see more about this so “be careful out there” as the “Woodsman” said to “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Safety & Politics It’s All Local

by Stephanie Maloney

A man was being questioned late Wednesday in connection with a threat to Pierce College that prompted administrators to cancel classes for the night, officials said. Someone overheard the threat and reported it to authorities, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

That’s exactly the way it’s supposed to go when it happens except for the part where it’s happening when my child and I are in the car on our way to a class at Pierce College.

All of a sudden the cliché “all politics are local” makes mothers like me want to scream at the “talking heads” (apologies to David Byrne) on the TV screen. We have seen too many parents bury children and too many children bury friends. What these kids in Parkland are doing with their fear and anger is amazing.

My other child still in school was in the middle of 2 shootings at UCLA last year and we’re lucky that she is a strong young woman and able to talk with us about it.
The elevated level of anxiety is something we are trying to address with the kids but it is hard to do in a divorce.

I can only encourage you to work as a team-this co-parenting thing is not going to get any easier. If an opportunity to show the kids that we, the adults in the room are going to find a way to make this stop please take it as the kids need to believe we’re “gonna be all right”.

Academy Women Rise to the Occasion

by Stephanie Maloney

When Frances McDormand stood asking the “women with projects” in the Academy Awards audience to stand and be seen, with an assist from Meryl Streep, it began the largest “let’s take a meeting” conversation in Hollywood history.

Imagine “women who tell the stories about women” getting an equal opportunity to at least pitch those ideas to the real decision-makers. The fact that those people are mostly men is another conversation.

The #MeToo phenomenon has actually put some cracks in the invisible walls and ceilings of our entertainment institutions-and that’s a good thing-a really good thing.

Go do what you can to show your support for what you believe in and by all means, if you haven’t already; go see Three Billboards and Shape of Water.

Divorce Resource

by Stephanie Maloney

The more I read about how little time people have for things they’d like to do the question remains about how to make time for things they need to do. That always brings me around to creating opportunities for a friendly exchange of information in a relaxed setting.

What we’re talking about is a “Divorce Support Group” designed to give people a chance to compare notes and share “strategies”. Managing the divorce process means being prepared to meet the constant challenges that an ever-changing landscape often presents.

Instead of just an exchange amongst peers I’m thinking about inviting people from different disciplines such as the Real Estate and the Investment sectors. It seems that as our time gets harder to control it might help to “double up” and combine opportunities to exchange and discover new resources for securing a better future.

Divorce To Get More Acrimonious

Husbands Showing More Concern About Repeal of Alimony Deduction

by Stephanie Maloney

January 2019 may be far out on the calendar but a survey from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) got my attention with some calculations about alimony and acrimony.

Chicago, IL, February 14, 2018 – It seems that the federal government has made divorce a more emotionally taxing proposition for the nation.  According to a survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), an overwhelming 95% of members anticipate the new tax plan will change the ways in which divorces are settled and a clear majority of 64% believes that the cases will now become more acrimonious.  In addition, 62% of the respondents feel that the changes in the tax plan offers a greater benefit to the payee in terms of spousal support and 59% are finding that husbands are showing a greater sense of concern in regards to the repeal of the alimony deduction.

“The new tax plan will most certainly alter the ways in which divorce cases are settled and couples need to be prepared for these changes,” said Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, president of the AAML.  “The elimination of the alimony tax deduction has removed a powerful negotiating tool and turned it into a difficult stumbling block for spouses trying to settle a divorce.”

Fortunately, by definition, in mediation sessions we start with the goal being a level playing field and both parties in agreement about complete transparency.

If alimony is a factor in your life be prepared for changes. You will have a clearer picture after tax season and then roughly six months to renegotiate your settlement. I say six months because you’ll want to done well before the end of the year. As post-settlement renegotiating is one of our specialties please give a call and we’ll talk about your situation and how we might be of help.

To view this on the AAML website click here

The Kids Are Alright

by Stephanie Maloney

“Divorce is always toughest on the children” has been a very old mantra for very demonstrable reasons. As much as we try to shield them from the negativity that comes with the divorce process the after-effects are felt for years. It’s how we deal with co-parenting issues on a daily basis that sets the tone and the example for the family to help guide them in the direction of good decisions.

How incredible is it that the kids in Florida are now turning around to show us the path to a smarter decision.

How does a child process a parent not being able to explain why students, like them, are being shot and why the grown ups don’t make it stop. Apparently one way these Florida kids discovered was to get on a bus, go to the Capitol(s) and “Call BS”. BRAVO!

This is one that both parents can reinforce with the family and offer support if anyone wants to get involved. It’s one of those times to “reach across the family aisle” towards a common goal because it just makes sense.

Congratulations on the Gold to the USA Women’s Hockey Team-the goaltender, Rooney, is from Minnesota.

Winter Olympics – Teaming Up

by Stephanie Maloney

Even if you don’t have “Olympic Fever” there are always some great moments worth watching.  Because I skated competitively growing up in Minnesota I’m reminded how important teamwork is to even the individualevents.  The research and planning that are part of the preparation process involve many people and have a lot to do with the final results.

Relying on a team is something that starts before every divorce and continues afterwards as you reshape your life. You are still going to need advice from professionals after the settlement to protect your assets as well as your own peace of mind. There are also going to be people in your social circles with whom you’ll network and exchange resources. Those same people will be grateful for the perspective and suggestions that you bring to the table.

Working in Divorce Mediation I get a good look at how willing people are to share when they believe it will be of help. If you have gone through the mediation process you can be very comfortable with telling people it may not be right for them if they are NOT in mutual agreement with their spouse. If, however, they are on the same page then they can “go for the gold” and take home a “medal worthy ” settlement.

Make Some Time-Take Some Time

by Stephanie Maloney

The pictures from the Florida School shooting will be tough to digest and tougher to forget. Without getting maudlin-hug the kids a little tighter, a little longer and get some pizza and ice cream-or just a smoothie and some sushi. Whatever it is do something ordinary that you don’t ordinarily do even if it means taking some time from your workday.

If the kids are not an option go do something that you enjoy.  Valentine’s Day is always a tough one because memories uncontrollably come rolling over us; and it’s tough to block out just the bad ones.

If nothing else go do something physical that will have its own rewards. There are a couple of months left before the warm weather starts and you will feel better if you look better and just walking can help put color in your cheeks.

If you’d like to talk with some other people dealing with Divorce we’re starting a support group on Tuesday nights. Send an email to:

info@peace-talks.com

and we’ll let you know all the details as they are finalized

Don’t Overtax Yourself & Do It Now

by Stephanie Maloney

Don’t Overtax Yourself & Do It NowThe new tax legislation will necessitate adjustments for many people dealing with alimony payments-both paying and receiving.

When you start to factor in things like tuition and college debt you get a sense of where your strategy needs to shift in order to maintain sufficient protection for your assets.

Your tax advisor is going to be swamped with requests from people worried about the deductions they have relied upon for some real relief before April 15Th. You can get a head start by assembling whatever (receipts etc.) you posses as well as your various investment and interest 1099’s and charitable contributions.

The more you can do before the tax appointment is more time the accountant can take to make certain you get all the deductions you are entitled to receive. You may even need to change your W-2 status to match the new money dynamics of the altered tax structure.

If you do need to make some changes it might maximize the process to do it as soon as possible. We’ve worked with some great advisors if you need some referrals.

If Wall Street Is Your Street

by Stephanie Maloney

If individual stocks or mutual funds are associated with your divorce, whether by mediation or litigation, don’t panic because of the recent market volatility. When people “inherit” equities it can take some time to learn how to properly keep track of them.

In my many years in the investment sector I witnessed corrections similar to what we are seeing recently and they are an organic part of our financial dynamics.

“You can’t time the market” has been a longtime mantra in a very self-explanatory way because of its simple but indisputable message-just accept it.

What you can do is talk to your investment advisor about whether any changes might be warranted. More often than not “riding out the storm” will be the safest strategy but if your life situation is changing you can adapt accordingly.

Abu Dhabi Lets Expats Bypass Sharia Law For Mediation

Recently Abu Dhabi broke from centuries of tradition and decided to allow non-Muslim expatriates to pursue a divorce through faith-based mediation. Though not a mirror image to western secular mediation, as we know it, it’s another testimonial to the need for a short, less costly path to a mutually satisfying agreement.

The protection of the children was one of main reasons given for the major change in official policy along with a long-standing need to bring some international sense of fairness to a very multi-cultural society.

It’s interesting that the children’s welfare and the wasted time and money are universal elements of concern oblivious to country or faith and agreeing to talk about things is the smartest choice available on the planet.

Mediation in the News: The Williams Divorce

Back in June there was a news story about Richard Williams, the father of Venus & Serena, seeking to evict his estranged wife from their Florida home.

A few days ago the lawyer, Sandy Becher, for the wife spoke about the upcoming divorce in terms of new approach.

“What’s next is we’ll take depositions of the parties and witnesses and have hearings. After we fully exchange financial information, hopefully we can settle the matter at mediation. If not, then litigate any open and unresolved issues there still are.”

We’ll follow this story and see how it plays out. It’s interesting that even people with very substantial assets may need to call in a third-party to help them come to a mutually satisfying agreement.

Mediation is a relatively new component in the array of tools available to build a successful settlement. This sort of high profile case may bring this strategy to the forefront of possibilities much sooner in lieu of litigation.

Healing Trauma

by Alison Marcelino and Stephanie Maloney

As part of the Conscious Uncoupling training, we attended a lecture given by Judy Waters, MFT, discussing “Healing Breakup Trauma.” In her talk, Ms. Waters explains how a break up can “live” in our body. If we have had childhood abandonment issues, a breakup will stimulate those early wounds. A client may show up in the divorce process as an angry, scared five-year-old child dressed in adult clothing.

Ms. Waters told us that the key to understanding trauma is to realize that it refers to an extreme stress that affects a person’s ability to cope with life. Psychologically, it is an overwhelming emotion and a feeling of utter helplessness.

The experience of trauma is subjective. Trauma, “big T” and trauma, “little t” are two different things. It is important to know the difference because experiencing death, divorce, or a move is a huge change of identity and context. Conversely, opening the refrigerator and finding your ex’s favorite mustard may not seem traumatizing, but often it is the small “t’s” that cause us to revert to that place of despondency. This is the re-experience of our previous abandonment wound or sustained trauma that is flooding our brains with stress hormones making clarity impossible.

When we are partnering with other professionals and working with our clients, we must keep the reality of their physiological emotional landscape at the forefront of our minds.

What I have noticed is everyone who has experienced trauma ends up expressing it differently. The most common responses include: abusing drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive behaviors. However, there are also covert expressions to notice, such as an overwhelming investment into the details of the process, or conversely a lack of presence or ownership in the process.
As divorce professionals, we need to identify the trauma experience both for our clients and ourselves. Trauma is unavoidable. Acknowledging and allowing the trauma to be present gives an opportunity for healing.

Judy Waters is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Spiritual Counselor, a Calling in “The One” Coach and a Feminine Power Coach. She has a private practice where she specializes in helping her clients overcome trauma, domestic violence, sexual abuse, eating disorders, relationship, family and career challenges. For more information please go to www.judyawaters.com

Mediating The Settlement To Qualify For The Loan

As difficult as the divorce process can be there are many subtle financial hurdles that can prove problematic even for an amicable agreement.

What happens after the settlement is reached may not lead to the desired end of the agreement if the planning did not include qualifying for a loan.

I read a story by Michele Martin, a N.Y. Mediator, about a wife’s dilemma in not qualifying for a loan to refinance the husband off the current mortgage. Since they had agreed she should keep the house, particularly for the children, they re-worked the agreement.

“Since it was in both parties interest that the wife would be able to keep the house they agreed to increase the amount of and extend the length of spousal support and pay off a car loan in wife’s name in exchange for the wife receiving a smaller split of the assets.  he ultimate “numbers” remained the same but it allowed the couple to achieve their goal. Additionally, the new deal happened to be more tax advantageous for the husband (while being tax neutral to the wife).”

This is a great example of what mediation can accomplish to the point of making sure that people get what they need the way that it does the most good for everyone.

A Paradigm Shift: Conscious Uncoupling

by Ali Marcelino

Recently I completed a Conscious Uncoupling training course conducted by Katherine Woodward Thomas.  My intent is to introduce those principles into my practice here at Peace Talks Mediation Services.

The foundation for the extensive training and certification is found in Ms. Thomas’ book, Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After. This book serves as the catalyst for a paradigm shift for people going through a divorce or a relationship breakup.

The current divorce model supposes that the end of a marriage is also the end of a coupling.

But what if it is not?

One belief among divorce professionals is that they can’t make a profit if they are cooperative and ethical. The truth, and the new agreement, is that divorce mediators will thrive if they promote expeditious and collaborative judgments.  This will increase their value to their current and future clients.

In a crisis, men typically want to “fix” things and women feel the need to take on the responsibility for everyone’s well being. The exercises in the book are tools that make one realize that one can only provide for others when one prioritizes self-care.

The stories that we tell ourselves, what Ms. Thomas calls “the source fracture” otherwise known as a breakup narrative, are debilitating.  Choosing to gift ourselves a peaceful divorce requires the same core set of values we volunteered for in marriage- honor, respect, consideration and even love.

What I’ve learned from the book and training is that connecting to a deeper, wider place within ourselves gives us an opportunity to connect with the experience of the breakup. Only then can we create a new life in a more empowered and healthy way.

My new conscious agreement to the couples I work with is to help honor their old relationship while transitioning to a new one.

Collaborative Divorce Mediation: Is it the Right Choice for You?

Divorce scenarios are typically stereotyped as long, drawn-out court battles over children and property. If you’re entering divorce proceedings for the first time, you should know there are other options to settle your divorce. You can opt for a more peaceful divorce through collaborative divorce mediation. We use a team approach to work tog.

What is collaborative divorce mediation?

Unlike typical divorce scenarios, where you hire a lawyer to represent you, collaborative divorce is a solution where you and your spouse are both represented individually by collaborating lawyers. This approach helps you avoid going court, as you both meet with your legal representation to hash out the details of property division and divorce terms until the case is settled.

Collaborative divorce efforts include the advice of professionals who can help you through the process. Both spouses will get individual counseling from a qualified therapist to help with the stress of your divorce. Your therapist will help coach you through the mediation process and provide techniques to communicate effectively with your former partner.

Neutral financial advisors are also available to advise and help you divide up assets, property and personal belongings.

What are the benefits of collaborative representation?

This approach to divorce offers a lot of benefits:

  • It takes less time. With a company like Peace-Talks Mediation, you’ll be able to map out a timeline for all your proceedings when you meet with your mediation attorney.
  • It’s less costly. Paying for litigation can get very expensive, while this type of mediation is much more affordable. Contested divorces with complex custody agreements and business assets can cost up to $40,000, but mediation costs can begin as low as $4,500.
  • Your voice is heard. In a collaborative meeting, you can ask questions and make requests as part of an active discussion. You are in control of the final decisions, instead of being dependent on a judge’s ruling.
  • There’s a more relaxed environment. Appointments can be flexible and you can work around the schedules of your children and employment.
  • You still get legal representation. In a collaborative approach, you have a lawyer who is still looking out for your individual interests, so nothing is left undone and your rights are protected.

You can make it through a divorce without ever experiencing the stress of court. For more information on collaborative divorce mediation proceedings, contact a mediation-based law firm like Peace Talks.

Divorce Mediation Vs. Traditional Divorce

Divorce Mediation vs Traditional Divorce

No divorce process is completely stress free, but if you choose mediation to settle your divorce case, you could save on time, stress, and money. While divorce mediation is not as common as traditional divorce litigation, there are many advantages to choosing divorce mediation that can benefit you, your spouse and your children.

What is mediation, and how is it different from typical divorce through the court system?

Mediation divorce is the most cost effective way to manage divorce proceedings. The divorcing couple meets with a mediator — a third-person party acts as a go-between to resolve difficult custody, property matters and financial matters. Through mediation, the couple has the opportunity to decide the final terms and outcomes of the divorce in a peaceful manner that benefits both parties. In many cases it’s best to choose a mediator who has experience in family law and who can make sure that all legal issues are resolved, so an attorney who specializes in mediation is a logical choice.

Benefits of Divorce Mediation:

  • Divorce mediation is significantly less expensive than going through a messy ugly hearing with a judge.
  • Divorce mediation allows you to work on your time schedule instead of being forced to work on the city’s time with scheduled hearings.
  • Divorce mediation gives both parties more flexibility because you can honestly discuss the terms of your parenting plan to ensure that your children are well cared for.
  • Divorce mediation is more humane and peaceful because the mediation sessions normally take place in a conference room instead of in a courtroom with multiple people around.
  • Divorce mediation is confidential and the discussions in divorce mediation do not become a part of public record.
  • Divorce mediation helps couples develop a communication plan that enables you to effectively communicate with each other post-divorce if children are involved.

The most significant difference, however, is that mediated divorces are not subject to arbitration. You and your estranged spouse make the final agreement, and you are not bound by the word or a judge or similar arbiter. Mediation is the method that helps you to create the ideal post-divorce scenario for your family.

What is the difference in cost?

Traditional divorce proceedings involve litigation and court proceedings. Some more complex cases go to full trial. Traditional divorce takes longer, and it can be significantly more expensive. A straightforward mediation costs as low as $10,000 and can go up depending on your assets and the number of children involved. Meanwhile, traditional divorces, complete with court fees, retainers, motions, and discoveries, can cost as much as $40,000 for just basic litigation and uncontested rulings. For many couples, mediation is sufficient for the needs of the family. To understand how divorce mediation works and if this is a good fit for you and your spouse, call Peace-Talks Mediation at (310) 301-2100.

Collaborative Divorce The Best Way To Divorce In California

Collaborative Divorce The Best Way To Divorce In CaliforniaYou have decided your marriage is not working out. You want to divorce, but your friends have told you horror stories about dragging your divorce through the court system. You remember reading an article about Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling” and her decision to use mediation instead of litigation. Where do you turn?? To collaborative divorce mediation at Peace Talks!

At Peace Talks, we do collaborative divorce: a non-adversarial approach to dissolution. We avoid the litigation over property, parental rights, and pride that destroy families. Peace Talks’ collaborative divorce is the preferable way to dissolve your marriage because it is 90% less expensive than litigation. It is confidential and private. Your discussions, disagreements and decisions are never public knowledge. Peace Talks makes divorce mediation a sane, sensible, and affordable alternative.

Practically speaking, collaborative divorce mediation involves a series of meetings between your partner and yourself, tailored to help you reach agreements in as amicable a manner as possible. A team of interdisciplinary specialists, an attorney, a therapist, a financial expert, and potentially other experts provide you with information to help you make excellent decisions that are in the best interests of your children and your family.

Collaborative divorce also demands another important factor: complete honest and full disclosure by both sides. A collaborative mediated divorce cannot be successful if facts are hidden from the other person. Thus, one of the first steps at Peace Talks is to voluntarily exchange all financial information. This enables our financial specialist to analyze your economic situation and present you and your partner with an accurate analysis of your financial situation. This information becomes the starting point for discussing the division of your household. An advantage of collaborative divorce is that you do not have to comply with mandated court rules. The two of you can come up with a solution that respects your shared goals.

During divorce, your life can seem chaotic, overwhelming and spinning out of control. At Peace Talks, together we develop a clear and systematic plan to keep the level of emotional strain to a minimum. While the process can be shorter than litigation, approximately 4 to 6 months, we work at your pace.
An additional benefit is that meetings at the Peace Talks’ offices are arranged to fit your time schedule, not an outside party like the civil court’s.

Another significant asset is that our mediators give you an opportunity to develop communication, self-management and negotiation skills that will help you during the divorce mediation process and beyond. The skills you achieve at Peace Talks allow you to be involved in the decision making process each step of the way. It also enables you to create a mediated settlement that attains the goals you mutually designed at your first meeting.

In our opinion, the most important reason to choose Peace Talks is that the well being of your children is protected. At Peace Talks, our team of mediation specialists ensures your children’s needs are paramount. With your input, we work to create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your children. Not only do we consider your present situation, we discuss the developmental stages of your children and devise a plan that looks to the future while remaining flexible.

As you can see, at Peace Talks, the cooperative nature of collaborative divorce mediation can reduce the emotional stress caused by a break-up of the family and lead to a settlement that works for you and everyone involved. We believe by selecting this process you are ensuring the success of your future co- parenting and providing a safe family environment for your children to flourish.

Give Peace Talk a call today and schedule your complimentary consultation. See how collaborative divorce mediation can bring peace to your world. Call us at (310) 301-2100.

Protect Your Children: Get a Will!

While many of us may believe that estate planning is only for the rich or the elderly, you should know that this process is essential if you have children. At Peace Talks Mediation, not only do we help you with divorce mediation, but we also recommend how you can protect your most precious “possessions” your children. As we advocated in our previous blog, “If You Have Children, You Should Get a Trust!”, we now recommend you to get a will too. These two estate planning vehicles, a trust and a will, work together to protect and provide for your children in the event that you come to an untimely demise. Peace Talks Mediation encourages you to do the responsible thing: Get a Will!

Making a will is essential for people with young children because a will is the best way to transfer guardianship of minors. This means that you decide who you wish to raise your children if you are unable to do so, not a probate judge. Once you draw up a will with your estate-planning advisor, you may amend your will at any time. In fact Peace Talks thinks it’s a good idea to review it periodically. This is especially true if your marital status changes which can be peacefully and sanely accomplished through divorce mediation at Peace Talks.

As previously mentioned, a will is usually done at the same time that you create a trust. A trust is a legal mechanism that lets you put conditions on how your assets are distributed after you die, and it often lets you minimize gift and estate taxes. A will is still necessary because most trusts deal only with specific assets such as life insurance or a piece of property, but not the sum total of your holdings, for example distributing your jewelry or family artifacts. Additionally, the most valuable things that you leave for your children may not have any monetary value. These are the traditions and life lessons that define you as part of your own unique family. Peace Talks suggests the use of Ethical Wills, which are non-binding documents that allow you to pass on these intangible treasures to your loved ones.

Peace Talks wants to share some additional tips with you. You may prefer not to keep your original will in your safe-deposit box because some states will seal your box when you die and not allow it to be opened until the estate has been settled. Clearly, settling your estate is much easier with the original will being available. We suggest that you keep a copy of your will in your safe-deposit box, but give the original to your lawyer or place it in a fireproof box at your home or in your office. With the invention of the cloud, you are even able to scan all your important financial paperwork and keep a virtual copy of this material within a secure web site. It’s also essential to share the location of your trust and will as well as access to these documents with close family members, so that in the event of an emergency they will be able to obtain this vital information. Here at the California Peace Talks Office, we know that there is a potential for a disastrous earthquake. If all your estate documents were destroyed, a virtual copy of everything would be helpful to have.

Keep in mind that no one knows and loves your children like you do. By doing the type of estateplanning that Peace Talks has described, you are in control of making the decisions that are in the best interests of your children, especially appointing a guardian for them. And Peace Talks divorce mediation believes, isn’t that the way it should be? So get a will! Please give us a call to explore our mediation services at (310) 301-2100.

Divorced or Divorcing – How to have Happy Jolly Holidays!!

At Peace Talks, we know that the divorce process is stressful and creates emotional turmoil. And we also know that experiencing the winter holidays for the first time as divorced or divorcing can spike emotions to a whole other level. Especially if you have children, how can you keep the holiday spirit alive in the midst of this emotional upheaval?

During divorce mediation at Peace Talks, you have the advantage of receiving advice and coping skills to handle sensitively charged holiday situations and decisions. If you have not made the decision to use divorce mediation, or you are recently divorced, we have some recommendations for you to get through the holidays with your sanity and feelings intact.

Nothing will ruin the holidays more for you and your children, than fighting over holiday plans with your ex-spouse. As part of divorce mediation at Peace Talks, we devote an entire mediation session to creating your parenting plan. This plan includes a holiday schedule for your children and your family celebrations. By having a plan in advance, you can greatly reduce potential problems.

If you do not have a plan yet, create a holiday schedule NOW. It gives you and your children an opportunity to work together with a calendar and decide how the holidays will be shared. It is also possible to devise a plan that alternates every other year, so that one year your children are with you and your family, for example, on Thanksgiving and the next year, they are with your ex. Also you may want to maintain traditions that your children have enjoyed and associated with particular holidays, while at the same time being open and flexible to starting traditions of your own.

Basically, it all boils down to the fact that the more planning and arranging of these details that can be done before the holidays, the more time, energy, and desire everyone has for the celebrations. Planning holiday schedules effectively reduces family conflict and tension because everyone involved knows what to expect ahead of time.

Along with having a detailed holiday plan, Peace Talks wants to give you some helpful tips to help make your holidays brighter. If your well laid plans did not go off as scheduled, keep the situation in perspective. Especially if you have young children, flexibility is key to your celebration. Crankiness, illness, or high activity can all interfere with your ability to keep your plans on track. It’s best to try to go with the flow.

Another good tip is to keep your sense of humor. In high stress situations, it’s easy to get your buttons pushed by your kids, your relatives or even your ex. Try to make a joke. Laughter has a calming effect. It’s impossible to be yelling while you are laughing and laughter is contagious. Pass the joy of the season around.

It can’t be said enough that a key to a successful holiday celebrations is good communication between everyone. It’s a smart idea to sit down with your children and talk with them. Let them know you that going back and forth for the holidays between two families is tough, and it creates a lot of stress for everyone. Work as a team to anticipate the bumps that will occur and the possible solutions to resolve them.

One other important thing to keep in mind is to not make the holidays negative by badmouthing your ex. Meditate, self-sooth, talk with a friend, but keep the negative sentiments away from your children. It’s a fact that you are no longer the one family you use to be, but this is an opportunity to create new traditions, perhaps healthier ones for yourself and your children. You can make the season bright with good planning, open communications and a sense of humor –bring on the fun and good times. Happy Holidays from Peace Talks divorce mediation services!! If you would like to learn more about divorce mediation give us a call as (310) 301-2100.

Getting A Trust For The Sake of the Kids

If You Have Children, You Should Get a Trust!

For most of us, our children are our most precious “possessions”. At Peace Talks Mediation, we feel the exact same way and we make their well being the focus of our divorce mediation. However, while we may believe that we place our children’s interests as our highest priority, many of us have not taken the necessary steps to protect and provide for them in the event that we come to an untimely demise. Often we procrastinate believing that estate planning is only for the rich or the elderly. Or perhaps, we wishfully think that our extended family will jump in and take care of our children in case we die. At Peace Talks mediation, we encourage you to do the responsible thing: Get a Trust!

Financial planning is an essential part of protecting your children and creating a family trust is an excellent vehicle to accomplish this.A trust, which is a formal legal document,achieves many important things: It manages your money, and distributes it for you upon your death. It puts conditions on how and when your assets are distributed after you die; it can also reduce your estate and gift taxes. It enables your assets to be distributed efficiently without the cost, delay, and publicity of the probate court. It may also insulate your assets from creditors and lawsuits. Additionally, you are able to name a successor trustee who will manage your trust after you die, and is also empowered to do so if you become disabled. At Peace Talks’ divorce mediation, our financial experts can explain this process in detail to you.

This is the key fact: the truth is that all parents of young children, regardless of their net worth, need comprehensive estate planning. The reason is that if you don’t have an estate plan, you forfeit the opportunity to make many important decisions that you are in the best position to make. In Peace Talks’ opinion, this is the primary reason:You are able to choose a guardian for your minor children. If your children lost both you and your spouse in a tragic accident, would you trust a complete stranger to choose a guardian for them? We at Peace Talks mediation don’t believe you would. But that’s exactly what can happen if you don’t take the time to designate a guardian for your minor children. If you die intestate (without a will or trust), without having designated a guardian, you leave that important decision in the hands of a judge who doesn’t know you or your children. Peace Talks believes that would be a big mistake.

Next, you are able to choose the person who will manage the assets that you will leave for you children.With a trust in place, you can have some say in how your children’s money is spent. Setting up a trust for your children allows you to delay when they get control of assets you leave behind, or even stagger the distribution over a number of years. Otherwise, your children could receive their share of assets at 18 years of age, when they might not have the maturity to manage it.

Without a trust, you leave the decision making to a judge who doesn’t know anything about your financial values and will be required to appoint a guardian of your estate to oversee its management. As we urge at Peace Talks divorce mediation, all this can be avoided by proper advance estate planning. Remember these are important issues for your family. Since trusts are flexible, varied and complex with each type having its advantages and disadvantages, you should discuss your desires and goals thoroughly with your estate-planning attorney before setting one up.

Call us at Peace Talks divorce mediation for further information. (310) 301-2100.

Writing Effective Emails during Divorce – The BIFF Method

During the period of a peaceful divorce and emotional confusion, we sometimes say and write things to our partners that are offensive and inappropriate. Instead of clearly communicating our thoughts and calming down the situation, we respond with critical, judgmental words that inflame passions and throw fuel on the fire. Mr. Bill Eddy, LCSW and Attorney At Law, has developed a method for effectively dealing with hostile email and communications in a high conflict situation. He has entitled it BIFF – be Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. At Peace Talks, we encourage considering this communication style during the course of your mediation sessions. These types of concise messages help us assist you in moving your divorce forward with the goal of a congenial future relationship for the entire family.

In his book, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns, Bill Eddy explains what to do when you receive an email, social media post, or personal attack that is intensively emotional and out of proportion to the problem. In this situation, the hostile commentary blames you instead of the speaker who feels he or she has no responsibility for the problem or solution. The key thing to realize is that these personal attacks are not about you. It is the blamer’s inability to control him or herself that is the trigger. Since the individual is incapable of managing his or her own emotions, lashing out and feeling like a victim are the resulting consequences. In circumstances like this, the only thing you can do is manage your own response.

Mr. Eddy believes the best way to communicate with a high conflict personality is to be Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm (BIFF). A BIFF response is a balanced approach, which is not mean or confrontational, yet helps set limits and focuses on solving problems. The following examines the components of this approach:

BRIEF:

The point is to avoid triggering defensiveness and to shift to focusing on problem solving information. Don’t give too many words for the other person to react to. The more you say, the more likely you are going to generate another blaming response. By keeping it brief, there is less potentially negative information to provoke defensiveness.

Thus, writing a good BIFF email response is more about what you leave out, such as all those possible nasty retorts, than what you put in .

INFORMATIVE:

The next step is to be informative by giving a sentence or two of straight, useful information on the subject being discussed. This shifts the discussion to an objective subject rather than opinions about each of the participants. As you write, try to avoid getting emotionally hooked into defending yourself unnecessarily. Your information should be directed on something positive and future focused.

FRIENDLY:

A list of “do not’s” will provoke almost anyone’s defensiveness. A friendly response provides encouraging words, optimism that problems can be solved, and a sense of connection between the writer and reader. When your tone is friendly, it can calm the person down. This tactic may be able to move the other person back into logical thinking. Mr. Eddy believes that the combination of being friendly and informative seems to help the attacker shift in ways they cannot do for themselves. Ending the correspondence with a friendly comment, such as “I hope you have a nice weekend”, or “Warmest regards,” emphasizes your desire to keep things pleasant.

FIRM:

To create an effective email, use your BIFF response to end a hostile conversation respectfully or to narrow the communication to focus on two choices to solve a problem. Giving the other person a choice of two options is respectful and considerate ways to problem solve. Having only two choices helps eliminate the other person feeling defensive by having no choice or feeling overwhelmed by having too many choices.

In order to be effective, Mr. Eddy believes suggesting positive behaviors and/or providing deadlines for change is the preferred content strategy. It may be useful to educate about possible consequences and set limits. This method avoids threats which are nonproductive in favor of explaining consequences which provides helpful information.

If a person who has communicated with you in a high conflict manner feels respected, calm and focused on neutral information, they may be able to let go of the conflict and get themselves back to calm, logical thought. They can relax and do not feel they have to defend themselves, so they no longer need to attack you. The skills taught by Mr. Eddy are useful to learn to manage relationships with all types of people: bosses, clients, and even family members.

At Peace Talks, we want to help you improve your communication skills and consider incorporating the BIFF email process while you are going through this time of trauma. Hopefully, the lessons you learn will bring you more peace in your relationships and make this mediation process a more peaceful one.

What Makes Divorce Expensive?

Let’s just get this out of the way from the start. There are many ways to get divorced. You can represent yourself – a kind of do it yourself method. You can choose mediation or a collaborative practice process. Or finally, you could select litigation. Obviously (and I hope it’s obvious), litigation is the most expensive way to go.

Numerous factors cause a litigated divorce to be expensive. Proceeding through the court system usually involves using an attorney who requires a retainer and charges an hourly fee. There are various court costs such as the filing of a Petition, a Response, and Motions. If your matter cannot be resolved, then you may choose to have a judge or jury trial, which can exponentially increase your expense. As the case progresses, there may also be a request for a child custody evaluation, in addition to potential adult and/or child therapy sessions. As discussed below, other expenses may come into play such as an asset evaluation, and the potential use of a variety of specialists including tax, accounting or child experts.

Another key factor in determining your fees is how your soon-to-be ex-spouse handles your case. This can escalate your costs, or keep them manageable. If a scorched-earth tack is taken, your entire community assets may be spent on attorneys’ fees, and leave nothing to divide. Even if the other side’s attitude is not hostile, the attorney may have a disagreeable personality and cause everything to be more difficult to accomplish and therefore, more expensive. In essence, an attorney can choose a litigation path that exacerbates the fear and heightens conflict in this situation and escalates costs. Alternatively, an attorney can chose a path, which avoids drama and conflict and make divorce easier, quicker and less expensive.

An additional cost inflator is a divorce that involves complex, unusual, or large amounts of financial assets, whichtypically require financial experts to value the financial assets and a fair amount of negotiation to reach a settlement over how to divide the assets. Some financial assets are difficult to divide in a divorce due to legal issues with who can hold title to the assets or merely finding ways to divide typically indivisible assets. Not all financial assets are easily sold or make sense to sell at the time of divorce, which can add another wrinkle in the property division. With the sale or transfer of financial assets can come tax implications for one or both parties and therefore including a tax professional is often necessary. (Cha-Ching!)

These issues can hold true not only for passive financial investments, but also for active business interests in which one or both spouses have management and/or ownership interests in a business. The business may not only be a source of assets for the marital estate, but also may be a source of income for one or both spouses. Valuing the assets plus analyzing the revenue stream may require expert valuation. If there are other owners in the business then that can create additional problems in negotiating how to deal with the parties’ ownership in the business as the other owners likely do not want to have the business become subject to the post-divorce involvement of both spouses.

Another cost inflator is fighting over custody issues. When the children become a focus of conflict in the divorce there are a number of expenses that may accrue. One or both parents may ask the court to appoint an attorney ad litem, a guardian ad litem, or an amicus attorney. These third parties provide various roles on behalf of the court or the children to advocate for the interests of the children rather than the parents. They can be helpful, but the parties will be the ones financing the costs of that third party. There may also be expenses involved in home studies, therapists, counselors and other professional services related to the children and their role in the conflict.

However, the ultimate sinkhole for money in a divorce is a Trial. Between the waiting for courtroom time, witnesses, experts and jurors, and the presentation of the evidence, you have very little control over the cash flow for this endeavor. Ultimately, the emotional benefit of having your day in court rarely matches the emotional detriment of spending all that time and money. Many people labor under the impression that by having their day in court, the judge will declare them the better spouse and give them a landslide victory on the property and child issues. That is generally not what happens. Judges tend to divide assets 50-50, and do what’s in the best interests of the child using their criteria, not yours. So ultimately bushels full of money are spent and no one is happier, just financially broke.

There are alternatives to litigation and an expensive divorce: mediation. There are no dueling lawyers and expensive court battles. Both parties come together with honesty, transparency and in good faith to reach an agreement, which they can live with and is in the best interests of their children. In this way, you are saving money, time, stress and energy that could be better spent moving on with your new lives.

At Peace Talks, our goal is to keep your costs at a minimum while at the same time to provide efficient, comprehensive, and emotional support and guidance through this family trauma. With excellent financial advice, you are able to strategize an agreement, which works best for your family needs and future. Call Peace Talks, and learn the definition of a “peaceful divorce”, and retain the financial ability to proceed forward with your life.

What is a Legal Separation?

In California, there are three ways to end a marriage: divorce, legal separation, and annulment. At Peace Talks we want you to know your options and we will focus on legal separation in this article. The process for a legal separation is similar to filing for a divorce, but there are some distinct considerations you should know. First, a legal separation does NOT end a marriage. Thus, if either of you want to remarry, you cannot. In essence, a legal separation, let’s you separate your finances and property and allows you to “trial” how things will be separated and handled as if it were a divorce.

The grounds for a legal separation are the same as they are for a divorce. However, there is no residency requirement for a legal separation. In other words, you do not need to have been residing in California for 6 months prior to filing with the court, but you must reside in the county where the papers are filed at the time the case commences. The written agreement filed with the court addresses and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the parties while they are living apart. This means the assignment of assets and the division of property and debts. In addition to delineating the finances, if there are children, the court documents will detail child custody and support arrangements, visitation schedules, and all the other issues that are handled in a regular divorce proceeding.

If you decide you want to separate, you also have the option of entering into a separation agreement. This would be a legally binding contract between the spouses that encompasses the same issues as a court ordered legal separation would, but is done without a judge.

There are some benefits for opting for a legal separation versus a divorce. A person’s marital status is preserved which can be important for religious reasons. Especially for couples who are unable to divorce, this alternative allows them to keep their status, yet live their lives as if they are unmarried. As mentioned above, it gives a couple an opportunities to live apart and see if divorce is actually what they want to do. By going through the legal separation process, you are establishing exactly how things would be handled if you were divorcing. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your decisions are what you can live with because usually a judge will look to the terms of your legal separation as the terms of your divorce.

Another benefit is the ability to continue your health insurance under your spouse’s coverage, but you will need to check to see if the policy addresses consequences if a couple separates.

Also, this status may allow you to keep certain military benefits. There is a ten year marriage rule to qualify for certain social security benefits, and if you have not met this anniversary, the time period of separation may allow you to reach this goal. There may also be possible tax benefits. Unlike a divorce that has a waiting time for finality of at least 6 months, a separation takes effect immediately after it is ordered.

If you are considering a divorce, but there is a potential for reconciliation, taking legal action may not be the choice to make. In many circumstances, couples filing for legal separation and going through this exhaustive process ultimately divorce in time. So it’s important to do some serious thinking before this decision is reached. At Peace Talks, we are available for consultation for both of you to consider all of your options and make the best choice for your family. Call us today. We are here to help.

Spousal Support- How is it calculated and how will I Receive any?

The issue of spousal support is always a part of any divorce case or mediation. The circumstances for an award of spousal support are evaluated individually and there is no automatic dollar determined for each person. The process of calculating spousal support is a process of weighing specific factors, which are provided in Family Law Code Section 4320. According to statute, the judge must consider the following circumstances in establishing permanent spousal support:

(a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:

(1) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.

(2) The extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.

(b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.

(c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.

(d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.

(e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.

(f) The duration of the marriage.

(g) The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.

(h) The age and health of the parties

(i) Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party.

(j) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.

(k) The balance of the hardships to each party.

(l) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court’s discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.

(m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Section 4325.

(n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

You can see from this laundry list of factors some sections may apply to your situation and others may not. It is important to know that during mediation at Peace Talks, spousal support is a topic that is discussed in the context of a negotiated agreement between both parties. Unlike the requirements of the court, we can consider the issues that are important to you and reach a spousal support figure that is specific to your family’s needs.

As mentioned in the long list above, the length of the marriage is considered. In a marriage of less than 10 years, the general rule is that the spousal support will last for half the length of the marriage. For example, if you were married for 5 years, your spousal support will last for two and a half years. However, the exact amount of time is left to the discretion of the court. Usually in longer marriages, the court will not give a definitive cut-off date for support. The burden will be on the party who is paying the support to demonstrate it is no longer needed. If you remarry, your spousal support is terminated.

Once you have separated, you may seek temporary spousal support. In a litigated case, to obtain support a motion for an order is necessary. The purpose of temporary spousal support is to maintain the living conditions and standards of both parties until permanent support has been established. The Superior Courts of Los Angeles and Orange County use a guideline called the Santa Clara Guideline formula for calculating temporary support. This guideline provides that spousal support can be up to 40% of his or her net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income. As with permanent spousal support, there may be extenuating circumstances, i.e. serious health condition of one spouse, that makes an increase (or at times, decrease) available.

If you do go to court to get an order for support, the judge will want to preserve the status quo and provide the requesting spouse with sufficient income for basic needs consistent with the parties’ lifestyle. It should be noted that the court would not order a spouse who has been the primary caretaker at home to seek immediate employment. However, a review of the spousal support factors above does require that an individual become self-supporting in a reasonable amount of time.

Again at Peace Talks, our clients wish to avail themselves of an open, transparent, and trusting mediation process. It is our experience that in most cases our clients are able to work out an amount of temporary support that preserves the status quo until the mediation is complete. We know treating each other with respect and dignity is important and everyone’s best interests will be considered.

Additional information to be aware of is the tax consequences of spousal support. The Internal Revenue Code provides that all spousal support payments are tax deductible by the paying spouse and taxable to the recipient spouse as “ordinary income.” Since we are able to discuss creative solutions at Peace Talks, it is possible that you may decide with your partner to not receive “spousal” support, but be compensated in another way to achieve the assistance that you need. That is the beauty of mediation.

Child Support- How Is It Calculated and How Will I Get It?

The issue of child support is always a part of any divorce case or mediation. The amount of child support you will pay is explained and determined according to the California Family Law Code. In order to ensure that California law conforms to the federal regulations for guideline child support, a complicated formula has been devised which looks mainly at two factors: each parent’s income and the time spent by each parent with the child/children. There are other additional factors which may impact the child support payment such as child care expenses, home mortgage payments, tax filing status and other costs specific to your family situation.

These numbers are inserted into a computer program called a Disso Master to calculate your child support payment. The determined amount is the minimum level of child support for each of your children that a judge will require you to pay. This computer calculation provides uniformity to child support across California.

It is important to know that during mediation at Peace Talks, a DissoMaster figure may be discussed; however, mediation results in a negotiated agreement between both parties. Thus, you and your partner may arrive at a child support figure that perhaps differs from the DissoMaster calculation, but can be acceptable to you based on facts specific to your family’s needs.

The principles behind the child support statutes are based on the belief that parents’ first and principal obligation is to support their children according to the parents’ situation and economic position in life. In translation, this means that children of a television celebrity may receive thousands of dollars of child support a month in consideration of their life style, which may include private schools and specialized lessons. In contrast, the children of two school teachers who attend public school could conceivably be awarded much less money in support.

Additionally, it is important to know that both parents are mutually responsible for the support their children. Furthermore, you should keep in mind that child support continues until your child is 18 years old or if your child is a full-time high school student and not self -supporting, your child support is extended until the child is 19 years old or completes 12th grade.

Additionally, the basic child support guideline amount may be increased by “add-ons”. These are specific expenses that parents may be ordered to contribute for the benefit of their children. Family Code Section 4062 lists two types of child support add-ons: mandatory and discretionary. The mandatory add-ons which the judge is required to order include child care costs related to the employment or to the reasonable necessary education of training for employment skills; and for the reasonable uninsured health care costs for the children. Discretionary add-ons include costs related to the educational or other special needs of the children and potential travel expenses for visitation. Both parents share these additional expenses equally unless this is not reasonable and then they are apportioned based on each person’s net spendable income.

There is a formula that the court uses to determine the parents’ respective net spendable income for the purposes of determining child support add-ons. Family Code Section §4061(b) provides that first the guideline child support amount is calculated. Then the amount of the guideline child support is deducted from the income of the paying parent, but not added to the income of the receiving parent. Finally, if one parent is paying spousal support, the amount of the spousal support is deducted from the income of the paying parent and added to the income of the receiving parent.

All of the above child support criteria are rules that are applied to a case that is in litigation. During a Peace Talks’ mediation all facets of support for your children are discussed and taking care of them both financially and emotionally are our key concerns. We will work with you to find a child support figure that fits for your family.

How does Team Mediation Work & Why is It So Effective?

Congratulations! You are considering mediation as the process for resolving your divorce. In contrast to litigation, mediation is the sane, efficient and cost effective way to work through your potentially difficult issues and preserve your family relationships. At Peace Talks, we use the “Team Mediation” approach and we want to share with you why this is so effective.

First, you are entering a process where you and your partner will be in control of the outcome. In other words, you will determine the terms of your property division, the planning for your children, and any child or spousal support. This freedom allows you to design an agreement that works for you and your family’s needs, not one dictated by the court system.

Next, a team will be assembled to facilitate your mediation sessions. Who are the team members and why is each one important to the process? As you are aware, part of the divorce procedure is to divide your community property – that is the property and assets acquired during your marriage. To assist with the financial matters, Peace Talks offers a financial neutral to help you organize, evaluate, budget and divide your property. The financial works with both parties to provide an objective view of your finances. This person is a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFATM) who has had advanced training in the specialization of divorce. By having a financial expert involved, you will have an accurate assessment of your financial picture and be able to make informed choices.

Another valuable team member is the mental health coach. From our experiences at Peace Talks, we have witnessed the traumatic and volatile nature of the divorce process. During mediation, you and your partner may have feelings of anger, hurt, humiliation, loss, abandonment or perhaps powerlessness. All these emotions are normal within the context of this overwhelming event. Our mental health coaches are professionally trained family and child specialists who are present in the room to help you process your emotions and keep the mediation moving as fast or as slowly as you want. If necessary, you may have a separate session with them in their office or request a break to get the mental health support you need.

The final team member is the attorney. This person has background in family law and can answer the “legal” questions that arise in connections with property, parenting or support issues. Having an attorney present also gives you an idea of what potential litigation outcomes could occur if your matter was proceeding in court instead of at Peace Talks. While the attorney is not there to give you specific legal advice, she will provide legal information when it is relevant or requested. You and your partner are always able to seek your own outside legal counsel at any point in the process.

Clearly a team approach ensures that all of your needs, whether financial, emotional or legal, will be met during Peace Talks mediation. Our goal is to make the process as cost effective, efficient and healthful as possible. We know when you have children their best interests are your focus and we want to achieve a successful outcome so that you can continue to interact with each other and your children for a lifetime. Call us so that our team can help make this happen for you!

California’s Cooling OFF Period

While California may be a “hot” state, we experience “cooling off” periods too. In a family law context, this “cooling off” specifically applies to the amount of time that must pass before a divorce is final. The theory behind this “cooling off” period is to prevent couples from rushing to divorce. In California, the law requires a six (6) month period before a divorce may be finalized. This means from the time that your Petition for Divorce is served until the time the clerk stamps you’re Judgment of Divorce, six months must have occurred. However, in reality in California the process actually takes much longer.

This extended time period could occur due to a number of factors. The first factor is the number of issues that the court is requested to resolve. The more issues there are, the longer the process. For example, if you have a short-term marriage (under ten years), no children and little property, your matter could possibly be resolved within the cooling off period (of course that’s assuming no contested matters). In contrast, if you have two children, one spouse self employed with a business to evaluate, the other spouse a stay at home party, a residence with rental property and a demand for extensive spousal support with contested custody, the case could take months, if not years.

The second factor that may complicate things is the personality of the parties. For example, if you or your spouse refuses to accept the inevitability of the divorce and is determined to do anything and everything to delay the divorce process, this can extend the proceedings well beyond six months.

Another factor to consider is the personality of your attorneys. If one of you retains an attorney who is focused on a global settlement and encourages dialogue, while the other attorney hired prefers to litigate about every single potential issue, the opportunity for a quick resolution may evaporate. Attorneys with different styles could create a contentious atmosphere which breeds motions and retaliation. Even if one of the parties does not want to engage in fighting, he or she must respond to the incoming missiles. This can be exacerbated if you or your partner has a large checkbook and can finance exorbitant legal fees.

The next factor is really out of your hands. This has to deal with the court’s calendar; since the judicial budget has been slashed by the legislature, the number of courtrooms and judicial officers has been dramatically reduced. Under these circumstances, matters can be continued several times due to the court’s limited courtroom availability. The reduction of court staff has also increased the turn around time of filed documents of Request and Declaration for Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

Another critical factor in elevating the amount of time divorces can take is the honesty of you and your spouse. The first step in the divorce process is the filing of Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure. Both of you are legally required to disclose your assets and debts –all of them. If either one of you fails to be transparent in your disclosures or provides incomplete information, this will cause undue delay as well as legal fees if motions and court intervention is needed to determine the total picture of your assets.

As you can see, a six-month cooling off period exists, but in reality, it is rare that a couple is able to complete their divorce process within six months. However another alternative is available to you if you want to resolve your divorce in a sane, sensible and fair way at a reasonable cost – try Mediation. Call us and see what mediation is all about.

5 Reasons to Keep Your Divorce Out of Social Media

Today, communication is instantaneous. Like the phrase, “a shot heard around the world”, an online post is sent into the media stratosphere with the potential to surface anywhere, be read by anyone and unfortunately remain forever. You’re getting divorced. You may or may not be happy about this, or perhaps worse case scenario, you had no idea your marriage was in trouble until you saw your spouse’s Facebook page or someone sent you a Snapchat or an Instagram of something you wish you never saw. We can use our imaginations and think of all kinds of compromising positions that could be seen online.

Let’s consider specific reasons to keep YOUR divorce off social media.

First, the divorce process begins. You’re hurt, maybe even devastated. Do you really want to cry your eyes out online? Consider your reputation and your integrity. Do you want potential employers, or your current employer knowing your emotional state of mind and potential thoughts of revenge?

Second, what if you make your case online concerning how you were wronged and disparage your partner’s actions and character. It is highly possible someone who sees this information may not see the situation the same way you do, and an endless back and forth of accusations and counter attacks occurs. And what do you do if you find out that your version of the facts was wrong. Social media is not a giant white board that you can easily erase.

Third, another critical issue to consider is your children and family. Chances are your children are much more social media savvy than you are. Anything that you post online will probably be found and read by them. It may even be re-posted or re-tweeted without your knowing about it. If they find criticisms and attacks of one of their parents, you may be doing irreparable harm to their relationship with you or your partner. It certainly does not make it easy to promote smooth visitations or family holidays. Furthermore, you will have no leg to stand on if you discipline or reprimand your child for his/her social media use.

Fourth, once information is placed on social media, it can be viewed and used by anyone. Consider this before your anger or desire for revenge prompts you to share private business or financial information about your spouse or you online. Unlike the Internal Revenue Service of yesteryear, the I.R.S. is online. They read social media, review court filings, and investigate bank loan applications among other things. When you disclose private information that may not be accurate, or that contradicts a document prepared under penalty of perjury, you run the risk of some very unpleasant results if that material falls into the wrong hands. And you should know that there is a whistleblower’s statute that provides for a third party to receive 30% of the revenue recovered by the I.R.S. based on the disclosed information. So think again when you decide to post your business balance sheets and recognize others may be watching

Fifth, while it is true, you may be going on social media with your divorce woes to solicit condolences and words of wisdom and encouragement that may not be the reaction you get. If your friends read your posts and grief journal, they may rally around you –at least initially. The chaos and turbulence of a divorce has a tendency to sweep everyone and everything overboard in its wake. The recovery from this trauma can be extensive and you may find your friendships on life support instead of being a lifeboat.

These are only a few reasons why your divorce should stay offline. As you can see, the consequences for failure to heed these warnings can be catastrophic for your finances, your job, your friends and most importantly your children. Think and pause before you go online. We are sure you will be glad you did.

How to File for a Divorce in California

At Peace Talks, an outstanding divorce mediation office, we feel it is very important that you know the California divorce family law process. Before we embark on explaining the California Family Law Court system, HOW TO FILE FOR DIVORCE IN CALIFORNIA.

At Peace Talks, an outstanding divorce mediation office, we feel it is very important that you know the California divorce family law process. Before we embark on explaining the California Family Law Court system, we want to make sure you know that going to court is not the only way to solve family law disputes. Divorce mediation at Peace Talks is an excellent alternative.

Divorce Mediation in Los Angeles and California is preferable because:
1) You will directly participate in finding solutions;
2) You will be able to resolve your dispute sooner;
3) It will be much less expensive;
4) You will end the process with a better relationship with your former spouse; and
5) It will be less stressful than court hearings.

These are all excellent reasons to choose mediation for your divorce in Los Angeles or in the state of California.

With that being said, it’s important that you are knowledgeable about the Family Law Courts and the role they play in your divorce or divorce mediation. Once you have decided that you want to get divorced either through the court method or divorce mediation, many legal forms have to be filed to begin and complete the process. If you choose to hire an attorney, that professional will file the paperwork for you after learning all of the relevant facts about your case. If you decide to do it yourself, you will need to complete the forms and file them with the court. At Peace Talks, we file these California divorce court forms for you after discussing them with you at your initial mediation session.

All the necessary California divorce forms are available online on the California Courts website (www.courts.ca.gov). The court has provided instructions and videos for every form. Most of the material is comprehensible and the information makes it easier to work through the process; however with divorce mediation at Peace Talks, we explain all the information to you in detail.

While all California courts use the same basic set of forms, there may be additional forms required based on which county you live in. When you go online and select the courthouse you will be filing in, there will be additional links and information to determine which additional forms, if any, are needed. Peace Talks suggests you avoid this potentially complicated process and choose us to file the court forms for your divorce mediation.

In order to begin the divorce process in California, you or your spouse needs to complete a Petition for Divorce Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-100). By completing the Petition, you are now the “Petitioner” or initiator of this case. Along with the Petition, you will need a Summons (Family Law Form FL-110), and Proof of Service of Summons (Family Law Form FL-115).

Divorcing in California requires a six (6) month “cooling off” period before a divorce may be finalized to prevent couples from rushing to divorce. The counting of the California six-month “cooling off” period does not begin until the Petitioner has served the Petition on the Respondent (your spouse, the responding party). While these forms come with instructions, Peace Talks’ team of divorce mediators will take the guesswork out and streamline the process for you through divorce mediation.

If you have children under the age of 18 years old, the court requires additional documents to be filed. By submitting your case to the court’s jurisdiction, the judge now has the power to determine the custody and child support awarded in your case. Therefore, you need to complete the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (Family Law Form FL-105/GC120), the Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (optional Family Law Form FL-311), and the Property Declaration (optional Family Law Form FL-160). Please note that all the declarations and sworn statements must be signed in the presence of a notary. When you fill out these forms with Peace Talks’ mediators, we supply the notary and the filing of these documents is handled quickly and efficiently for you.

After the Respondent, your soon to be ex-spouse, is served with the Petition, he or she must complete the Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-120) and either Proof of Personal Service (Family Law Form FL-330) or Proof of Service by Mail (Family Law Form FL-335) depending on how the Respondent chooses to serve his or her response. Again if there are children, the Respondent needs to complete the Family Law Form FL-105/GC-120 (the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) and the Family Law Form FL -311 concerning custody and visitation. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, these forms are completed simultaneously and filed for you in the proper order.

As the Petitioner, once you have completed the above-mentioned documents, you need to go to your local courthouse. There at the clerk’s office you will file the Summons, Petition, and the relevant forms if you have children. To find your local courthouse, you may enter your zip code on the superior court website for the county within which you reside. It should be noted that in order to obtain a divorce in California, you must have been a resident of the state for the prior six months. Furthermore, you must have lived in the county in which you filed for at least the prior three months. All of these concerns are handled by Peace Talks. You do not need to go to court; your divorce mediator handles the filing of the forms for you and makes sure that you have complied with all of the legal requirements.

There is a filing fee for filing your Petition and other documents. The only way to avoid the fee is to fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), which will be reviewed by the court. If the court agrees that your income information dictates that you cannot afford the fee, it will be waived. The court clerk will take your documents, enter a file stamp and return copies to you. At Peace Talks, the cost of filing the forms is included in the affordable cost of your divorce mediation.

The next step in this process is to serve your Petition on your spouse. Since the Petition is the document that initiates the case, there are special rules to follow. For a fee, you can serve your documents by having a county sheriff or professional process server deliver the documents. If your spouse has an attorney, the service must be done on his or her counsel. If your spouse has not retained a lawyer and is representing him or herself, use the individual’s place of residence. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, all service costs and fees are avoided since we handle everything for you.

Another method of service is to ask a responsible friend or relative over the age of 18 years old who is not involved in the case to hand deliver the papers to your spouse. If your spouse will cooperate, you may use the service by mail option and, along with a stamped copy of the Petition and other relevant documents you filed with the court, provide a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt (Family Law Form FL-117) for your spouse to complete. Your spouse will return this Notice to you for filing with the court. Since Peace Talks divorce mediation is a peaceful and cooperative process between you and your spouse, the service of forms will never be an issue and you can focus on the reorganization of your family.

As described above, the family law court system may seem overwhelming, but the superior court’s website and other online sites offer extensive information on how to file for divorce in California. BUT WHY DEAL WITH THIS? Consider divorce mediation at Peace Talks. Why? Because once a legal action commences, the attorneys and parties usually view the case as a win/loose proposition. Each side will do all it can to “beat” the other side. This may involve piles of discovery, questions and documents that you have to prepare, and quite possibly your deposition, your sworn testimony before a court reporter taken by your spouse’s attorney. Each of these stages of the case is time consuming, expensive, and potentially stressful for you and your family. Call Peace Talks instead and learn how Peace Talks divorce mediation can help you with the peaceful reorganization of your family through mediation. You will be glad you did. Contact us at (310) 301-2100.

e want to make sure you know that going to court is not the only way to solve family law disputes. Divorce mediation in Los Angeles is an excellent alternative.

Divorce Mediation in California is preferable because:
1) You will directly participate in finding solutions;
2) You will be able to resolve your dispute sooner;
3) It will be much less expensive;
4) You will end the process with a better relationship with your former spouse; and
5) It will be less stressful than court hearings.

These are all excellent reasons to choose mediation for your divorce.

With that being said, it’s important that you are knowledgeable about the Family Law Courts and the role they play in your divorce or divorce mediation. Once you have decided that you want to get divorced either through the court method or divorce mediation, many legal forms have to be filed to begin and complete the process. If you choose to hire an attorney, that professional will file the paperwork for you after learning all of the relevant facts about your case. If you decide to do it yourself, you will need to complete the forms and file them with the court. At Peace Talks, we file these California divorce court forms for you after discussing them with you at your initial mediation session.

All the necessary California divorce forms are available online on the California Courts website (www.courts.ca.gov). The court has provided instructions and videos for every form. Most of the material is comprehensible and the information makes it easier to work through the process; however with divorce mediation at Peace Talks, we explain all the information to you in detail.

While all California courts use the same basic set of forms, there may be additional forms required based on which county you live in. When you go online and select the courthouse you will be filing in, there will be additional links and information to determine which additional forms, if any, are needed. Peace Talks suggests you avoid this potentially complicated process and choose us to file the court forms for your divorce mediation.

In order to begin the divorce process in California, you or your spouse needs to complete a Petition for Divorce Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-100). By completing the Petition, you are now the “Petitioner” or initiator of this case. Along with the Petition, you will need a Summons (Family Law Form FL-110), and Proof of Service of Summons (Family Law Form FL-115).

California law requires a six (6) month “cooling off” period before a divorce may be finalized to prevent couples from rushing to divorce. The counting of the California six-month “cooling off” period does not begin until the Petitioner has served the Petition on the Respondent (your spouse, the responding party). While these forms come with instructions, Peace Talks’ team of divorce mediators will take the guesswork out and streamline the process for you through divorce mediation.

If you have children under the age of 18 years old, the court requires additional documents to be filed. By submitting your case to the court’s jurisdiction, the judge now has the power to determine the custody and child support awarded in your case. Therefore, you need to complete the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (Family Law Form FL-105/GC120), the Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (optional Family Law Form FL-311), and the Property Declaration (optional Family Law Form FL-160). Please note that all the declarations and sworn statements must be signed in the presence of a notary. When you fill out these forms with Peace Talks’ mediators, we supply the notary and the filing of these documents is handled quickly and efficiently for you.

After the Respondent, your soon to be ex-spouse, is served with the Petition, he or she must complete the Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Family Law Form FL-120) and either Proof of Personal Service (Family Law Form FL-330) or Proof of Service by Mail (Family Law Form FL-335) depending on how the Respondent chooses to serve his or her response. Again if there are children, the Respondent needs to complete the Family Law Form FL-105/GC-120 (the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act) and the Family Law Form FL -311 concerning custody and visitation. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, these forms are completed simultaneously and filed for you in the proper order.

As the Petitioner, once you have completed the above-mentioned documents, you need to go to your local courthouse. There at the clerk’s office you will file the Summons, Petition, and the relevant forms if you have children. To find your local courthouse, you may enter your zip code on the superior court website for the county within which you reside. It should be noted that in order to obtain a divorce in California, you must have been a resident of the state for the prior six months. Furthermore, you must have lived in the county in which you filed for at least the prior three months. All of these concerns are handled by Peace Talks. You do not need to go to court; your divorce mediator handles the filing of the forms for you and makes sure that you have complied with all of the legal requirements.

There is a filing fee for filing your Petition and other documents. The only way to avoid the fee is to fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), which will be reviewed by the court. If the court agrees that your income information dictates that you cannot afford the fee, it will be waived. The court clerk will take your documents, enter a file stamp and return copies to you. At Peace Talks, the cost of filing the forms is included in the affordable cost of your divorce mediation.

The next step in this process is to serve your Petition on your spouse. Since the Petition is the document that initiates the case, there are special rules to follow. For a fee, you can serve your documents by having a county sheriff or professional process server deliver the documents. If your spouse has an attorney, the service must be done on his or her counsel. If your spouse has not retained a lawyer and is representing him or herself, use the individual’s place of residence. By using Peace Talks divorce mediation, all service costs and fees are avoided since we handle everything for you.

Another method of service is to ask a responsible friend or relative over the age of 18 years old who is not involved in the case to hand deliver the papers to your spouse. If your spouse will cooperate, you may use the service by mail option and, along with a stamped copy of the Petition and other relevant documents you filed with the court, provide a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt (Family Law Form FL-117) for your spouse to complete. Your spouse will return this Notice to you for filing with the court. Since Peace Talks divorce mediation is a peaceful and cooperative process between you and your spouse, the service of forms will never be an issue and you can focus on the reorganization of your family.

As described above, the family law court system may seem overwhelming, but the superior court’s website and other online sites offer extensive information on how to file for divorce in California. BUT WHY DEAL WITH THIS? Consider divorce mediation at Peace Talks. Why? Because once a legal action commences, the attorneys and parties usually view the case as a win/loose proposition. Each side will do all it can to “beat” the other side. This may involve piles of discovery, questions and documents that you have to prepare, and quite possibly your deposition, your sworn testimony before a court reporter taken by your spouse’s attorney. Each of these stages of the case is time consuming, expensive, and potentially stressful for you and your family. Call Peace Talks instead and learn how Peace Talks divorce mediation can help you with the peaceful reorganization of your family through mediation. You will be glad you did. Contact us at (310) 301-2100.

Divorce Continuum

Divorce Resolution Continuum

By Diana Mercer, Attorney-Mediator, copyright 2003

The decision to divorce is followed by a number of choices for how a case might be filed and later resolved. Some of the steps are a loop, and others may be mixed and matched, but the general continuum, from least confrontational to most confrontational, is:

Decision to Divorce

• No response: spouse ignores petition, or is missing = proceed by Default

• Kitchen Table discussion on how to resolve case, do-it-yourself papers

• See a lawyer, get an idea of rights, then resolve around the Kitchen Table and DIY

• Use a paralegal or one lawyer to draft the papers, no individual representation

• Individual representation with lawyer for one party only who helps parties settle informally, without court

Mediation

• Mediation with lawyers involved, to a more or lesser degree

• Streamlined Collaborative Divorce

• Collaborative Divorce

• Start litigation

• Litigation at first but ultimately settle

• Litigation at first, but use Private Judge or Arbitrator for final decision

• Litigation and Trial

Know your choices. Litigation attorneys have a reputation for determining the total amount of your net assets, dividing by their hourly rate, and then that’s how long your case takes. Some cases cannot avoid litigation, but understand the toll and the cost. https://www.peace-talks.com/compare.php

Divorce and the Economy

At what price sanity?

I’m no stranger to divorce during bad financial times.  I was admitted to the bar in 1988, during a huge financial downturn. Pretty quickly after that, there was a huge mortgage meltdown, sort of like what’s happening now, and everyone’s house was upside down (they owed more than it was worth).

This time is different, however.  Back in the day, most of my clients who were broke simply moved back to their parents’ house. Nowadays, that just doesn’t seem to be happening as much. Instead, people continue to try to live together to save money.

It sounds like such a good idea–let’s just decide how to divide the bills and stay out of each other’s way, and we’ll just stay in the same apartment or house until the economy improves.  And if you weren’t invovled in a love relationship that’s gone south, it probably would be a good idea.

What people don’t anticipate is that once you’ve decided that the love relationship is over, and separation or divorce is imminent, it gets harder and harder to live together like roommates.  Because you’re not roommates. You’re former partners. And as much as I’ve gotten into fights with roommates (my freshman dorm roommate who addicted to the Oak Ridge Boys comes to mind) they’re nothing like the kinds of fights we can get into with people we’ve been intimate with, and people with whom we started to build dreams.

There’s a big difference.

So in the mediation room, we hear, “Oh no, we’ll be fine living together, don’t worry!” and we respond, “That might be true for you, but I’ve got to tell you, our experience is that one day we’re going to get a call from one of you telling us the other person is in jail because you had a fight and someone called the police.”

divorce fight

And most of the time, we’re right.

It’s really sad. “I didn’t mean to have her arrested!” our client protests. “You can thank OJ Simpson for the automatic arrest rule,” we reply.  Let’s face it. If it’s urgent and important enough to call 911, surely someone ought to be arrested or in an ambulance. Right? 

It makes sense when you think about it.

So when you’re pinching pennies in your divorce (which is a good idea) be careful to think about the potential fallout from cutting back on that particular item.  Would you rather couch surf, or spend the night in lockup?

If you pick a bargain lawyer, mediator or therapist, are you really getting the kind of service that will serve your long term goals?

If you refuse to spend money on accountants or appraisals the professionals helping you with your case tell you you need, you’re saving money now, but will it save you or cost you in the long run?

And don’t forget the non-direct monetary costs.

Do you think it’s random bad luck that a huge percentage of our divorcing clients have recently lost their jobs? Of course, we’re in the middle of a terrible economic time, but if these folks had been less embroiled in their divorce fight and more engaged at their jobs, would they have been the ones laid off? 

Can your credit score rebound from “I’m not paying the credit card this month, YOU are!” type of fights?

Can your kids rebound from your fight at their soccer game in front of their friends?

So when you consider the cost of divorce, also consider your short and long term divorce goals.

Diana Mercer is a mediator with Peace Talks Mediation Services, Inc., and the co-author of Making Divorce Work (Penguin 2010).

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Family Mediation and “Failure”

A client told me this week, “I think that divorce is one of the great failings of adulthood.” 

If it was only that simple.

family mediation

Let’s face it. We fail a lot of the time. And if we never fail, it means we’re not taking enough chances and not trying enough new things.  People who never fail are failing to challenge themselves.

Of course, nobody opts into the divorce system on purpose.  When you get married, you think it’s for keeps. Divorce is definitely not Plan A. It’s probably not even Plan B or Plan C.  But when it happens to you, you have a choice of how you handle it. 

You can scorch the earth, gossip to all your mutual friends, and slash your spouse’s tires.  That’s one way. It’s actually more popular than it should be.

But as a responsible adult (which this client is) you can choose to deal with divorce and other unfortunate things that happen in a respectful, sane way.  Click to find out how Family Mediation works.  There are so many choices for divorce nowadays that running to a lawyer isn’t necessary.

As much as he felt he’d failed, or that his spouse had failed, in creating a lasting marriage, ultimately he didn’t fail to be a responsible adult.  

There are some things in life that we can control and some things we can’t.  What we can control is our reaction, and actions, once these things happen.  And this is where he succeeded.  He could’ve run off to court, but he chose to mediate. And when the discussion was difficult, he didn’t give up. He kept coming back to mediation…and ultimately, this couple figured it out.

Bad things happen to good people.  They happen all the time.  My mom, the kindest, gentlest person in the world, died of cancer in 2010.  My friend who adopted a drug-addicted baby from foster care has a brain tumor. The bad things that happen are not necessarily because you failed.

And even if you did fail, the measure of a person’s character is how you deal with that failure, not the fact that you failed.

  • Did you do everything you could to save your marriage? 
  • Did you speak frankly and respectfully to your spouse about your marital problems?
  • Did you seek counseling or outside help?

And if none of that worked, did you leave your marriage in an honest, honorable, respectful way?

Family mediation gives you the opportunity to do exactly that.  You can honor the years you spent together and the good things you gave each other when you mediate your divorce.   Sure, the last couple of years probably haven’t been so good, but you got married because you were in love (or at least you thought that you’d be a lasting couple) so surely there were some good times.

And if you have children, certainly they are part of the gifts you gave each other.

 

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Divorce in California

California has its own personality with divorce.  One of only 9 states that follows Community Property law, California seems intent on doing things its own way.

But a divorce in California doesn’t need to be complicated. At least not the legal part.

Mediation provides a way for couples to get divorced in a respectful, thoughtful and informed way without “giving away the farm.”

mediation california

Because California community property law is so simple:  everything is 50/50 from the date of the marriage until the date of separation (assets, debts, everything), the complex part becomes all about the exceptions to the very simple rule.  And there are plenty of exceptions.

What I like about mediation, at least mediation with an attorney-mediator, is that you can talk about the rules and the exceptions, and the laws and case law that supports each side in a very open way.  When we have these legal discussions at Peace Talks, if it’s something clear-cut under the law, we can give people a copy of the law, or a handout that explains. 

If it’s something more complicated, I can say, “If I was husband’s attorney, this is what I would argue, and here’s the law that supports his position,” and then, in the same breath, “If I was wife’s attorney, this is what I would argue, and here’s the law that supports her position.”

Once everyone has heard both sides, we can then talk about what seems fair. 

The problem with going to only 1 attorney, individually, is that you’d just hear the argument that favored your side, while your spouse would be in another attorney’s office hearing the argument that favors the other side.  See the issue?

I’m convinced that when people have the information, time, and support that they need to make a good decision, that they will make a good decision.  And that’s what mediation is all about.

Sometimes I hear criticism of mediation, like that a participant is feeling like the mediator is taking sides, or that their position isn’t being heard.  Speak up!  Part of a mediator’s job is to make sure you don’t feel that way, but sometimes it’s not clear from the discussion that someone is uncomfortable.  Bring it up!  It’s really important to the process, and your mediator WANTS to hear that you feel like the mediation isn’t working.  It’s much easier to fix that problem in the session, while you’re there with the mediator, than afterwards.

If you do speak up and your mediator gets defensive, then maybe it’s time to switch mediators.  It’s the mediator’s job to hear everyone’s side and where they’re coming from, even if the mediator doesn’t personally agree. After all, it’s about the clients and participants, not about the mediator.

Want to learn more about mediation?  Check out these resources, or schedule an appointment with a Peace Talks Mediator:

About mediation

FAQ about mediation

Pros and Cons of Mediation

 

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