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.