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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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

Low Cost Divorce

In response to the recession, Peace Talks now offers a couple of new services.
I hope you’ll keep us in mind if you come across couples needing either of the following:
1) $995 paperwork only service: for couples who already have an agreement and who just need the paperwork, we’ll do all of that for $995. This is no mediation time, no contact with an attorney or mediator….just my paralegal who will do the intake and all the paperwork. She is also a trained mediator and is able to handle minor things that come up, but Plan A is that people already have an agreement.
As a practical matter, an attorney drafts the “important parts” of the Judgment. I also supervise and proofread.
divorce mediation
2) A sliding fee scale:
This is for clients who need mediation time and our attorney-mediator + therapist-mediator team, but who legitimately aren’t in a position to pay our full fee:

Sliding Scale Service Agreement: To qualify for a reduced rate, you and your spouse must have $100,000 or less in combined gross income and less than $200,000 in net assets.

 Sliding Scale Rates:

Mediation time: $395 per hour (almost a 40% discount)

Petition and Response flat fee: $250

Judgment Package flat fee: $995

book-a-freeappointment-with-a

Los Angeles Superior Court Update: Budget Cuts

I went to a meeting today with the Honorable Thomas Trent Lewis at the Los Angeles Superior Court. He wanted to update the family law bar, forensic accountants, and custody expert witnesses about what exactly is going on at the court given all the budget cuts.

los angeles superior court

It was pretty interesting. Infuriating, but interesting.

Background below. Here’s what made me nuts:

The Judge said something to the effect of:

Personal Property and Divorce: Consignment Offers Solutions

Personal Property and Divorce:  Family Focused Consignment Offers Solutions

Guest Blog By Mark A. Roger

Proprietor; Backroom @ WestClay

Divorce brings with it upheaval and turmoil; navigating the dissolution of a relationship takes an emotional toll of both parties.  The dissolution and assignment of property; and cost of establishing new residences compound the situation.  Once your discussion moves beyond the legal assignment of property, consignment is a family focused venue for securing the greatest value for your property, done in a timely basis and an affordable way to create a new living space while building your new life.

Furniture Consignment

 Consignment specialists who are family focused provide tools and knowledge that is valuable throughout the divorce process.  Partnering with a consignment specialist through mediation and assignment of property adds an objective voice to an emotional journey.  Specifically, a consignment specialist will:

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