Tax Breaks for the Divorced Circa 2019

Tax Breaks for the Divorced Circa 2019 - Peace Talks Divorce Mediation - Taxes, Tax Refund, Divorce“Lower tax-refunds” has been a subject in the news a lot recently. It is something that that’s a real issue for most people paying taxes.

The fact that less tax may have, indeed, been taken out doesn’t soften the blow when that check is disappointing and deflated from previous years.

There are strategies available to help counter some of the unfavorable changes in the tax laws and your fiduciary advisor should be able you navigate through those options. Here are some ideas from Kiplinger that might help in forming a plan, to lessen the likelihood of a negative surprise next year.

If you’re recently divorced, add your tax situation to the long list of complications you need to deal with. For starters, if you haven’t already done so, you need to file a new W-4 form with your employer to increase or decrease the amount withheld from your paycheck.

It is perfectly legal for the noncustodial parent to claim one of these credits for a son or daughter if the other parent signs a waiver agreeing not to claim an exemption for the same child on his or her return.

Taxable alimony counts as compensation for the purposes of making IRA contributions.

Hi Jeff re: The Beautiful Quote from MacKenzie – A Tribute to Your “Friendship & Family”

The Beautiful Quote from MacKenzie – A Tribute to Your “Friendship & Family” - Peace-Talks Mediation Divorce - Jeff Bezos, Divorce, Family, Divorce MediationHi Jeff,

As a mediator in the often-acrimonious world of divorce-negotiations I was so floored by the quote below from you and Mackenzie that I had to write and thank her:

 Dear Mackenzie,
As a divorce mediator I would, on behalf of my colleagues, like to thank you for the brilliant encapsulation of the goals that we’d like all our couples to achieve. As a divorced mom I know that these are the things that my kids should never have doubts about for the rest of our lives together. This quote will be displayed in our office so that every couple walking in the door sees how high the bar is set and what we are committed to accomplishing with them.

Later on I realized that I should acknowledge your part in this “Mantra” for peaceful resolution and I’m going to display it in our office as I hope it will inspire others. This is a beautiful encapsulation of what every mediator tries to achieve with every family’s goals as we reach their final agreement and they are prepared for new beginnings.

Thanks to You & Mackenzie for the inspiration,

Stephanie Maloney
PeaceTalks Mediation

We want to make people aware of a development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends. We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other. If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again. We’ve had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals in pursuing ventures and adventures. Though the labels might be different, we remain a family, and we remain cherished friends.

Jeff & MacKenzie Bezo

Letter To MacKenzie Bezos

To: MacKenzie Bezos
c/o The Los Angeles Times

Dear Mackenzie,

As a divorce mediator I would, on behalf of my colleagues, like to thank you for the brilliant encapsulation of the goals that we’d like all our couples to achieve. As a divorced mom I know that these are the things that my kids should never have doubts about for the rest of our lives together. The quote below will be displayed in our office so that every couple walking in the door sees how high the bar is set and what we are committed to accomplishing with them.

Gratefully Yours,

Stephanie M. Maloney
PeaceTalks Mediation

“We want to make people aware of a development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends. We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other. If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again. We’ve had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals in pursuing ventures and adventures. Though the labels might be different, we remain a family, and we remain cherished friends.”

“Taxi Driver” Divorce Delayed

It would be difficult to find a celebrity that tries harder to avoid publicity than Robert De Niro but privacy is the true cost of fame and everybody pays eventually.

This is a brilliant example of how cooperation could have saved everyone incredibleembarrassment and pain. What struck me immediately from all the stories was the quote from his friend:

 A source close to De Niro was quoted as saying that “This could be resolved very privately and quietly behind closed doors but“Bobby’s”estranged wife is torturing the publicity shy actor by forcing him to go to court and run a gauntletof reporters and photographers.”

The evident anger that is displayed here gets a little more confusing when you consider that this is their secondtime in divorce court. The couple first filed for a separation in 1999 —at the time they were in a custody fight over their now-20-year-old son, Elliot. They later reconciled and renewed their vows in 2004.

So the publicity the family members are being flooded with represents the exact thing they could have avoided had they been open to engaging a mediator instead of a Judge. All of this could have been less painful if they had a mutually satisfactory “Settlement Agreement” in place as a kind of protectionand bond. This is precisely the goal of every PeaceTalks relationship, to provide couples with an agreeable path to successful cooperation.

Here are a few descriptions of scenes, which could have been avoided, at the courthouse:

Robert De Niro struck his best “Taxi Driver” glare for reporters as he tried to keep his divorce and custody battle quiet by securing an “Anonymous v. Anonymous” caption on the case but word of his presence quickly spread and the gawkers gathered.

They had been waging a secret custody battle over the 7-year-old girl they had through a surrogate. The “Raging Bull” actor kept the divorce filing quiet by securing a coveted “Anonymous v. Anonymous” caption on the case, records show.

He remained adamant about keeping details of the negotiations hush-hush as he and his estranged wife of more than 20 years, Grace Hightower, sat at opposite ends of the courtroom. At one point, he shushed his lawyers as they hashed out custody arrangements for the couple’s 7-year-old daughter in the courtroom gallery.

The two studiously avoided one another — De Niro hid behind his newspaper while Hightower, read a book and glanced at her phone. Sources said the two have a prenuptial agreement but Justice Matthew Cooper said that the former couple had made “some progress on some difficult issues” but will still have to resolve “particulars” of a settlement and exchange statements of net worth.

De Niro and Hightower had just spent hours in Manhattan Supreme Court, where their lawyers holed up behind closed doors to hash out their divorce.

It’s torture indeed being forced to spend the day in court, but with mediation, very possibly avoidable for people that can agree to be agreeable, if only for the kids.

Divorce Mediation Primer

Divorce Mediation Primer - Peace Talks Mediation Services - Mediation, Divorce Mediation, Conflict ResolutionI came across a nice synopsis of why mediation for your divorce may be the smartest choice.

It is safe to say that most couples facing divorce expect the experience to be agonizing as well as exhausting. Ending a marriage, and the ensuing divorce, is one of the most emotional events of a lifetime. Since couples anticipate a difficult time, many wish they could find an easier path and if this sounds like your situation, then divorce mediation may be your best solution.

• May benefit children: When kids of divorce see their parents work together to resolve conflicts, it often helps them feel more secure about the breakup.

• More affordable: In nearly all cases, divorce mediation imposes fewer costs than traditional litigation. Mediation may also proceed faster than a courtroom divorce.

• Reduces anxiety: The idea of going to court causes many couples to feel anxious. An out of court solution helps to reduce these feelings of anxiety.

Divorce mediation does not work for everyone, so it is crucial to seek a legal opinion to determine if you and your spouse are good candidates. In the end, anything you can do to make the process of divorcing as easy as possible for you and your children, it is worth the effort. Call the office with any questions you’d like to talk over.

Creative Co-Parenting

One of the great dynamics that we participate in at our Divorce Mediation sessions at PeaceTalks is the age-old mantra “necessity is the mother of invention.” Once we’re able to establish a common goal for our couples in each of the areas involving conflict it’s amazing how quickly they discover resolutions through cooperation and creativity. By treating each situation and its possible solutions differently, according to the needs of the moment, people find a way to do what is best for the family, especially when it means making some unexpected “cooperative adjustments” in the schedule.

Adjustments will always be part of the daily plan but they will vary with the respective ages of the kids, as the issues will be different with each age group. I’ve put in a link to a very informative piece by a local authority on this subject and here are a couple of highlights:

Babies and toddlers tend to be the most challenging group for which to plan a reliable schedule. Babies need consistency, and even little changes in their schedules can put them in a state of distress. It is important for the other parent to see children at this age often—around 2 to 3 times a week for several hours. 

As your child gets older, it is a good idea to slowly transition into overnight visits in order to help your child adjust to an unfamiliar schedule. Alternating one full day every other week is a good way to see if your child is okay being away from their primary caretaker.

Teens and older children have less predictable schedules and are thus harder to accommodate. It is important to consider your child’s social lives and busy schedules when planning how to organize visits between parents.

While flexibility is essential when first trying out a new plan, it is important to eventually agree on a fixed schedule in order to help your child maintain stability in their everyday lives.

Leyla Balakhane is a distinguished and experienced mediator, facilitator, coach, and trainer in the Los Angeles area, specializing in high conflict divorce and family law.

https://www.mediate.com/articles/balakhane-effective-parenting-plans.cfm

Amazon Fairness and Divorce, Oh My!

For anyone who can’t let go of that “Money=Happiness” thing, just read and be kind of glad that you don’t have so much money that God borrows from you.

The divorce fairness issue that Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos don’t have to worry about

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/11/opinions/divorce-unfair-bezos-opinion-cohen/index.html

Less Painful Divorces

With just less than half of married partners ending in divorce, therapists over time have developed some suggestions for making the process possibly less painful for everyone.

You will see from these suggestions why PeaceTalks always makes sure a therapist is available for both parties for every session. You can see a thread with these ideas that reinforces the principle that this is between the two of you and nobody else.

It’s always a great thing when a couple gets helpful advice but one of the primary benefits of Divorce Mediation is the fact that you are in control.

Once the decision is made the announcement should be as simple, heartfelt, and brief as possible.

The reaction might seem to call for an explanation but it’s best to let things play out before getting into the “why’s” and “how’s” of your relationship and its new direction.

Unsolicited advice will be one of the first reactions you encounter and remember it’s not your job to justify your decisions or to act upon a loved one’s advice. You can always be grateful but non-committal as you navigate through the well intentioned and the misinformed.

Divorce Mediation Means Talking

In getting to a mutually agreeable divorce settlement we make progress, literally, by getting couples to communicate with each other. Many couples find it difficult to communicate. Our therapist mediator will provide tools to better communication and can also facilitate a “difficult conversation.”Communication is an interactive process, and text messages can be a great way to stay in contact, but too much can be lost in tone for real communication.

At the PeaceTalks table we establish a neutral ground for couples to exchange their points of view and identify the goals of their mediation. The questions and answers are the bricks for the foundation of the settlement agreement but not all of the work gets done at the table.

Throughout the process and even after the final decree couples have to deal with a lot of decisions that require cooperation. We set the tone in our mediations that reinforces the idea that a problem needs to be addressed early especially when someone is in distress.  When a person is having difficulty simply asking, “How can I help?” can be a way to start.

If you only reach out when something is wrong and don’t balance that with positive conversations, it will be difficult to communicate in a healthy way. Call just to share some good news. Sharing positive moments can make a difference.

This is a process that you are learning to manage and listening to each other can make things much easier for everybody.Your family can benefit from conversations that are open, and respectful and your relationships will improve as your family learns to feel more at ease.

If you have questions about Mediation please call the office and we will have a chat about your situation.

Amazon Fairness and Divorce, Oh My!

For anyone who can’t let go of that “Money=Happiness” thing, just read and be kind of glad that you don’t have so much money that God borrows from you.

The divorce fairness issue that Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos don’t have to worry about

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/11/opinions/divorce-unfair-bezos-opinion-cohen/index.html

Change In Divorce Mediation for 2019

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law that changes the California Evidence Code that requires attorneys representing clients in mediation to provide disclosures in writing about mediation confidentiality. The attorney must provide the disclosures to clients BEFORE the client agrees to participation in mediation, or AFTER if the client hires the attorney after agreeing to mediation. The law tells attorneys what this disclosure must say and how it must be formatted. The client must sign the disclosure form. The law went into effect on January 1, 2019.

This is a real example of why PeaceTalks maintains the teamwork dynamic and associations with litigators that save time and prevent worries about details being handled thoroughly and correctly throughout the process. We make sure that you are aware of exactly what needs to be done and by when as we offer access to advisors that we trust to provide information, guidance, and support.

Anytime there is a change in procedure or the introduction a new form we make sure that everything is handled in a timely manner and nothing catches you by surprise. If you have considered mediation to help with your divorce but you have questions more suited to a conversation, please call the office and we’ll find a time to talk.

Post Divorce Portfolio Balancing Act

All investors review their investments annually, and in light of the market’s recent volatility, it would be wise to review your investments soon as the new tax laws may affect your strategies. “Rebalancing” may be in order if your portfolio’s asset allocation no longer meets your current long-term objectives.As always, you should consult with your tax preparer and financial advisor to ensure that whatever changes have occurred in your life are reflected in your fiduciary’s overall plan.

It’s easy to see why PeaceTalks relies on the teamwork dynamic of involving tax and investment specialists in all our mediations. From the start couples build individual strategies as the assets are divided until a settlement agreement is reached and they sign off to their mutual satisfaction. We refer people, when necessary, from our group of trusted associates and we work seamlessly with whomever a client trusts.

The following has been excerpted from and article in The Press-Enterprise by Terry Parker. Look over these ideas and see if something might aid you in your preparation and planning. If you have a question please contact the office anytime.

Tax-Loss Harvesting
Are you holding an investment that has lost value since it was purchased in your taxable portfolio? Intentionally selling this investment at a lost to reduce your tax liability is called tax-loss harvesting. The capital loss realized from this transaction can be used to offset capital gains, reducing your tax liability.

Give the Gift of Cash
Do you want to give a gift of cash? In 2018, you can give a gift of cash up to $15,000 to as many different people as you want without incurring the gift tax. The $15,000 is a per-person limit, not a total limit. Gifts up to this amount—called an annual exclusion—are not reportable on your tax return. A husband and wife can each make a $15,000 gift, giving as much as $30,000 to as many people as they choose each year.

Qualified Charitable Distributions
At the end of 2015, lawmakers approved a permanent measure allowing individuals who are 70½ years old or older to make qualified charitable distributions (also known as QCDs) directly from their individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to their favorite qualified charities.

Teri Parker is a vice president for CAPTRUST Financial Advisors.

Click here for link to full article

Should We Try Mediation?

The following was excerpted from an article in the Boston Herald by Wendy Hickey

Should We Try Mediation?

The answer is yes for most people. The majority of couples we see at PeaceTalks have enough common goals to negotiate an amicable and equitable settlement agreement.  Since most people will listen to a neutral third-party guide in more constructive ways, PeaceTalks’ lawyers team with therapists and financial advisors to help navigate some tough decisions for a quicker, peaceful settlement.

Here’s an example of the logic involved as part of why mediation is worth a try for most situations.

I asked my wife for a divorce six months ago. I don’t want a big fight, but we do have kids, and different incomes, so I understand there are some complexities.

She hired a lawyer but also wants to hire a mediator and have the lawyers review things when we agree. This seems like wasted money to me. Why hire both?

Mediation is always worth trying, provided there is no real power imbalance in the relationship. The process saves money, and brings you both to the table to talk about difficult things. Couples find a jointsolution, setting a precedentfor future disputes that might arise involving the children.

The mediator’s job is to help you reach an agreement. Most, if not all mediators recommend hiring counsel for advice during mediation. It is not overly expensive, and your lawyer will make sure you understand your rights and obligations so you are educated going into the mediation. It is easier to reach an agreement when you understand the law and expected norms.

Wendy O. Hickey has since 1994 been involved in and since 2003 been a trial lawyer who concentrates her practice on national and international family law.

Click here for full article

Take A Cell Holiday

Impossible as it sounds there are people that swear by this strategy, even for short bursts of time, to alleviate the insidious stress of constant interaction and relentless, shifting deadlines. These are two of the main irritants that we see at PeaceTalks that affect our clients.

Here are some great thoughts Catherine Price presents and I hope you get a kick out them, use or not, and pass along to friends and family in between the eggnog and the champagne. If you have a situation that involves a filing December deadline concern our office will let you know if we have an available resource that might be of assistance.

May you have all the safety and security of those dear to you to go along with all the laughs from the bad ties and sweaters and socks…oh my!

“As the whirlwind of the holidays descends, you may find yourself wishing that you could slow down time. Here’s the thing: You can.

You just need to put down your cellphone.

I first discovered this myself a few years ago when, as an experiment, my husband and I took a 24-hour break from all our screens starting at sundown Friday. Saturday morning we accomplished more by 11 a.m. than we’d normally get done in an entire day. We cooked. We talked. We cleaned. We read. I practiced guitar. We played with our daughter. I felt like I’d unlocked a time-stretching superpower that I hadn’t known I possessed.”

Read full piece here

Christmas Magic Before and After Divorce

There are some great points in this article (link below) that are very relevant to both children of the before group as well as those dealing annually with the “split family” holiday conflicts. I hope some of these insights come in handy no matter which side of the timeline you are on and I’m adding a story with a touch of real Christmas magic.  Enjoy!

An emotional tale of kindness has captured international attention as a father from Wales paid tribute to his late neighbor, Ken, in a Monday social media post. Owen Williams says that after his elderly neighbor died, Ken’s daughter delivered 14 wrapped presents. Those presents were from Ken and intended for Williams’ daughter. If she opened one per year, she could have a “present from Ken” until her 16th Christmas.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/12/18/dying-neighbor-leaves-child-14-years-christmas-presents/2359158002/

Vicki L. Shemin, J.D., LICSW, ACSW is a domestic relations attorney (specializing in mediation, collaborative law, divorce coaching, settlement negotiations and high-conflict cases) who never goes to court to resolve matters.

https://www.mediate.com/articles/shemin-magical-holidays.cfm#bio

“When it comes to children of divorce far too many of them the holidays mean split loyalties, guilt, sadness and regret.

It always strikes me that, for most children of divorce, the heartache attendant to the holidays is a yearly occurrence that stirs and reawakens abject wounds and unhealed scars. Even as children become adolescents and young adults who “vote with their feet,” the mere fact of making a holiday choice reawakens the old worries about “split loyalties” and “is it just easier to be with friends so my parents don’t think I am choosing between the two of them.”

Why split loyalties? Even if children have no choice as to where they are going to be for a holiday, the mere fact of being with one parent versus the other means making a difficult choice.

Why guilt? Children are acutely attuned to the fact that they are the identified cause of exasperation between their parents.

Why sadness? Psychologists know that children wonder how they can manage to have a joyous holiday with one parent while simultaneously longing to be with the other one.

Why regret? Many children of divorce feel that it is theirresponsibility to somehow change the dynamic between their parents while inevitably recognizing that they are really helpless to do so.

In the process of our mediations at PeaceTalks these issues are dealt with as we prepare couples and eventually their children for the coming transitions. Due to the changes in the tax laws for 2019 we have seen many former clients who are still following guideline that we set up with them years ago to help keep peace in the family, so to speak. Interestingly enough, the holiday schedule itself, can be the biggest ball to juggle. We start out talking with couples about this next question for the inevitable transportation kid shuttles and the author phrases this one nicely. Good luck dealing with logistics and if someone has a filing deadline problem we’ll see if we have an available asset for some assistance.

Consider typical holiday custody provisions – does it resemble more of a bus schedule or a child-centered schedule?

More Divorce Mediator Tips

Here’s a couple more tips from the article I saw by Oren Kaufmann on the Mediate.com website.

Don’t be penny wise and pound-foolish.

Imagine the following not so unusual scenario. You have resolved all the tough issues and for some reason these one or two remain “as a matter of principle“. It makes no sense financially to terminate mediation and turn it over to lawyers because you cannot resolve these issues. The financial and emotional costs are likely to be very high. Unfortunately, despite these dangers, I see people doing this repeatedly (or at least contemplating it). Remember that arguing over “principle” can be a very dangerous and expensive proposition costing what otherwise could have been investment “principal.”The ultimate agreement should be based on a rational financial analysis. The problem and challenge is that this isn’t just a business deal. There are multiple layers of emotions involved. If it is emotionally based- i.e. revenge, guilt, anger, fear- there will inevitably be problems down the road.

The PeaceTalks mediation sessions are always supported by whatever type of financial and psychological professionals the couple might request as most of the difficult negotiations center around assets and income accompanied by anger.

Find someone to talk with.

Having someone you trust that you can talk about this with is critical. It may be that you talk with one person about the financial and one person about the emotional. Remember to careful about not confusing support and a good sounding board with nonsense based on some incorrect legal information/advice they received from a relative or friend.

That aside, having someone with whom you can discuss the process is invaluable and PeaceTalks can refer therapists.

Oran Kaufman-runs Amherst Mediation Services in Amherst, MA and he is a former president of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation.
www.amherstmediators.com

Mediator Tips On Divorce Difficulties

There are a lot of commonalities with divorce and lessons from shared experiences can be extremely helpful when going through extremely stressful situations like divorce negotiations. Some great suggestions were offered by a mediation expert named Oran Kaufman in a series of articles for Mediate.com and I wanted to pass along these very cogent, and insightful pieces of advice to all, and to all a good night.

Give yourself all the time that you need, as hurried decisions are often bad decisions. Maybe you’re contemplating selling a house, buying a house, or which school will your children attend and so on. These are decisions the impact of which will be felt for a long time so take the time necessary to consider all the consequences.  Do your research. Consult with your lawyer, friends, accountants or anyone else who you trust to give you a rational perspective. 

 From the moment the decision is made to engage in mediation with PeaceTalks we start to help the couple form a plan that includes delineating all assets and the decision-based issues that require negotiation. Whenever necessary we provide access to a choice of legal, financial and emotional support professionals, all veterans of the divorce mediation process.

If you are already in court and you feel rushed by the court process, almost any judge I know will gladly give you more time and continue a pre-trial conference or status conference if the judge knows that you are actively engaged in mediation and the additional time will help reach an agreement.

The courts have been very supportive of the growing role that mediation is playing in settling divorce cases and we are very grateful for the cooperation that judges have extended to our clients, particularly this year with the crazy packed court calendars. If you get worried about making the December 31St deadline call the office for possible help with your filing.

Divorce is an anxiety producing process. It is particularly important during this process that you take care of yourself. By that I mean, take care of the basics: get sleep, eat, try and have some fun and exercise. All those things that are important when life is “normal” are doubly important when you are going through the stress of divorce.

PeaceTalks by location has nearby parks for walking, yoga, or just some quiet time before and/or after sitting down with us to get you closer to your settlement agreement. We also have health professionals for tips on diet and special types of exercise developed expressly for stress. All those things that are important when life is “normal” are doubly important when you are going through the stress of divorce.

Oran Kaufman runs Amherst Mediation Services in Amherst, MA and he is a former president of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation. www.amherstmediators.com

A Potential Tax Move For 2018 Divorce

As the commercial says “I’m not a tax advisor and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night…” but a piece by Dan Caplinger from The Motley Fool might have a useful idea for your situation. There’s a link at the end to the whole article.

Tax strategies is something that PeaceTalks always has addressed by at least one, if not more, professionals in all of mediation cases to ensure that both parties are able to optimize their assets after the settlement is reached.

There’s one big change that won’t hit taxpayers until the beginning of 2019. It won’t affect everyone, but for the many people in the U.S. who are divorced, changes in how alimony payments get taxed could have a huge financial impact, given the roughly $10 billion in such payments that get made every year. With divorces running between roughly 800,000 and 950,000 annually since 2000, there are millions of people who might be able to benefit from some last-minute tax planning — if they can cooperate effectively.

What the tax law did was to change this treatment starting in 2019. For those who get divorced in 2019 or later, all payments between divorced spouses will be treated identically. There’ll be no tax impact from any payment, meaning that the receiving spouse won’t have to include payments as income, and the paying spouse won’t get to deduct anything. That’s a whole lot simpler, and it solves some potential fraud issues. But it does remove a planning opportunity for divorced spouses who are willing to work with each other.

In particular, there are two situations in which it’ll be important for couples to act before the end of 2018. First, if you’re in the process of divorcing, the timing of the final divorce agreement will be crucial. Specify alimony payments and get divorced on or before Dec. 31, and you’ll have the option to effectively transfer taxable income from a spouse in a higher tax bracket to one in a lower tax bracket, saving on taxes overall. That in turn can make it possible for the paying spouse to make larger payments while still ending up ahead on an after-tax basis. On the other hand, if you wait until Jan. 1 to get divorced, that option won’t be available any longer.

Second, if you’re already divorced but the original agreement didn’t include an order for spousal support, the law is ambiguous about how a subsequent order would get treated. Those who already have a spousal support order by the end of 2018 can retain the current-law tax treatment even if that order is modified in or after 2019. But there’s at least some risk that a request for a first-time spousal support order would be treated as first having occurred in 2019 or later, taking away the option of having old-law tax treatment.

Finally, the new law does give divorced spouses who would prefer the new tax treatment to govern their pre-2019 divorce the option of agreeing to adopt the new rules. That’s not necessarily a time-critical issue, as this election can be made at any time. But if circumstances have changed and it makes sense to treat payments between divorced spouses as having no tax impact, it may be that the sooner you do so, the better.

As always, if you or a friend is in danger of missing the December 31st deadline, call the office and we’ll see if we have any available resources in our network that might help.

Click here to read full article

Divorce Mediation Misconceptions

I came across an article in Divorce Magazine by Susan E. Guthrie that echoed familiar misconceptions that we come across at PeaceTalks, as do many of our colleagues. Here are a few highlights and I’ve provided a link to the entire article, which makes some excellent points:

Almost any divorce case, or really any family law matter, is suitable for mediation and the parties can successfully resolve their issues without the great expense and emotional costs of litigating.”

“The most common misconception that I hear about divorce mediation it that it is onlysuitable for couples that are very amicable.In fact, mediation is also very well suited for helping high-conflict couples work through their differences and reach a reasonable solution.

It may be true that the couple is too emotional to sit down alone, so they work with their mediator, a neutral third party, trained to help them focus on the issues at hand and work together towards a resolution.

At PeaceTalks we team with a lawyer for the legal information, a financial forensicto work through and optimize the asset division, and a therapistto help manage the emotional stress that comes with high conflict cases.

Legal advice is going to be a necessary part of the process; the mediator does notreplace review and input from a lawyer.

All Mediators suggest using consulting lawyers at certain points during the process to enforce their third-party status.

Because the mediator must remain neutral, they cannot give either party advice specific to their individual best interests. Here, a consulting attorney, on a limited, as-needed basis, can provide that specific legal advice to help a party decide how to best move forward in the negotiations.When a draft Separation Agreement is prepared, it is advisable that both parties review that agreement with their own attorney before they sign it. The use of a consulting attorney will cost far less than full-scale divorce litigation representation and is well worth the expense to ensure that both parties are fully advised and supported.

PeaceTalks has a network of attorneys that we rely on whenever a client has a particular need for a specific resource.

Click here for link to full article

Taking Stock In Your Divorce

In light of the changes in the tax laws and the recent roller coaster volatility in the stock market it might be prudent to talk with your financial advisor about whatever investment assets are attached to your settlement agreement. You can also get feedback and updates related to other nest eggs that are not part of any divorce settlement, which is nevera bad idea.

The division of investment assets can be gnarly and painful so people are getting creative in settling these issues through trading, and exchanging their respective interestsin a mutually agreeable fashion. So identifying and getting a valuation, along with guidance, about your asset options will only aid you in making any changes before the December 31St deadline.

I’ve included some tips from veterans in this field that echo ideas that we’ve heard in our discussions at PeaceTalks with our financial associates.

Splitting Retirement Accounts

To understand the value of a retirement account, you need to know how withdrawals will be taxed. In general, there are 2 main types of retirement accounts: traditional and Roth.

In a traditional account, contributions are made before taxes—or you get a tax deduction for the amount contributed if it has already been taxed. Contributions to a Roth account are made after taxes are paid but the benefit is that withdrawals of earnings and contributions in retirement are not taxed.1

Bottom line: $100,000 currently in a Roth is worth more than $100,000 currently in a traditional retirement account simply because of the different tax treatments in each type of account.

Taxable Investment Accounts

When it comes to taxable investments, it’s not about the value you see on your statement, but what you get to keep after taxes.

In general, when dividing investments in a divorce, couples may have options: One option would be to sell investments and divvy up the proceeds. This can have tax consequences. Alternatively, you can generally split the investment holdings. For instance, if 100 shares of stock are part of the marital property to be divided in half, one party gets 50 shares and the other party gets the remaining 50 shares. The IRS allows divorcing spouses to each keep the same cost basis and holding period for an investment they already own. Cost basis is the price at which the investment was originally purchased. Holding period is important because profits from the sale of investments owned for a year or less are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate, while investments held for more than a year are taxed at lower long-term capital gains rates.

Assuming your investment has appreciated, you will end up with less than the sale price—because you have to pay taxes on any gains over the cost basis. Exactly how much will depend on your tax rate, holding period, and cost basis, which can vary for a single investment if you bought shares over time. So, if you’re dividing investments equally, it’s important that the cost basis is divided equally as well—your financial institution or Fidelity representative should be able to help with that.

Of course, other important things to think about with regard to investments are the future prospects for growth or income, your own tolerance for investment risk, your financial needs, and your timeframe for investing.

Tax Consequences of Investment Asset Allocation

In addition, periods of market volatility stand to impact capital gains and losses generated from investment assets. The former can create a tax liability (e.g. where a holding is sold for more than its purchase price), whereas generally speaking the latter results in an asset (e.g. where a stock’s sales price is less than its purchase price, thus creating an offset against present or future capital gains).

In high net worth divorce cases often involving millions of dollars of investment assets subject to substantial market gains and losses, it is important in periods of market volatility to recognize that certain holdings may carry positive or negative tax consequences to the litigants. In these circumstances, it is good practice to consult with financial advisors and accountants at even this micro level of asset allocation to ensure that assets and liabilities are being apportioned and allocated as the litigants contemplated, and to avoid an unintended result of one spouse being allocated a vastly disproportionate share of capital gains or losses.

Creative Not Clueless Divorce

Christopher Jarecki and Alicia Silverstone

Besides the slight “Dog Bites Man” slant to another celebrity divorce, with the wife paying alimony, I want to highlight another example of the kind of “creative agreements” that PeaceTalks encourages in our mediation strategies.

Alicia Silverstone to Pay Ex Spousal Support

by Brian Hood, Page Six

As part of the couple’s divorce agreement, the “Clueless” star will pay Chris Jarecki $12,000 per month in spousal support, reports TMZ.

But the website adds that the couple agreed to a “cohabitation”clause that could end the payments earlier than expected.

If Jarecki lives with someone for five months within a one-year period, Silverstone, 42, is off the hook for the payments. Normally, one pays spousal support until their ex is married again.

The couple also agreed to share legal and physical custody of 7-year-old son Bear Blu.

At 12K a month it’s easy to see why this kind of insurance would be important to the paying former spouse. While it’s not always possible to find or create the perfect agreement, amazing things are possible if you come to the table with an open mind.

Full article here

Overstaying In A Bad Marriage

I came across this article and recognized some of the dynamics as themes that we see at PeaceTalks on a regular and all too frequent basis. It sometimes helps if an idea about an important decision process comes from a third party so feel free to share this with anyone.

Why You Stayed in That Unhappy
Relationship for Too Long

By Ian Kerner, CNN

Recent studies suggest that people stay in unsatisfying relationships because they’re concerned about hurting their partner’s feelings.

“In my experience, there are most often underlying fears and insecurities that prevent people from moving forward into a life that might be less comfortable but ultimately happier and more authentic. These couples tend to settle into a ‘good enough’ relationship,” sex therapist Holly Richmond said. “But there is almost always a point where it’s obvious that not good enough is truly not good enough, and it causes more harm to the unhappy person to stay than it would to their partner if they left.”

Concerns about children, finances, friends, lifestyle and standing in the community can also influence the decision to stay together. “In my practice, I see clients who stay in relationships because they’re worried they won’t find another partner, while others remain because they don’t want to deprive their children from having the other parent in their day-to-day life,” sex therapist Sari Cooper said.

But staying in an unhappy relationship doesn’t do anyone any favors, sex therapist Kristen Lilla said. “Staying because you don’t want to hurt someone else is selfish because it takes away the other person’s agency to make a decision,” she explained. “You are deciding that your partner will not be OK without you, so you stay with them out of pity.”

These are a few examples of why we make sure that anyone that comes to PeaceTalks has access to a behavioral health professional in case a “need to talk to someone” situation needs some support. We understand the process that determines the decision and your first call might need to be to someone other than a lawyer in order to make an informed decision.

Here is a link to the entire article

Celebrity Divorces and Mediation

I came across an article by Jill Stanley, who covers celebrity legal stories, as to why some celebrities choose mediation for their divorce process. Using some couples from Malibu as a general backdrop she covers a few of these reasons that really can apply to any amicable couple looking to avoid costly litigation. PeaceTalks has handled agreements for celebrities and they have the same goals and speed bumps and are just as appreciative after filing their agreement as regular couples. You might be hearing some stories at Thanksgiving that present an opportunity to pass along the idea to the right people.

Mediation is quicker and less expensive than full-blown litigation.
LA power lawyers are pricey, charging their celeb clients upwards of $750.00 per hour. Even stars with a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars don’t want to throw out money. So while clients generally have lawyers throughout mediation, the process is much, much quicker than traditional litigation thanks to less stringent rules regarding documentation, evidence and testimony. This quicker process means that not only do parties save money, but they also reduce the pain and stress on the family. It is well known that Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck turned to mediation in order to keep their children’s best interests as top priority when the couple opted for mediation when working out visitation, custody and other matters related to their three children.

(PeaceTalks has a relationship with a group of lawyers that assist in the mediation process on an as-needed basis.)

Mediation is Private.
Divorce is messy for everyone but with celebrities these matters often involve salacious tales of drugs, cheating, bad judgment, and, not to mention, disclosures of financial details. So, it is no surprise these clients, perhaps more than average Joes and Janes, want to keep these matters private. Celebrity couples going through a divorce can harness some sense of security by knowing that mediation is confidential and that by staying out of court their family’s private life remains just that–private. Though other factors were at play, it is thanks to the confidentiality of mediation that the details of Tom Cruise’s three divorces are nowhere to be found. Without that, imagine the details and drama about Mimi, Nicole and Katie’s lives that would be out there in the public domain.

(PeaceTalks works under a basis of complete confidentiality)

Mediation offers a distinct path to settlement.
The goal of mediation is to settle amicably. Trace and Rhonda Atkins divorce is a great example of how mediation can coax a settlement. Their divorce, stemming from Trace’s years of boozing and womanizing began intensely with Rhonda demanding a settlement worth nearly $20 million. But instead of engaging in an aggressive, drawn out legal battle, she soon sought dismissal of the case, and the couple proceeded with mediation. A private compromise was reached and family was spared further trauma and exposure along with a quicker path to a mutually agreeable settlement.

(This is exactly the path PeaceTalks follows with every couple)

Link to article here

Quotes From Divorce Veterans

There was an article in the Sunday LA Times by Ben Steverman of Bloomberg News with some very clear advice from some divorce professionals that have been doing this for a long time.

His article was written before the fires started devastating the lives of thousands of our fellow Californians. PeaceTalks and every other mediation group I know of will help with emergency paperwork in concert with any attorneys to get something in place by December 31St. Everyone will do their bit. Good luck.

When a rich couple splits, divorce attorney Lowell Sucherman gets blunt:

“Look, I’ve been doing this for 50 years,” he says early in the negotiations. “I know how this case is going to come out within a few dollars.” Find a fair way to settle quickly, he says, and you can save enough in legal fees to send your kid to college. Or you can fight tooth and nail, he adds, “and I’ll send my grandchildren to college.” His warnings work only some of the time.

 Michael Stutman, a partner at Stutman, Stutman & Lichtenstein in Manhattan, said he’s seeing more feuding couples open to negotiation as the alimony deduction deadline looms.

“When you’ve got people pretty close to an agreement, the specter of losing that benefit is pushing people together.”

Stutman is handling a divorce for a real estate mogul, and it’s taking a long time for two skilled forensic accountants to untangle the family’s holdings. The couple is “beside themselves” with how long it’s taking, he said.

Peter Walzer of Walzer Melcher, a law firm in Los Angeles. said:

“Still, there may be a workaround. If a settlement agreement, which often includes alimony terms, is reached by the end of this year, many divorce lawyers said, that would probably be sufficient to still get the alimony tax break. But that isn’t airtight, and there could be issues if the agreement is altered in the future.”

Chris Chen of Insight Financial Strategists, a firm specializing in post-divorce financial planning said:

“The difference between getting a divorce finalized this year and waiting until later is significant, especially among people with high incomes.

A chief executive living in New York City who is divorcing a stay-at-home mom would pay about $35,000 in child support for their two young kids. If he makes $1 million a year and agrees to pay her $360,000 in alimony, the 2019 rule change could cost them about $23,000 annually in higher taxes, according to an analysis by Chris Chen of Insight Financial Strategists, a firm specializing in post-divorce financial planning.”

The alimony change puts even more year-end pressure on divorce lawyers, judges and clerks. It’s not clear whether courthouses will be able to handle the extra crush of paperwork.

“They’re going to have a hard time processing all these judgments” said Peter Walzer.

Just to be safe, lawyers are getting paperwork in as soon as possible.

Link to full article here

What to Ask the Mediator

For people screening referrals they have received to mediation services some questions are best dealt with at the very beginning of the process. Even couples that may have already made a choice often benefit from getting some issues settled before the start of actual preparation and negotiation.

Is the first consultation free?
PeaceTalks does not charge for an initial session. We think of it as an opportunity for the clients to feel sure they will be comfortable with us as the mediator and for PeaceTalks to make sure that the case is appropriate for the mediation services we offer.

How Long Will The Whole Thing Take?
Most mediation cases are finalized within six months. There are different schedules reflecting the number of issues involved, mainly custody and support especially when there are children involved. After sitting and talking for about forty-five minutes we can usually project a likely outside completion date.

How much will it cost? Is a retainer involved or installments?
We will be able to narrow down a cost for you at our initial meeting and PeaceTalks has found that a lot of potential clients are struggling financially.  Many clients come to us already in debt and now having two households is an additional burden. We find that having clients pay as they go helps to keep them in control of the cost.

When you’re ready to talk give us a call and we’ll find a convenient time for the rest of your questions.

Co-Parenting Before and After Divorce

From the time that the emotional separation begins on the path to a divorce there will be transition period while still sharing the house and marking the beginning of the co-parenting puzzle maze.

Professionals reiterate that that with the right effort, on both parts, this transition can be smoother and less disruptive to the kids. Setting up and following the same mutually agreed upon guidelines that will eventually be in place after the divorce is finalized can help. Here are a few suggestions that have common threads from all advisors about making the co-parenting process a supportive one from the real start of the emotional separation through to a new life after the settlement.

The first signs of the end of a marriage unleash anger, anxiety and fear. This is normal, and these feelings will subside. In the meantime be good to yourself. Research suggests that people taking care of their own emotional needs have an easier time managing the day-to-day difficulties of divorce.

It’s not a battle. Divorce mediation is often a better alternative to litigation and spending time in court. Research shows that mediation can be beneficial for emotional satisfaction, spousal relationships and children’s needs.

Talking with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse may be the last thing you want to do, but communication makes divorce healthier and easier for everyone involved. Wait until you’re feeling calm and write down the points you want to discuss. Use the list as your guide. It helps take the emotion out of face-to-face confrontations. . We suggest listening and presenting requests for the future instead of trying to find the blame or what went wrong in the relationship.

Parents can ease the child’s transition by keeping conflict away from the kids. Parental conflict increases the risk of psychological problems for kids. Come up with a mutually agreed upon plan and present it to the children together and keep the lines of communication open. Kids benefit from having conversations about the changes their family is experiencing.Kids also do better when they maintain close contact with both parents.

Tap into your support network, turning to family and friends for assistance and comfort.

Formal support groups can also help you cope with the many emotions of a marriage ending.

You may benefit from speaking to a psychologist to help deal with their emotions and adjust to the changes. Psychologists can also help you think carefully about what went wrong in your marriage so you can heal and avoid repeating any negative patterns in your next relationship.

If you think it’s time to talk to someone please contact my office and we’ll explore your options.

Divorce Last Minute Loophole

For anyone that is still facing the December 31 deadline for filing here’s some possible relief from some of that anxiety.

A lot of people have come to Peace Talks worried, in part, about the alimony change in the new tax laws and what they have to do by December 31 to maximize their benefits going into 2019. There may be a way to avoid spoiling your holidays by having to deal with a mountain of paperwork. It’s not for everybody but it may work for you and Peace Talks can help you determine if it’s the right option for you.

These are some highlights from an article by John Fiske a veteran with 30 years of mediation experience. You’ll need to consult someone to verify that this strategy could work for you and at Peace Talks this is part of what we do every day.

“We can only imagine the conversations we will be having in December with clients who call us looking for a divorce and learn they have less than a month to write a separation agreement if they want to preserve the ability of the payer of alimony to exclude the payments from his or her taxable income.  

What if we could write a simple “placeholder” Separation Agreement to be executed before the end of this December, wherein one or both spouses agree to pay a defined amount a month to the other as alimony subject to an agreement of modification which defines all the terms of their divorce, including the alimony agreement, in a Separation Agreement to be filed in court in 2019 for approval?”

“Section 11051 of the TCAJA reads as follows: The amendments made by this section shall apply to any divorce or separation instrument executed on or before such date and modified after such date if the modification expressly provides that the amendments made by this section apply to such modification.”

“Since Section 11051 states that any divorce or separation instrument executed before December 31, 2018 is not affected by TCAJA and such an Agreement may be modified after that date, all that is needed is the signed Separation Agreement.”

“So the clear language of TCAJA does not require court approval or a divorce filing in court before December 31, 2018 if you have a written separation agreement that preserves the alimony exclusion. This step appears to satisfy the federal statute and gives people time to work out a sensible Separation Agreement without ruining their holidays.

Based on this analysis I will be suggesting to my mediating clients that if they want to have taxable and excludable alimony in their Agreement they consider writing a simple divorce or separation”

“You should sleep better knowing that you need not take away any remaining holiday spirit and activities in order to rush to sign more than a Separation Agreement before the end of 2018.”

Read the entire article here

Divorce and IRA’s – Watch Your Assets

Understanding different types of retirement assets, and the costs and taxes associated with each, when liquidated, can help you make informed decisions. Always consult with your financial and tax advisors during the decision making process especially before a liquidation.

To help ensure that you reach an agreement that is equitable to both of you, it’s important to know what you have now and understand how your agreement could impact your income, and lifestyle years after the divorce. You can’t direct the investment process for social security but you should be overseeing and getting advice about your IRA’s.

To understand their value, you need to know how withdrawals will be taxed from both traditional and Roth accounts. In a traditional account, contributions are made before taxes, so you get a tax deduction for the amount contributed if it has already been taxed. Contributions to a Roth account are made after taxes are paid but withdrawals of earnings and contributions in retirement are not taxed. We, of course, might see more changes to the tax code.

As an example, right now, $100,000 currently in a Roth account is worth more than $100,000 currently in a traditional retirement account simply because of the different tax treatments in each type of account.

This can be really complicated, especially when you have to deal with corporate 401K accounts. If this is something that needs attention in the life of your family and you need a suggestion please call the office and we’ll be happy to talk with you about some professionals we trust.

Money, Debt and Divorce

Dividing Debts in Divorce

One of the bad surprises that we see in the divorce process is the amount of money that is owed by both parties as individuals, and as a couple. This can be gnarly and painful and needs professional help to ensure accuracy. A person’s responsibility for any debt the couple has incurred during their marriage can only be properly addressed when you know how much you owe and to whom.

At PeaceTalks we suggest you order your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Your credit report will reveal what is owed including joint accounts with your spouse.

Once you identify which debts are shared and which are in your nameonly, you need to prevent them from growing any larger while you’re getting divorced. It’s best to cancel shared accounts leaving one card in your name in case of emergencies.

Now it’s time to decide who will be responsible for what debt. Here are a couple of examples of strategies that PeaceTalks suggests for dealing with debt in a divorce.

If you have assets you can sell, pay off the debts now.  You won’t have to worry about his/her portion of the debt, and you can start again, debt-free.

One can also exchange an equitable amount of debt for assets from the division of your property. This is another example of where mediation can be a much faster and less expensive process for reaching a satisfactory agreement.

If you think you might have overlooked something in preparing for your divorce please contact the office with your question.

Divorce TV Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divorce Lawyer Secrets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That you should meet with multiple attorneys”

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

Co-Parenting: Your Own Way Is Best

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divorce – Ready or Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Questions About Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Tax Law Prompting Flood of Accelerated Divorces

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

David Garrick, The San Diego Union-Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to full article here

Divorce Does Not Equal Failure

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

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

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

Here are a few key ideas from the interview:

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

 Marriage will expose your selfishness.

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

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

Shana Lebowitz Senior Reporter, Strategy (Business Insider)

Link to full article here

Stress Rehearsal

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

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

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

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

If you need some help contact my office anytime.

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

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

Read the full article from Psychology Today here

Thanksgiving Briefer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the full arycile click here

Some Co-Parenting Needs an Assist

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

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

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

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

Notes On Divorce and Tax Changes

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

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

The Tax Reform Law Impacts Families

By Dr. Lynne C. Halem from Mediate.com

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for full article

Divorced Dads and Poor Health

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

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

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

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

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

Divorced Fathers Face Increased Health Risks Because of Divorce

By Joseph E. Cordell Updated: August 07,  2018

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.”

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.

The Kids Are Alright

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Olympics – Teaming Up

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

Make Some Time-Take Some Time

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

info@peace-talks.com

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

Don’t Overtax Yourself & Do It Now

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

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

If Wall Street Is Your Street

by Stephanie Maloney

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

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

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

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

Abu Dhabi Lets Expats Bypass Sharia Law For Mediation

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

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

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

Mediating The Settlement To Qualify For The Loan

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

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

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

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

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

A Paradigm Shift: Conscious Uncoupling

by Ali Marcelino

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

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

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

But what if it is not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is collaborative divorce mediation?

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

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

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

What are the benefits of collaborative representation?

This approach to divorce offers a lot of benefits:

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

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

Divorce Mediation vs. Traditional Divorce

Divorce Mediation vs Traditional Divorce

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

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

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

Benefits of Divorce Mediation:

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

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

What is the difference in cost?

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

Collaborative Divorce The Best Way To Divorce In California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Effective Emails during Divorce – The BIFF Method

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

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

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

BRIEF:

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

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

INFORMATIVE:

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

FRIENDLY:

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

FIRM:

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

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

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

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

What Makes Divorce Expensive?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Legal Separation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(f) The duration of the marriage.

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

(h) The age and health of the parties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

California’s Cooling OFF Period

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Reasons to Keep Your Divorce Out of Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to File for a Divorce in California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divorce Continuum

Divorce Resolution Continuum

By Diana Mercer, Attorney-Mediator, copyright 2003

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

Decision to Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

Mediation

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

• Streamlined Collaborative Divorce

• Collaborative Divorce

• Start litigation

• Litigation at first but ultimately settle

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

• Litigation and Trial

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

Causes of Divorce Don’t Matter

Affairs don’t cause divorce. Financial arguments don’t cause divorce.

Marriages break down through erosion.

When you think about divorce, most people think that a divorce is one person’s fault, and that there was a specific cause of the divorce. But the causes of divorce are never just one person’s doing, and the event that triggered the actual divorce filing is never the event that actually caused the divorce.

You’re probably thinking that this doesn’t make much sense. But look at it this way: when you’re in a strong relationship, you’re not tempted to sleep with someone else, or to spend all of your time at work, or to ignore your spouse and only spend time with your kids, or any of the other reasons that people say are the causes of divorce.

Single events don’t cause divorce.

It’s the accumulation of hundreds of smaller events that led to the divorce. When the trouble started, it was such a small thing that happened that nobody recognized where it was going to lead.

Consider this example: Your spouse doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to you, so you start to hang out with a friend at work more and more often. Your spouse, feeling ignored at the same time, looks to others for companionship and friendship instead of you. Trouble started innocently enough–there’s nothing wrong with hanging out with friends. But at some point these people have developed 2 completely different lives and after a few years probably don’t have much in common anymore.

Yes, sometimes it’s more dramatic, like an affair or gambling. But it’s all the same thing, really. Instead of turning to your spouse for sex, comfort, sharing and fun, you turn to something, or someone, else.

This is also why a divorce is not just one person’s fault. Both people contributed, even if their contribution was intended to be positive. For example, consider the henpecked husband who’s been practically nagged to death by his wife (or the wife who’s controlled by her husband–same story, different sex). He puts up with it silently, never responding, and does what she says to keep the peace.

At some point, he’s had enough and he tells her he wants a divorce.

Who’s fault is that? He put up with her behavior for a long, long time, never making much of an effort to change it, and not telling her well in advance that he was about at the end of his rope. If he’d held better boundaries with her and refused to put up with her nagging and insisted that they find a better way to communicate, maybe the marriage could’ve been saved.

So she looks like the person who’s to blame, but the husband played a big role in it, too. He’s the more sympathetic character but he played a part in the demise of the relationship too.

Life is complicated. Stop worrying about causes of divorce, and start worrying about communicating better, holding good boundaries, and creating shared experiences with your spouse and children and extended family, as well as friends.

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Causes of Divorce

Uncontested Divorce California

Uncontested Divorce in California is becoming more and more common.  As more people embrace the idea of mediation, collaborative divorce, and even settling things themselves without going to court, more and more divorces are uncontested.

uncontested divorce california

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It makes sense when you think about it:  

  • Courts are over-crowded and each judge is expected to hear 30 cases a day. Pros and cons of mediation.
  • Lawyer fees are higher than ever. The average cost for a litigated divorce in Los Angeles is about $50,000 per person.
  • More and more people value the idea of being cooperative co-parents once their divorce is over
  • In the long run it’s easier to be cordial than enemies, even if you don’t have kids

I also think it’s a shift in values. More and more people are committed to working things out.  We’ve started to appreciate that it’s easier to get along than it is to fight, and that fighting takes up so much negative energy. When you’re caught up in the fight, you can’t live your life, raise your children, or thrive at work.  And I think people have finally caught onto that notion.

Consider child custody and how it’s evolved over the years:

Nowadays, parents are more and more likely to share custody and appreciate what each parent contributes to the upbringing of children.  In California, the legal presumption is that parents will have joint physical custody and joint legal custody of children–a truly shared arrangement–unless one parent proves that this wouldn’t be good for the children.

To share custody, it’s much, much easier if you get along, at least  as cooperative co-parents. You don’t have to be best friends.  By committing to settle out of court, you have a much better chance of preserving the good parts of your relationship for the sake of the kids.

 So how do you make your divorce uncontested?

 There are several elements:

  • Paperwork and court filing
  • Negotiation
  • Financial disclosures
  • Dealing with the emotional divorce
  • Coming to an agreement

Paperwork:  Most people get help with filing the paperwork, whether they hire a paralegal, use a mediator or lawyer, get the forms online, or use a kit from Nolo Press.  The same paperwork is required for all divorces:  Petition, Response, and Stipulated Judgment.

Negotiation:  Reaching the deal doesn’t have to be complicated.  Make an agenda of everything you need to talk about and then start with the easiest things and work your way up.  Schedule a time when you can be alone together, even if it’s at a public place like IHOP in a quiet booth.  Don’t try and do everything at once. Take it slow and give each person a chance to explain how they feel about each issue. Quit before you get tired. You can always meet again. Resources to get started.

Financial Disclosures:  The law requires you to fill out financial disclosures.  Be honest, accurate, an thorough. You can get in a lot of trouble fast if the court finds out you lied.  No goofing around.  No holding back. Your spouse is entitled to see all your financial records, and vice versa, so it’s easiest to cooperate and simply make copies and exchange them. Worksheets to prepare for divorce

Dealing with the Emotional Divorce:  I’m convinced this is 80% of the process.  While the legal stuff is important, and you want it done right, the emotional divorce is key to moving on in a healthy way.  The court expects you to get divorced as a business deal, but you didn’t get married as a business deal.  The court isn’t going to help you with the emotional divorce, so your support system is really important. Friends, family, spirituality and professionals like therapists are there to help, so reach out. You can return the favor later.

Coming to an Agreement:  Your divorce will get resolved one way or the other

Mediate! Don’t Litigate.

There are huge advantages when you mediate your divorce, family law, custody, child support, alimony, spousal support or modification.  If you’ve spent any time at all on our web site, you already know how passionate we are about mediation and its benefits.

We saw a new couple this week for mediation.  They’d already spent about $100,000 on lawyers’ fees and going to court and had gotten basically nowhere.  I know that sounds like I’m exaggerating, but that’s not unusual for Los Angeles in terms of legal fees.  It looks like we’ll settle the case at Peace Talks for about $5000. We’ve accomplished in a few hours what the lawyers didn’t do in 4 years. Amazing. 

Of course, as much as I’d like to claim all the credit, it’s because the clients are ready to settle and want to settle (although there is still a ton of conflict) that makes this possible. But still. $100,000? 

And we’ve recently implemented a sliding fee scale, too. We want to help people who want to get through their divorces as peacefully as possible, so please don’t let fees be the barrier.  If you’re struggling financially, let us know and if you qualify for the sliding fee, including some free services, we’re happy to help you.

Peace Talks is a business, but it’s also a vision.

So mediate, don’t litigate. In case we haven’t convinced you, we’ve listed the benefits below.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Less expensive—generally 90% less expensive–than going to court.
  • Faster—mediation is on your schedule, as fast or as slow as you want. You’re not at the mercy of the court’s schedule.
  • Helps preserve what’s left of your relationship. Do you really want to duck and cover every time you bump into a former in-law or mutual friend?  And if you have kids, you’re going to be co-grandparents. You’ve got to figure this out! and mediation can help.
  • Unique to your situation:  the mediation process is designed around your agenda and your needs, not the court’s and not the mediator’s.  You’ll negotiate an agreement that’s tailored to your family and unique situation, not just what a judge you’ve never met before thinks should work for you.

And when you’ve got children, mediation is even more important and effective.  Preserving or creating a good co-parenting relationship is really crucial to your child’s wellbeing.  Mediation can help.

Would you really want your divorce to hurt your child?  We didn’t think so. Our best tips:

Custody Mediation

1. The best predictor of how children do after a divorce is the amount of conflict between parents.  Mediation teaches you how to parent with less conflict.

    2. Mediation lets you create child-focused parenting plans that are tailor-made to suit your schedule as well as your kids’ needs. Mediation puts kids first but doesn’t leave parents behind, either.

        3. A good parenting plan let’s you avoid “He Said/She Said” arguments. The details are already in the plan. No more fighting.

          So mediate! don’t litigate!

          If you’re in the Los Angeles area, we’d be happy to help you through the process.  If you’re not near LA, you can find a mediator near you at Mediate.com.

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          And visit our video mediation blog!

          Uncontested Divorce California Style, Part 2

          The path to uncontested divorce in California, or anywhere else, is not always an easy one.

          Let’s face it, the thought of divorce can be pretty upsetting, scary, sad and everything in between.  So sometimes divorces start with a bang–intimidating court paperwork which is sometimes served on the other party (who may be unsuspecting) in a pretty abrupt way.

          So how can this situation be saved?  Is it possible to have an uncontested divorce California style? Or in any other state?  What helps people make the transition from legal battle to a peaceful settlement?

          Here’s an interesting statistic:

          While over 95% of all divorce cases settle before trial, no matter how contested they start out to be, getting to an uncontested divorce can be a challenge. Some divorces start out peacefully, with everyone ready and willing to settle.  Others, not so much.

          contested divorce (don’t let this be you!)

          As painful as divorce is, we always encourage clients to hang in, and to participate with the process.  The way we describe it is:  The plane ride (of your divorce) is turbulent at the moment–it’s uncomfortable, and you’re nervous–but that doesn’t mean the plane is going to crash.

          You’re getting divorced. Not everything is going to go perfectly, and it may take awhile to get resolved. As much as divorce is a “product” (the divorce decree and court papers), it’s a “process” too, as you dissolve the emotional part of your marriage and redefined your relationship with each other, and, if you have kids, your co-parenting relationship.  You are, after all, still a family.

          So what’s the best way to go about having an uncontested divorce in California, or in any of the 50 states?

          You have some choices:

          • Kitchen Table
          • Mediation
          • Collaborative Divorce
          • Litigation

          Kitchen Table: Some people can settle their divorce on their own using the divorce preparation worksheets and divorce mission statement.  Out of 41,000 divorces in Los Angeles County every year, 70% of them don’t have attorneys involved.  It can be done.

          Mediation:  When you mediate your divorce, you use a neutral person (usually a lawyer or therapist, or both) to help you figure out how to settle things.  The mediator is there to give you suggestions, point you in the right direction, help you get organized, talk without fighting, and reach an agreement.  Mediation is significantly less expensive than Collaborative Divorce or going to court.  We’ve found over our 11 years of mediation practice that there are 2 things that dictate whether mediation is successful or not:

          (1) Are you ready to reach an agreement? Or do you want to be ready?

          (2)  Do you want to reach an agreement?  (or do you prefer to keep fighting?)

          Collaborative Divorce:  When you use Collaborative Divorce to resolve your case, you each have your own attorneys and therapist-coaches, but you promise not to go to court.  You commit to working out the terms of your settlement out of court.  It’s more expensive than mediation, since you both have attorneys representing you, but less stressful than going to court, so it’s a great way to resolve things in a confidential manner.

          Litigation:  As courts get more and more over-booked, and lawyers get to be more and more expensive, more couples are choosing either mediation or collaborative divorce to settle their family law cases.  But litigation is always an option, of course.  When you litigate, you go to court, with or without attorneys.  The judge makes a decision for you (or you decide in the hallway while you wait for your case to be called).  It’s stressful, time-consuming, and if you have attorneys, it’s expensive.  Even if you don’t have an attorney, you could make an expensive mistake by not knowing all your rights.

          Remember, just because the ride gets bumpy doesn’t mean you’re going to crash!  You have choices.  Ask for help from sensible family and friends to help you through this process, and consider contacting a therapist or support group.  It’s possible to have an uncontested divorce in California, and anywhere else.  It’s up to you.

          Diana Mercer is an attorney-mediator and the co-author of Making Divorce Work and Your Divorce Advisor. She’s a divorce blogger for the Huffington Post.

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          Mediate for Success

          I’ve been a divorce lawyer for 22 years (youthful appearance notwithstanding!) and I’ve learned a lot about what works and what does not work when you’re getting divorced.

          I also got divorced myself. That was a big lesson, too.  Thankfully it was on the “what works” list as opposed to the “what doesn’t work” list.

          When you’re faced with a divorce or other family law case (custody, support, domestic partnership, cohabitation), you have the best chance for success in resolving everything at stake if you mediate.

          I know, that sounds a little self-interested, since I’m a full time mediator….but I became a mediator by giving up a very high paying divorce lawyer job because I knew it was time to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.  I traded my fancy car for a 2002 Honda Accord and 11 years later I still value helping families through this difficult life transition (divorce).

          Diana Mercer, Mediator (that’s me!)

          Here’s how it works:

          In mediation, you and your spouse or partner will work with a neutral professional, often a lawyer or a therapist trained in mediation, or both (but non-attorneys make good mediators, too).  Their job is to help you settle your case, from cars and pots and pans to parenting plans for children, support, and retirement accounts. 

          Shop around, as mediators’ styles vary greatly.  Ask if there’s a free orientation or initial consultation.  Decide what kind of mediator might work for your situation. This is a very personal process so you want to be able to make a connection with your mediator.

          Mediators’ styles might include:

          • Making suggestions
          • Informing you about the law
          • Telling you what others have done in your situation
          • Outlining your options
          • Helping you think of different ways to resolve a problem
          • Facilitating communication
          • Making sure the discussion is balanced, productive, and respectful
          • Writing down agreements
          • Helping you with court paperwork (or doing it for you)
          • Helping you to stay on task and finishing discussions, because when discussions become difficult, it’s tempting to just change the subject
          • Whatever else you ask them to do

          Not all mediators do all these things, so ask.

          In our practice, we design the mediation to fit the clients’ needs, while following some proven steps we know help mediations be successful.

          For example, we insist that we make an agenda (all together, all ideas count) of everything that needs to be decided. We do this very early in the process. This helps everyone stay organized.

          We insist on making the agenda list—but that list will include whatever the clients want to include, even if it isn’t on our checklist.  And we get some unusual topics sometimes:  pet visitation, dividing Beanie Baby collections, creating a shared story that both parents can tell the children about the divorce, you name it.

          So the agenda is part of the office’s “best practices” but what the agenda includes is completely up to the clients.  We find that this kind of structure makes more mediations successful than if we didn’t follow these procedures (and the agenda is just one of several)…but the topics, timing, discussion, format and priorities belong to the clients.

          Mediation is about 90% less expensive than hiring 2 lawyers and litigating in court. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  And even if your case is very difficult and complicated, it’s still a better process and it results in long term success because the people who are living with the outcome (the couple) have so much input into the final agreement.

          Mediation typically attracts some very nice people who are having an extremely bad day.  Divorce is really stressful and a very sad experience (generally) and we never forget how hard it is to sit in our office and talk about everything you care about in this world:  your children, how they’re raised, your home, your financial security, and the dreams you had for this relationship.  Mediation is the best way to go about dealing with this unfortunate situation.

          If you want to find a mediator near you, Mediate.com will help you find a mediator if you’re not in the Los Angeles area.

          Or, if you’re in the Los Angeles area, call for a free appointment today:

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          Divorce Strategy?

          An accountant is helping one of our clients with some of the required financial documents for the divorce.  “I don’t want to ruin your strategy,” he says, “but I really think the [other party] ought to know about this.”

          Strategy?  How’s this for “strategy?”  How’s about you do whatever is necessary to help people reach an agreement?

          Strategy.  It’s such an interesting concept in divorce.  I told him that my strategy was to tell the truth and share all the financial documentation so that the couple could make good decisions for themselves, and for the two of them as a whole (even if the whole is separating).

          Even when I think back to my days as a divorce litigation attorney at Noyes & Mercer in New Haven, Connecticut, did I really have a strategy? If you consider being prepared and doing your homework a “strategy” then yes, I definitely had a strategy.

          Early on, my mentor and boss, Carl Porto at Parrett Porto Parese, told me, “You will lose very few of these [divorce litigation cases] if you are prepared.”

          He was absolutely right.

          And it rings true today, even if I’m prepared in a different way.

          In the olden days, I’d have a trial notebook, pre-marked exhibits and copies, a draft of my direct examination questions and a bunch of ideas about what I’d do on cross-examination. I’d script out my offers of proof for evidence objections. And much to Carl’s, and my, delight, I didn’t lose any of my litigation cases.  Just once I got a Judgment that wasn’t as good as I thought I’d get.  Once in 12 years.

          These days, my preparation is both different and the same.  We take detailed notes using worksheets and checklists that we’ve developed over time.  We review client files after the mediation sessions and write short memos to the clients about what’s next even though we’ve already given them copies of our notes. 

          Each mediation team de-briefs after each session and anticipates what might happen at the next session and what we will do to help clients get through it.

          We even work on analogies, like “just because the plane flight (mediation) has gotten a little turbulent and bumpy (the mediation is tense) doesn’t mean we’re going to crash (and you’ll get through this).”

          Strategy.

          Such an interesting concept.

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          Insider Divorce Advice

          Divorce Advice I Give My Friends

          I’ve been a divorce attorney for 23 years (youthful appearance notwithstanding).  As you might guess, every single one of my friends (including Facebook friends) ask me for my advice when getting divorced.

          I’ve written a couple of books about divorce, and that’s where the official advice is.  This is the unofficial advice.

          Jedi Warrier, Use This Advice Wisely to Stay Out of Trouble:

          Wile E. Coyote Schemes: Your spouse may be plotting and being strategic like some sort of Divorce James Bond. But at the end of the day, it’s a business deal and a parenting plan.  It is what it is. Don’t let your imagination run away with you.

           

          divorce schemes

           

           

           

           

          You can keep costs (and suspicion, and plotting) down by:

          1. Be organized. Make a notebook or set of folders with labeled dividers with all your financial records (recent ones, at the very least) and all tax returns you can find.  Get  a comparative market analysis for free from any realtor to estimate the value of your house and include that in your notebook.  Also include a recent pay stub or two.  Make your spouse a notebook, too.
          2. Yes, you heard me right.  Make a 2nd notebook for your spouse.  No playing games. If you don’t organize and copy the financial documents, your spouse’s lawyer will, billing by the hour.  Either you can make the notebook or your marital property will pay for having the notebook made (the attorney’s fee comes from somewhere, and most likely that’s your savings account).  Yes, it sounds crazy. But removing the mystery from the finances will prevent a lot of arguments and legal wrangling. 
          3. Don’t get paralyzed by your emotions. It’s natural to be upset during your divorce. If you find yourself too upset to make good decisions, ask for help, whether it’s your therapist, best friend, clergy or family member.  And even if you’re feeling numb, it’s easy enough to get a hole punch and a notebook and sit at your kitchen table and get this information together.  You don’t need all your faculties to do that, so it’s a good activity for when you’re feeling lost.
          4. Don’t take the bait: Your spouse will say things just to get you upset. Ignore it. “We aren’t getting anywhere with this fight, so I’m not going to fight about it anymore. I hope we can work all of this out, though, eventually.”  Change the subject. Say that sentence as many times as you have to.
          5. Eventually, your spouse will get bored when it’s clear you aren’t going to fight back. It’s going to be very hard to do, but you must refuse to fight.  When you behave differently than you have in the past, your spouse will wonder what’s up and watching that might be amusing, so enjoy that moment and watch as your spouse adjusts to the fact that the old tricks don’t work anymore.
          6. Stay Sane. Take care of yourself. Exercise. Eat right. Make appointments with your therapist, make extra time for your kids (this is bonding time so don’t talk about your spouse), play soccer or checkers (ideally with your kids), make hang out time with friends.
          7. Finding that Special Someone: If you decide you want to meet someone, date or get laid, keep that plan to yourself. Seriously. It’s actually better to wait to get involved in a relationship, but so many people start to date as soon as they can so I’m telling you that your spouse will not take this news lightly. Your spouse will go nuts if you’re with someone else.  I know that makes no sense, but it happens all the time. All the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse who found a new lover first or if he or she moved out and filed for divorce and you wanted to reconcile.  Your spouse will still go bananas when they see you’ve moved on. I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m saying don’t let anyone find out.

          My Friend Said: If your spouse talks about other people’s divorces or what the lawyer has planned for you, ask:

          • How many years did that friend’s divorce take?
          • How much did the divorce cost?
          • How much did your lawyer say that all of this would cost in legal fees?   https://www.peace-talks.com/compare.php
          • Will your lawyer put it in writing their guaranteed result? And that it will be better than what I’m prepared to offer without having to go to court? Net of the legal fees?

          You’re safe with that last question—no sane lawyer will guarantee an outcome or total fee so this will force your spouse and his or her lawyer to have an honest discussion about the pros and cons of pursuing any given legal action.

          Legal Advice from Your Spouse:   I love that spouses try and give each other legal advice. Really? Since when did your spouse become a divorce lawyer?  I thought he was a marketing executive

          Divorce and the Economy

          At what price sanity?

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

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

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

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

          There’s a big difference.

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

          divorce fightmediator or therapist, are you really getting the kind of service that will serve your long term goals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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          Divorce and Graphotherapy

          graphotherapy divorce recoveryDivorce and Graphotherapy

          Guest blog post by Sheila Lowe, MS www.sheilalowe.com

          Divorce sucks. No point denying it. Whether you’ve grown to hate the person you once loved or the parting is amicable, when it comes to ending it all, you still have to grieve for the hopes and dreams you once shared. It’s stressful, it’s painful, and there are plenty of difficult feelings to deal with. But there is a way to make some of it just a little bit easier.

          In my work as a handwriting analyst, I’ve found that people in stressful situations such as divorce have been helped by doing a few simple exercises called graphotherapy. Some exercises help difficult emotions come to the surface for release. Others help the brain to focus and attend better, so that when you’re filling out all that paperwork and figuring out who gets what, you won’t miss any important details.

          graphology

          Graphotherapy works because everything you’ve ever done or thought or said remains in your brain, and when you pick up a pen and write, the way you’ve responded to all your life experiences and integrated them into your personality is translated into the trail of ink you leave on the paper.

          Your handwriting is unique to you

          Family Mediation and “Failure”

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

          If it was only that simple.

          family mediation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           

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          Divorce in California

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

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

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

          mediation california

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          About mediation

          FAQ about mediation

          Pros and Cons of Mediation

           

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          Shared Custody Schedules

          Shared Custody Schedules.  When you’ve been married you’ve been parenting together, the idea of seeing your kids on a schedule probably seems pretty foreign.

          It’s a divorce and separation reality, however.

          There are a few things to keep in mind to help you be successful at shared, cooperative co-parenting:

          • It will take some time for everyone to adjust, including you.  Give yourself some time to get used to sharing parenting.
          • Sometimes kids will say different things to each parent. Sometimes they’ll do it to test you, and your reaction.
          • Some of the separation anxiety kids experience is normal and it would happen even if you weren’t divorced. Try and keep some perspective, and don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about what they’re going through.

          Shared custody schedules are as unique as each family. You’ll read about guidelines in books and on web sites, but your parenting plan needs to fit your family, no someone else’s. So don’t be afraid to deviate from what the experts say if you know it will work. And, if it doesn’t work, you can always adjust the schedule.

          joint custody

          Here are some popular shared custody schedules:

          Split Week Plan for parents sharing children on weekdays and weekend. You’ll also hear this called the 2-2-5 plan because kids are with one parent 2 days, the other parent 2 days, and then 5 days with the 1st parent…then vice versa.                      

          Week #

          Monday

          Tuesday

          Wednesday

          Thursday

          Friday

          Saturday

          Sunday

          1

          Dad

          Dad

          Mom

          Mom

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          2

          Dad

          Dad

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          3

          Dad

          Dad

          Mom

          Mom

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          4

          Dad

          Dad

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          What we like about this schedule:

          • Good for children under age 5 who have good attachment to both parents.
          • Works for even-keeled children between ages of 5 to 12.
          • This is a regularly recurring and consistent plan. Nobody goes too long without seeing either kids or parents.

          What we don’t like about this schedule:

          • For kids under age 5, this plan may require the child to be away from one parent for too long.  If you like this schedule, you could break up the 5 day stretch with some time with the other parent.  
          • If the situation is high conflict, there are a lot of transitions between households. High conflict transitions are particularly stressful for  immature and special needs kids.

          Alternating Week PlanYou’ll also hear this called “week on, week off”

           

          Week #

          Monday

          Tuesday

          Wednesday

          Thursday

          Friday

          Saturday

          Sunday

          1

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          2

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          3

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          Mom

          4

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

          Dad

           

          What we like about this plan:

          • Works for children over age 7, since they understand the concept of a “week.”
          • Older kids like teens and pre-teens tend to like this plan because it requires fewer transitions.

          What we don’t like about this plan:

          • 7 days is a long time not to see your kids, or for your kids to see you.  Consider breaking up the 7 day stretch with some time with the other parent.
          • If the situation is higher-conflict, you might try and schedule that “in between time” at school or an activity where both parents won’t be face to face.  

          So these are some guidelines, but we encourage you to think about your own child’s needs, temperment, and your schedule.

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          Low Cost Divorce

          In response to the recession, Peace Talks now offers a couple of new services for low cost divorce and uncontested divorce California.
          low cost divorce
          I hope you’ll keep us in mind if you come across couples needing either of the following, or if you need these kinds of services yourself:
          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 the Peace Talks head paralegal who will do the intake and all the paperwork. Linda Duarte (our head paralegal) is also a trained mediator and is able to handle minor things that come up, but Plan A is that people using this service already have an agreement and don’t need any legal information or dispute resolution.
          As a practical matter, we have an in-house attorney draft the Judgment, or at least the important parts of it. The attorney also supervises and proofreads the work, but is not in contact with the clients.
          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
          For more information, contact Linda Duarte at Peace Talks Mediation Services, (310) 301-2100.
          As always, we offer a free mediation orientation where you and your partner/spouse can meet one of our mediators and decide if the process will work for you.  Click for a 90 second video about mediation orientations.
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          Causes of Divorce

          What Causes Divorce?     

             You hear a lot about the reasons marriages end. Usually, fingers point to affairs or money. But marriages don’t end because of events. In 23 years of practice, we have found that divorce occurs when a couple has turned from one another and looked for satisfaction outside of the marriage. We call this turning. Turning is the cause of divorce.

                      If you are the one who asked for your divorce, it may be clear to you why your marriage is ending. If you are the still-loving partner and didn’t want the divorce, looking back for the signs that led up to your spouse wanting the divorce will become clearer to you as you reflect. Marriages fall apart like erosion. The breakdown started slowly with one tiny misstep after another, until the sum of these became so large that the relationship collapsed.

          causes of divorce

                      Looking back at the deterioration of your marriage is takes courage. But understanding what happens to typical couples, and what happened to you, can help normalize the situation for you, and this will allow you to move on  If you initiated the divorce, you’ll have a more clear understanding of why. And if you didn’t, the process will help you appreciate that this isn’t a sudden, single event which could have been prevented. Turning happened before either of you saw the signs or understood their gravity.

                      Though the particulars vary from couple to couple, there is a predictable sequence of events that occur as a marriage breaks down.  While you’re in it, it’s difficult or even impossible to see. As outsiders, we can identify the turns

          Tips for Co-Parenting After Divorce

          Tips for Co-Parenting after Divorce

          This is a guest blog by Scott Morgan, a board certified Austin Divorce Lawyer.

          Co-parenting after divorce can seem daunting, but it is entirely possible to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse. The most important thing to remember is to put your children’s well-being ahead of your own feelings towards your ex. Your ex will always be your kids’ mom/dad; despite the fact that you are no longer together, your ex will still be a part of your life, and you can build a healthy relationship based on co-parenting your children.

          Tips for a healthy co-parenting relationship after divorce include:

          Focus on the Positive

          Always speak positively of the other parent in front of or to your kids. You and your ex-spouse may have stopped loving each other but your kids need to know that you still respect each other as parents. Do not undermine your child’s respect for the other parent by saying hurtful things to each other in the child’s presence.

          Communication

          Communication is essential for maintaining a civil relationship with your ex. You don’t have to like each other, but maintaining open communication about matters related to your children will make it easier on everyone. If you and your ex find it difficult to be civil, or to remain calm during discussions or handovers, it might be worth enlisting the help of a professional. A counselor or therapist may be able to help you to address your feelings about your ex, and help you to focus on your ex as your children’s other parent, as opposed to someone who hurt you, or whom you dislike.

          Blended Families

          If more than one child or set of children in the family is dealing with divorce, you will need to try to create a positive relationship between all members of the family. Communication will be especially important within a blended family, and it can be even more important to remain positive about, and civil towards, your stepchildren’s absent parent. Again, you do not have to like each other to be civil. It is ok for your kids to know that you do not love, or even like, your ex very much, but it is also important to children in a blended family that all of the parents involved behave respectfully towards each other, and towards each other’s children.

          Create a Co-Parenting Plan

          Agreeing on parenting techniques can be hard enough for married couples, but it can be even more difficult for divorced couples. You may not feel like talking to your ex, or your ex may refuse to talk to you, but drawing up a co-parenting plan as a guideline is a good idea. Your divorce lawyer or a court mediator can give you advice on how to draw up a co-parenting plan, and there are even co-parenting classes available for couples going through a divorce.

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          Stay on the Same Page

          If at all possible, try to make life easier on your child by having a similar schedule, and similar rules, in both mom’s and dad’s house. This is easier said than done, especially if different parenting styles were a factor in the divorce, but children are likely to feel more settled, and be less likely to try to play one divorced parent off against the other, if mom and dad are on the same page for important issues.

          About the Author

          Scott Morgan is a board certified Austin divorce lawyer who regularly blogs on the subject of divorce and family law. You can read his blog at Austin Divorce Specialist.

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          Mediation vs. Litigation

          More and more people are choosing mediation rather than litigation.  Why it has taken so long to catch on, when the benefits of mediation are obvious, is beyond me, but better late than never.

          There are huge advantages when you mediate your divorce, family law, custody, child support, alimony, spousal support or modification issue.  If you’ve spent any time on our mediation website, you already know how passionate we are about mediation and its benefits.

          A new couple came in for mediation recently.  They’d already spent about $100,000 on lawyers’ fees and going to court, and had gotten basically nowhere. That’s not unusual forLos Angelesin terms of divorce lawyers and legal fees in court. It looks like they’ll settle their case with Peace Talks for about $5,000. We’ve accomplished in a few hours what the lawyers didn’t do in four years. That’s the difference Peace Talks can make. 

          Of course, as much as I’d like to claim the credit for this breakthrough, it’s because the clients are ready to settle and want to settle (although there is still a ton of conflict) that makes this possible. But still

          Divorce Threats: I’ll See You in Court!

          There’s often a lot of grandstanding in divorce court proceedings.

          A lot of people say, “I’ll see you in court!” not knowing exactly what that means.  In the moment, they don’t like what they’re hearing, whether it’s in mediation or around the kitchen table, so they say, I’m done with this!” not realizing that saying “no” to whatever settlement process you’re engaged in means you’re saying “yes” to something else.

          And so before you choose litigation, here are some things we thought you might like to know.

          In California divorce courts, many clients think they’re going to get the Atticus Finch style representation in To Kill a Mockingbird in court.  The truth is, however, that if you get 10 minutes to state your case in a divorce court proceeding, you’re lucky.

          divorce mediation

          Mediation is not just a less expensive and time-consuming divorce alternative; it also lets your whole story be expressed. So don’t think of me as some self-interested Southern California divorce mediator who wants to drum up business (which I am, I suppose, but I’m also interested in helping people get divorced without losing their shirt or their sanity). Think of mediators like me as the moderators in a reasoned debate that will produce the fairest result in your own divorce situation.

          California has closed entire courthouses since the recession began. In Los Angeles County, there’s a monthly furlough day that’s mandatory where there’s no court staff and the courthouse is closed.

          And these built-in delays are BEFORE you are likely to get two sentences plus a pile of paperwork to hand the judge, and then your “hearing” is over. Over 41,000 couples  go through this divorce process in Los Angeles County every year. Don’t believe these divorce court facts? See for yourself!

          Take a court field trip! It’s free and open to the public.

          Court Field Trip: At different points during the mediation session, many couples can feel like court would be a good option for resolving some of your divorce or impasse issues.  Before you make a final decision as to whether court would be a good option for you, we suggest that you visit the Superior Court at 111 N. Hill Street, 2nd floor, Los Angeles,CA 90012 (or your local courthouse if you’re not in Los Angeles) and see for yourself what goes on in the family courtrooms.  We think it makes sense for you to have all the information before you make final choices about going to court or choosing mediation as the vehicle to navigate your divorce, and which presents the best choice for you.

          Peace-Talks paints a fairly bleak picture of the litigation process, and the pros and cons of using divorce court to resolve your dispute.  It’s based on considerable family law experiences, but you don’t need to rely on our version:  you can go the courthouse and see for yourself.  All court files and divorce proceedings are public record, which means you can look up anyone’s file in the filing room (room 112), or sit in on anyone’s divorce case in any of the family court rooms (most are on the 2nd floor in the downtown Los Angeles courthouse.

          By going to court, you can observe the litigants, lawyers, bailiffs and judges. You can see and feel what the court experience might be like for your divorce process, divorce settlement, and pos-divorce issues if you were to choose to go to court for your case.  You can get an idea of how much time a judge has to hear each case, as well as the opportunity litigants have to speak to the judge, their lawyers, and the other party.  You can see how much attention the court proceedings give to individuals’ goals, values, common interests, and creative non-judicial solutions regarding child support, visitation and parenting plan mediation and administration.  We think that you’ll agree with Peace-Talk’s divorce mediation service, but it’s important that you witness Los Angeles divorce court for yourself.

          If you’re seeking divorce information in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, or the SouthBay, visit https://www.peace-talks.com or call 310-301-2100.  If you’re not near Los Angeles or Orange County, you can find a mediator near you at http://mediate.com. For more information, visit http://www.makingdivorcework.com.

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          Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator, and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, https://www.peace-talks.com. She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010) http://www.makingdivorcework.com and Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com and writes for the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diana-mercer as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work http://makingdivorceworkblog.com.

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          What Causes Divorce?

          Causes of Divorce

           “Seriously?  You want to end this?  You want a divorce?  I mean, I know we’ve had problems.  I’ve tried to change.  I’ll be better.  Is this really what you want to do?”

           If you’ve said those words or heard those words, it can be crushing either way you look at it.  Divorce happens for all sort of reasons.  And in that moment when you realize your spouse doesn’t want what you want, you search furiously for the one reason, the one thought, the one argument that will change your spouse’s mind.  But it’s not one moment.  It’s not even the past month.  We call it turning.  Turning away from your spouse is what causes divorce.

          cause of divorce

           If divorce is your decision, your situation may have finally crystallized to the point where what you had to do became clear.  If divorce is not your decision, you feel compelled to look at your marriage to find the clues you may have missed, the things that at the time, escaped you.  It’s not an easy place for either of you.  Even now, you have that in common.

           In most of the cases we’ve seen in our practice, it’s difficult to find the precise moment when things changed in any particular relationship.  You may be tempted to look back over the course of this turning, this unraveling to find the exact moment when it all started.  But there’s no Big Bang theory available here.  No single moment in time.  Turning doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s been a process.  But it can feel like an avalanche of questions and emotions for both of you.

           “Could I have worked less?  Made more money?  Been more attentive? Spent more time at home? Was it the last fight we had?  The likely answer to most everything is yes. 

           You both have responsibility.  Finding fault is not like setting pieces on a checker board.  Things don’t necessarily fit into boxes.   It’s far more nuanced.  The easy thing at this point is to be black and white.  It’s far harder to be willing to examine the complexities.   What happened, where communication broke down.  The places that each of you didn’t go to reach the other, the things you didn’t say.

           Marriages ultimately end because [at least] one spouse sought passion or comfort or fulfillment outside the relationship with his or her spouse. These outside interests may start innocently enough, and don’t always take the form of another person or another substance.  But when interest and attention is freely given elsewhere outside the marriage, it’s hard to keep up appearances on the home front. More things break down.  More fights.  More misunderstandings. 

           Your relationship didn’t just break like a plate in the sink.  It took time.  The feelings of disconnection evolved.  Too often when we hear words like, “You didn’t” or  “You never”  we don’t hear the “I need” or “I’d like” that’s not said.  We miss the sub-text.  Maybe your situation would be different if you or your spouse had been that clear, that direct.  It would be great to know that every time we spoke we said what we exactly felt.  But we’re human.  And all too often, we figure out the right thing to say well after the moment to say it came and went. 

           Getting your heart and brain around what happened in your marriage, asking those hard questions and dealing with the sometimes harder answers takes courage.  You may be well past the point of fixing things.  But if you approach the end of your marriage with clarity, it can have a positive effect on how you deal with changes in your life that are part of divorce. 

          These resources can help you sort things out–and they’re free:

          free-stuff

           Things are what they are.  And what has happened, has happened.  As you examine the arc of your marriage, you may begin to see the where changes started to happen, where turning was slightly more obvious.  Not easy lessons to learn.  As you turn from your spouse now, remember you are also turning into the next stage of your life.  Chapters end.  Chapters begin.  Pages turn.

          Arguments are like tennis.  They sometimes start out like a friendly game.  Not counting points or balls outside the service area.  But as it goes on, it’s tough not to want to beat the person you’re playing.  And losing a point only increases your desire to win.  Before you know it, all you want to do is win.  To beat your opponent. 

          Is that how you really want your divorce to go?  Remember, this started out as a relationship.  Heck, it still is. You still have a choice:  divorce mediation, instead of litigation.  If you approach this particular moment from the same side of the net, as it were, there’s a good chance you can come out of this with dignity and respect and and a lot less anger.  Calling it a Win Win might seem like a bit too much work by the silver lining crew.  The value here is how you are, long term.

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          Cost of Divorce: Cost of Staying Together

          Putting a price on sanity?

          There have been so many articles on people who aren’t getting divorced because they “can’t afford it” that it’s making me a little alarmed.

          The monetary cost of divorce is one thing. Certainly, divorce mediation is a less costly alternative to fighting it out in court, especially when finances are tight and savings are dwindling.

          What people don’t see, and what I do see as a divorce professional, is the toll that staying together when you really should be living separately is taking on couples.  Mediation cases are getting harder to settle because couples are really burning bridges by trying to stay in the same house, so by the time they get to mediation they’ve really used up all the good will that they had for each other. 

          And, of course, there’s always the couple that says, “Oh, living together will be fine,” and then I get a call for a criminal lawyer because someone called the police and one or both spouses is in jail.

          But this didn’t start with this recession. It’s pretty much always been the case….

          It was a crisis, alright.  I didn’t think we would ever make it out.  Mortgages were becoming more expensive than the houses they were paying for and being in debt was the rule, not the exception.  Does this story sound familiar?  It’s a familiar plot, but the setting here is Los Angeles, California, 1988.  There I was, a fresh-faced divorce lawyer, newly admitted to the bar in the midst of a looming recession.  There was no end in sight.  Of course, things did eventually turn around, that is until the economic bubble burst again in the early 2000s, and then again in 2008 leading to the situation we are challenged with today.

          Only today is different.  It used to be that couples on the brink of divorce would separate and move into their parents’ homes until the dust settled.  Not anymore.  Now it’s all about staying together and trying to “make do” with changing your living situation being a last resort.

          Sure, it sounds like a decent plan

          Setting Clear Boundaries in Divorce

          Setting Clear Boundaries

          Often, your marital or domestic situation does not meet the level of serious violence where you have to flee, but you are subject to consistent intimidation or abuse.

          These actions are also a form of violence or battering, and also an indication of the deterioration in your relationship. Understand that when you are being victimized or attacked in some way, your children risk being hurt, too. Furthermore, you are showing them a dangerous model for their own future relationships, a type of behavior they may carry with them throughout their life and repeat as adults when they become involved in intimate relationships.

          domestic violence

          Establish standards now for how you allow yourself and your children to be treated. Click here for an informative article on boundary setting.

          Some indications that your spouse, partner, husband or wife has gone too far include: getting angry at you when you disagree; punching holes in walls; throwing objects (aimed at nothing or at you); destroying belongings; threatening to hurt you or leave you for the purpose of intimidating you; physically preventing you from leaving home; putting pressure on you not to work when you want to; insulting or ridiculing you; becoming jealous of your friends, activities, or hobbies; making you account for your whereabouts at all times; using promises and lies to manipulate you or to get you to forgive their angry or threatening behavior; isolating you from friends or family; making you ask permission to go out or make a career move; and threatening to harm your possessions, pets, or children.

          Do not allow behaviors that feel uncomfortable, frightening, or intimidating to become acceptable to you or your children in your home or anywhere. These behaviors are forms of abuse even if you do not fear for your safety.

          Make it clear to your spouse that s/he can no longer try to control your life or your actions. If you do fear for your safety, you will need to take additional steps to guarantee your safety. Click here for information regarding protection orders and the protection order process, and here to familiarize yourself with Peace-Talks’ mediation services. Finally, click here to download the PDF version of Peace-Talks brochure that provides a quick visual means to our family law and mediation services.

          When Your Children Are Involved and Affected Children can be affected by parental violence in several ways. They can be physically injured during an incident between their parents; they can be traumatized by fear for their mother and their own sense of helplessness in protecting her; they can blame themselves for not preventing the violence or see themselves as causing it; they can be directly abused; and they can be neglected by parents who aren’t caring for their kids properly due to the violence present in the parental relationship.

          Studies show that parents fail to understand how often and to what extent children who witnesses parental violence or abuse are affected by it. Both mothers and fathers report that children are aware of abusive behavior less than the children report themselves when given the opportunity to respond.

          You can also take advantage of a book I wrote in 2001 that offers a comprehensive outline of the divorce process, Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001).

          There are free browsing and top 10 tips sections to help you at : http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com . If you’re seeking divorce or other marital information in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, or the South Bay, visit https://www.peace-talks.com  or call 310-301-2100.

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          If you’re not near Los Angeles or Orange County, you can find a mediator near you at http://mediate.com.

          For more information, visit http://www.makingdivorcework.com.  Diana Mercer is an Attorney-Mediator, and the founder of Peace Talks Mediation Services, https://www.peace-talks.com.  She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010) http://www.makingdivorcework.com  and Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and a Psychologist Guide You Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) http://www.yourdivorceadvisor.com  and writes for the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diana-mercer  as well as her own blog Making Divorce Work http://makingdivorceworkblog.com .

          Mediation is the New and Improved Litigation

          Well, there’s really no improvements on divorce and custody litigation.

          But mediation is definitely a better way to go.  Less costly, faster, confidential, on your schedule, tailored to your needs….the benefits of mediation are pretty clear.

          When you mediate your divorce, family law, custody, child support, alimony, spousal support or modification issue you don’t have to go to court and waste time and money.  If you’ve spent any time on our mediation website, you already know how passionate we are about mediation and its benefits.

          divorce mediation

          A new couple came in for mediation recently.  They’d already spent about $100,000 on lawyers’ fees and going to court, and had gotten basically nowhere. That’s not unusual forLos Angelesin terms of divorce lawyers and legal fees in court. It looks like they’ll settle their case with Peace Talks for about $5,000. We’ve accomplished in a few hours what the lawyers didn’t do in four years. That’s the difference Peace Talks can make. 

          Of course, as much as I’d like to claim the credit for this breakthrough, it’s because the clients are ready to settle and want to settle (although there is still a ton of conflict) that makes this possible. But still

          Creating a Good Divorce

          I know it’s an oxymoron:  nobody wants a divorce, so how could one be good? But when you’re faced with divorce, you have lots of opportunties to make it less bad (if not actually good, at least in the long run, in hindsight).

          I’ve been a divorce lawyer for 24 years, and expert on what works best for both parties when you’re getting divorced. As a divorcee myself, I perfected a personal “what works” that helps people navigate the often rough waters of divorce.

           When you’re faced with a divorce or other family law case (custody, support, domestic partnership, cohabitation), you have the maximum opportunity for success in resolving everything to the best benefits through mediation.

          mediation

           This might sound somewhat self-interested, since I’m a full time family law mediator….but I became a mediator after giving up a very high paying divorce lawyer job because I felt it was more important to be part of the solution, and not encourage the fighting that often characterizes divorce.  I traded my fancy car for a 2002 Honda Accord, and 11 years later it’s still fulfilling helping families through this difficult life transition of divorce.

           Diana Mercer, Mediator

          You can work through a lot of the issues you’ll face with our free tools:

          free-stuff

           Here’s how it works:

           In mediation, you and your spouse or partner work with a neutral, unbiased professional or team of mediators. This is more often a lawyer, a therapist trained in mediation, or someone with both legal and counseling expertise. The job of the mediator in your family law case is to help you settle your differences,  from cars and furniture to parenting plans for children, financial support and sharing of retirement accounts.

           When considering a family law or divorce mediator,  look around.  Mediator styles vary.  Ask your prospective mediator if a free orientation or initial consultation is available.  Take time to decide what type of mediator might work best for your personal circumstances. This is an intensely personal process,  so you should seek a personal connection with your chosen mediator.

           A mediator’s style might include:

              * Making suggestions

              * Informing you about legal provisions

              * Relating what others have done in your situation

              * Defining your options

              * Helping you consider alternative ways to resolve your problem

              * Facilitating communication

              * Ensuring the divorce discussion is balanced, productive, and respectful

              * Writing down agreements in a cogent, easy-to-follow way

              * Guiding you through court paperwork (or doing it for you)

              * Mentoring your staying on task and finishing discussions, because when discussions grow difficult, it’s tempting to just change the subject.

           Not all mediators do all these things, so use this list as your own list of questions when considering a mediator in a divorce proceeding.

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          Is Divorce Failure?

          Family Mediation and Failure

          Many clients have told me that they viewed getting divorced as a their greatest failure as an adult.  Even their body language told me they weren’t so proud to be in my office speaking with me about it.

          When you do take that oath and enter into those sacred bonds of marriage, you believe it will last forever.  You never plan on getting divorced; it’s dictated by circumstances that feel out of your control.  However, you can take that control back in determining how to handle divorce when it happens to you.

          Of course, there’s always the famous “going out in a blaze” approach, which may or may not include intense gossiping, rounds of “he-said she-said” and creating a bonfire out of your spouses belongings (not an unpopular route from my experience).

          divorce mediation

          Fortunately for the rest of us, there is a way that allows you to part in a respectful way that is fair to both parties, and doesn’t drudge up any unecessary drama.  It’s called Family Mediation.   It’s truly divorce made easy.  Or at least easier. Signing up for Family Mediation services is a way to avoid expensive trips to your swanky Los Angeles divorce lawyer.

          Even if you feel you have failed as a partner in a marriage, it is still your call whether to fail at being a responsible adult.  Divorce is tricky, so you want to come out of it feeling good about yourself and your history together.  If you care about your relationship, give Mediation Services a shot, it could give you results that you’re looking for.

          A spoiled relationship is one of those things that we just can’t control, at least not once it’s happened and it’s beyond repair.  It could start with a small incident and gradually build up to a separation.  It happens all the time.  To call that a failure would be an injustice.  What you can control is how you react to it.  Working things out peacefully through Family Mediation is a way to help eliminate the burden of a drawn out divorce and still keep on good terms with your spouse.

          Even the best of us get unlucky.  My mother, the most kind and gentle person I ever knew, succumbed to cancer in 2010.  My friend from here in Los Angeles, adopted a drug-addicted boy who is now stricken with a life threatening illness.  The world is full of happenings beyond our control.

          Somebody once said, “it’s not success that makes us great, but how we deal with failure.”  If divorce comes your way, you can greet it with strife and aggression or you can welcome it in and deal with it in a calm way that ensures you will get through it without unnecessary fallout.

          Ask yourself these questions:

          In Divorce, The Truth Is Not Relevant

          The TRUTH IS IRRELEVANT IN DIVORCE.

          I know that sounds like crazy talk.

          But think about it this way:

          When we think of disputes, most of us think that the truth is the key to the resolution of any disagreement.  Get to the truth, and you have the resolution to the conflict. Yet, despite the words of P.D.Q Bach, “Truth is just truth. You can’t have opinions about truth,” how many of us see “the truth” the same way?

          Truth is said to be the foundation of the American justice system, yet how many litigants are satisfied with the outcome of the case once the judge makes a ruling?  By its very nature, litigation results in at least half of the litigants being disappointed, and disagreeing with the mandated “truth”.

          “I Promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”

          divorce mediation

          This oath that’s stated by every witness in an American court is designed to bring out the truth.

          Honesty and veracity are important virtues— in the courtroom and around the mediation table. A witness who is perceived to be lying on one point—even a small one—may be disbelieved in other parts of his story.

          Having credibility and being believed is no less important in mediation—since mediation settlement requires voluntary agreement, you have to gain the trust of your adversary to conclude a deal. Truth is never irrelevant when you’re talking about credibility and trust.

          And the truth is….

          Does it really matter who downloaded the virus onto the computer system?  Does it really matter how many times President Clinton was with Monica Lewinsky?

          Interesting? Yes. But whichever way this testimony came out or was perceived, what truly was important went beyond the truth of this evidence. Could the President regain the trust of Congress, the Cabinet, the American people, and his wife and daughter? Could Monica Lewinsky move on with her life? What happened was that the country’s focus disintegrated into partisan bitterness, when its energy and resources would have been better spent in improving the economy or protecting our citizens from terrorist danger.  That’s what happens when when the focus shifts to the wrong part of the conflict.  The country focused on “the truth” and the past, rather than the bigger picture, and more important goals.

          Looking at it a different way, the truth, though important, remains different for each individual and probably can’t be reconciled. What really happened in the White House bathroom was less important than what President Clinton did at the infamous press conference when he pointed his finger and defiantly (and credibly) stated: “I never had sex with that woman.”  His mealy-mouthed attempt to shade the facts did irreparable damage to his credibility.  The truth mattered much less than the country’s trust in his credibility.  By losing focus on the goals