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

Creative Co-Parenting - Peace Talks Mediation Services - CoParenting, Child Custody, Divorce, Children of DivorceOne 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

Less Painful Divorces

Less Painful Divorces - Peace Talks Mediation Services - divorce, communication, divorce advice, divorce mediation Copyright: <a href="https://www.123rf.com/profile_perhapzzz">perhapzzz / 123RF Stock Photo</a>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.

Change In Divorce Mediation for 2019

Change In Divorce Mediation for 2019 - Peace Talks Mediation Services - Divorce Mediation, Divorce, Divorce Mediation Laws Copyright: <a href="https://www.123rf.com/profile_wutwhan">wutwhan / 123RF Stock Photo</a>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.

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

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

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

Mediation vs. Arbitration

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

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

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

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

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

Link to full article here