Monthly Archives: December 2012

Helpful Tips & Considerations for Mediating Child Related Issues (Part 2 of 3 –Grade School Age)

Divorce Mediators San MateoWhile consistency and having emergency plans are still important with grade school age children, a few more issues deserve discussion in divorce mediation.

Parenting Time Schedules
Children will pretty much go along with any parenting schedule and be okay with it, so long as it is consistent.  Children must know when they are coming and going, and it must not change (at least not very often and without good reason).  Keeping to the schedule and making that schedule readily available to the children are very important.  Once a schedule is worked out in divorce mediation, it is a good idea to highlight it and post it on the refrigerator (or other common place) at each home.  Parents should attempt to negotiate a parenting time schedule that works best for the both the parents and children, with the understanding that both parents’ and children’s schedules may likely change throughout childhood.  Be prepared to have to sit down and mediate again if jobs change, or activities for children change.

Keep in mind that you will only ever be able to effectively control what happens during the time when your children are with you.  Thus, if there are particular activities that you want your children to experience, you will only be able to advance those activities during your time.  You will need the future support of your former spouse regarding other activities, which may interfere with his or her time.  Thus, you both have very good incentives to communicate and work together for not only the kids’ sake, but yours too.

Appropriate Conversation & Communication
It is important to discuss and agree upon during mediation what is, and what is not, appropriate conversation and communication with (and in front of) your children.  For example, telling your children that you are divorcing is appropriate.  Tell them why you are divorcing is not.   Also, it is not appropriate for either parent to talk negatively about the other parent in front of (or in ear shot of) the children.  This is putting your children in the middle of your fight and it will negatively affect your children.  Talking about issues related to your children such as money or other adult issues you may have with your former spouse is not appropriate.  Again this is putting your children in the middle of adult matters.  It is in your children’s best interest if you and your spouse can agree in mediation to not discuss such matters in front of the children.

Bring Documents
Some mediation issues need tangible documents available to engage in a productive negotiation.  Child support is one of those issues.  All domestic courts require that that the parties address child support issues for all minor children.  To calculate child support amounts, your mediator will need to know various income related information, childcare costs, health insurance costs, and possibly other child related expense information.  It makes no sense to discuss those issues without the parties having documents to support those figures.  Parties can avoid conflict by bringing to divorce mediation documents to support those numbers.

Not only are documents that evidence financial figures necessary to run child support calculations necessary, but also, documents such as school and activity schedules are essential for negotiating parenting time.   Do not waste your time in a divorce mediation session not having these necessary documents with you.

For any questions regarding divorce mediation, please contact Lisa Nelson at San Francisco Area Mediation at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation.

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Helpful Tips & Considerations for Mediating Child Related Issues (Part 1 of 3 – Ages Birth to Toddler)

Divorce mediation with toddlers

The suggestions provided in this 3-part series are useful for divorce mediation when children are involved.  Domestic courts will require that the parties submit a parenting plan that addresses a variety of key issues.  However, a domestic judge is not going to micromanage parents.  A parenting plan is your opportunity to address parenting issues that are most important to you.  Some of the considerations discussed in this three part series of articles apply generally to mediating a successful parenting plan regarding children of all ages, while others are more important depending upon the age of the children.

Consistent Schedules
The general aim is to try to do what is in the best interest of your children.  With very young children, parents should attempt to keep consistent schedules at both homes.   Consistent feeding and sleep schedules are especially important.  Also, parents should try their best to communicate and support on another with development tasks such as potty training and the like.  You may want to take the opportunity during mediation to discuss and come to some common ground on those types of issues.

Emergencies
Another very important issue to discuss in mediation is how to handle emergencies, regardless of the age of the child.  Every parent wants to be made aware of an emergency.  Parents should decide who will be called, when, and provide one another with contact numbers (and backup emergency contact numbers).

Handling Change
As a general matter, you should realize that change is inevitable and that even with the most comprehensive and thoughtful plan, unanticipated situations will occur.  This is especially the case when you are crafting a shared parenting plan that is intended to suffice through an entire childhood.  Thus, it is important to have a conversation regarding how you will handle the unexpected situations that your parenting plan does not address.  Heading into court to resolve an unexpected conflict is normally a costly and unsatisfying experience.  Including a provision that the parties agree to attempt mediation is normally a more effective option.

Please contact Lisa Nelson, Divorce Mediator at San Francisco Area Mediation today at (650) 556-880 for a free initial consultation regarding your family matter.

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Divorce Mediation Allows You to Be Creative & Take Control

Creative divorce mediation in San Francisco

Divorce Mediation invites thinking outside the box!

Not only does divorce mediation allow couples to engage in creative solutions to issues that a court will want to see addressed when ending a marriage, but also, it allows you to address issues beyond what a court would address to end a marriage.  Further, it allows you to be imaginative and take control of how to resolve those issues.  This is true of both financial and child related issues.

Financial Issues in Divorce Mediation
If left to a court to decide, a judge will normally attempt to divide up assets and debts as evenly (or “equitable”) as possible.  Also, is it common to order the sale of marital assets to pay debts and relieve each party of any on going marital burdens.  However, depending upon the circumstances, the “usual way” a judge makes orders may or may not be in the best financial interest of you and your spouse.  Parties are free to decide whatever works best for them regarding the division of assets and debts, and write that out clearly in a mediation document. The only requirement is that there is full disclosure by both parties of all the assets and debts.

Children Issues in Divorce Mediation
The domestic court requires that certain basic child related things are addressed either by agreement or by the judge making a decision.  For instance, parenting time and child support are the big issues.  However, a domestic judge is not going to micro-manage how parents raise their children.   So issues that may be important to you, may not be the type of issue a judge will address.  For instance, judges will normally stay away from religious and cultural issues relating to children.  However, these are sometimes important issues to some parents.  In divorce mediation, parents are free to discuss these issues and come to agreements as to how they will be handled.  Other issues such as children attending private school and who will pay for it can be discussed.  A court would never order parents to put children in private school and force a non-agreeing parent to pay.  However, if that is important to the parties, it can be negotiated in divorce mediation and included in a shared parenting plan.

If you have any questions regarding divorce mediation, please do not hesitate to call Lisa Nelson, San Francisco Area Mediation (SFAM), today at (650) 556-8880.

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Particular Tangible Documents to Bring to Divorce Mediation (Part II)

Documents for Divorce Mediation in San Mateo & San FranciscoIn Part I regarding documents, I discussed why it is important to bring various tangible document to your divorce mediation sessions.  In this article, I list the various types of documents that you and your spouse should be prepared to bring with you to divorce mediation.  Generally speaking, you want to have on hand tangible documents to refer to when discussing dividing up assets and debts, running support calculations, and negotiating child related issues.  Your San Mateo divorce mediator can advise you if all the following documents are necessary in your particular situation.

Documents for Asset and Debt Division Issues & Support Calculations in Divorce Mediation

  • Tax Returns, W-2’s & 1099’s – Personal & Corporate (last 3 years)
  • Partnership/Corporate Financial Statements (last 3 years)
  • Payroll Stubs (last 3)
  • Monthly/budget income and expenses list/chart/spreadsheet (last 12 months)
  • Social Security Statement (most recent)
  • Life Insurance Policies (copy of the policies & any addendums) & premium statement (most recent)
  • Pension Plans (Defined Benefit & Defined Contribution) (booklets, contact person, most recent statements)
  • All Employee Benefit and Executive Compensation Booklets and Statements
  • Stock Options (most recent statement, booklets)
  • IRA, Roth IRA, Keogh, SEP, 401K, 403B, 457 & Non-Qualified Deferred Compensation Statements and contact person (last 3 years)
  • Savings Account Statements for Individual, Joint, Business & Corporate Accounts (last 3 years)
  • Statements regarding Securities, Money Markets, Brokerage, CD’s, Commodities, Mutual Funds, Investment Accounts, Annuities, Stocks & Bonds for Individual, Joint, Business & Corporate Accounts
  • Wills, Trusts and Amendments or Codicils
  • Business or Partnership Agreements
  • Children’s Bank, Savings, Insurance and Investment Account Statement (last 3 years)
  • Credit Card Statements for Individual, Joint, Business & Partnership Accounts (last 3 years)
  • Loans of any kind for Individual, Joint, Business & Partnership Accounts (last 3 years)
  • Listing of all non-investment assets own Individually, Jointly, by a Business or Partnership
  • Information on any major Cash or In-Kind Transactions for the last 3 years (e.g., barter)

Documents for Child Related Issues in Divorce Mediation:

  • Scholastic schedules which include the children’s days off, holidays, and breaks
  • Schedule of activities for the children and you
  • Documentation regarding child related expenses that you pay including but not limited to child care, health care, food, clothing, activities, school, other necessities.
  • Documentation regarding future anticipated costs such as braces, activities, school, etc.
  • Documentation of transportation costs and expenses, especially important if both parents are not, or will not be, in the same geographical location.

Contact Lisa Nelson of San Francisco Area Mediation today at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation regarding divorce mediation.

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