Category Archives: Marital Assets & Debts

What Issues Can Be Resolved Through Divorce Mediation?

Lisa Nelson of San Francisco Area Mediation (SFAM) explains that divorce mediation can be used to resolve both child related issues and financial issues involved with ending a marriage, and how divorce mediation can be helpful for both types of issues.

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7 Planning Tips to Prepare for A Peaceful Divorce (Part II: Tips 4-7)

Prepare for ending your marriage.The following 4 tips are offered as a continuation from the previous divorce mediation blog article posted on 1/16/13.  These are additional considerations when preparing for a peaceful divorce in the Bay Area.

4.  Research Support & Counseling Options
The ending of a marriage is often one of the most painful experiences people will go through in their lives.  Do not under estimate the need for support as you are going through it. Even when you have good friends and family members to talk to, having unbiased trained support is still a good idea.  Further, I assure you that it gets exhausting listening to anyone as they go through the process.  You will most likely want to talk about what is going on and how you are feeling, and you should.  There are many great therapists out there, and many divorce support groups.  Do yourself a favor and at least consider that this might be something helpful to you at some point during or after your marriage ends.

Also, if you have children, you should research therapists that specialize in working with children going through divorce.  Your child may or may not adjust well to the news.  This type of research is to simply to be prepared if your child does not seem to be coping well.  Most therapists tend to specialize and have experience in different areas.  Knowing what resources are available, and the potential costs is helpful to your planning process.

5.  Talk to An Accountant
Another important person to consult during your planning process is an accountant.  An account can be very helpful in explaining your finances, and advising you regarding various tax and accounting matters related to ending your marriage.  For example, there are potential tax considerations to understand regarding paying or receiving both child support and spousal support.  Understanding these matters will help you in formulating the best plan for you and your children.

6.  Research Divorce Mediators
Because it is important that your divorce mediator is a viewed as a neutral between the spouses, a divorce mediator should not meet with you without your spouse present.  If one, or the other, of the spouses has had a prior meeting with the mediator, this normally prompts a bias.  However, you can conduct some preliminary research to find divorce mediators in the Bay Area that are experienced, and get an idea of their fees for your planning purposes.

7.  Put Together A Plan and Backup Plans
Once you have a good grasp on all your current costs and potential future expenses, you are in a good position to put together your game plan.  You should have an ideal plan, and backup plans.  You need to plan your finances accordingly for your worst-case scenario.  If you cannot afford to get divorced, you would be better served to wait until you have a plan in place for getting the money.  If you feel strongly that your marriage needs to, or is going to end, you will do you and your family a great favor by planning for your divorce before you take action.

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

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7 Planning Tips to Prepare for A Peaceful Divorce (Part I: Tips 1-3)

Prepare for ending your marriage.

The most important thing you can do to minimize the potential conflict involved with ending a marriage is to plan for your divorce. You will have a much great chance of being able to utilize tools such as divorce mediation if you have researched and developed a game plan. Ending a marriage is a huge, complicated ordeal. It deserves a thoughtful, calculated approach. Here are some things you should consider doing in your planning process.

1) Research & Talk to Attorneys
You should become aware of what to expect when going through a divorce, and how much it is going to cost. Even if you hope to use divorce mediation and avoid a contested divorce, you should be aware of what is involved in a divorce proceeding. It is prudent to know your worst-case options, but aim for the best-case scenario. Divorce mediation is a voluntary process. Thus, if both parties do not agree to try it, or decide at any point not continue with it, then you would have to go through a court divorce proceeding to end your marriage. The good news is that most divorce attorneys do not charge for an initial consultation. You should interview more than one divorce attorney. This is a great way to get an overview of what to expect, as well as get a feel for different attorneys. Come prepared with questions. In a best-case scenario, your spouse will be open to divorce mediation. In a worst-case scenario, your spouse fights the divorce the entire way. You should especially understand the costs of your worst-case scenario. You do not want to be in the middle of a divorce battle and run out of money to pay your attorney, or the other expenses involved in preparing for contested hearings regarding property and children issues.

2) Research Housing Alternatives
At some point you and your spouse will need to separate. Being in separate spaces as you work through your ending your marriage is a good idea for a number of reasons. As a general matter, it is very difficult for spouses to negotiate the terms of their divorce when they are residing in the same space. Let’s face it, for most spouses this is going to be a very emotional time. You both need your space to think and deal apart from one another. However, you should consult a divorce attorney for advice regarding possible legal ramifications (especially if children are involved) of moving out of the marital home in your particular situation. Another good reason to separate is to reduce the conflict in your household. This is especially important if children are involved. I assure you your children will suffer and feel in the middle if you and your spouse engage in spitting matches in the home.

To this end, you need to carefully consider your options and have a plan, and backup plans regarding your housing. If you do not want to stay in the house, or are unable to (because the conflict is too much or because a temporary court order removes you), where are the possible places you could reside (with and without your children)? How much do the places cost? When are you able to move in? If you want to your children to be residing with you at least part-time, then you must have adequate space for them.  This may be an involved process in you live in an area such as the San Francisco Bay area where housing is expensive and limited.  This is all part of your alternative planning.

3) Access and Copy Documents
While you are residing in the same home as your spouse, you have easier access to the types of documents that you will need for ending your marriage –whether it is through divorce mediation or a litigated divorce procedure in San Francisco. You want to be able to access, and at least make copies of all the various documents that you will need. These include documents and statements regarding credit cards, mortgages, automobile loans, investments, bank accounts, etc. (See my previous posts for a more through discussion of the types of documents you will need).

For any questions regarding divorce mediation, please contact Lisa Nelson at San Francisco Area Mediation (SFAM) at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation.  SFAM provides divorce mediation services for clients in the Bay Area. Offices are conveniently located in San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

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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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Can Divorce Mediation Be Used In All Situations?

Divorce mediation can be used successfully in most, but not all, situations where a couple is ending their marriage.  The following will explain three scenarios where divorce mediation is unlikely to be successful.

The first is if domestic violence is present in the marriage.  Often the power balance between the parties is too great for mediation to succeed.  If one spouse fears the other, then most likely the fearful spouse is not going to be able to comfortably assert opinions and creatively engage in mediation.  This is a situation where each party having his or her attorney present may be helpful.  However, as a general matter couples that have domestic violence issues are not great candidates for divorce mediation.

Another situation where even an experienced San Francisco divorce mediator will likely have difficulty helping the parties resolve their issues is when either party has a major drug or alcohol problem.  Substance issues can be disruptive to the mediation process for many reasons.  The user may fail to show up for mediations sessions, or be under the influence of a substance at a divorce mediation session.  It is often very difficult to negotiate issues when a party is under the influence.  Additionally, the using party may later sabotage the agreement.  Generally speaking people with substance issues are often difficult to work with and unpredictable –depending upon the intensity of the problem.

If either or both parties have major mental health impairments, mediating a divorce may be impossible too.  This absolutely depends on the type and severity of the mental health issues.   It is in your best interest to disclose any mental health problems to your San Francisco divorce mediator, so that your mediator can honestly evaluate whether he or she believes mediation will work in your situation.   Divorce mediation is not as likely to succeed if substance issues, mental health limitations, or any other life circumstance that renders a party unable to think clearly and rationally, are present.

Contact Lisa Nelson, San Francisco Divorce Mediator, today at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation regarding your divorce mediation matter.

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The Importance of Bringing Tangible Documents to Divorce Mediation (Part I)

An experienced San Mateo divorce mediator should provide the parties with a list of necessary documents that they are to gather and have ready prior to beginning mediation sessions.  Having tangible documents to reference is important when discussing asset and debt issues, as well as children and support issues.

Asset & Debt Documentation
It is very difficult to divide up assets and debts if the parties are not in agreement as to the value of all the marital assts.   Fortunately there are methods and professional services available to value most anything.  You will save yourself lots of frustration if you and your spouse get all of your assets valued prior to negotiations.  Examples of tangible documents that may be relevant in a divorce matter include a home appraisal, bank and credit card statements, pension appraisals, etc.  Documents to support any and all current marital debts should be gathered and brought to mediation too.

Child Related Documents
When discussing matters related to children, it is helpful to have documents such as school calendars and activities schedules on hand.   Another useful reference document is your court’s local “Standard Order of Visitation.”   This is a local rule that a Judge may impose regarding visitation when parents cannot otherwise decide themselves what is in their children’s best interest.  It is good to have this rule on hand as reference during negotiations to provide parents with some guidelines.  Also, the local rule may address some other issues that court requires addressed but that the parties had not thought to discuss.  Your San Mateo divorce mediator should be helpful in advising what a particular courts want to see addressed in their agreements regarding children.

Support Documents
Current paystubs (or direct deposit statements) and previous tax returns are important to verify each party’s income when coming to a divorce mediation session.  This will be useful for discussing child support and spousal support issues.  You will need income information in order for your divorce mediator to run child support and spousal support calculations.   Child support is an issue that the Court will require you to address if children are involved.

Contact Lisa Nelson,  SFAM Divorce Mediator, today at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation regarding your divorce matter.

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