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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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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What is the Difference Between Divorce, Dissolution, & Legal Separation?

Lisa Nelson of San Francisco Area Mediation (SFAM) explains the difference between divorce, dissolution, and legal separation, and how divorce mediation relates to any of them.

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