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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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Helpful Tips & Considerations for Mediating Child Related Issues (Part 3 of 3 –Teenagers)

Teenagers in divorce mediation in San Mateo and San Francisco

Divorce Mediator discusses teenage considerations.

If you are ending a marriage and teenage children are involved, you should consider addressing a few other issues in your divorce mediation sessions –such as transferring children, involving counselors, and setting healthy, consistent boundaries.  Appropriate communication with and in front of your children is still an important matter to discuss in divorce mediation when teenagers are involved (see Part 2).  Additionally, being consistent with schedules is essential (See Part 2).  As teenagers begin to have independent lives and get involved in activities, such as employment, it becomes increasingly significant to have a schedule in place upon which they can depend and plan around. 

Transfer Wars
How to handle the physical transfer of children between households is something divorcing parents should consider discussing in divorce mediation for children of all ages.  As always the focus should be on minimizing conflict –as this is in the best interests of your children.  Particulars that might be discussed in divorce mediation include: where will the transfer occur; and who will be present at the transfer.  If the two of you cannot engage without conflict, maybe it is better to pick up and drop children off at neural home, such as a grandparent.  If a new romantic interest is going to be upsetting to the situation, then perhaps efforts should be made to avoid that person being present.  If child-related issues need to be discussed, how will they be handled?  For instance, can you agree to go somewhere outside of the earshot of the children, or discuss them on the phone before or after the pick up?  Keep in mind that it is very upsetting to children to be in the middle of any sort of conflict between their parents.  Efforts now to address some of these issues in divorce mediation, and come to agreements, will be helpful later.

Counseling
It is not uncommon for teenagers (and school age children too) to have a difficult time adjusting to their parents’ divorce.  Even with the most well intentioned parents, children often feel in the middle of the conflict, or blame themselves for the situation.   Behaviors to watch out for include failing grades, personality changes, disassociation from friends or family, depression, withdrawal from normal activities, and drug use.  It is a good idea to discuss in divorce mediation what you intend to do if you observe that your child is not adjusting well to the divorce.  Will you get your children in counseling?  How will you choose a counselor?  Who will pay for it?   Children may or may not be receptive to the idea of therapy, but they will definitely be more receptive if both parents are encouraging.

Boundaries
While it is tempting to want to be more of a friend to your children when they reach their teenage years, this is precisely the time when they are looking to you as parents to help them set good, healthy boundaries.  This is sometimes a tricky area to mediate, but the discussion might center around keeping similar rules regarding when children need to be home, how they are to check in, how and what information needs to be provided regarding sleepovers, etc.  This is your opportunity to try and get on the same page with your spouse about these issues.  It will have negative ramifications for your children if one parent is the “good-time Charlie”, while the other attempts to set healthy boundaries.  Children unfortunately end up learning the hard way (often through unfortunate experiences) when parents give their children mixed messages.

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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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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What Are The Differences between Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce?

Divorce mediation and collaborative divorce are both alternative methods used to end a marriage that are intended to involve less conflict and avoid court hearings.  However, some significant differences exist between divorce mediation and collaborative divorce.  Here is how the two differ:

  • The collaborative divorce process involves a group of professionals (attorneys, mediators, tax and financial advisors, divorce coaches, etc.) advising and facilitating the couple in their resolution of all issues that need to be addressed to end a marriage.
  • A San Mateo divorce mediator may or may not be involved in a collaborative divorce process.  In either case, a divorce mediator is a neutral person who helps the parties identify and resolve whatever financial and child-related issues that need to be resolved. A San Mateo divorce mediatordoes not give legal advice, but can recommend professionals that would be helpful to resolving whatever issues need to be resolved.
  • With divorce mediation, the parties may utilize whatever professionals are needed to resolve the party’s issues, including having attorneys involved, but it is not necessary or required as it is in collaborative divorce.  If the divorce mediator is an attorney too, he or she may be able to prepare all of the legal documents needed to file with the court to end the marriage without the use of other attorneys.  Thus, divorce mediation alone is often less expensive than collaborative divorce.
  • If an agreement is not reached regarding all financial and children issues during the collaborative divorce process (i.e., the matter must go to court), then all of the attorneys involved in the collaborative divorce process must be let go, and new ones must be hired for the divorce.  There are no such restrictions on a San Mateo divorce mediator.

Call Lisa Nelson, an experienced San Mateo divorce mediatorat SFAM, today at (650) 556-8880 for a free initial consultation regarding mediating any and all issues involved with ending your marriage.

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Three Fundamental Rules of Divorce Mediation

In order for divorce mediation to be successful typically the following three rules need to be in place: 

  • Only one party speaks at a time.  It is the role of the San Francisco divorce mediator is to facilitate the dialog between the parties.  To this end, only one party is to speak at a time.  The divorce mediator will prompt conversation back and forth between the parties, and make sure everyone’s ideas and points are heard.  If the parties interrupt one another, it is the mediator’s role to stop the process and reaffirm the rule.
  • No personal attacks.   Your San Francisco divorce mediator should direct the parties to focus on issues and not to make personal attacks or digs on the other party.  The mediation process will break down if insults begin, and are allowed to continue.  The mediator should stop the session and redirect the parties if someone begins to engage in personal attacks.  If the person will not stop the insulting behavior, the mediation session should be terminated.
  • Full disclosure.  Full disclosure of all assets and debts is necessary for a mediated divorce agreement to become legally binding.  A San Francisco divorce mediator should advise the parties of this up front, and they should agree in writing to fully disclose all assets and debts. 

If you are considering mediation, please contact Lisa Nelson at SFAM.  Call (650) 556-8880 today for a free consultation to discuss your mediation needs.

 

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