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Whose Turn is it This Time?---Holiday Planning for Children of Divorce

christmas-divorceHoliday time is approaching and thoughts naturally turn to family. Media hype, in its many forms, paints a perfect picture of the holidays showing families enjoying food, gifts, and fun together. Though that scenario is often true, holidays can be stressful. Whose turn is it this time to host? Where should it happen? Fly or drive? For children of divorce the stress is compounded by even more issues. With several sets of family and friends, there are often more logistics to consider. Many children like to be at home during the holidays and don’t want to spend the day traveling. Older children may have experienced family traditions that remain special to them and want to continue them. Often there are special family members and friends they want to include in the festivities. Fortunately, with consideration of the needs and wants of everyone involved, there are many options to satisfy the issues and make the holidays happy times for all.

You Don’t Have to Do it Alone

Though parents usually put their children’s needs first in any situation, the holidays can be a particularly difficult time for divorced parents to do so. If can be overwhelming for parents to determine what is best for their families. It’s important to remember that holidays are not just about one person and spouses should not be in competition with each other over the details. Instead, couples need to communicate and coordinate with each other. If you are having difficulty negotiating the issues and logistics of family holidays, a family law mediator can help. A licensed, experienced family mediator acts as a neutral third party. The mediator aids in the discussion of family needs and desires, diffuses any animosity, and guides parents in finding the best resolutions for the holidays. The mediator can also help parents think of new family traditions and ways to create new memories. Here are some positive options for setting up a holiday schedule:

Split the Holiday – A good option for major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, splitting the holiday means children spend half the day with each parent. This solves the issue of parents and family members who don’t want to miss out on a holiday with the children for an entire year and works well if parents live near each other.

Schedule the Holiday Twice Each Year – This also works for parents who don’t want to miss the annual holiday or split the day. For example, one family celebrates Thanksgiving on Thursday while the other celebrates on Friday, or one celebrates Christmas Eve and the other Christmas Day.

Different Holidays for Each Parent – Some holidays may be more important to one parent than the other. Parents of different religions appreciate this option---one parent can celebrate Hanukah and the other Christmas.

Alternate the Holidays – Holidays can be assigned to parents on even or odd years. Parents don’t miss a holiday for more than one year in a row and it reduces the time children spend traveling.

Three-Day Weekends – Alternate the three-day weekend every year, splitting it in half, or alternating the holiday only.

Most holiday schedules include major federal and school holidays, such as New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents' Day, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as other religious holidays each parent may follow. If parents live close to each other, children usually spend Mother’s Day with their mother and Father’s Day with their father. Finally, parents will need to name specific start and end times, as well as assign transportation responsibilities, to avoid confusion on each holiday. It is important to note that holidays and vacation time always supersede the regular visitation schedule.

To learn more about the mediation process, complete our request for a free online evaluation, and to receive a free 30-minute phone consultation, or call 619-702-9174.


What the Proposed Reforms to the Tax Code May Mean for Divorcing Couples

tax-divorceThere’s much concern about the effects the proposed reforms to the U.S. tax code will have on issues such as health care, business, education. One more issue to consider is its effects on divorcing couples. As it stands now, the tax plan would impose a new penalty on divorce. It would end the tax break divorcees now receive for paying alimony and increase the total amount of tax paid by divorced couples. By eliminating this tax break, the government stands to gain an extra $8 billion plus in new revenue over the next 10 years.

No More Deductions for Alimony

The way it works now alimony is tax deductible by the spouse who’s paying it (typically the one with the higher income). Every dollar in alimony paid reduces the payer’s taxable income by the same amount. The spouse receiving the alimony pays taxes on it just like any income. With the proposed tax change there is a switch---the paying spouse would no longer get a tax break, and the receiving spouse would no longer pay taxes on the alimony. Though it may look like the receiving spouse gets the good end of the deal, it may not be the case. Divorcing couples could end up paying more taxes post tax change, because the spouse who pays alimony, usually has the higher income and now can’t deduct it. This could lead to more legal wrangling and higher litigation fees for determining the amount of alimony a spouse is paying or receiving. Also, couples might be forced to stay longer in bad marriages that they feel too financially strapped to leave.

Mediation Can Help

People never go into marriages thinking they will one day divorce. The plan is usually happily ever after. But, sometimes life makes change necessary. The perfect choice for help in maneuvering the tax reform changes and solving the issues of divorce during this time of uncertainty, is mediation. Here are just some of the ways mediation can help.

-  Mediation is non-adversarial---couples can focus on what is really important to them without confrontation or defensiveness, and concentrate on the right solution for everyone involved.

-  The divorce mediator acts as a neutral third party that gently guides couples through the separation process, addressing issues such as alimony, asset and debt division, child custody and support, divorce or legal separation, one issue at a time.

-  If need be, a mediator can help you decide whether to wait, try to work things out or go ahead with a divorce.

-  Determine alimony by realistically looking at the income levels of each spouse to determine fair payment.

**As of this date the House has approved its version of the bill and the Senate is slated for a vote after Thanksgiving.

To learn more about the mediation process, complete our request for a free online evaluation, and to receive a free 30-minute phone consultation or call 619-702-9174.


A Fair Way on WS Radio: Part 2

Rich Gordon, Principal Mediator for A Fair Way Mediation Center, chats about the benefits to choose mediation over litigation when it comes to divorce and the book “Stress-Free Divorce, Part II, a guide for couples entering into the divorce process.



Social Media Considerations During a Divorce

Because going through the divorce process is a challenging and stressful experience, most people feel the need to seek support from their friends by sharing and discussing their feelings and frustrations. While doing so with a few friends over coffee or beer is fine, the danger is in sharing emotions with hundreds of friends and acquaintances on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, as it can lead to unforeseen consequences.

Here is a list of a few mistakes you can avoid making and how they can have legal repercussions in your divorce proceedings:

1) Try to keep the split quiet for a while, or decide to announce it together to keep the atmosphere amicable. In addition, avoid negative comments about your ex, especially if you share mutual friends on social media platforms. You don’t want your friends to feel pressured to take sides. If you can keep the split amicable, avoid blocking your ex on social media, especially if there are children involved as you still may want to share some posts, while keeping others private.

2) Keep your social media posts positive or neutral. Avoid sharing personal details and doing your dirty laundry online. Not only does this put a drain on your personal relationships, but your current or prospective employer may also have access to those posts one day.

3) If you are friends with your ex on social media, avoid posting pictures about your new single life, including going on dates or having fun without your former partner. While your ex may feel animosity towards you when viewing this type of posts, you will only delay the healing process on both sides. It is best to keep private matters private until the divorce is final. Spying on your ex on social media can also delay healing. It is best to focus on yourself and activities that bring you peace and joy.

4) The most important mistake of all is to post any information that may be used against you in a court of law. Anything you say in writing could affect many aspects of the divorce process, including the separation of assets and debts, spousal support, child support, child custody, etc. This includes emails, text messages, and anything you post on social media, even as a private post. If you block your ex but share mutual friends, those friends could forward those posts to your ex. For example, imagine stating that you have a low income job on your financial forms to avoid paying spousal and child support but bragging about getting a new job or a bonus, or taking expensive vacations on social media. Lying on your financial statements is a crime. Therefore, any electronic proof that you lied about your income is admissible in court, and a judge can even subpoena you if you refuse to share those posts.

5) Avoid at all costs deleting online accounts after posting negative or compromising information as this constitutes destruction of evidence and could have legal consequences. Remember that people can always take a screen shot of your posts before you delete them. The best way to stay out of trouble is to avoid posting anything online that you don’t want to tell the whole world and become permanent. Keep a low social media profile, be cautious and discreet until the divorce is final, and remain amicable with your ex as much as possible. Keep in mind that if your children aren’t on social media yet, one day they will be. Think about what you want them to see when reading about this difficult time in your life.

To learn more about the mediation process, complete our request for a free online evaluation, and to receive a free 30-minute phone consultation call 619-702-9174.

What You Need to Learn About Divorce Before Asking for One

Many couples find out the hard way how draining a divorce can be, both financially and emotionally. For this reason, it is essential for anyone contemplating divorce to do his/her research and get educated about the process before filing a request for divorce with the court. There are several legal options to consider, including litigation, do-it-yourself and mediation, and some of them are more costly or lengthy than others. Not one option works for every situation or couple, but the best option is always the one that encourages communication and cooperation between the separating partners.

Today, many couples have unrealistic expectations about their divorce. Tabloid papers and Hollywood movies tend to emphasize animosity and conflict between partners. While litigation is seen as a more traditional and trusted option, the process automatically puts spouses on opposite sides and on the defensive. Most divorcing couples can find common grounds to avoid aggressive litigation in court. For this reason, litigation should always be the last option to handle the divorce process.

Because of the cost associated with many divorces, especially when using attorneys, some couples try to save money by choosing the do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce. Depending on the couple’s relationship, assets, debts, and family situation, a DIY divorce could end up costing a lot more than expected if conflict occurs and couples can’t agree. In addition, unless both spouses are highly educated about family law, they may leave many issues unaddressed by handling the divorce themselves, which may delay their final divorce judgment for several months, or possibly years. Finally, couples opting for a DIY divorce also have no recourse left once they have agreed on everything and the final divorce papers are signed. Taking on this extra risk and responsibility to save a few dollars in the process is often not worth it.

Couples seeking divorce will be most successful when working together on a low-conflict resolution. Divorce mediation is often the best venue for parties open to negotiating and to reaching a compromise on the many aspects of their divorce, from the division of community assets and debts, the division of retirement and pension plans, child custody, child support, visitation schedules, spousal support (alimony), and any other issues relevant to the couple. Because divorce mediation helps couples reach their own decisions, a final marital settlement agreement (MSA) can often be completed in just a few months.

To learn more about the mediation process, complete our request for a free online evaluation, and to receive a free 30-minute phone consultation or call 619-702-9174.

How LGBT Couples can Benefit From Mediation for Separation or Divorce

In San Diego, July is the time to celebrate Pride in the LGBT community. The annual San Diego Pride Parade is among the largest in the United States and it took place on July 15, 2017. When the June 26, 2015 US Supreme Court ruling finally made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, LGBT couples celebrated around the country and many were finally able to make their commitment to each other legal. As more LGBT couples live in a domestic relationship or get married, they may experience the same rewards and challenges of opposite sex marriages, including the possibility of separation and divorce down the road. These events can be difficult and stressful for many couples, and LGBT couples are not exempt.

Whether LGBT couples decide to dissolve a domestic partnership or a marriage, they need to make decisions similar to heterosexual couples regarding many aspects of their relationship. These include the division of assets, personal property and debt, spousal support, child support and custody, pet custody, division of retirement and pension plans, and any issues related to health and life insurance. As various states continue to grant (or sometimes challenge) equal rights to the LGBT community, it is important for LGBT couples to seek legal guidance and protection that will stand the test of time.

Laws regarding LGBT couples and families’ rights are changing fast and they can differ greatly from state to state, which can make conflict resolution even more complicated if couples move from one state to another. For this reason, there has been a rise in the number of attorneys and family mediators who specialize in LGBT relationships and can address the specific needs of this community. If you are an LGBT couple who decided to separate, it is important to choose a mediator who is highly knowledgeable in LGBT legal separation, domestic partnership termination, and marriage dissolution, and who has a lot of experience understanding and helping LGBT couples and their unique situations. A good way to find out if a mediator is a good match for you is to take advantage of a mediator’s free first consultation (link to blog post How to choose the right divorce mediator for you). By asking specific questions, you can decide how much experience a mediator has in addressing the diverse needs of today’s ever-changing families with sensitivity and understanding. You should always ask if the mediator is specifically trained in same-sex couples issues and is sensitive to the nuances in these relationships.

Both heterosexual couples and LGBT couples can benefit from mediation instead of litigating through attorneys. In many cases, mediation will be less expensive, less hostile and the divorce process will be completed in less time. Divorce and separation mediation enables couples to remain in control throughout the process and handle their unique issues personally. Through mediation, same-sex couples can make important life decisions that they will be able to live with, instead of relying on third-party decisions made by attorneys or the courts.

To learn more about the mediation process, complete our request for a free online evaluation, and to receive a free 30-minute phone consultation, call 619-702-9174.