Fear of Loneliness? Don’t Worry. You’ll Be Fine

October 15, 2012

Fear of loneliness is one of the biggest factors that prevents unhappily married people from moving on with their lives  and taking the big plunge – divorce. Though I don’t advocate divorce as a cure all for unhappiness (especially when there are children involved), it is sometimes the right thing to do.  When that is the case, fear of loneliness need not prevent you from doing so.  Don’t take my word for it, though.  Taking the plunge into solo living is supported by the first fully researched book that I am aware of on this topic, by Eric Klinenburg, an NYU Sociology Professor.

Prof. Klinenberg has done extensive research into the US’s exploding single population and, despite what many people believe, he has found that being single is often much sweeter than expected. In his book, “Going Solo”, Prof. Klinenberg implodes the myths of the sad and lonely spinster, the lost middle aged divorcé and the loveless widow and widower. After all, with one in seven adults in the US living the single life, could that many people possibly be miserable?  “No”, says Prof. Klinenberg, as he explores “how solo living is exploding and becoming less stigmatized, how it’s a privilege as well as a liability and how, at certain points in our modern lives, living alone may very well be the more desirable state.” (Quote from the New York Times interview of Prof. Klinenberg “America: Single and Loving It” (2/10/12))

http://ow.ly/i/11ztt


What Virginia Divorce Courts Consider When Dividing Property & Debt

October 13, 2012

Imagehttp://www.grainemediation.com

In Virginia, the courts are required to consider very specific statutory criteria when dividing property and debt pursuant to a divorce.  Like most states (all on the east coast), Virginia is in equitable distribution state.  That means that courts must make decisions on how to divide property and debt based on what the judge feels is “fair” (equitable) . . . and  “fair” does not, necessarily, mean “equal”. In mediation, we consider the very same set of criteria, with emphasis on those areas that our clients feel are most important to their case.  This list is straight from the Virginia Code, Annotated §20-107.

  1. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party to the well-being of the family;
  2. The contributions, monetary and nonmonetary, of each party in the acquisition and care and maintenance of the marital property of the parties;
  3.  The duration of the marriage;
  4. The ages and physical and mental condition of the parties;
  5. The circumstances and factors which contributed to the dissolution of the marriage
  6. The time period and circumstances of when and how specific items of property were acquired;
  7. The debts and liabilities of each spouse, the basis for such debts and liabilities, and the property which may serve as security for such debts and liabilities;
  8. The liquid or non-liquid character of all marital property;
  9. The tax consequences to each party under differing distribution options;
  10. The use or expenditure of marital property, by either of the parties, for a non marital separate purpose or the dissipation of such funds, when such was done in anticipation of divorce or separation or after the last separation of the parties; and
  11. Such other factors as the parties deemed necessary and appropriate to consider in order to arrive at a fair and equitable distribution of their marital property and debt.

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

 


In Divorce, Men and Women Suffer in Different Ways

September 17, 2012

Divorce affects men and women differently.   Men going through divorce are more likely to suffer emotionally.  Women are more likely to suffer financially.

Studies find that “men were six times more likely to be depressed following a separation or divorce than men who remained married. That was nearly double the likelihood of divorced or separated women undergoing a similar episode compared to women whose marriages were intact”1.  One reason for this seems to be the result of men losing daily contact with their children. Losing daily contact with one’s children is a huge source of anxiety, which can lead to depression.  Often times, even in cases where man has only been peripherally involved in the day to day activities during the marriage, losing that daily opportunity for contact with ones children can be overwhelming.

Women, on the other hand, suffer financially.  Women are about “three times more likely than men to suffer a substantial loss in household income after their marriage broke down.”2  Studies have reported that women “experience a 73 percent drop in their standard of living during the first year following divorce. Men, on the other hand, often fare better in terms of the financial effects of divorce.”2 According some statistics, men “enjoy a 42 percent rise in standard of living within the first year of divorce.”2  Although most women do receive child support, and in some cases spousal support, it still very expensive to run two households and, in most cases, men seem to fare better in these circumstances. As a result, most divorced women have to find a new means of establishing financial security.  This new financial stress and, often times complete upending of a women’s lifestyle (e.g. stay at home mom going back to full time work) can cause extreme anxiety.  Divorce is difficult for men and women for different reasons.

When mediating a divorce settlement, good mediators encourage parties to step in each other’s shoes.  Thus, when going through mediation, men will do well to think about the serious financial anxiety their soon-to-be-ex-wives are experiencing.  Women, on the other hand, would do well to recognize the extreme anxiety their soon-to-be-ex-husbands are dealing with as regards the children.

1http://divorce.clementlaw.com/divorce/psychological-and-economic-effects-of-divorce-men-and-women-affected-differently/

2http://www.divorce-lawyer-source.com/html/law/effects.html

Posted by Jessica Wilds, Graine Mediation Intern

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.


Divorce Leave You Looking for a job? Read this comparison of Indeed.com and Monster.com

September 11, 2012

Monster.com and indeed.com are popular websites used to find employment, research jobs, and make career related connections.  Monster.com is a more robust site than indeed.com, but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily better for all job seekers.  Monster.com receives much more traffic than indeed.com and has more job listings.  Both offer jobs that are primarily “office jobs”, such as administrative/clerical, business related fields, and sales/ marketing.   Monster.com however, is used significantly more than indeed by people who have graduate degrees.  Indeed.com appears to be used more by people without a college degree and people with undergraduate only.

Searching for a job on both websites provides different experiences.  Indeed.com gives a much more in-depth description of the job, including duties, qualifications, benefits, all on different tabs, as well as a link to the company website.  Indeed.com also provides step-by-step instructions about how to apply for the job.  Monster.com, on the other hand, provides only brief job descriptions, qualifications, and an excerpt from the company who is offering the job.  Monster.com also has a link to the company website.

Both websites are great tools to find out what types of jobs are being offered — where the needs are. Job seekers may prefer indeed.com because of the organized layout of the website. Indeed.com is useful for those looking for jobs and are not sure what to expect.  The details provided by indeed.com are in-depth.  Indeed.com could be great website to be used by someone re-entering the working world after years of not working.  Those reinterring the working world after a divorce may find indeed.com especially useful with the clarity it provides and the manner in which indeed.com makes it very clear what is expected of the applicant.  On the other hand, if the jobseeker has a higher level of education and has a well-established resume, moster.com may be the appropriate choice.   Also job seekers may prefer monster.com for its straightforward approach by keeping descriptions short and only providing the most important information.

Posted by Jessica Wilds, Graine Mediation Intern

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

Virginia Support Calculations – Comparing Child and Spousal Support

April 23, 2012

Divorce is extremely expensive. For most people in Virginia, raising a family in two separate homes (as many divorced people do these days) will cost one or both of you and your children plenty in terms of ability to maintain lifestyle and, even, to simply pay the bills. One of the primary ways that Virginia families make this all work is by the payment and receipt of support: Child Support and Spousal Support (Alimony).

Below is an outline to help you understand how these two methods of support work in Virginia.

(1) Child Support Calculations represent barebones, bottom line child support based on gross incomes, number or children, cost for health insurance and cost for work-related childcare.

- Parents can always choose to have child support be more than the calculations, and often do.

- Many parents, too, leave the basic child support calculation as is and share the cost at an agreed upon ratio (or have the wage earner pay) for particular items necessary for the children, e.g., expensive out of pocket medical care/therapy costs, extracurricular activities, camps, back to school wardrobes, Christmas Gifts, etc.

- Many parents also choose to have child support based on the guidelines and any additional support necessary for the family to be in the form of spousal support (tax deductible to the payer – more on this later)

(2) Spousal Support Calculations (pendent lite) are designed to be temporary amounts of spousal support to help get the non/lower earning spouse through that time period between separation and the actual divorce. (Courts do not want to have a full evidentiary hearing two times – once before trial and one at trial). However, many people chose to use these calculations as their spousal support amounts, particularly since they are calibrated for Fairfax County proper (unlike child support, which is state wide).

(3) Spousal Support is considered income to the receiver. It is taxable. It is deductible for the payer. It is important to understand that, when a parent receives spousal support, that amount is considered as her/his income for purposes of calculating child support; and, the payer of spousal support’s income is reduced by the spousal support amount. Thus, when there is an award of spousal support, the child support number changes (goes down).

(4) Child Support is always reviewable by the courts based on a “change in circumstances”, e.g. incomes go up, incomes go down, children’s needs change. (“The courthouse doors are always open for matters concerning children.”), whereas . . . )

(5) Spousal Support/Alimony may be reviewable depending on how the Settlement Agreement is written. Spousal Support is usually awarded for a specified period of time.

(6) Children receive child support for the duration of their minority (until they turn 18 years old, unless still in high school at 18. (In that situation, children continue to receive child support until they graduate, but not beyond their 19th birthday unless they have particular special circumstances. Adult children who are not able to live independent lives, too, may receive child support well beyond their 18th minority.), whereas . . .

(7) There is no set time for duration of a Spousal Support award. The “Rule of Thumb”, however, in cases where circumstances are such that spousal support is appropriate, is that it is awarded for 50% the length of the marriage (but that is not the law)

This blog and its materials have been prepared by Graine Mediation for informational purposes only and are not intended to be, are not, and should not be regarded as, legal advice.  This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.  Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

3 Golden Rules of Visitation

April 23, 2012

Check out The 3 Golden Rules of Visitation Vlog and learn what’s most important when spending time with your children.


Are people happier after divorce?

February 8, 2012

So often, when people feel trapped in an unhappy marriage, they think that their only option is to either continue suffering in a miserable home life, or to take the drastic step to get a divorce. When divorce is chosen, the initiating party typically reasons that he or she will be happier after the divorce. But how true is that reasoning? Are people actually any happier after divorce?

According to at least one study, headed by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite, 66% of unhappily married spouses who chose to “stick it out” and stay married, reported that just five years later their marriages returned to happy.

To find out how these once unhappily married spouses were able to restore happiness within the confines of marriage, researchers formed a focus group. They interviewed 55 of the formerly unhappy, but now happy, husbands and wives and found their responses could be organized into the following three approaches:

  1. Marital Endurance;
  2. Marital Work; and
  3. Personal Happiness.

In the Marital Endurance group, when the couple (or at least one spouse) had reported being unhappy, they also were dealing with relatively situational types of problems. Examples include job loss, bankruptcy, parenting a troubled teenager, even infidelity, in some cases. With these couples, it was mostly the passage of time that allowed for much of the marital happiness, they had once known, to return.

In the Marital Work group, couples worked proactively together; they worked hard and took matters into their own hands. With the help of a couples’ counselor (e.g., a licensed clinical psychologist; licensed marriage and family therapist; or faith based counselor), or taking part in one or more marriage workshops, these couples successfully resuscitated their marriage’s happy side.

In the Personal Happiness group, the unhappy spouse worked with an individual therapist to get to the root of what was making him or her unhappy, assuming that it was not just the marital partnership that was causing his or her despondency. In these cases, improving one’s individual happiness, also improved the happiness of the marriage.

All this sounds like great news for anyone unhappily married, but not keen on the idea of divorce. And let’s face it, no one is actually keen on divorce! Essentially, even if you are unhappily married, sometimes simply “sticking it out” can make the bad times give way to much happier ones. And, when that isn’t enough, which it often isn’t, many couples still find great success at restoring their marital happiness through couples counseling, individual therapy, or some combination of both.

Posted by Maggie Fox Dierker, Esq.


Using Divorce Clients Emotions for Positive Settlements in Mediation

January 25, 2012

Divorces are emotional.  Therefore, taking the emotions out of a family mediation and treating it just like a business transaction rarely works.  The key to a successful divorce settlement mediation is to tap into the emotions that best serve the clients’ realistic goals and their children’s’ best interests. Emotional upset does not usually contribute to positive outcomes (e.g., inability to focus, too quick to settle, too angry to negotiate), but redirection of emotions is often very helpful (e.g. passionate negative response to the break-up of a family –> passionate desire to raise happy, well-adjusted children)

Positive Emotions: Anticipation, Empathy, Joy, Acceptance, Trust

  • Helping clients stay positive, focused on the future and assisting them in seeing opportunities in their situations is very important when people are going through a divorce.
  • Family mediators should encourage empathy, especially where clients are coming to mediation after having had the empathy “knocked out of them” by the court system.
  • Keeping the mood light in mediation, smiling and even freeing up the mood for a little laughter, always helps, but cannot be pushed.
  • In a divorce mediation, there is often one party who is fully ready for the divorce, while the other is still in a bit of shock.  Acceptance may not come for a long time and often requires therapy, but good mediators can help get the “shocked person” started down the path.
  • Intense lack of trust due to adulterous affairs can threaten to blow a mediation.  There is often the question: How can I trust him/her to be forthright with the financial information when I cannot even trust him/her to be faithful?  This is a question that often needs to be sent back to the parties.The “non-trusting” spouse needs to make the ultimate decision him/herself.  There are a lot of people who, though untruthful in body, are truthful in money!

Negative Emotions: Fear, Anger, Despair, Disgust, Frustration, Surprise

  • Negative emotions need to be balanced with positive emotions (“flipped on their head”, e.g. fear of the unknown –> excitement about the opportunity to form new life dreams).
  • Negative emotions often lead to black & white thinking (not generally very creative).
  • The emotion of “surprise” is usually uncomfortable in a divorce mediatin situation.  I have seen clients make offers in mediation that they never came close to making outside of mediation (e.g., willingness to help with transportation of children, spousal support, etc.)  No matter how seemingly good the “surprise” is, the other party is often angry just because she/he has been surprised.   This is always a good time to focus on the goal (e.g., You wanted spousal support, now it looks like you are going to get it.  It doesn’t matter that it was “no, no, no” up until now!”)
  • Obviously it is best if negative emotions can be kept to a minimum.  They are often counterproductive and solicit negative feedback from other party. Balance is key.           

 Neutral Emotions: Sadness

  • Although most people would consider sadness a “negative emotion”, I put it into the “neutral” category because it is almost always present in a divorce mediation in one way or another.  It’s nice if your mediator is empathetic to your sadness, but doesn’t get too drawn in. Mediators with positive outlooks and a cheerful disposition can often be a comfort to clients and joyful people sometimes can help sad people feel a little better, though this is not always the case.

Is My Spouse Really Hiding Money . . . or Does It Just Feel That Way?

January 22, 2012

Unfortunately, it happens.  Spouses do conceal assets.  Some even spend the entire marital estate on untoward activities and ridiculous whims and weird mid-life crisis expenditures. Some spouses even run up huge debts without telling their husband or wife – especially if these debts are from gambling, drugs, girlfriend-related expenses, etc. It happens, but you should not assume, in every case, that this is what is going on.

Divorce attorneys and forensic accountants are the masters at figuring this out.  Husbands and wives who feel that they are being hoodwinked, when it comes to the family finances, need an attorney who has subpoena powers and the ability to take the equivocator (pretty much means “the liar”!) to court if he/she fails to produce the financial documents as requested.  A litigator’s toolbox and skills are also needed if a spouse repeatedly and inadequately explains why money is “missing”, why debts have mysteriously piled up, why the suggested values of the parties’ businesses and property are so much lower than expected and/or why there are suddenly expensive assets that both appear and disappear. Be careful, however, as this is an area of litigation where the fees can add up fast and, if the money is truly gone, it is just that: “Gone!” There may be other assets to offset the missing money, etc., but if there is not, you may be spending and awful lot of time and money just to prove it. Talk with your attorney, have a goal and consider capping your attorney fees at a certain dollar amount.

Be careful, however, when aligning oneself to the notion that your spouse is being shady with the family estate.  In today’s volatile economy, what may appear to be financial shenanigans may very well just be the manifestation of the sad truth that a spouse’s business is going downhill.  Also, the values of property and business are remarkably difficult to assess these days.  Not only that, but the old adage that “the value of a business or piece of real estate is only what a person would pay for it” has never been truer than in today’s market.

Sometimes, small suspicions of asset concealment and/or debts that seem to have accumulated out of no where, are often simply a manifestation of miscommunications, misunderstandings and a lack of knowledge about the family’s money situation by one of the spouses.  A good mediator can help clients to determine the difference between a case of “hiding the goods” and a case where there is simply a very uneven base of knowledge about the family assets and debts. The former is usually a cause for a referral to the court-based system; the latter is a situation where mediation is often the perfect forum to help both parties get a grip on their financial situation as part of the settlement of their divorce disputes.

The following list includes some common ways in which a spouse may hide, undervalue or disguise marital assets[1].

Disguising Marital Assets as Method of Hiding Assets

  • Antiques, artwork, hobby equipment, gun collections, and tools that are overlooked or undervalued. Look for antique furnishings, original paintings, or collector-level carpets in your spouse’s office.
  • Cash kept in the form of cash/travelers’ checks. You may be able to find these by tracing bank account deposits and withdrawals.
  • A custodial account set up in the name of a child, using the child’s Social Security number.
  • Investment in certificate “bearer” municipal bonds or Series EE Savings Bonds. These do not appear on account statements because they are not registered with the IRS. (The government is phasing out these bonds.)

Not Reporting Receipt of Money on Tax Returns, Delaying Receipt of Marital Money

  • Income that is unreported on tax returns and financial statements.
  • Collusion with an employer to delay bonuses, stock options, or raises until a time when the asset or income would be considered separate property (upon separation in Virginia; upon divorce in Maryland and Virginia)
  • Debt repayment to a friend for a phony debt.

Misappropriation of Marital Money

  • Expenses paid for a girlfriend or boyfriend, such as gifts, travel, rent, or tuition for college or classes.
  • Retirement accounts that your spouse never tells you about.

In addition, business owners may try to hide assets in the following ways:

  • Skimming cash from the business;
  • Salary payments to a nonexistent employee, with checks that will be voided after the divorce;
  • Money paid from the business to someone close — such as a father, mother, girlfriend, or boyfriend — for services that were never actually rendered (the money is given back to your spouse after the divorce is final); or
  • A delay in signing long-term business contracts until after the divorce.

If you are planning on filing for divorce, it would be a good idea to begin getting yourself educated as to the family finances.  If you do not think that there are a lot of games being played with the money, and if you are able to sit down with your spouse, you will want to start informing each other of:

  • the location and values of all assets;
  • your family’s spending patterns;
  • the costs of health insurance for family members;
  • job potentials for each of you (if necessary, post divorce);
  • impending big expenses; and,
  • your family’s debt situation . . .

. . . more power to you. Get to it!

But, if you need the help of a third party to get things moving along, this is a great use of a mediator’s expertise.  Mediators are trained in both helping divorcing couples communicate (without screaming!) and in helping them sort through the family finances and begin planning for their futures as they become financially independent from one another.

Remember, the family CPA, banker, money manager/broker and estate planning attorney has a fiduciary duty (duty of trust) to both of you.  You should feel free to ask that person questions about your taxes, investments, etc.  If you do not want to put up a red flag for strategic reasons (i.e., you do not want your spouse to know that you are preparing for a divorce because he/she might then close down all the accounts and disappear!), get an attorney, first, before you call your financial people.  But always remember this: Sometimes your accountant is just as good a “friend” during your divorce as is your lawyer.

For a free 30 minute consultation in Fairfax, Virginia, call Robin Graine at Graine Mediation: 571-220-1998 or email robin@grainemediation.com.  If you need an attorney or CPA referral, I can help you there, too.



BEWARE: DIVORCE IS HAZARDOUS TO SINGLE MOMS’ CREDIT-WORTHINESS

January 19, 2012

PNC bank has a new policy, I have been told by a trusty loan officer in the higher ranks of that enterprise, that child support no longer counts as income for the purpose of obtaining a home equity line of credit or small business loan.  This is true even for very large amounts of child supports. I was told, straight-up, that married female applicants whose husband’s who have jobs, earning the same amount of money as an ex-wife’s child support allotment, are much more credit-worthy than single moms who are receiving regular, provable, court-ordered child support.  Is this prejudiced against single moms?

In my line of work, I see lots of mother’s whose husbands leave the marriage — without warning.  Of course, those husbands take their jobs with them!  As a mediator, though, most of my clients are decent people that pay their child support obligations. Nevertheless, even women who have upstanding child-support paying ex’s, and are seeking a loan, can no longer count that cash-flow as part of their income.  This is absurd considering the same woman could have counted that same amount of family income as cash flow, for purposes of obtaining a loan, if she were still married to her children’s father – even if he spent that money foolishly and contributed nothing to the family.

I was also told, by my PNC informer, that no amount of money in the bank is worthy of consideration when it comes to approving a loan – unless that money is in PNC’s own coffers and can be used as direct collateral.  That means that people who are responsible and work hard to save their money and put it in the trusty hands of a good broker, are considered, at least by PNC Bank, to be a greater credit risk than people who spend every penny they have with no thought for the future. Essentially, PNC prefers loan applicants with a low-paying job, with no hope of putting anything away for the future, over a person who has a pile of dough at the ready.

This doesn’t make sense.  People are losing their jobs right and left.  There is no security in an individual’s employment.  However, if a person defaults on a loan, the bank can get a judgment against that person and garnish their bank or brokerage account.  When is the last time, though, you ever heard of a bank forcing an employer to keep a person on the payroll so that that person could pay off a loan?

And, finally, we all know that the equity in your home is worth nothing to the bank.  They don’t want your home if you default.  They have enough homes to keep them busy for a long time.  They have so many homes, that they cannot even afford to heat and cool them properly and residences across the nation are molding and rotting as a result.

So, if you want to start or grow a business with a home equity line of credit or a small business loan from your local bank – as was the norm for many, many years – forget about it, unless you have a regular paycheck, with at least a three year record of earnings– even if you have a hefty court-monitored source of cash flow, a flush bank account and tons of equity in your home.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 342 other followers

%d bloggers like this: