How Mediation Can Help – Even When Divorce Litigation Is Pending

June 10, 2014

Divorce-MediaitonIf you are engaged in divorce, you may be battling your case in the traditional attorney-run court system. If this is your situation, but you yearn for a more civilized, less expensive method of settling your divorce matters, you can consider Mediation at any time in the process.

I see clients and settle cases at all stages of the separation and divorce process. For example:

  • Mediation works well in cases where attorneys are never involved;
  • Mediation works well in cases where attorneys are consulted prior to the mediation, but are not involved in the mediation process;
  • Mediation works well when attorney services are utilized only for review of the draft Settlement Agreement; and
  • Mediation works well when clients are deeply involved in litigation, but want to come up for air and try and settle their case in a more orderly, less contentious fashion.

Most clients don’t know that Virginia attorneys are required to advise their clients that there are alternative methods to resolve their disputes outside of litigation. (This mandate is pursuant to the Comment Section of Virginia Supreme Court Rule 1.2.) If your divorce attorney has not advised of you that there are Virginia Supreme Court Mediators ready to assist you with your divorce settlement needs, ask him or her if there is any reason why Mediation, or any other form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), is not appropriate for your circumstances.

Certain situations merit consideration of “taking a break” from litigation. You may wish to consider Mediation if:

  • Litigation is doing harm to your children.
  • Litigation is causing emotional turmoil and an inability to focus.
  • There is a need to feel that all “friendly” avenues were tried before either of you “pull the trigger” in court (and unleash a torrent of bad feelings that may last a lifetime);
  • You think if would be a good idea to treat the property and debt issues completely separate from the child-related issues.
  • You and your attorney no longer see eye to eye;
  • There is one single issue that is holding up the entire settlement;
  • Your attorney fees feel like the National Debt.

If you think Mediation is the way to go, give Robin Graine, JD, at Graine Mediation, a call: 571-220-1998. If you just want to learn more about Mediation, or if you want to discuss whether Mediation is right for your case, give Graine Mediation a call. Robin would be happy to answer you questions: 571-220-1998.

Posted by Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

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.


Tips for Writing a Child-Centered Parenting Agreement

October 29, 2013

In cases where parents choose to share the custodial care of their children, it can be tricky to map out the best way to split up your children’s time between both parents. The hackneyed “every other weekend” may have worked in the past, but I rarely see this as a desired outcome for my clients in my mediation practice.   We now know so much more about the positive aspects of children having two involved parents – and both parents usually have work obligations outside of the home – that having both parents involved makes the most sense. When deciding how best to share the custodial care of your children, there are a lot of variables that you should take into account before committing to those parenting arrangements in the form of a court enforceable Settlement Agreement.

1. Should you get your child involved?  You know your child better than anyone, so ask yourself, “Are they mature enough to formulate an opinion on this matter?” Sometimes it is good just to let them know they are being heard, even if you ultimately don’t follow their wishes. In your conversation with them, let them know that they are important, but that the parents are going to have the final say in what’s best for them.

2.  Will the arrangement allow for the child to develop strong bonds with both parents? Children who have strong bonds with both parents seem to do better in life; at least in terms of their ability to form strong relationships with other people and, in particular, in their own marriages and romantic endeavors as they grow up. In order to form these parent-child bonds, it is important that children be given adequate time to bond with both parents. Sometimes, this means planning quality time rather than focusing on the quantity. For instance, a 60+ hour a week professional parent may not actually have the time to be a weekday custodial caretaker.  That parent may only see his or her children off to school, but won’t be home until long after they are in bed. Perhaps in this case, it is better to focus on the quality time, ie. Being a “weekend parent” when there is free time to be attentive.  (Note: There is a lot of discussion in mediation about whether a hard working parent’s mom (“grandma”) is a good substitute when that parent is unable to get home from work.  Though this may be good for everyone, it doesn’t meet the goal of “bonding” with a parent and these types of situations must be considered on a case-by-case basis.)

3. Is the arrangement conducive for the child’s learning and growth? If your child is always stressed out because he or she feels bounced around between locations, their ability to absorb both your and the school’s teachings may be adversely affected. It is true that children need structure, the key reason behind writing a Parenting Arrangement in the first place. But stress can be cumulative and take some time to show in your child; that is why it is necessary to be on the lookout for it from the get-go.  Parents who choose to have their children live in two separate homes must be on the alert to whether the stress caused by living in two different homes is balanced by the benefits of having two involved parents in the child’s life.   Sometimes it is; sometimes it is not.

4. What kind of children do you have? This is the type of question that the courts do not have the resources or time to answer. You and your ex-spouse need to ask yourselves these kinds of questions: Do each of your children need to be on precisely the same schedule?  Would a somewhat divergent schedule based on the children’s age, etc. allow for needed one-on-one time with each parent? Is your child organized? A little scattered?  Can he or she handle the back and forth and keep track of his or her homework? Do your kids have a great need for down-time?  Do they roll with things easily?  Does it take them a while to get settled in to do their homework?  Are they anxious?  Carefree?  With whom do they talk about their problems (if either of you)? Do they need a lot of discipline?  Who is the disciplinarian? Is your child more bonded to one his or her parents than the other? Would spending days away from one or the other of you be devastating to them?

It can seem like a lot of work to figure out a good parenting arrangement agreement, because it is. Be aware that it should be a flexible agreement as you monitor your children and their responses. While kids can seem resilient, what happens to them as children will shape them as adults. If they don’t get the chance to bond with one of their parents, it may manifest itself in romantic relationship problems later in life. Moreover, their stress may keep them from growing in school, which is a possible foreshadowing of how well they may do in the job market.

None of this is said to frighten you, but rather to give you some tools to effectively craft a Settlement Agreement with your soon-to-be ex-spouse that is in the best interest of your children. Every family is different in the details, but if you offer your children love, a sense of safety, and emotional support, the odds are in your favor that your children will do just fine.

Written by Jane Baber, Mediation Assistant, and Robin Graine, JD, Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator

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.

settlement


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.

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