Providing for Custody & Visitation With Teens

April 30, 2013

Raising teens is never easy, but it becomes even more complicated when they are involved in a two-household family. Teens are going through a lot of changes, and having to navigate two completely separate households often adds stress to their already too-busy and somewhat volatile emotional lives. Teenagers usually prefer that their families blend into the background while they do their teen-thing.  But, when a kid is going back and forth between houses, due to a divorce, the family and “family time” often becomes a focal point of the teenager’s life (like it or not!). Of course, that is not all bad.  There are plenty of people who will tell you that their divorce is what made them finally realize the fleeting nature of their children’s youth and was, in fact, the impetus for ensuring that they spent time with their children before it got to be too late.

                  It is important for parents of teenagers to remember that, just because your child doesn’t see you much — due to everyone’s busyness — that doesn’t mean that your teenager will want to hang out with you when he or she does not have a scheduled activity.  Teenagers want to be with their friends, usually, and any parent who makes it a point of getting in the way of that for “visitation time”, might be asking for trouble. The older they get, the tougher it is to maintain a regular schedule of time with your kids – but they are always happy to have you drive . . . and pay! But, it is often those drives, after all, when you will at least get to know your children’s friends and that is, many parents find, a delight!  Try and keep a balance between making sure you and your children spend time together and allowing your teen to have a social life that is not over-prescribed by your and your ex’s divorce situation.

                arguing-family  John Hartson, PhD. And Brenda Payne, PhD recommend, in their book Creating Effective Parenting Plans: A Developmental  Approach for Lawyers and Divorce Professionals, that people working on parenting plans for families with teenagers be mindful of teenagers’ differing needs at the various stages of adolescence.  For example, with 12-13 year olds, Hartson and Payne note that there are many physiological changes going on during this time, in addition to the big move-up to middle school.  Often times, they assert, it is best to leave the custodial care schedule as it is and not add any more changes to the mix, unless there are serious problems.

                  For older teens, those entering high school and later, it is often wise to include them in discussions regarding where they will be/want to be spending their time.  At this point, for many teenagers, it tends to be more about “where” than about “with whom” they will be spending time.   For example, some teens express strong desires to spend greater amounts of time in one home over the other, not because they desire to be with one parent more than the other, but their choice is often greatly influenced by which home has greater proximity to friends, activities, and the convenience of having all of their stuff in one spot.

                  Remember that teens, like children of all ages, are still watching everything that you do.  You are still their role model in many ways, as is their other parent.  They need to see you and your ex function in everyday life so that they can learn what is important in your family culture, how you “get it all done”, what are your priorities, how your values effect your choices, etc.  This is your last shot at parenting, for the most part, and you want to try and get it right.  That will mean that you have to find a way to both spend time with your teenager, while keeping a healthy awareness of his or her need for some level of independence.

                  Your teenager will be gone before you know it.  Enjoy your time together.  Listen to your teen.  Try and accommodate his or her needs and desires, but don’t cave in to every whim. Watch for classic divorce manipulation between you and your ex.  Let your teenager know how much you love him or her every day.  Cross your fingers . . . and be confident that you are doing the best that you can, which is all anyone can really ask of a mom and a dad.

Posted by Kristina Duncan Hoeges, Freelance Paralegal 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.

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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.

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.



Keys to Greatness

January 13, 2012

Many people choose, when they get divorced, to reassess their views on life, their personal priorities and their ways of relating to other people. There is no shortgage of self-help books to guide you in that undertaking.  But, I have often found  that the best way to learn new skills and habits is to first see how great people (e.g. leaders, thinkers, artists, writers, philosophers that you admire)  have lived their lives. 

Jacob Abbott, in his classic autobiography of Alexander the Great, made a wonderful list of Alexander’s personality traits that allowed such a young man (Alexander was only 20 when he assumed the throne of Macedononia and a mere 32 years old when he died after having conquered much of the known world at that time) to rise, so quickly, to greatness.

These Keys to Greatness — or personality traits, habits, mannerisms and relationship skills, are:

  • Being full of ardour (feelings of great warmth, intensity) and enthusiasm for all you do
  • Being calm, collected and considerate in emergencies requiring caution
  • Being thoughtful and farseeing regarding consequences of your actions
  • Being able to form strong personal attachments
  • Being finely formed in physical attributes
  • Being prepossessing (to make a positive impression on someone beforehand) in manners
  • Being athletic and active
  • Being grateful for all kindnesses shown you
  • Being considerate of other people’s feelings
  • Being faithful to friends
  • Being generous toward foes

I guess nice guys don’t always finish last. 🙂


In a Bind? A Few Ways to Get Money from an IRA Penalty-Free

December 12, 2011

Lost your job?  Unexpected HIGH expense?  Unless you have a good nest egg put away for a rainy day, you might be scrambling for funds to cover unexpected expenses, and your IRA might be a place to look for that needed cash.

Are you aware that funds withdrawn from an IRA are taxable, and if you are under 59-1/2, you will pay a federal penalty of 10% and possibly a state penalty too?

Withdrawing funds early from your IRA will affect your standard of living when you retire.  We hope that you never have to do that, but if you do, here are a few ways to beat the early-withdrawal penalty.  (Of course, you still need to deal with the IRS and income taxes – no way to get around that)

·       Annuitize: Under IRC Sec. 72(t) you can avoid penalties by taking a series of substantially equal periodic payments until you are 59-1/2 (but not less than five years). To estimate how much you can withdraw each year, use the 72(t) calculator at Bankrate.com (See:: http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/retirement/72-t-distribution-calculator.aspx

·      Buy a Home:  If you have been renting, had alternative living arrangements, and have not owned a home for at least two years, you can withdraw up to $10,000 to buy a house in your name or in the name of a spouse, child or grandchild.

·      Pay for Education: You can go back to school, or withdraw funds for college tuition and related expenses (books, materials, fees) for your spouse, children or grandchildren.  Be aware that certain income limits apply.

·      Cover Medical Expenses: If your medical expenses (for you, your spouse or dependant) exceeds 75% of your income, you can withdraw from your IRA penalty-free.

·      Pay Medical Insurance Premiums: If you have been unemployed for at least twelve (12) weeks, and receive unemployment compensation, you are eligible to withdraw funds to pay for your medical insurance premiums.

·      Pay Back Taxes to the IRS:  If the IRS has placed a levy against your IRA, you can withdraw funds to pay the back taxes.

·      Disability: If you are “totally and permanently disabled” by IRS definition, you can take distributions from your IRA without penalty.

·      Death: Did you know that when you die, your beneficiaries must begin taking distributions from your IRA, and there will be no penalty to them.

This blog is written based on my observations and experience.  I am and not a CPA, tax planner or tax attorney.  I am a mediator and former family law attorney. All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. wpthemesplugin.com makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.



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