Articles Posted in Mediation

Caucus-Session-300x200In my last two blog posts, I’ve discussed the considerations that take place when a divorcing by mediation couple is wondering whether or not to engage in divorce mediation by caucus. For some people, caucusing is an excellent way to keep emotions under control and support the successful outcome of divorce mediation. For others, caucusing may cause more problems than it solves. In this blog, I’ll be discussing the procedures and ground rules that divorce mediators like myself consider when clients opt to take the caucus session route. For me, the most important initial rule is to make sure that both parties are completely comfortable with the idea of caucusing. I can do this by discussing the options that both clients have with them during a joint mediation session. Once that decision has been made, the couple will sign an agreement on confidentiality of information.

It’s important for the clients in a divorce mediation to know what will happen to the information shared in private caucus sessions. For instance, is some of the information to be kept confidential, or should it all be shared in a joint environment? Does each piece of information need to be identified as either confidential or public? I ask the clients in divorce mediation sessions to opt in and agree to the confidentiality clauses that they feel comfortable in within a joint session before the caucusing sessions can begin. Continue reading

Mediation represents an excellent opportunity for parties in a divorce to settle their issues using negotiation, rather than litigation in front of the Mature-Mediator-Meeting-300x200family or supreme courts. In the right circumstances, working with a divorce mediator such as myself could also mean that you get to maintain more control over what happens with your divorce, as you can come to an agreement that can be drafted and sent to the courts for approval. However, there are many different kinds of mediation available in the world of family law, and it’s important to decide which option is right for you before you get started. My last blog was about the positives involving caucusing in divorce mediation. In this article I will point out some of the counter considerations.

I, and other divorce mediators like myself, can offer clients the opportunity for caucusing in mediation, in situations where it may be appropriate. In divorce mediation with caucus sessions, each party will have the chance to take a moment away from the joint session so that they can discuss an issue with their divorce mediator in private. Crucially, this isn’t an opportunity for either party to get exceptional legal help from their mediator or guidance on what to do next. Instead, caucusing moments can be used to gain clarity on a situation, or discuss what might be possible if a specific negotiation path is suggested.

Usually, when clients come to me in search of an experienced divorce mediator, they’re looking for someone to help them with their negotiation that they both feel as though they can trust. For the most part, to this point, I and the people that I work with have engaged in mediation without caucusing. I have felt that this keeps all information out and in the open, rather than causing one party to worry about what the other says behind closed doors. Mediation often works best when both parties feel comfortable with the idea that their mediator is neutral and objective. However, if both parties in the divorce are comfortable with the idea of caucusing, then the solution can offer a range of benefits too. Continue reading

Caucusmeeting-300x222The concept of caucus in mediation was originally designed to provide parties in a mediation dispute with some time to move away from joint sessions and discuss concepts with an advisor or divorce mediator on their own. These separate sessions weren’t intended to give the parties more support or an unfair advantage over their counterpart. Instead, the caucus sessions allow for the clarification of issues, the opportunity to reflect on short-term and long-term goals, and the chance to reflect on proposals and options for the future. According to Steven Leigh’s, article linked to here in Mediate.com the best times to use caucus are:

  • When mediators need to explore or clarify statements made by a party
  • When information is revealed that a party would like to remain confidential
  • When parties need privacy to determine the options, they want to explore in mediation
  • When options suggested in front of the other party may be seen as a premature commitment
  • When parties feel uncomfortable exploring their options in front of each other.

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Negotiationpic-300x207The courtroom is rarely a place that most people want to visit when dealing with their matrimonial issues. More often than not, a day in court is a stressful experience, particularly when it comes to dealing with things like divorce, child custody, and visitation rights. It’s no wonder that many individuals prefer to negotiate their divorce outside of court if possible. While there are ways for people to avoid the courts, such as using divorce mediation, not all spouses know for definite whether their spouse will agree to an alternative dispute resolution process like divorce mediation or collaborative law. In these circumstances, it’s important to keep your options open.

When a spouse contacts my office to arrange their initial consultation (free for up to 30 minutes with the potential to move to paid consultations after), we try to screen them first to see if they are looking to utilize me as their neutral divorce mediator. It’s important for us to find out whether they want a one-on-one consultation with me as an attorney, or whether they are looking for a divorce mediator. Meeting with someone one-on-one when they’re considering mediation could compromise my position as a neutral party in the eyes of their partner. If the individual tells me that they want to have a one-on-one consultation with me, I may not be able to be their mediator, but we can keep their options open. Continue reading

Mediation-Couch-300x200Divorce is rarely straightforward. There are a lot of things that couples need to cover when a marriage comes to an end, including figuring out how debts and assets should be divided between parties, and determining who should have primary custody over the children. However, depending on the nature of your relationship with your ex-spouse, and the strategy you choose for managing your divorce, it is possible to make things a little simpler.

Divorce mediation is often a more straightforward way to deal with divorce for the couples I work with that want to avoid things like litigation. During mediation, couples have the chance to discuss the outcomes that they want to achieve with their divorce and negotiate the terms of things like maintenance aka spousal support, maintenance, equitable distribution and more. For many parties, a divorce mediation is a more relaxing and fast-paced strategy for handling the various complications that arrive during divorce. That’s why I’m so committed to giving the people I work with the opportunity to choose mediation if they feel that it’s right for them. Continue reading

Mediation-Consultation-300x200When an inquiry comes in for someone inquiring about getting a divorce, someone from my office attempts to ascertain from them whether they are interested in using our office as a neutral divorce mediator.  If they’re interested in mediation, we invite them to bring their spouse to come in for a free initial consultation to meet with me.  We explain that I do not, at least initially, meet with the couple one on one, or have an initial consultation with either one of them before meeting the couple together.    The consultation is usually up to a half hour in length, although some couples choose to immediately begin mediating that day after the initial consultation. 

I might start by telling the couple that I am a divorce lawyer, but in a divorce mediation, I do not act as the lawyer for either side.  I inform them that it is recommended that each of them hire and use their own individual review attorneys.  I explain that review attorneys are the individuals that will explain the law, their rights, and advise each of them.  A review attorney might say, “This is a good deal” or “You might want to change this deal a little bit” or “You won’t do better in litigation” or “You will do better in litigation”.  Either side could prepare for mediation sessions, prior to each session, with their review lawyers.  They can then debrief with the review attorneys after sessions and prepare for the next.  If not beforehand, the time to consult with a review attorney would be when an agreement is drafted.  I might mention that in the perfect world everyone uses review attorneys, however, the reality is that not everyone takes me up on that recommendation.  I am not sure of the exact number but perhaps half of the mediating individuals use review lawyers and the other half do not.  The half that do not perhaps believe that they have educated themselves on the issues and think that the mediated agreement is fair and are ready to do it.  Either way I do tell them that review attorneys are recommended but usually not required (there are exceptions).  
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Maintenance-Fight-300x200While many aspects of family law may stay the same over the years, certain components may also need to be changed to adhere to the evolving nature of life in the United States. Recently, the federal tax law was changed, with the change in the taxation of maintenance (alimony) payments that came into effect on the 1st of January 2019. According to the rules of this new law, maintenance payments delivered from one spouse to another can no longer be classed as a tax deduction for the payor. Additionally, the payee no longer has to count those payments as taxable income. What this means is that there can be greater resistance to the payment of maintenance than before.

The last update in the New York State maintenance guidelines was made at the time that maintenance payments were tax deductible to the payor and taxable income to the payee. These maintenance guidelines are still in place, and at as of the time of this blog have still not been revised by the New York State legislature.  The law still reflects an environment wherein maintenance is tax deductible to the payor, and taxable income for the recipient. Accordingly the courts may decide to deviate from the guidelines for maintenance based on this change in the taxability, now that the rules are different, as deviation may be required to creating an agreement that’s fair for both parties. Continue reading

Businessdebtpicture-300x200There are many complicated things that a couple may need to address when it comes to managing their divorce. Everything from child custody agreements, to how assets and debts will be shared needs to be considered by the parties involved. In mediation, a mediator such as myself can work with a couple to guide them through their discussions about things like equitable distribution. The process of equitable distribution isn’t just about splitting things 50/50 after all. The parties need to think about how assets and debts can be shared fairly.

The equitable distribution of debt can be particularly complicated. While marital debts need to be shared between both parties, separate debt belongs to a single individual. Determining which debts are marital and which are separate can be difficult at times. Fortunately, when people do not immediate know how an issue should be handled, there are many cases that I can address with parties in divorce mediation or other divorce processes, to help them explore the concepts that come into question during equitable distribution. Continue reading

Relocation-Picture-300x200There are many complicated aspects of family law. Arranging equitable distribution in a divorce can be difficult, particularly in cases where it’s hard for the couple to agree. Deciding who should get control over a family home is also a complex discussion. However, few things require more caution and careful consideration than issues associated with child custody. Not only does a child custody agreement need to be approved by a court based on an observation of what’s in the child’s “best interests,” but changing the order is a challenge. Even if a modification of child was right for the child, absent an agreement about it, the court would need to see a substantial change in circumstances before even getting to the issue of whether the modification is in the best interests of the child or children.

When working with clients on family law issues that involve child custody agreements and visitation or parenting time rights, I find that it’s essential to highlight the complexity involved in making the right decision for a child. The courts of New York and Long Island will not disrupt a child’s life and growth by altering their custody situation unless there is a good reason to do so, that’s why a substantial change in circumstances is crucial. It’s also essential for the people requesting the change to show that the alteration is in the best interests of the child.

In the past, the situation used to be that if people agreed in advance that another parent would be able to relocate as part of a written agreement that was ordered by the court, the agreement would control the relocation. However, that may not be the case today. The court can no longer automatically say what might be in the best interests of a child without hearing the full case. Continue reading

MatureCoupleMaritalMediation-300x200There’s more to mediation in the family law area than most people think. While divorce mediation can be a powerful solution for people who want to bring an end to their marriage, address their separation, and more, there are also opportunities for those who might want to continue their marriage too. Mediation is a process that allows individuals to talk freely about the things that matter with a neutral third-party individual. Although I’m not a therapist, I am an experienced and trained mediator that can help with all aspects marital law.

One common option for people who do want to stay together, is using marital mediation with an eye towards the possibility of developing a post nuptial agreement that allows individuals to stay together, in the knowledge that certain things have been resolved as they go on with their marriage. This agreement can give both people in the marriage peace of mind. Continue reading