Category: Blog

RUSHING THROUGH A DIVORCE OR SEPARATION

Rushing through the many decisions that need to be in your settlement agreement when you are separating or divorcing, is never a good idea.

People divorcing or separating are in crisis. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are going through a loss and must give yourself time to adjust to this huge life change. Even if you are the one initiating the split, you need to take the time to make thoughtful and considered decisions. The decisions you make in your Settlement Agreement, whether you are seeking a legal separation or a divorce, are lasting. Once these decisions are made and filed by an attorney, changes are very difficult to make. You need to be as sure as you can when making these decisions that will affect your future.

In mediation, YOU set the pace of the process. You must decide many things including: parenting decisions (if you have children); equitable distribution of assets and liabilities; and any support issues, both child and spousal. You can take the time you need to make the right decisions for your family.

You are also in control of the decisions that are being made in mediation, rather than an attorney or judge. Mediation gives you the ability to make customized agreements that suit your situation best.

Mediators are trained conflict resolution specialist who facilitate conversations as neutral third parties, providing you the information you need to make good/informed decisions. This empowers you and your spouse throughout the process. You decide what decisions get made and how those decisions are applied to your specific situation.

For more information call: 585-269-8140 or email renee@divorceandfamilymediate.com

 

 

Getting Your Needs Met

It can often be difficult to express what you want in a way that the other person can hear your request. Very often, especially when we are upset, the person we are talking to hears our request as a criticism or a demand and they become defensive. Here are a few suggestions about how to communicate your needs in a way that might be better received.

First, practice what you want to say in advance, where and when you will say it. The more prepared you are for the conversation, the less likely it is that it will degenerate into an argument. Next, spend some time thinking about how you feel and take responsibility for your own feelings. Feelings are emotions–not accusations. “I feel sad” is different from “you disappoint me.” Identifying and stating your feeling can help the other person to empathize with you because we have all felt sad, afraid, or angry. Then, identify what you need. Needs are universal. All of us need food, water, air, and shelter, but we all also need connection, meaning, autonomy, and a sense of well-being. Again, if you can articulate your need, it is more likely the other person will relate to you, rather than rally against you. Finally, make your request.

Here’s an example. After practicing and deciding that right after work, while the children are out of the house and they won’t be interrupted, a wife approaches her husband. “I would like to talk for a minute, if now is a good time?” Getting agreement, they sit down at the table together. “I have been feeling irritable lately because I have a need for intimacy. I am wondering if you would be willing to schedule two nights or days each week with me that we could have time alone, without the children, to reconnect physically?” There is no guarantee that her request will be met, but it could begin an honest conversation that will help them both to clarifying more deeply what they each need from their relationship.

To learn more about these techniques, you might want to read Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. You can also contact a mediator who can help you facilitate an honest conversation that might feel to difficult to have on your own. Mediators offer support and help to manage strong emotions as they arise. For more information, email info@mediaitonctr.com or call 585-586-1830.

Once again, the Mediation Center is helping out.

Once again, the Mediation Center is helping out.

We have donated refreshments, bags to be auctioned, raffle items, and even a bartender to  NeighborWorks® Rochester for its auction tomorrow afternoon/evening.

NeighborWorks® Rochester is auctioning off themed tote bags full of goodies! Each bag offers a great group of items for you to bid on. To see what they have to offer, visit www.32auctions.com/ourbagsroc or keep an eye out for the  bags around the city. The auction runs through June 7th and culminates with a Happy Hour from 4-7 at the Neighborworks Rochester building @ 570 South Ave that will offer chances for final bidding, complimentary food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and a raffle.

Join us as we celebrate with the folks at NeighborWorks® Rochester!

All proceeds benefit NeighborWorks® Rochester which creates sustainable communities by providing services to support individuals and families with purchasing a home or improve an existing home. NeighborWorks Rochester offers education and grants for home purchase, loans and grants for home improvement, energy efficiency audits and improvements, and lead paint inspections throughout Monroe County. For more information, please call 585-325-4170.

 

Marital Mediation Offers a New Option

Sometimes couples come to us in a situation where both parties are unhappy with certain elements of their marriage. They don’t want to continue the relationship as it is now, but they really don’t want a separation or divorce.

Marital mediation can be an invaluable tool in reaching mutually acceptable agreements on how a couple will handle targeted areas in the relationship. The neutral mediator helps you both have meaningful and often enlightening conversations about your needs and expectations around problem issues. The mediation is specifically focused on defining these areas of conflict and changing how you interact when dealing with them, setting goals and establishing agreed to processes to meet your needs.

Some examples of issues that couples have mediated are: how money is spent, setting boundaries for children, and balancing responsibilities around the home, as well as many others. There have also been mediated situations where one spouse wants to give information to the other spouse, but is uncomfortable doing it without being in a supportive environment. One example of this might be that one spouse has run up a large amount of debt that the other spouse is unaware of. In the mediation setting, the disclosure of information can be followed up with decisions and agreements on how the couple will deal with the issue for the future. You come up with a plan that works best for both of you.

While the Marital Mediation process allows couples to express their values and goals around topics that are areas of conflict, it is unlike therapy in that it is future focused – it does not seek to go back and deal with the past, or assign responsibility for how these conflicts arose, and lasts only a few sessions. This is not therapy. For therapy, you should seek the help of a licensed therapist/Mental Health professional. Mediation helps people to negotiate difficult situations, communicate and come up with new tools and plans for the future.

Any relationship has areas that take hard work to maintain, and most relationships are worth the effort. If you are interested in giving marital mediation a try, you can set up an initial, no commitment consultation. Please call: 585-269-8140.

We are divorcing but we aren’t ready to sell the house…

There are times when couples choose to own real estate together even though they are divorcing.  Usually it is the marital residence which they chose to keep.  It is important that they understand some basic real estate issues in order to make decisions on how they should own the property in order to meet their expectations if one of them die while the property is jointly owned.

In New York State, the majority of married couples own their homes as Tenants by the Entirety.  To create a tenancy by the entirety, the deed transferring the property to a married couple must name them as Tom Doe and Natasha Doe, “husband and wife”, or “tenants by the entirety”, or even “his wife”.  Once the tenancy by the entirety is created, if one spouse dies, the other spouse is automatically the owner of the entire property.  Even if the magical words are missing, it presumed a married couple owns a property as tenants by the entirety.

The important fact to remember is that only a married couple can own property as tenants by the entirety.  Once the divorce is finalized, the tenancy by the entirety is dissolved.  Under New York State law, unless other steps are taken, the divorced couple becomes Tenants in Common.  The consequences are significant.  Tenants in Common each have a percentage ownership in the property.   Either owner can transfer his or her share to a third party.  No permission from the other owner is needed.  Absent an agreement to the contrary, either tenant in common is entitled to live in the property.  There is basically no requirement that costs to maintain the property be shared and there is definitely no requirement the costs of improving the property be shared. Equally as problematic is that upon the death of one owner, their percentage share goes through their estate.  Either their will or if no will exists, the laws of intestate succession dictate who will become the new Tenant in Common.  The horror story most often told is when the first wife and husband own the marital residence as tenants in common and then years later, the husband dies leaving his entire worldly estate to his new wife.  The result is his two wives now own the first wife’s home as Tenants in Common. While I have yet to meet someone who actually had clients involved in this scenario, the story could easily be true.

The parties may choose different options to address the problem of Tenancy by the Entirety converting to a Tenancy in Common.  The memorandum of understanding should set forth the intention of the parties and their course of action to achieve their desired outcome.  One choice is to have the deceased spouse’s share to go to a specific party or group.  Some examples are the couples’ children, their grandchildren, or someone else both owners desire to have a share in the ownership of the property.  Another choice is to have the deceased spouse’s share go to the surviving spouse.  This option can be secured through an agreement that each spouse will prepare a will which sets forth the required alternative.  Many attorneys prefer another solution. They have the parties deed the property to themselves as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship.  This type of ownership functions just like the Tenancy by the Entirety but without the requirement the parties be husband and wife.  The new deed will list the parties   “as joint tenants with rights of survivorship”.  From that point on, if one party dies, the other party owns the entire property.

While the couple can do the research to determine the options they believe they should pursue, it is important they discuss with their attorneys and their accountants to be sure they fully understand their choices and then to be sure they complete whatever option they choose correctly to avoid problems in the future.

To Divorce or Not to Divorce, that is the question?

What a loaded question filled with so many questions and uncertainties. But, many of us ask, should I get a divorce or not?

It may be a question you have been considering for years, or it may be a relatively new thought. Whatever your thought process has been, it is not one to be taken lightly. Many decisions have to be made and impacts to be considered, but my philosophy has always been, “A good divorce is better than a bad marriage.” I chose to divorce years ago, because it was the right decision for me and my family. However, it is a very personal decision that is very specific to each individual family and situation.

Your personal philosophy on divorce (or separation) is unique to you. You may be conflicted on the best thing to do, especially if you have children. Many people feel that to stay together for the children, no matter the state of the marriage, is the best thing to do. While others believe the opposite, that children will be better off if their parents choose to end an unhappy marriage. If there are no children in your marriage, you still must weigh the impact of divorce and separation. What are your religious beliefs? Social impacts? Financial consequences? Marriage and Divorce are processes that affect our family and loved ones, as well as those around us.

I cannot answer whether divorce or separation is right for you. You must decide that for yourself and decide in what environment you want to raise your children, look at what influences you (church, family, friends) and consider your options. Ask yourself how you can be happy, what is important to you  and be the best person/parent you can be.

Mediation helps couples who have answered the question to divorce or separate and are ready to begin the process, as well as helping couples who don’t know the answer and would like to try marital mediation to work on issues in their relationship. Mediation offers you options and a process that is private, confidential and effective.

NYSBA Task Force on Family Court Report

The New York State Bar Association Task Force on Family Court issued its January 2013 Final Report. Finding No. 5 of the Final Report sets forth the conclusion which many in the mediation field already believed to be true – the mediation programs in NYS Family Court “should be greatly strengthened, expanded and funded.” The Task Force noted the loss of many family court mediation programs due to budget cuts and recommended funding for mediation should not only be re-instituted but should also be increased in Family Courts. It concluded that mediation is very effective in dealing with a range of situations, such as child support and child custody cases. It is well worth the time to read the Final Report and the comments regarding mediation. It can be found at http://www.nysba.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Final_Report_9_21_2012.

What does the mediation process for separation or divorce look like?

The mediation process for separation or divorce answers all the same questions and resolves all the decisions that you would in a litigated divorce that goes to court.

A mediated separation or divorce takes less time, is less costly, is private and the decisions are made by you, the clients. Clients sit in a comfortable office with one mediator to make decisions 

The typical mediation process looks like this:

1)    A one hour initial consultation is set-up with one of our mediators. We answer all your questions and go over the process in detail. You decide if the process is a good fit for you and your situation.

2)    After the initial meeting, it typically takes 3-4, 1 ½ hour sessions to go over issues surrounding parenting plan, equitable distribution and support issues. Depending on your specific situation it may take more or less sessions to resolve all the issues.

3)    Once your decisions are made, the mediator writes a Memorandum of Understanding that summarizes all of your decisions. One last meeting with the mediator is required to review the Memorandum and make any changes.

4)    You, the client, take your Memorandum to an attorney of your choosing to review the document and make the appropriate filing.

The mediation process doesn’t necessarily involve attorneys until the end of the process, and keeps you out of court. The results are: more money stays in the pot for both households, you can set the pace of the process and not be at the mercy of the court system, you make the decisions that are best for your specific situation and communication is established between the parties that fosters cooperation in decision making. The emotional benefits of working cooperatively together are lasting.

Electronic communication and the challenge of co-parenting

After divorce, parents often are challenged on how to communicate effectively. Mastering such communication skills can be very difficult especially when lack of communication or hostile communication skills may have contributed to their divorce. Despite the difficulty, it is important to communicate since good communication can reduce the post-divorce conflict. It is a common assumption by many mediators that limiting post-divorce conflict between the parents will assist kids adjust. In addition, it seems logical that less conflict will reduce the stress in the lives of the parents, too. I as well as some of my colleagues in the mediation field were eager to have the communication process improved by the electronic age. We believed e-mail as well as cell phones for calling and texting, were going to be a fantastic resource for parents- Fortunately, there were folks willing to do scientific research on the subject.
At the University of Missouri a group of researchers studied the use of communication between divorced parents. The parents used electronic calendars, e-mails, and cell phones in their efforts to co-parent. Lawrence Ganong and Marilyn Coleman and their team discovered that despite the use of electronic communication, the parents reported a wide range of ratings about the level of their post-divorce conflict. The technological tools ranged from helpful to harmful. The parents with good co-parenting relationships used electronic communication in effective ways which improved their communication. Unfortunately, parents with poor co-parenting relationships sometimes used these tools to harass, control and mislead the other parent. It seems that while technology can be a useful tool it is does not cure or correct the underlying communication problem. If you want more information on this interesting study, check it out in the Family Relations Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies. Volume 61, Issue 3, pages 397-409, July 2012 published by the National Council on Family Relations.

Why Are You Doing That to Me?

Sometimes as we go through our busy lives, we are negatively affected by the actions of those around us. The idiot who pulled out in front of us, the teenager playing their music too loud, the creep who pulled into the parking spot we were going to take.

I know how easy it can be to react in ‘justified’ anger: “I had the right of way”, “The sign says ‘Quiet’”,  “He saw me waiting for that spot”. How could that person be so selfish? You feel they have purposefully acted against you.

Maybe. But what if they didn’t? What if the person was just not very good at judging distances (because their eyesight isn’t what it used to be)? What if the teen didn’t realize how loud his music was (because he’s lost his hearing from playing his music too loud)? What if the creep was distracted by the baby in the back seat and really didn’t notice you waiting?

How differently would you feel if you knew that this person had simply made a mistake? We may be pointlessly putting ourselves in a bad mood, feeling put upon, or worse, starting a confrontation. To put things in perspective and to keep myself from reacting in situations like these, I have devised the following trick:

I pretend the bad driver is a friend of mine. I’m pretty sure she cuts people off daily. I imagine the teen is my son. Enough said. And I imagine the parking spot stealer is myself, because I have actually done this without realizing it until being told afterwards. Because I know that my family, friends and I are fully capable of making these mistakes, and I would hope that the person impacted by our actions would forgive me and those that I love, I do the same for them. And if I’m wrong, and the person IS just being a jerk, well, that’s his/her problem, and one that will do them a disservice in life. But, it doesn’t have to affect me.