Month: February 2014

We’ve already agreed on everything, why shouldn’t we do our own divorce?

There are spouses who wonder whether they need a mediator to help them with a divorce, or whether they can do it on their own. You can go to ‘do-it-yourself’ divorce websites online and create an agreement that you can file in court. Do I recommend it? The reality is that there is so much at stake in terms of the future financial stability of each party and the needs of any minor children of the marriage, that as an experienced mediator I would not recommend it.

The lack of knowledge of applicable laws and factors considered by the courts in determining the terms of a divorce can leave critical details unaddressed. Very few people who don’t work in the field have an accurate understanding of NY State’s Equitable Distribution and Child and Spousal Support standards and calculations and how they are applied. The filing process itself must be done properly.

But even beyond those major areas, there are many other things that should be addressed in order to avoid future conflict or hardship. Can either of you really afford to keep the house? Are you covering support payments with life insurance or other assets? Do you understand the tax implications of different assets, debts and support? If you have children, what if one of you wants to move away from the area? How will you handle new relationships parents may have and how it will effect the children? Who pays for children’s medical insurance, non-covered medical expenses and daycare?

The list of things that go into creating a solid divorce agreement is lengthy, and while your desire to be amicable is of great benefit to everyone in the family, the reality is, that without a mediator providing you with information and helping you have some conversations about what will really work best for each of your future lives, you may forfeit your legal rights or end up with an agreement that causes financial hardship, or simply doesn’t serve you and your children well in the future.

If I don’t trust my spouse, how can I mediate?

Erasing Fear

Mediation requires that parties are willing to make a good faith effort to negotiate an agreement which both believe to be fair. It can sometimes be hard to imagine how you can have any faith in a process when you have no faith in the party you need to negotiate with.

Yet, people who have very little trust and even those who hate each other negotiate agreements every day. How do they do it? By focusing on the outcome they hope to achieve.

In divorce mediation, most people have the important goal of minimizing the impact of the divorce on their children. Many also hope to come to a financial agreement that ensures everyone, especially their children, will be alright. Most want to end up with a fair amount of the marital assets and liabilities. With these goals in mind, no matter how emotionally difficult it might become, with the assistance of a skilled mediator most people can arrive at agreement.

Distrust is sometimes simply because one or the other party has not been involved in the day-to-day finances of the marriage. In mediation, parties must agree to provide all financial information. The mediator helps to facilitate the conversation and ensure all documentation is gathered so that both parties can satisfy any questions or concerns they may have. If either party is unwilling to do so, mediation is terminated.

If you do not trust your spouse because you are afraid he or she is going to harm you or your children, you should trust your own instincts and ensure your own safety. If you are in immediate danger, you should call 911. You can find resources to assist you with housing, counseling, and legal services by calling Alternatives for Battered Women, which offers services to both women and men, at 585-232-7353.

Family: Is there a normal?

No family looks the same. They come in all shapes and sizes with many different nuances. We are in a generation that has seen and is still seeing many changes as it relates to the family unit. There truly is no normal anymore.

Once upon a time, there used to be a mom, a dad and 2.5 kids, and maybe a dog. That was the “normal” American family.  And anything else was not considered to be good or healthy.

Today’s families still may have one mom and one dad, others have single parents and still others have two moms or two dads. There are blended families with step-brothers and sisters and half-brothers and sisters. There are families that choose not to have children and those who choose to adopt. Many families have adult children returning to the nest and others have older parents sharing a home. There are marriages of all types, as well as recognized domestic partnerships. And people in all these types of families can have very healthy and positive experiences. No matter what your family looks like, it is your family. And your family comes with both the good times and the challenging times.

Learning to live with the good and the bad in every family and communicating with each other is the key to being happy at home. Communication involves talking as well as listening. It also involves feeling safe and comfortable so you may express your needs and wants. The Mediation Center works with all kinds of families Mediation helps couples and families define and express their issues and figure out the best option for moving forward for the family.

There is no normal.