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Common Mediation Misunderstandings

Common Misunderstandings

Common Misunderstandings

Whenever I’m presented with the opportunity, I love to explain all of the advantages of divorce mediation and what it entails. There are so many benefits that I sometimes feel like a never ending advertisement for the mediation  profession.  Unfortunately, even though the information is out there, there still exits many common misunderstandings when it comes to this topic. This could be because mediation is so severely underused so there is an obvious lack of knowledge. I would like to clear up some ideas of what mediation is certainly not. In doing so, this will help in understanding what the purpose of mediation actually is.

RECONCILLIATION 

Can mediation bring a couple back together? Isn’t mediation non-combative so it gives the couples the opportunity to reconcile? Even though that would be really nice, mediation is not for reconciliation. A mediator’s role as a neutral third party is to help the divorcing parties communicate and work through the issues they will need to resolve in order to get divorced.

THERAPY

It’s easy to see why some people might think their mediator can double as the therapist. Many look up to the mediator as their divorce professional and think they can confide every aspect of their life to this person. After all, they the mediator is privy to many of the most private details of your intimate life. This is not the case, however. As mediators we can certainly be empathetic and take everybody’s feelings into account but since we are acting as neutral third parties we do not want to be seen as more or less empathetic to either party. If the one or both of the parties would like therapy by a licensed therapist, the mediator may recommend professionals.

MANDATORY

Unlike Court, what we do in mediation is completely voluntary. The parties make decisions for themselves and are able to use creative problem solving to come up with solutions that might not have been available if they went the traditional court route. What this also means, is that if they don’t want to come up with anything they don’t have to either. Everything in the mediation is voluntary and will only arrive at an agreement if we have the consent of both parties.

LEGAL ADVICE 

Being a lawyer, I get asked legal advice all the time. I’m constantly having to explain to my mediation clients that as their mediator I cannot give legal advice. Giving legal advice would assume some kind of bias and as I am a neutral third party, I cannot give the appearance of non-neutrality. I can illustrate what the actual law is, however. But my main focus as a mediator is coming up with solutions that fit my clients needs and these are not legally focused. Every case and every family is different and my specialty is working with each of my unique clients and crafting real results that work for them.

If you would like to learn more please contact divorceharmony.com

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How To Survive The Holidays

How To Survive The Holidays

How To Survive The Holidays

HOW TO SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS 

It’s that time of year again.-the Holidays. Family, food, fun and cheer. But this year is different. This year you may be grieving and/or facing a new reality with your divorce. The usual expectations of the holidays from organizing complicated get together’s to cooking elaborate feasts may seem very intimidating. It doesn’t have to be though. Here are 4 easy steps to follow to ensure you enjoy the holiday season with loved ones and maybe get some meaning and inspiration from them as well.

 

Put Things In Perspective

Put Things In Perspective

  1. Put Things In Perspective Why do we have the holidays? What are we celebrating? Do the holidays-whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa hold any special meaning for you? Do you remember celebrating them in your childhood in a certain way? Are they a tie to your past and where you come from? Do you want to pass any of the rituals to your children? Putting the holidays in perspective and not worrying about the superficial like gift giving and fancy feasts may help you gain a better foothold on why we have these occasions in the first place.
Lower Expectations During The Holidays

Lower Expectations During The Holidays

2. Lower Expectations During The Holidays Slow down! You don’t have to move too fast. Take a breath and realize you can’t be everything to everybody. Think of yourself and what you need now. Don’t commit to too much at this time. Pacing yourself during the holidays is key to a healthy season. Only do what feels good. You may be going through a lot so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

 

Be Choosy With Your Holiday Events

Be Choosy With Your Holiday Events

3. Be Choosy With Your Holiday Events Many holidays get together’s can zap your energy.  Family and friends are beautiful but it can be tiring  and not to mention stressful to be around lots of people for an extended period of time.  Perhaps you would just rather curl up with a favorite book by the fireplace. Recognize that it may be better for you at this time to not attend every holiday gathering. Take the time to be alone or with a close few that you are truly comfortable with.

 

Make A Prioritized Plan

Make A Prioritized Plan

4. Make A Prioritized Plan What’s important to you this holiday season? What do you want to do? Make a list and stick with it. You will find that if you do what is most important to you the holidays won’t be that stressful because you are doing what is meaningful for you with the people that you want to be surrounded by.

To find out more about surviving the holidays please contact divorceharmony.com.

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Diamond Girl

Diamond Girl

Diamond Girl

Besides being a Licensed attorney, Certified mediator, wife, mother, professional volunteer/activist and long distance runner many people are surprised to find out I’m a GIA diamond expert. After practicing law for a few years in New York City, I grew weary of the field and the assorted characters in the community. I wanted to do something that would make people happy. On a whim, I enrolled in the Gemological Institute of America’s diamonds course. Entering the world of Diamonds was an exciting and stimulating time.

For almost 10 years, I ran my own Diamond Company, S&W Diamonds. I worked hard to make connections in the industry and on Manhattan’s famous 47th Street. I always provided the best quality stones at the most ridiculously lowest prices. I continue this tradition with my mediation practice-offering the highest quality at the lowest prices.

Who would have known that years later I would use my diamond knowledge to help my clients in the process of divorce mediation? Many divorcing couples need advice on what they should do with their engagement rings. Do they sell? Where? Can they make a profit from selling? Engagement rings can be a sentimental expense but it’s best to try and look at it like a business transaction.

There are lots of predatory sites and businesses out there looking to profit off of your misfortune. It’s important to know which companies are reliable if you are interested in selling your second hand diamond. There are only a handful of people, I can count them on one hand, that you should be dealing with. 

It’s been a pleasure to fuse my knowledge of the diamond industry with my divorce mediation practice. It feels great to continuously save my clients money on their diamond transactions using my GIA trained expertise. If you have any questions regarding diamonds or mediation please don’t hesitate to contact divorceharmony.com

 

 

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Teddy The Dog

Teddy The Dog

Teddy The Dog

Meet Teddy the dog.  Teddy is my 3 year old Labradoodle. We have a love/hate relationship. He’s usually very mischievous. Examples of his naughtiness include: binge eating treats when we are not home,  devouring endless socks, barking incessantly at nothing-the list could go on and on. I thought I was a dog person until we got Teddy. My eldest child begged and begged for this furry companion and I guess I had a moment of weakness and submitted.

That being said, Teddy the dog is a big old bundle of love. He cries sometimes because he cannot contain the love and devotion he has for us. That unconditional love is kinda nice, even though it comes with a lot of annoyances. At the end of the day, he just wants to be around us 24/7 and he’s the happiest guy ever.

If you had told me before I started my mediation practice, that Teddy the Dog would be the key to my success, I would have fainted. You see, I conduct most of my virtual mediations from my home office. Mr. Teddy has to be around me when I am in the house. Whether it’s in the kitchen, bathroom, wherever. This also means he insists on hanging in the office with me. If I don’t let him in, he cries and barks. See picture below of how Teddy typically spends his days. Not too bad!

Teddy the dog's usual position

Teddy the dog’s usual position

Teddy the dog’s tried and true position on the coach means he’s in perfect view of my camera when I’m conducting virtual mediation. What does this mean? That there is almost always a doggy party in my sessions. He doesn’t say much and nobody has to worry about issues of confidentiality.

Teddy the dog’s expertise comes in the way he lightens the mood in what could otherwise be a tense situation. Whether I’m conducting a mediation with all parties or caucus-my clients love Teddy! He’s a mediation star. The perfect way to break the ice. They want to know all about him and sometimes share tales of their own furry companions. Of course, if I ever have any doggy adverse clients I would make other arrangements for Teddy but so far he has a perfect record.

If you would like a doggy assisted mediation, please contact divorceharmony. Teddy and I will be at your bark and call.

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Child Tax Deductions in the New Year

Child Tax Deductions in the new year

Child Tax Deductions in the new year

The divorce world is swirling with activity right about now. Child tax deductions and other issues coming to fruition in the new year are creating a quite a ruckus. My job as a neutral divorce mediator means I need to constantly keep my clients abreast of all the changes coming soon that may affect the decisions they make today. Typically, divorce is something you want to take time to evaluate, plan best scenarios and have a team of supporters around you. However, the changing tax code, effective January 1, 2019 is forcing some couples to speed up the process and make important decisions at an accelerated pace.

The big news regarding child tax deductions in 2019 is that children are no longer tax deductible. Through the year 2025, the new tax code completely eliminates the $4050 tax deduction for each dependent. However, the child tax credit which offsets taxes owed, is increasing from $1000 per dependent to $2000 per dependent. Good for me! With four kids, I’m looking forward to that $8000 tax credit. Additionally, the standard deduction will almost double starting in 2019.

These changes to the child tax deductions in the new year are important for purposes of mediation and negotiation. We have to remember that we will no longer be able to use the child tax deduction when working on incentives in a mediation. However, the child tax credit is very much at play. The parties may choose to have one parent claim the tax credit exclusively in exchange for giving something up or alternatively the parties may wish to alternate the credit every year.

With regard to the child tax deductions in the new year, the great thing about Divorce Harmony is that we offer virtual divorce mediation.  With this process, we can do everything online and skip the long lines and crowded court calendars that are backed up because of these upcoming changes to the tax code. If we start fairly soon, your divorce can be finalized before the changes take place on January 1, 2019. You would be grandfathered in to the rules of 2018. After mediation, we can e-file all the paperwork and you a final notice of divorce will be mailed to you! How easy is that?

In addition to the changes in child tax deductions in the new year, major changes are taking place with regards to alimony and pre and post nuptial agreements. The result of this will be some confusion and intense negotiating. At divorceharmony.com we are equiped to answer all of your questions and make the divorce process as smooth as possible whether you want a divorce now or want to wait for the new year. Please contact divorceharmony.com with any questions.

 

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School: Managing New Year With Two Households

New School Year

How Does the New School Year Affect Kids of Divorce?

Time surely flies. We are already facing the new school year. Some of us have already started school. Feelings of butterfly’s in the stomach, uncertainty, new schedules, new friends and more come bubbling to the surface. These challenges are often doubled when you take into account the complications of 2 households. How will the children of divorced parents fare with the new school year?

Oftentimes the new school year presents a wonderful opportunity for divorced parents to press the reset button and get on the same page with regard to the in an outs of the school year. Parents are forced to evaluate many issues like homework, what their goals are, schedule and of course the big one-expenses. It’s very difficult for kids to succeed and thrive if the parents cannot work together for the benefit of the child. When doing mediation, I always try to forecast these scenarios and help my clients figure out how they will co-parent their children in situations that will occur in the future. We can’t predict everything but I’ve done enough mediation’s to understand what parents should be concerned with.

Ask yourselves what are my children’s goals for the year? Is it to play a particular sport and gain confidence? Or maybe it’s to get an A in honors math. If possible, include your former spouse in these discussions. Having your child see his parents discussing  school goals will increase his chance of success. The same goes for homework. The parent who has time sharing that particular day will be responsible for the child’s homework. Speak to your ex and make sure you both understand what is required of your child and each take personal responsibility for ensuring your child completes his homework successfully.

The year will certainly be unpredictable to an extent, but try and work out a schedule with your ex so there is as little conflict as possible. Only commit to things you know either of you can get the child to. It’s vital to be clear about who is responsible for managing the schedule and sharing that schedule with the other parent. Lastly, each new school year inevitably brings on a variety of new expenses. Who is paying for school supplies and who is staying home with the child when he’s sick? In many cases parents agree to split these situations 50/50 or in a way that matches their income levels.

A lot to think about as we approach the new school year. With a little bit of planning, kids in 2 household situations can have amazing, school years. At divorceharmony.com, we thrive on creating parenting plans that work for the entire family.

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Friends Family This Is Not Your Divorce!

Friends Family Divorce

Friends Family Divorce

Attention Friends Family. It is completely natural for friends and family to want to protect and defend their loved one in a divorce scenario. And alternatively the party getting divorced depends on these very people to make it through the process. They seek them out for advice even before starting the divorce process. Make no mistake these relationships are essential for everybody.

But there is a fine line between being the supportive friend or family member and trying to drive the entire process to the detriment of your friend. Supportive friends almost instinctively will talk negatively about their loved one’s spouse because they feel this is how to protect their friend. They may urge their friend to seek a “shark” attorney and to go all out and punish their spouse for his/her wrongdoing. Somehow we think this will make our friend feel better by witnessing our undying devotion to them.

I wish I could explain to these well meaning friends and family that by doing this they are only reinforcing negative emotions that get in the way of an eventual compromise between the parties. It can also bring up feelings of shame and embarrassment for even being with this person in the first place.  These are some of the reasons loved ones are advised to not be in the mediation of their loved ones. Their presence can contribute to hostile feelings and act as an impediment in settlement.

Instead, the divorcing party needs their loved ones to act as a calm, centered presence in their lives that they can depend on to feel in control and loved. They can do this by helping their friends to think clearly and assisting them in finding the right professionals from mediators to therapists. Helping with day to day like dinner or babysitting are wonderful ways to contribute as well. Empathize with all of the emotions they are going through but try not to add fuel to the fire because that will only hurt your friend in the long run.

Contact divorceharmony.com for more information.

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Self Help: Can This Be Taught?

Self-Help Can This Be Taught?

Self-Help Can This Be Taught?

Self Help

Very often I’ll get inquires from potential clients that are somewhat interested in mediating their divorce or paternity issues. Self-help, rather than litigation seems like an attractive option for them. We have a nice chat but then they explain why they can’t mediate. I get the usual: they don’t communicate well, there’s lots of screaming, they don’t get along, they mistrust each other, etc, etc. While I appreciate and understand their difficult situations, I don’t get why they think these should be reasons why they shouldn’t mediate.

In fact, the above “reasons” are why they should self-help and mediate! Since they don’t get along-why would they want to go the litigation/attorney route which tends to embolden any existing conflict? Problems communicating? Good luck with two adversarial attorney’s speaking for the parties. Any kind of semblance of communication will vanish with this approach. And the kicker-trust issues.  Attorney litigated divorce is the perfect environment in which to nurture paranoia.

At Divorce Harmony, we have the skills to curtail that conflict and rebuild trust in the relationship. We specialize in forming a rapport with the parties and understanding what each of their interests are. Even in the most difficult of cases this can be achieved.

Don’t assume that your ex won’t be amendable to trying mediation. You will never know unless you engage and actually ask. Self-help may be in fact be the right solution for both of you. And above all else, it doesn’t hurt to try it out because you have much more to gain then to lose. A litigated divorce is not something to take lightly.

For the smart self-help approach of mediation, please contact divorceharmony.com. Now offering full service filing as well, making your divorce truly the most convenient it can be! Give us a call today for your 30 minute free consultation.

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Compare: Don’t Do It!

Compare: Don't Do It!

Compare: Don’t Do It!

Don’t dare to compare! When going through a divorce the urge to compare may arise. At this time many are feeling low and insecure because life as they know it has changed completely. They may be worried how they appear to the outside world and what is said about them. Life is in flux and one’s new life is not yet settled. It’s easy to be susceptible to feelings of shame and making oneself open to negative people and advice. Divorce is not fun!

I tell my clients it’s so important to keep your eyes on the prize and not look at other’s situations and compare divorces. The focus should be on your own divorce and set of circumstances. This is your very own unique experience and new life that will begin.

Same things with all of the books, studies, and polls that show what you will go through in divorce. Divorce is what you make of it. You don’t have to be a statistic. To compare divorce is set yourself up for failure.

The good news is that most people do just fine in divorce. Their lives resume and usually for the better! It’s the minority with awful experiences that bring down the average and make us fear that it can only be a catastrophic experience.

Additionally, it’s harmful to compare yourself to your former spouse and how you measure up post divorce. We all move towards recuperation at our own pace. An important tool in getting to this place is empathy. Having empathy for your ex can help move the process along and help you to not compare and contrast your post marital life. Additionally, you may gain the clarity needed to live your fullest life from this moment on. If you are considering divorce, please contact me @divorceharmony.com .  If you want low cost, low stress, high quality, don’t want to miss work, no retainers, and all papers filed online for the ultimate convenience I’d love to hear from you!

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Summer Vacation And Divorce

Summer Vacation and Divorce

Summer Vacation and Divorce

Who doesn’t love summer vacation? No school, more time with the kids, beach, pool, camp, trips, long days, bonding, the list could go on and on! The chaos of divorce can put a major damper on everybody’s favorite season. Who gets the kids when, not enough time for trips, conflicting schedules, and more can really complicate what was once a much simpler time.

When couples divorce a major part of the mediation is deciding on a parenting plan. The parenting plan spells out many aspects of the family dynamics including what will happen during summer vacation. Unfortunately many mediators and attorneys fail to look at the big picture and consider that families’ needs may change over time and they do not make a “breathable” parenting plan that predicts these very changes. Luckily at Divorce Harmony we are well versed in this and devise intelligent parenting plans that stand the test of time. We have seen how faulty parenting plans can land the family back into court after a long and stressful divorce and that’s the last thing we would ever want for our clients.

The best way to ensure success is to make the summer plan as specific as possible allowing for less ambiguity. It’s also wise to consider the perspective of the other parent. And I always tell my families that the agreement merely serves as a guide. They have it to refer to in case of disagreement but in real life they can be as flexible as they need to be as long as they are all in agreement. Essentially the plan is there for their protection. But the more both parents are flexible, the more successful everybody’s summers will be!

Wishing everyone a fabulous, stree-free summer vacation with their children. If you are in need of a parenting plan that will stand the test of time please contact me: divorceharmony.com

 

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