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WHY DIVORCE MEDIATION AND WHAT TO EXPECT?


WHY DIVORCE MEDIATION?

We’ve all seen friends or family members or heard horror stories about long drawn out divorce battles with vicious lawyers who charge an arm and a leg for their services. It seems to escalate the conflicts more than resolve them. They argue over things they don’t even care about like who gets the contents of the shed?!

What you may not know is that there is a kinder, gentler way to divorce or separate. Divorce mediation involves the help of a neutral third party. One who isn’t biased toward one spouse or the other. This method requires the couple, with the assistance of the mediator, to work together to divide their assets and establish parenting and custody arrangements, and at the same time preserve a decent relationship throughout the process.

The added benefit of a trained mediator who is or has been a matrimonial attorney will provide for a rock solid agreement which will protect each of you with all of the legal issues you need to know. The attorney can also prepare the legal paperwork, so you don’t need to search elsewhere.

WHAT TO EXPECT?
In your first session, it’s ok and actually very normal to feel anxious. Fear, sadness may be creeping up on you during the first session as well. But the mediator will be able to put you both at ease.

In my practice, the children, if there are any, are discussed first and will usually bring us all to a common ground. With years of experience in the Courts, working as a mediator in Family Court, and with a psychology background, we are able to work through the issues and find the options which best serve your family.

The goal is to fairly and equally divide our assets and to advocate for your children’s best interests in as few sessions as possible.

Remember, no one wins but the key is to be peaceful and come to a solution that works for all. It is the mediator’s goal to help you stay focused on the goal of separating peacefully.

The mutual goal: to finalize the divorce without spending a fortune on legal fees or becoming enemies. It will work! Find a mediator who you are comfortable with and who knows the law. And you will find the kindler, gentler way to separate or divorce.

Robyn D. Weisman, Esq., Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Lawyer, Director of Divorce Mediation & Family Services of New York, Ltd. 1-800-WE MEDIATE with offices in Melville and Long Beach, New York

Author: May 28, 2019
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Spousal Support Under the New Tax Laws

What Happens with Spousal Support Under The New Tax Law</strong>

There have been so many questions asked about what happens under the new tax laws and the deductibility of spousal support. This is a question that accountants and attorneys alike are wondering as this is the first year under this new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted by the Federal Government.

First it should be noted that New York State under State law has kept the deductions intact. It is the Federal Taxes that have done away with the marital deduction for Spousal Support.

What is spousal support? This is an amount originally designed to provide the spouse who earns less with a monetary figure designed to maintain herself or himself with the ability to “get back on his or her feet” after a separation or divorce.

New Guidelines were put in place which have an actual calculation regarding maintenance (spousal support), however, these guidelines were put in place before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act were enacted which removed the deduction for maintenance (spousal support). This created a large gap and question as to how to treat awarding spousal support after the deduction was removed. It causes a huge issue when discussing how much maintenance (spousal support) should be given.

During mediation, a fair amount of spousal support can be discussed taking into consideration what a spouse would have received after tax under the prior tax laws and allowing maintenance given by the supporting spouse to be reduced by the amount of tax the receiving spouse would have paid.

For example, if the receiving spouse was in a 20% tax bracket she would be paying 20% on the spousal support she would receive. The supporting spouse would then pay maintenance subtracting out the tax the receiving spouse would have paid. (let’s say the receiving spouse if received $50,000 in spousal support at 20% tax bracket, he or she would have to pay $10,000 in taxes. Under the new law, and given the changes we would reduce the support to $40,000 to be paid by the supporting spouse instead of $50,000. More fair, right?)

Other options can be discussed as well. As we do not know what the Courts will do at this time to make the tax burdens and spousal support more equitable to all parties, we have to come up with creative ways to award spousal support.
The beauty of mediation is that the couple, with the help of an experienced attorney/mediator, can work through this together. Controlling the end product together, through mediation a result can be obtained which is fair to all.

Robyn D. Weisman, Esq., Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Lawyer, Director of Divorce Mediation & Family Services of New York, Ltd. 1-800-WE MEDIATE with offices in Melville and Long Beach, New York

Author: April 29, 2019
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How Is Child Support Determined in New York?

By Robyn D. Weisman, Esq. March 25, 2019

One of the frequent and most important issues to be decided in mediation is what is child support and when if ever is it recalculated. In New York, child support is calculated pursuant to the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA).

In calculating child support, the CSSA looks at the gross income of the parties, minus standard deductions such as FICA, and then calculates child support based upon how many children the parties have. For example, for one child, the percentage is 17 percent; two children, 25 percent; three, 29 percent; etc. This is strictly based upon the New York State Laws and is not negotiable unless there are certain considerations allowed by the law.

In New York, child support is meant to cover food, clothing, and shelter. All of the agreed-upon extra expenses with respect to education, child care and out-of-pocket medical expenses are typically shared pro-rata to the parties’ respective incomes. Certain other expenses may be split between the parties.

What is pro-rata? Pro-rata is determined depending on both parent’s income, for example, if the parties both have incomes of $100,000 per year, their expense-sharing ratio would be 50-50. In another example where the child support payer has an income of $100,000, and the child support payee has an income of $60,000, the expense-sharing ratio would be 60-40 respectively.

Now what happens in the future with child support? Does it get recalculated? The New York Domestic Relations Law provides that unless the parties have specifically opted out of the following provisions in a signed stipulation: “The court may modify an order of child support where a) three years have passed since the order was modified or adjusted, or b) there has been a change in either party’s gross income of 15 percent or more since the order was entered or last modified or adjusted.”

As with most things in mediation, the parties can agree to come up with their own recalculation method. This would be the “opting out” of the New York State Laws. In other words, they don’t need to do what the Domestic Relations Law says and may agree upon a calculation method that best suits their needs.

There are a number of ways for this agreement to occur. Let’s say the payor has a fluctuating income based upon commission or bonus, the parties may want to recalculate annually. The parties may also want to consider including a cost-of-living increase provision. This can be done in yearly increments or every two years, or whatever increment decided by the parties.

In cases where there are multiple children, recalculation often occurs as each child is emancipated. There may also be a provision in place that triggers a recalculation should there be a significant increase or decrease in either party’s gross income.

There are circumstances where the parties have agreed to waive child support and share the expenses of the children. This becomes very important to provide details as to what expenses are being shared.

Mediation is a great way to create an agreement that works for the couple and the family. An experienced mediator who is also an attorney would be in the best position to explain the law and the options available.

Robyn D. Weisman, Esq., Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Lawyer, Director of Divorce Mediation & Family Services of New York, Ltd. 1-800-WE MEDIATE with offices in Melville and Long Beach, New York

Author: March 25, 2019
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Divorce Mediation & Family Services Now in Nassau County

DIVORCE MEDIATION & FAMILY SERVICES OF NEW YORK IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE A NEW LOCATION IN NASSAU COUNTY

120 W. PARK AVENUE, SUITE 308C
LONG BEACH, NEW YORK 11561

PHONE: 1-877-WE MEDIATE OR 631-465-2140
TO SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT
FREE CONSULTATION
For Divorce Mediation Long Island

Author: March 1, 2019
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PARENTING PLANS DURING DIVORCE MEDIATION

February 4, 2019
By Robyn D. Weisman, Esq.,
Director, Divorce Mediation & Family Services of New York

The first item of discussion when couples who have children start a mediation is the Parenting Plan. We work out a comprehensive parenting plan that works for the separating or divorcing family. Remember no matter what direction you take, you will be parents forever.

Unlike the decisions regarding the distribution of the property which would include the marital residence, assets and retirement plans, a parenting plan is an ongoing agreement which the parents and children will live with for a long period of time. It is also a plan which may be changed with agreement as the children get older or if the plan just isn’t working out the way it was initially agreed to.

Many times when clients come to divorce mediation they have a good relationship with each other but they haven’t considered future issues which may come up. An experienced mediator who is or was also a divorce attorney would most likely have seen issues come up that people would not initially think of.

A couple may recognize that their marriage is over and are ready to move on and start a new life but may need help with suggestions and options as they work out a parenting plan. Very often a couple who do get along may tend to want to be vague and general about their parenting plan. They avoid specific times for arranging parenting time with the children including specific times when pickup and drop off should occur with the children; instead, they talk in terms of “mutually agreeing.”

They say they will “be flexible” regarding vacations and holidays instead of identifying specific periods of time and specific holidays. Flexibility is important however, specific times, dates will be helpful for planning and for routines for the children. It is also important if in the future there are other spouses or the blending of families.

Therefore. it is important to be specific and definitive when developing a parenting plan. You can always be flexible if the other parent is willing. There are numerous other issues to go into your parenting plan such as decision-making, communication, education concerns, medical treatment, religious concerns, and disciplinary issues for the children.

Remember divorce is about you, parenting is about the children. Stay tuned for my next blog on joint custody!

Robyn D. Weisman, Esq., Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Lawyer, Director of Divorce Mediation & Family Services of New York, Ltd. 1-800-WE MEDIATE

Author: February 4, 2019
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What to Expect in Divorce Mediation

We’ve all seen friends or family members endure long drawn out divorce battles with aggressive lawyers who seemed to escalate the conflict more than resolve it.

What you may not know is that there is a kinder, gentler way to divorce or separate. Divorce mediation involves the help of a neutral third party. This method requires the couple to work together to divide their assets and establish child custody arrangements, and at the same time preserve a decent relationship throughout the process.

In your first session, it’s ok and actually very normal to feel anxious. Fear, sadness may be creeping up on you during the first session as well. But the mediator is there to put you both at ease. The basics are covered and in my practice, the children, if there are any, are discussed first and will usually bring us all to a common ground. With years of experience in the Courts, working as a mediator in Family Court, and with a psychology background, we are able to work through the issues and find the options which best serve your family.

The goal is to fairly and equally divide our assets and to advocate for your children’s best interests in as few sessions as possible.

What you will need to bring or at least review:
• Pay stubs, plus statements for savings, checking, and retirement accounts
• Mortgage balances, credit card statements, and child care expenses.
• As my clients will attest my line is “everything you own and owe”

Beyond dividing up assets and making arrangements for children, mediation comes with heavy emotions.
The more information you share with each other, the less emotional the process will feel. It can be hard to fully trust a spouse you’re divorcing, since you wouldn’t be ending the marriage if you were on the best terms. But if you trust your mediator and the process, that will go a long way toward keeping your emotions out of it.

It’s key that you go into mediation fully prepared to compromise — beyond what you may have expected.
Remember, no one wins but the key is to be peaceful and come to a solution that works for all. It the mediator’s goal to help you stay focused on the goal of separating peacefully.

The mutual goal: to finalize the divorce without spending a fortune on legal fees or becoming enemies. It will work! Find a mediator who you are comfortable with and who knows the law. And you will find the kinder, gentler way to separate or divorce.

Robyn D. Weisman, Esq., Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Lawyer, Director of Divorce Mediation & Family Services of New York, Ltd. 1-800-WE MEDIATE with offices in Melville and Long Beach, New York

Author: October 15, 2018
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WHAT IS A LEGAL SEPARATION?

June 5, 2018

If you and your spouse decide to live separate and apart, but you do not want to divorce, you can go for a legal separation.

To do this you enter into a Separation Agreement. This does not involve Court intervention when done through mediation.

A legal separation can give you and your spouse the time apart you need while you try to repair a marriage that may be in jeopardy of ending.
A separation agreement gives you the chance to work out problems, slowly and over time, without the pressure of a divorce action. There may be other financial reasons to go for the separation instead of a divorce right away. These concerns can be health insurance related, tax interests and/or retirement benefits.

As part of the separation agreement, you and your spouse decide on a number of important issues, such as child support and spousal support (called maintenance), as well as a parenting plan. A written separation agreement will set out the rights and obligations of you and your spouse both during and after the separation. This will include equitable distribution of property including homes and retirement plans. It becomes a binding agreement enforceable in Court if necessary.

Although New York law now provides for a no-fault divorce, if you or your spouse can establish that you have lived separate and apart under a written separation agreement for at least one year, then you may obtain a judgment of divorce on that basis alone. The separation agreement will be submitted as part of a divorce decree, if you or your spouse decides to seek a divorce.

If you and your spouse begin living separate and apart under a separation agreement, you are free to get back together at any time. A separation agreement generally becomes invalid and void when you begin living together again with an intent to reconcile.

A mediator can work out the terms with you for a legal separation but remember only an attorney can draft the legal document.

Robyn D. Weisman, Esq., Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Lawyer, Director of Divorce Mediation & Family Services of New York, Ltd. 1-800-WE MEDIATE

Author: June 5, 2018
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NEW TAX CONSIDERATIONS FOR 2018 AND BEYOND


March 5, 2018

Congress recently passed a tax reform bill which was signed into law by the president.

I am not an accountant so this isn’t a tax article but an FYI in family law and divorce primarily for New York. So how does the new tax reform possibly impact divorcing couples.

There are three main areas of impact

First, and the most significant area for divorcing and/or separating couples, the tax reform law eliminates the deductibility of spousal support for any new agreements entered inro after 12/31/18. This means that agreements signed after December 31, 2018 will not be eligible for the tax deduction for maintenance and spousal support. Agreement modifications made after that date could still have the tax treatment so long as the parties still desire it.

The present tax law provides spousal support for certain couples depending on their incomes, the higher-earner pays spousal support to a lower-earning spouse. The lower-earning spouse would pay taxes on the support received and the higher-earning spouse would be able to deduct the alimony paid. For some divorcing couples, this tax effect is very beneficial.

Second, is the elimination of the so-called SALT (state and local tax). We in New York and especially on Long Island have significantly higher property taxes than most areas in the country. The new law caps the combined property tax and state income tax deduction to $10,000.

When couples divorce, they now have to support two households, two homes, two sets of utility bills, car insurance, etc. There are however, certain changes that may help, the standard deduction would increase to $12,000 for single filers ($24,000 for married filers and $18,000 for the head of household). That would probably depend on specific circumstances and you should contact your accountant.

The third is how exemptions are handled. Personal and dependent exemptions are eliminated, which previously took $4050 per person (including dependents) off of income. Parents would often discuss how to split or allocate the dependent exemption for their children. That will be non-existent for 2018 and beyond.

However, the child tax credit has been doubled to $2000 per child under 17 years of age. Deductions reduce taxable income while tax credits directly reduce the tax owed. Thus, a parent in the old 25% tax bracket would save about $1000 in taxes per exemption and will now save $2000 in taxes per child as long as their children are under 17.

The income phase-out of the child tax credit has also been increased to $200,000. So while parents lose the exemption for each minor child and themselves, the tax credit might be more valuable depending on your income. Like the old dependent exemption, the child tax credit can be assigned to either parent. And like the old exemption, it may be more valuable to one parent than the other and should be discussed (and negotiated) during the divorce process.

The other trade-off for losing the exemptions is a doubling of the standard deduction, per above. In New York, this may not be helpful since homes and taxes are expensive so itemizing deductions may still be needed if the taxpayer exceeds the standard deduction limit.

The new law keeps the current home capital gains regulations, which should help divorcing couples keep the current exemption and associated rules when selling the marital home.

There are also a few other deductions that are eliminated in the law. The moving expense deduction is suspended from 2018-2025. The home mortgage deduction also faces changes. Currently, homeowners can deduct up to $1.1 million in the acquisition and home equity loan interest. The new law lowers that to $750,000 for new loans (and cap it at $1,000,000 for existing loans) and eliminates the deductibility of home equity loans (unless used for improvements on the home).

This article is not designed to be comprehensive, but to give divorced, divorcing and potential divorcing couples that they could be impacted by tax reform.

As always, speak with a qualified tax professional before making any decisions.

Author: March 5, 2018
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A Beginner’s Parenting Guide to Separation and Divorce with Children

Family Mediation

Summer has ended and the school year has begun, parents who are contemplating divorce or separation often worry about the impact on children in the future and how best to make decisions for their future. Who shall have custody of the children? Where will they live and go to school? How will they do? Am I just going to be a weekend parent? How do we have equal time with the children? These are common worries and fears couples bring to mediation. The first step is to know what the lingo is when talking about children in the context of separation and divorce. There is a whole new vocabulary you should be aware of before you set out on the process.

What is Custody? When we use the word custody we are actually talking about two separate issues – legal custody and physical or residential custody.
Residential Custody: Refers to where the children will be living. Every child needs a place to list on his or her school records or medical records. What is that address?
Physical or Residential Custodial Parent: Who is going to maintain the home where the children will live most of the time. Whose residence will be listed on those school records and medical records. This is usually the parent we refer to as the custodial parent for child support purposes.
Legal Custody: This generally refers solely to the decision making authority regarding important decisions for the children, such as healthcare, education, and general welfare. This is where joint and sole custody comes into play.
Joint Legal Custody: This is the term used where both parents have agreed to make major decisions for the children together. This is the best case scenario for the children as long as the parents can work as a team for the sake of the children. Can you put aside your differences when it comes to the children?
Sole Legal Custody: When parents cannot maintain a team approach for decision making for the children, one parent is given the authority to make major decisions. This is usually the residential custodial parent. The other parent, however, who does not have legal custody will be required to be kept informed and be consulted regarding all issues involving the children.

What is this “Visitation” we hear of? Is there a requirement one parent should have visitation only alternating weekends?
Absolutely not!! I first off, never use the word “visitation”. No parent should ever be visiting their child or children. Parenting Time is the schedule created for a family to make optimal use of the families time together and apart. A parenting time schedule should be made for when children are with each parent, including a schedule for weekdays, weekends, holidays, and vacations. Ideally, your parenting time should allow for flexibility but also provide for a specific routine your children and yourselves. As your children grow, their needs and activities will change, and so may your jobs and these schedules need to be flexible enough to accommodate those changes.

A Parenting Agreement will include all of the terms that are necessary and important to the family. These are some of the items which may go into your parenting agreement along with the varying custody arrangements and holiday and parenting time schedules.
 Which parent will pick up and drop off the children
 Education and religious concerns and upbringing
 How will the parents be advised on school and after school activities, including who will attend school conferences and events and functions.
 How they parents handle family functions that take place during year, including birthday parties, graduation parties, bar and bat mitzvahs or communions, and the like.
 Notification to parents and others if they are travelling outside of the United States with the children, and if so, are any restrictions to foreign travel. Who is responsible for the passports.
 Communication with the parent who does not have parenting time, how and when should this occur?
 Relocation issues and guidance should a parent want to relocate
 Any parenting issues including restrictions regarding substance and alcohol use of the parents, friends or neighbors who will be around the children; any other restrictions the parents have agreed upon (for instance, a family member who cannot babysit the children).

The beauty about mediation is that you may as a couple and partners as parents tailor a Parenting Plan which meets your family’s needs. Remember it is no longer only the best interests of the children that are important, but the interests of the family!

Disclaimer: The information obtained at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Author: October 10, 2017
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IS MEDIATION RIGHT FOR YOU?

Posted by Robyn D. Weisman, Esq. on September 28, 2016

jpg”>Mediation In The First Place

Divorce Mediation is a kinder, gentler way to enter into a divorce or separation. It is much less expensive, much more amicable and much quicker than a tradition courtroom battle which is becoming less the norm.
But is it right for you?

When it comes to families with children, family law over the years has changed significantly. Both parents are more inclined to be an active role in their children’s lives. In mediation we encourage parents to develop “parenting plans” that meet the needs of the children and the parents, allowing both parents to spend a substantial amount of time with their kids. Co-parenting plans focus on the children and their needs and take away the “custody” battle. Although divorce is an end to the marital relationship, the parental and family relationship continues. Mediation is designed to promote communication and therefore can help families establish their new- post-divorce relationship and life.

Because mediation is a less contentious process than a courtroom divorce, couples without young children find their way into mediation as the process focuses on negotiation. The division of the property and assets with the help of a neutral third-party helps to develop an amicable resolution and one that meets the concerns of the parties. A mediator is required to be a neutral party and works with the couple for the good of both parties.

Mediators address the following: equitable distribution of assets and debts, spousal maintenance (alimony), health insurance, and parenting plans.
Divorce mediation is a process wherein both parties are equally acknowledged and heard. It is a process in which a mediator makes a difficult time a little easier. Both parties work to gain their independence while at the same time working together to come to a mutually beneficial and respectful agreement. With the trained mediator’s assistance neither party will dominate the other party but instead will work together in a healthy fashion to secure their future.

Is mediation right for you? Unless there are issues of protective orders or spousal abuse mediation is the better alternative.

Disclaimer: The information obtained at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.
Author: September 28, 2016

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