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Author Archives: Lois Misiewicz
Can You Afford to Get Divorced? Westfield Mediation, LLC ©Copyright 2014 There are really two parts to the question — “Can you afford to get divorced?” One, can you afford to go through the process of separating from your spouse … Continue reading
We’ve all heard the saying “when it rains, it pours” and when you’re going through a divorce that’s often the way it feels. Personally, when I was going through my divorce it seemed like there were times when it was … Continue reading
Life changing experiences such as divorce often gives the opportunity for a fresh start. Instead of getting caught up in bitterness or blame it can be a time of introspection, a learning experience. The fact of the matter is that … Continue reading
Collaborative Divorce Attorney Linda L. Piff, answers the question “What are some of the financial challenges for those over 50 getting divorced?” The challenges are due to the couple over 50 experiencing the”perfect storm” with the economy in a significant … Continue reading
By Jacqueline Harounian, Esq
Law Partner at Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, PC
As a family law attorney who regularly represents mothers and fathers in contested divorce trials, Jacqueline Harounian has very some straightforward advice for parents going through divorce, and who are contemplating a custody action.
From the outset, it is important for mothers and fathers to recognize that married parents of minor children start out with joint custody rights. This means that both parents have equal rights to their children, and the same right to pursue custody of their children in their divorce case. In a world where many households contain two working parents, and many fathers play an active role in raising their children, the presumption that mothers will automatically get custody no longer exists. In fact statistics show that fathers, who seek custody of their children, are awarded custody 50% of the time. Custody laws are gender neutral, and this means that when the facts of a given case are applied to the governing law, a court may determine that it is in the best interests of the child to live primarily with the father, not the mother.
Here is a list of the seven most common pitfalls of parties going through custody actions. If you want to lose your custody case, here is the way to do it. If you want to win custody, steer clear of the following:
- Not being the primary caretaker: In most households, one parent is most responsible for caring for the children’s basic needs — the so called primary caretaker. The parent who is the most involved in the children’s daily lives usually has the edge in a custody case. Therefore, if you are not putting in the time to do homework with your child, feeding, bathing, reading, taking him or her to the bus stop, you are at a disadvantage in a custody case. There is no better way to lose custody than to demonstrate to a judge that you are simply not engaged in raising your child.
- Not being involved in your child’s schedule and activities: Do you know the names of your child’s teachers? Have you ever supervised your child on a play date or taken your child to the doctor? Do you regularly attend school conferences and school events? If the answer to these is “no”, then it is an indication that someone else (i.e. the other parent) is the primary caretaker, not you.
- Alcohol, drugs, or other “parental fitness” issues: A parent who even casually partakes in abuse of alcohol and/or drugs will have a problem in winning custody. Most judges will take allegations of substance abuse seriously, and these allegations will be investigated thoroughly via random testing, psychological evaluations, and interviews. If you have an issue with substance abuse, then seek treatment for it immediately. If you are the perpetrator of domestic violence or abuse (which often goes hand in hand with alcohol use), this also pretty much guarantees that you will lose custody.
- Leaving a paper trail that will hang you in Court: Thanks to new technology, virtually every custody trial features the submission of evidence that can be used to portray the other parent in a very damaging light. Sometimes the continue reading
By Dr. Lynne C. Halem, Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution
The media is endlessly fascinated by the divorces of couples with long-term marriages. From Maria Shiver and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al and Tipper Gore, the celebrity divorced set, to demographers’ estimation of the significant increase in divorce and separation among the general population of those in the fifty-plus age bracket, the stories keep coming. In part the fascination is related to the breakup of long-term marriages. People wonder why, after so many years of living together, individuals would even bother to divorce. Adult children are among the most vocal, perplexed and often angry, they decry their parents divvying up of assets after forty years of marriage. Why now, they ask? What’s the point? And, too, are we now responsible for taking care of mom? Of dad? Others, more detached from the actual divorce, worry on a national level about the increase in the elderly population living alone with assets and income already diminished by divorce.
We, too, at the Centre for Mediation and Dispute Resolution, are witnessing a rather dramatic surge in baby boomers and even older individuals who are now seeking divorce. Since mediation does not, and should not, delve into the reasons for a marital dissolution, we cannot shed any light on the causations of this trend or, in fact, help to explore its implications for society or for the delivery of social services to the elderly with diminished resources and no partners, as caretakers. Our focus is different. We, as mediators, need to consider the financial needs of the soon-to-be newly divorced and the ways in which resources can be stretched to finance living in two households. It is important to recognize that divorcing parties need to be “smart,” to really consider the impact of their financial decisions in order to structure an agreement that capitalizes on tax advantages, that analyzes the impact of future changes and options. A “cookie cutter” agreement may be quicker and even cheaper, but in all likelihood it will not help to provide long-term protections.
The Intersection of Divorce Law and Mediation
Westfield Mediation, LLC
If you filed for divorce, can you still do mediation? If you go through divorce mediation, do you still need a lawyer? We commonly hear these questions from potential clients. And the answers, for the most part, are yes, and yes.
Once you file a divorce complaint, you start the Court clock running. If you decide instead to try divorce mediation to save you and your spouse some time and money, you can pause the clock, so long as you inform the Court and your lawyers. Usually, the Courts prefer that people resolve their differences on their own, so they are happy to give you the time to do so, as long as you keep them informed of your plans, and you don’t let things drag on too long. If you and your spouse have started working with lawyers, those lawyers would not be able to mediate your divorce because of potential conflicts of interest. So you would need to find a divorce mediator to help you create an agreement.
What if you start with divorce mediation – would you still need to hire a divorce lawyer? Most likely, yes. Once you and your spouse have come up with an agreement in mediation, we recommend that each of you hire a “review attorney” to look over the document, make sure your legal rights are protected, and explain any of the legal consequences to you. The “review attorney” will then convert your agreement into the form that the Court wants, file the documents with the Court, and accompany you to the Court hearing. Many lawyers will do these tasks for a set fee, rather than their usual hourly rate.
So, why go through mediation if you will still need to hire a lawyer? Because divorce mediators…