Divorce Process and Options in Geogia

Want it in plain English? This short video highlights the fundamentals of the divorce process and options within it in an engaging and animated way. Settlement, litigation, mediation and arbitration are highlighted.

4 Ways to Hire a Divorce Attorney (Without Breaking the Bank)

Short, simple animated video that explains the basics of how to use an attorney effectively and in cost effective ways when contemplating or facing separation, divorce and co-parenting issues.

Men’s Divorce Recovery and Suicide

Divorce impacts nearly every aspect of individuals lives.  Given a choice between an IRS Audit and a Divorce – logic dictates the Audit every time!  Why?  The Audit only goes into the finances, not also monthly budgets, past-current-future purchases, parenting skills, the children’s futures and more.

The Huffington Post frequently includes articles about marital separation and divorce (kudos to them for mainstreaming it).  A recent article by a divorced father discusses the realities of divorce for a majority of men.  Noted in the article are great strategies for men to tackle divorce’s impacts, but also provides several compelling reasons for taking care.  One such reason is the statistically significant rate of suicide amongst male divorcees.

The bottom line is that this article is for everyone.  Those folks who are facing or recovering from divorce can easily isolate themselves – overwhelmed by the tasks at hand.  A caring friend or family member can pick up great tips in articles like these – it can make a major difference, potentially life altering.

Learn more about One Mediation and what it can do for families in transition at http://www.OneMediation.com.  One Mediation is a Georgia mediation firm that specialized in family law services, headquartered in Atlanta. 

Three Reasons Private Divorce Mediation Works

Private Divorce Mediation typically describes the instance where spouses agree to negotiate, before they file a petition for divorce or shortly after filing, the terms of their divorce using a mediator.  This process works for many couples and the reasons aren’t always the same. 

However, there are three common reasons that Private Divorce Mediation Works:

1.  The couple is prepared to talk turkey.  

    It is impossible to negotiate or agree to anything when you don’t know what you’re talking about.  Private Divorce Mediation works well for couples who have taken some time to take an inventory of assets and debts, what it will cost to live separately (if they’re not already living apart), and run multiple scenarios of what they believe would be a fair deal.  Divorcing parents also fare well when they’ve taken time to consider the costs of co-parenting, the logistics of visitation, what health insurance will cost for the kids, and have gotten information about the legal obligations and formulas related to child support.  When couples have no idea what an apartment or child care costs, the mediation can spend time obtaining that information at the mediator’s hourly rate and decisions can still be made, but the exercise can trigger emotional responses that set the discussions back.  

2.  The couple has used attorneys wisely.

    Divorce attorneys are most frequently used in three ways:  projects (like reviewing an agreement, drafting a will, settlement negotiations/mediation, etc.), consultation (providing information about your situation in the legal context), and retained for litigation (usually meaning paying a retainer and paying the attorney an hourly fee to handle all aspects of the litigation).  

Spouses who have “purchased” a few hours of consultation with an attorney before getting too deep into the divorce process are likely to have a much better experience because they are informed and aren’t going to make rookie mistakes (e.g., believing that they are entitled to an inheritance from their rich mother-in-law who is still living, sole custody of their child is a trophy that makes them a “better parent than the other,” etc.).  In some cases, couples can get the best bang for their buck by consulting an attorney, then mediating a tentative settlement agreement, and then go back to the attorney to review the tentative agreement for “approval” and filing with a court.  

Getting good legal information is critical to avoiding costly missteps and to negotiating from a position of confidence in Private Divorce Mediation.  And, certainly, the attorney is always invited to be at mediation!     

3.  The couple is more interested in moving forward than in fighting.

Private Divorce Mediation is a process where the mediator will facilitate discussions being focused on attacking the issues of divorce rather than on attacking each other.  However, the emotional progression of divorce (denial, bargaining, anger and acceptance) plays a prominent role in whether emotions will prevent productive discussions to occur.  In short, there typically needs to be a healthy portion of “acceptance”  or enough acceptance on both sides of the table for Private Divorce Mediation to work.

Couples who are no longer living together often are living the reality of a future apart.  They have already faced and addressed changes associated with divorce and have them behind them (e.g., they know what it will cost to live alone, etc.).  As such, many of the fears sparked by change are no longer flashing and those emotions are less likely to derail discussions about the terms of the divorce.

One Mediation offers Private Divorce Mediation services in Atlanta, Georgia through a panel of experienced, professional divorce mediators.  Visit us online at http://www.onemediation.com for more information about divorce mediation, seminars, and appointments. 

Divorce Mediation: Options When “The House” is Underwater

Often a divorce will involve a decision about “who gets” the marital residence (and any mortgage associated with it).  The marital residence usually is one of the largest assets for any family, so it can take a prominent position in settlement negotiations and/or what a judge may do with it.

underwater-mortgage-300x200Selling the marital home and dividing up the proceeds of the sale used to be an easy proposition, but not now.  Selling the marital home can be hard in divorce, particularly where so many more homes have mortgage balances that are greater than the potential sale price.  When this occurs, the home is often described as being “underwater,” meaning more is owed on the home than it is worth.

In divorce mediations, the issues related to a marital home that is underwater can be tough, but not impossible.  Where a couple decides not to sell the marital home that would result in immediate debt, some common options include:

  1. Refinancing the mortgage in the name of the spouse who will retain the marital home;
  2. If refinancing the mortgage is impractical, typically the spouse who keeps the house will also agree to pay the mortgage and protect the non-paying spouse with a reimbursement and indemnification clause;
  3. Consulting with a Financial Professional regarding the use of retirement benefits, such as 401(k) accounts, to address the mortgage;
  4. Consulting with a tax professional or attorney regarding the tax implications of the spouse who may pay alimony and child support to the other spouse when that paying spouse pays for the mortgage on the other spouse’s home where the children primarily reside;
  5. Consulting with an attorney regarding the pros and cons of foreclosure and/or bankruptcy.

There are other options and rarely a perfect answer to these financial quandaries.  The good news seems to be that the economy is starting to show signs of recovery, rumblings that may make the “underwater” market less deep.

2013 Divorce Hot Shot Series (Short Presentations for Real People)

 2013 Divorce Hot Shot Calendar

Registration at www.visionsanew.org ($25 per session, Presenters & Location Addresses Online)

January

Tues., January 8th (Perimeter, 6:30-8:30 p.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

 Tues., January 15th (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Tues., January 22nd (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“How Child Support Works”

Tues., January 29th (Perimeter, 6:30-8:30 p.m.)

“Divorce Options & Avenues”

 

February

Saturday, February 2nd (Buckhead 10 a.m.-Noon)

“Children Weathering the Storm”

Tues., February 5th (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Thurs., February 21st (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

 

March/April

Tues., March 5th (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“Lies & Litigation”

Thurs. March 21st (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Thurs., April 25th (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“What if Someone Dates During Divorce?”

May

Tues., May 7, 2013 (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Tues., May 21, 2013 (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“5 Common Financial Mistakes in Divorce”

June

Tues., June 11, 2013 (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“When the Pie Exceeds A Million Bucks”

Tues., June 25, 2013 (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“5 Common Parenting Mistakes in Divorce”

August

Wed., August 21st  (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“5 Common Legal Mistakes”

Tues., August 27th  (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

 “Divorce Orientation”

Wed., August 28th  (Perimeter, 6:45-8:30 p.m.)

“Finding the Money & Honey”

September

Tues., September 10th  (Buckhead 7:30-9:30 a.m.)

“Divorce Orientation”

Sat., September 21st  (Buckhead 10 – Noon)

“Children Weathering the Storm”

 

 

Mediation Costs: Fees and “Flat Rates” and “Per Diem Caps,” Oh My!

On a recent call, a potential customer asked about costs of mediation.  It is a question that comes up all of the time.  I began to feel a bit like a cell-phone sales person, though.

Like most mediation firms, One Mediation’s mediators have different hourly rates that reflect their experience.  On the other hand, One Mediation also has mediators who offer a “per diem” cap on their mediation fees which is somewhat unusual.  Another mediator associated with One Mediation also offers a “flat rate” for her mediation services based upon the value of the dispute. 

All these “pricing programs” can be like sorting through the cell phone plans with unlimited minutes, additional lines, etc.   Don’t panic!

The short story of mediation expenses is pretty simple – there is “Traditional” billing and “Alternate” billing.  Traditional billing involves the parties paying their portion of the mediator’s hourly fee for the time the mediator spends providing them services.  In other words, if the mediation takes three hours and the mediator’s hourly fee is $200, the total bill for all parties will be $600.00 which is evenly split between the parties. 

Sometimes the mediator’s fee is split up differently because the parties have agreed to a different formula.  Additionally, in many settings, one party may agree to pay the entire mediation fee as part of the resolution.  A starting point, however, for mediation costs is to plan on splitting the fees evenly across the parties.

Alternate billing involves things such as “flat rates” and “per diem” caps.  A “flat rate” is a set fee that is paid to a mediator for any and all services rendered in facilitating the mediation of a particular dispute.  A “flat rate” has no correlation to the mediator’s time spent on the dispute.  As such, the parties could mediate for one hour or ten hours, and the rate will be the same.  Generally, flat rate billing is fairly rare.

Another alternate billing format involves “per diem” caps.  In this scenario, a mediator may offer his or her services on an hourly basis up to a certain amount per day.  After that point, any mediation services will not be billed at the hourly rate.  For example, if a mediator’s hourly rate is $200 and his per diem cap is $1,000.00, then a mediation that lasts over five hours will not increase the cost of services provided on that day.  Some mediators are willing to provide such caps, and parties should inquire about them.

File for Divorce or Mediate Before You Separate?

No one teaches you how to break up.  In love and war, emotions play high.  Often, a race to the courthouse to file for divorce can occur.  But, there is another way to break up that may not only be in the best interests of “the wallet,” but also in the best interests of any minor children involved.

Parties can file divorce on their own (or pro se), but more often than not, at least one spouse will retain an attorney.  The attorney’s retainer is rarely less than $5,000.00.  Not every couple has a spare $10,000.00 to spend on two attorneys – and the retainer is likely just the beginning. 

Sure, you’ve seen billboards that announce that attorneys will represent you for a few hundred dollars if the divorce is “uncontested.”  The second there is any dispute – holidays with the kids, the amount of child support, who gets the debt – it’s a contested divorce.  Simply put, it is the rarest of occasions that a couple’s divorce is uncontested, at least for the billboard attorney.

But, one way to set up an uncontested divorce is to mediate before (or during) separation – or at least before a petition for divorce is filed.  For about $1,000.00, a mediator can assist the couple with working out the details of their split – the debt, the assets, the children, the retirement, the house and furnishings, etc.  When couples have already gotten most, if not all, of these issues worked out on their own, they are well positioned to avoid a big legal battle that simply drains the pot of money that they are fighting over (okay, or usually are fighting over). 

Check out www.mediateB4Useparate.com for more information on mediation in the context of separation.  There is at least one other way to break-up, other than making a mad dash for the courthouse to file for divorce:  it’s Mediation.

New Panelist Vickie Wiggins joins One Mediation

Vickie Y. Wiggins is an investigator with One Mediation who specializes in workplace investigations. Ms. Wiggins has practiced law in Georgia for over 15 years and has a sub-specialty in employment and immigration matters. As a trial attorney, she has worked on numerous class action and individual lawsuits involving large corporations. Through these cases, she has developed a keen understanding on how to collect relevant information through the review of documents and interviews of witnesses. These skills serve her well with respect to conducting workplace investigations into allegations of workplace misconduct – such as harassment, discrimination and retaliation – as an impartial third party. With respect to her investigations, Ms. Wiggins may be engaged not only to evaluate allegations of workplace misconduct, but also to:

– make recommendations relating to training gaps or needs;
– make determinations as to whether a workplace policy has been violated;
– make recommendations with respect to corrective measures, if applicable;
– make recommendations of amendments to workplace policies.

Ms. Wiggins neutral services also include mediating and arbitrating disputes. Her specialization includes conflict resolution of business and commercial disputes, divorce and family law matters, personal injury and wrongful death, insurance and contract disputes.

Mediation Preparation in Divorce

The financial aspects of divorce have all of the charm of an IRS Audit. 

In a divorce, both the assets and the debts of each spouse must be inventoried.   Each item in that inventory must then be analyzed for reasons that it may not be subject to division between the parties (e.g., will it matter when the item was acquired, was a gift or an inheritance, etc.).  Then, what will be an equitable split of the assets and debts that are subject to legal division is the ultimate issue.

To get through these steps, spouses must do quite a bit of leg work to gather all of the relevant materials.  Tax returns (including businesses), bank and brokerage statements, bills of sale, as well as documents that reflect pension information, mortgages, car/boat loans, business loans must be gathered.  Additionally, other items of value have to be documented – jewelry, art, cars, major electronics.   

In a divorce, just like any audit, it simply is necessary to obtain all the financial records.  Many people have not kept their records in a manner that is ready-made for a divorce.  Indeed, financial problems directly contribute to the divorce rate.  It simply takes time to ensure that all assets and debts have been identified and documented, particularly when spouses never considered that having records for all of these things would be needed. 

Simply put, once separation or divorce is contemplated or initiated, spouses need to begin the process of reviewing not the health of their finances, but rather reviewing the health of their financial documentation.