rings-1185863-m-300x200I work with couples that are separating and divorcing so when Noah Baumbach’s film,“Marriage Story” first opened, I was curious and wanted to see it. “Marriage Story” renewed my strong conviction that the best ways to resolve conflict are through mediation and the collaborative law process. This marriage story shows what happens when things moves beyond a party’s control.  The line in the film that stood out the most to me was:  “You are fighting for something you don’t even want.”  One striking moment in the film was the literal tug of war between the parents and the child.  The parents in the film clearly love their son but their choices about how to resolve their dispute lead them down a difficult path to resolution.

What follows are some of the lessons to be learned from “Marriage Story”: Continue Reading

Couple-with-thought-bubbles-300x244A prenuptial agreement is a written contract between two people that is entered into before marriage and takes effect upon marriage.  This document has become more popular as couples realize the importance of clarifying expectations and setting a good foundation for communication about finances (and other issues) before the marriage.

Each couple has a unique set of goals and issues to be addressed and the prenup can be specifically tailored with that in mind.  Without a prenup, state laws dictate who owns the property acquired during the marriage as well as what happens upon the dissolution of the marriage.

Why get a Prenup? Continue Reading

Custom-Stock-Photo-for-Blogs-300x200Divorce impacts many aspects of the parties’ lives, including parenting. Whether the conflict surrounding a separation and/or divorce is high or low, the children need to remain a priority in the decision-making that must take place.  Two processes for divorce encourage healthy ways of co-parenting.  This article addresses the benefits of collaborative divorce and mediation as they relate to children.  In both processes, the focus is on what will work moving forward and negativity is discouraged.  This promotes a healthier transition for the children to their new normal. I have outlined some of the benefits below.

Collaborative divorce and mediation may provide a healthier way to address the needs of the children.

Both the collaborative divorce and mediation processes are intended to be non-adversarial. Rather than a contentious “winner take all” approach, these processes allow for the parties to work together to create mutually beneficial settlements. Although the divorce process is often stressful and it may be difficult for parties to work together, the professionals encourage respectful dialogue and a cooperative, problem-solving approach rather than an adversarial one. Trained professionals are employed in each process to help facilitate the discussions and keep settlement meetings productive. Because the goal of each process is to reach a mutually beneficial settlement, the negotiations are then able to focus on the needs of the children and how the parties can provide for those needs post-divorce.  The goal is to keep the children out of the middle.

Moms and Dads that choose mediation or collaborative law usually want to create a stable, healthy environment as the family reconfigures during a separation and divorce. A well thought out parenting plan helps children and parents move forward in a positive way. Continue Reading

Custom-Stock-Photo-for-Blogs-300x200When starting the divorce process, understanding the difference between the available process choices can help create the healthiest environment for the process to proceed. In addition to a traditional adversarial courtroom process, mediation and collaborative divorce each provide a process that focuses less on confrontation and more on an optimal result for both parties. While both mediation and collaborative divorce are non-adversarial, they each have key differences that should be considered when choosing the right process for your divorce. Continue Reading

Celebrity breakups tend to take news cycles by storm, and when there are pets involved, it raises a lot of questions about ‘pet custody’. Pop star Miley Cyrus has recently made headlines because of her high-profile separation with Hollywood actor Liam Hemsworth. The couple maintained an on-and-off relationship for years, and has been married for less than one year, having married in late 2018. Throughout the course of their relationship, the couple adopted and rescued many animals, including dogs, cats, and farm animals such as horses, mini horses, and pigs. Now that Liam Hemsworth has officially filed for divorce,  who gets the pets? Continue Reading

(There are many possibilities…)

A parenting plan outlines how separated parents will continue to care and provide for their children.  An effective plan is one that is unique to the family situation and contains information about the parenting time schedule and how decisions related to the children will be made.  It also outlines the plan for  medical and health care coverage, education and extra-curricular activities.  Some parents want a more flexible plan, and some want a consistent schedule.  The focus should be on the needs of each child and what is workable and practical for the family. Continue Reading

to-sign-a-contract-1-1221950-m-300x200For couples facing divorce, the accompanying changes may seem endless. An often overlooked, yet extremely important consideration for divorcing couples is a review of the existing wills and other estate planning documents such as a health care proxy, financial power of attorney, and living will. Other documents that should be reviewed are beneficiary designation forms for retirement assets and life insurance policies. Often, a party’s recollection of the beneficiary designations and other provisions is not consistent with the documents.  All of these forms should be looked over carefully upon a divorce to ensure that the documents reflect each party’s intentions and conform to the Separation and Settlement Agreement entered into by the parties. If there is a prenuptial agreement in place, it should also be reviewed to determine what the other spouse is entitled to in the event of death. Continue Reading

lottery-3846567_960_720-300x200You may have heard the recent story of a Michigan man who won an $80M lottery jackpot being ordered to split the money with his estranged wife (you can read the story here). When the man bought the ticket back in 2013, the couple had already been separated for about two years. The ticket won as the couple was still separated and in the process of obtaining a divorce. The couple had agreed to use an arbitrator for their divorce. In the case of the lottery winnings, the arbitrator noted that because “losses throughout the marriage were incurred jointly, so should winnings be shared jointly.” With the after-tax winnings totaling roughly $38M, the arbitrator awarded the wife $15M. Upon review of the appeals court, no errors were found. Continue Reading

weddings-bands-with-hands-221x300Prenuptial agreements (“prenups”), much like relationships themselves, are not “one size fits all.” Each couple has a unique set of goals and issues to be addressed. The content of a prenup reflects these individual objectives. People hesitant about obtaining a prenup often conflate the idea with certain common misconceptions and opinions. One sentiment often brought up is the notion that prenups only prepare for divorce. However, the principal goal of a prenup is to clarify expectations about the couple’s future regardless of whether there is a divorce. I have written in the past about the benefits of prenups for all kinds of couples. A prenup can act as a platform for compromise, while allowing couples to be proactive about their future, the management of their assets, and the expectations for their lifestyle. Once a couple does decide to obtain a prenup, what should the agreement actually cover? Continue Reading