Divorce Mediation – A Stress Reducer

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation attorneys Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsOne of the hardest things to do in life is parting way with things that you cherished, loved and spent time with. The same is the case in marriages, where two people come together and decide to spend the rest of their life with one another. When such an institution comes to an end and the couple decides to get a divorce, there can be chaos, hurt, pain, worry and stress.

Once a couple decides to go their separate ways, there are two paths to choose: they could either get a litigated divorce or opt for divorce mediation. The choice of which path to walk on and which one to leave alone will typically determine the kind of future that they experience.

Divorce is a Stressful Process

Getting a divorce is a stressful process. The thought of leaving your partner of many years even if you have developed irreconcilable differences with them can often take its toll. It is natural for a spouse to feel sad at the ending of something that was started to last a life time.

On top of sorrow, what spouses feel the most is stress. The stress of what will happen to their children and how will they be brought up, the stress of the financial outcome of the divorce, the stress of an uncertain financial future and the stress that comes from a bitter litigated battle with the other spouse.

But did you know that stress can lead to a number of major health issues for a person? This includes the recurrence of diseases that have only recently subsided.

Moreover, the uncertainty that surrounds a divorce can also be too much for spouses to handle, affecting their view of the case and their state of mind in some situations.

Mediation to Relieve Stress

Remember that at the start of the blog, we highlighted that there are two paths to a divorce that you can choose? The second one, i.e. divorce mediation is the one designed to help you deal with your stress and uncertainties. People often talk about a number of advantages that mediation holds over litigated divorce, such as:

  • Being faster
  • Creative
  • Cheaper
  • Confidential

Yet, the fact that mediation is a process that gives spouses a peace of mind and acts as a stress reliever is often understated. Orange County divorce mediation is different to litigation in many ways. Primarily, it gives the decision making powers to the spouses themselves. Often, spouses having a divorce are stressed about what the future holds for them and what portion of the assets they will get. In mediation, the powers to determine the financial future of the spouses, custody and upbringing of the child etc, are all bestowed upon the spouses themselves.  When they know they are in charge, spouses are less likely to stress out about the outcome since they are the ones drafting it.

F.E.A.R. and Divorce Mediation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County Family Mediation - Divorce Mediation; California Divorce MediationWhen spouses have decided to opt for divorce, the problem most of them face is whether to go for a litigated divorce or a mediated one.  The “F.E.A.R.” of the future is likely to help them in the decision that they make. Here is a low down of what F.E.A.R . in this situation stands for and how it can help you in making your decision regarding the method of a divorce.

“F” stands for Financial

The first thing to consider when deciding on which method of divorce suits you is the financial side of things. How much do you think the financial side is likely to cost you in each method? In a litigated divorce, there are a number of different costs involved, such as the cost of having to register the case, the cost of having to hire a lawyer, paying the costs of the lawyer when the divorce proceedings start etc. Good lawyers will typically take a considerable amount of your finances to hire and fight your case.

On the other hand, if you take a look at divorce mediation, the process is far cheaper. The only cost that you have to pay is the total cost of the mediation process in a lump sum amount which is to be shared amongst the two spouses and won’t only be your cost to bear.

“E” is for Emotions

This is one of the most important things to note. When a couple decides to get a divorce, the method that they choose will determine the level of and type of emotions that they experience. Litigation for example, is a method where the two spouses will have to fight with one another through their lawyers. This can cause emotions of hate and bitterness in the spouses.

On the other hand, in divorce mediation, the primary theme is cooperation and communication. Here, while there may be no love lost between the spouses, an emotion of mutual cooperation and respect will be developed.

“A” is for Analytical

In a litigated divorce, you have hired a lawyer and they are the ones that will ultimately make the strategy. Your role will be limited. In divorce mediation, on the other hand, you are your own spokesman, negotiator and decision maker. This means that you are free to make decisions, analyze the situation and act according to your wishes.

“R” is for Rational

Having looked at all of the factors mentioned above, the ability to make a rational decision as to which method you are going to opt for, will determine the course of your future. On the face of it, for a speedy, easy and empowered divorce, Orange County divorce mediation is the best way.

L.O.V.E. and Divorce Mediation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Divorce mediation attorneys Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsWhen couples decide to call it quits and file for divorce, their issues, arguments and bitterness tends to have already reached its peak. The job of an Orange County divorce mediator in divorce mediation is to make sure these parties start to bring a little L.O.V.E. to the occasion.  L.O.V.E. here is not what you think it is.  It is a way to ensure that communication, which is the single most important aspect of a divorce, occurs. This can be affected by the long running issues between spouses. To make sure these issues don’t act as a barrier to communication, these principles of L.O.V.E. should be followed by.

“L” is for Listening

When couples fight and argue, they can shout, belt out words, sentences and phrases at the top of their voices. This means that while both the spouses are shouting their lungs out, neither is being heard. All their screams, threats, and reasoning are falling onto deaf ears. This is where the Orange County divorce mediator comes in.

As you come for mediation, the mediator will make you feel heard. They listen to your fears, your aspirations and what you would want the resolution to look like. This helps calm the spouses down for a meaningful discussion.

“O” is to Observe

No matter how long you and your spouse have been married for, the time you have spent with one another is more than the time the divorce mediator has spent with either of you. For them to help you in this case, they will need to make use of their powers of observation. Observing how the spouses act is an important tool of the mediators, which helps them learn the dynamics of the relationship between the two spouses.

“V “is to Validate/Verify

There are times when couples ride on the merry go round of accusations against one another. This can damage the spirit of mediation and the spouses that they have been made against. Hence, it is the job of the divorce mediator to listen closely to what has been said and make sure the accusations are repeated to the spouse that made them and their validity verified. Typically, spouses that make accusations in rage can realize their mistake when they are mellow and retract their statement. This can heal the wounds of the other spouse.

“E” is for Emotional Healing

When people end a long-standing relationship, no matter the hurt and anger they have for the other spouse, there is bound to be some regret and underlying feelings of guilt. In such a bad emotional state, for the spouse to be able to play a meaningful part in an Orange County divorce mediation, the mediator needs to help them along the way to move beyond and try to heal those emotions.

Child Custody and The Military- The Case of E.U and J.E

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediators in Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsGoing through a divorce is definitely not one of the easiest experiences for many, and add issues of child custody to it and the marriage becomes even more stressful. Now add that stress to a parent who is in the military and on active duty, and the stress levels can go through the roof.

One of the landmark cases that has come to define the approach that the court must take when dealing with Orange County divorce cases with child custody issues involving military personnel is called the Marriage of E.U. and J.E. The greater emphasis of the court’s decision was with regard to parental rights enjoyed by members of service that are deployed for active duty.

This blog will outline what the courts decided and most importantly observed in this case.

A Brief Low Down on the Facts

The child between the married couple was born in the year 2000. A year after the birth of the child the parents filed for an Orange County divorce. The primary custody of the child was given to the father and the parental arrangements were formalized back in the year 2006 July. It was reaffirmed by the trial court as being in the best interest of the child.

However, there was a clause in the 2006 order which highlighted that in case a spouse was to be called for military duty, the other spouse would assume primary responsibility of the child. This would end when the deployed parent came back home and things would go back to the status quo decided.

The father was deployed from 2009 to 2012 in Afghanistan. Once the father returned, the mother refused to hand the primary custody back to the father arguing that it would damage the stability that the child had become accustomed to over the past few years.

What the Judges Thought

As a result of this development, the judge had to have a hearing on the 2006 order and ordered an Evidence Code section 730 child custody evaluation. The judge of the case accepted that there was to be a delay as a result of Family Code section 3047 being used, but placed some responsibility of the situation on the father. This was because the father had failed to provide information of his prospective deployment to the court back in October 2010 when they asked.

Once the 730 report came out, it suggested that the child should be left in the care of the mother because the age of the child was now 6 and he had become accustomed to the care and stability of his mother.  However, the parties couldn’t come to agreement on this fact. The father argued that Family Code section 3047 was designed to protect the parental rights of people that were deployed in service.

Importantly, the Court of Appeal on hearing the appeal, accepted the use of Family Code section 3047 and ordered for the custody to be returned to the father now that he was back from his service and that his deployment should not be used against him.

What’s The Difference Between Temporary Alimony And Permanent Alimony?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation attorneys in Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsAlimony payments are not all designed the same way, there are in fact, multiple ways a court or mediation specialist and attorneys could structure alimony payments. Depending on your specific situation and the needs of both parties, you may find yourself with an alimony order that’s temporary or permanent. Here’s a look at how the two differ and under what circumstances both may be enforced.

Temporary Support

Temporary alimony is usually given during the time the divorce proceedings are underway.  It is created to help a non-working spouse or someone who needs the financial support of their partner, to get through the months leading up to the actual divorce when a more permanent solution will be decided upon.

When is temporary support granted?

This kind of alimony or spousal support is typical of the period of separation or in cases where the marriage annulment has been applied for, besides the more conventional divorce proceedings stage. A document called the Request for Order is to be filed at the local family court, after which both spouses must then submit Income and Expense Declarations. This declaration contains all financial information on each of them and is used to determine the financial status and needs of each spouse. While there are specific guidelines in place in each state, the exact case is dealt with at the discretion of the court where the financial motions are filed. The court may choose to not grant temporary support or temporary alimony at all, and in cases where alimony is granted temporarily, the terms are decided by the court.

Permanent Alimony

Once a divorce proceeding heads to its final stages of closure, the court will decide whether the particular case requires conditional/short-term alimony to be granted or if a more permanent solution is required. The latter is usually chosen if one spouse has no income and the duration of the marriage is suitably long. It is also up to the divorce attorney of the spouse seeking alimony to ensure all necessary documentation is presented to support a case for this kind of permanent alimony. If one partner has given up their career to support the marriage and bring up the kids and will find it near impossible to get back into the workforce, it could make a case for permanent alimony. Ultimately however, whether or not permanent spousal support depends on the negotiation powers and prowess of your divorce attorney and the discretion of the judge.

The connection between temporary and permanent alimony

No matter how extensive the background work was in determining the temporary alimony, this is not used to ascertain the terms of the permanent spousal support. In essence, permanent and temporary alimony are two completely separate court mandated orders. One does not have bearing on the other.

6 Divorce Mediation Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation attorney in orange county; California Divorce MediationDivorce mediation is the final bastion for most divorced couples and a favorable alternative to going through an often messy, and usually expensive legal battle in court. A misstep at this stage could derail the entire mediation process and you’ll have a hefty price to pay. Here’s a quick look at some dos and don’ts that you should make your mantra during the process.

Do go in with an open mind

Being flexible and keeping an open mind is underrated when it comes to divorce mediation. If you approach the process as something that you must succeed at together, as a team then you will get the job done. Head in like it is a battle and no one will win.

Do go to a counselor together before divorce mediation begins

Use the divorce mediation to work out legal and financial intricacies. A counselor can help you work through the negativity and emotions so that you can approach the mediation more clinically.

Do treat the mediation differently than a court battle

A mediation is meant to be just that – a discussion of two opposing views, to find some common ground so a mutually acceptable solution can be arrived at. In this case, an agreement on child custody, the division of property and other assets as well as alimony payments or spousal support if any. It is neither the right time nor the right platform for a full scale mudslinging battle with your spouse, even if you are the wronged party. Focus on the goal – getting to a solution – rather than on the person across the table from you.

Don’t expect too much of your spouse

Equally dangerous is erring on the side of too much faith. Your lingering love for your soon to be ex, could be dangerous as you second guess your decision. However, remember, your spouse might not be in the same headspace as you, and may not share your feelings. Don’t be blindsided because you failed to do your own homework and relied on their goodness to do the best for you. No one else has your best interests at heart at this time, barring your divorce attorney (if you hired right).

Don’t expect miracles to happen in court

While the divorce mediation process may seem futile at times, keep at it. It is a much more level playing field where you have a say in the final decision and agreement. Once a case goes to court, you will need to rely on the discretion of the judge and the ability of your divorce attorney against your spouse’s legal team. And once the court has made their decision you will have to live with it. Remember, things may not always go your way even if you think you have a watertight case.

Don’t resort to ranting on social media

Social media is a great place to vent, but hold back until the divorce proceedings are complete. Things you say there are visible for the world and your spouse’s friends and family to see. Something you say in the heat of the moment could come back to hurt your case in mediation or court. It is best to have these discussions offline, one-to-one in confidence with your divorce attorney or trusted friends and family only.

5 Must-Know Things About Spousal Support

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediation; California Divorce MediatorsAlimony/spousal support payments to be made after a divorce, by one spouse to the other, are designed to help the partner who is in need of the financial help, lead a life that is somewhat comparable to the circumstances prior to divorce.  However, there are some important things to know about spousal support:

Alimony payments are dictated by need not income

You might believe that you are owed a certain amount by your spouse because they are earning far more than you are, or because you have invested a lot of time and lost out on career opportunities for the sake of your marriage. The reality however, is that the judge will make a decision on what amount you get as spousal support based on a dozen or so factors, depending on which state you are in. And one of the key factors that will come into play will be the perceived need of the spouse who is to receive the payment. Even if your spouse works, you may still have to pay alimony.

Payment of alimony may not be forever

There are a number of different kinds of spousal support, including something called short-term or rehabilitative alimony. This is designed to help one spouse tide over the initial phase after a divorce, where they need the help while they get their finances and life in order. Other kinds of alimony may also cease to be due, if the recipient moves in with a new partner or remarries.

The duration of your marriage matters

When it comes to alimony, the duration of the relationship also comes into play. The same couple going through a divorce after just 2 years of marriage will see a very different outcome and quantum of alimony being payable, compared to a couple that has been together for a couple of decades or more. That’s because the investment in the marriage and the opportunity cost for the spouse earning a lower income as a result of decisions taken to support the marriage, is greater.

You can take legal action if your spouse doesn’t pay up alimony

Once you have an alimony order, your spouse is required by law to give you the required payments as dictated. However, if they fail to do so, you could choose between undertaking an ‘earnings assignment order’ or a take out a ‘contempt’ proceeding. In extreme cases, if no payments are made in spite of a court order, the court could even put your ex in prison to get them to fall in line.

The role kids play in determining alimony

If your soon to be ex is the one with the primary care-giving responsibility for your kids and will continue to look after them after your divorce, the court will, in addition to the child support payments, also likely mandate a longer duration of spousal support. This is done so that he/she can find help and return to a full-time or regular job which they may not have had to do within the marriage. The extra time helps gives them the flexibility to re-qualify and hunt for a job.

Child Custody Mediation Mistakes To Avoid

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

child custody mediators Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsChild custody mediation during divorce proceedings is an attempt at coming to a resolution of differences regarding the custody and time sharing of your child/children together, with both parents working out an agreement that is acceptable to both. Left unresolved at this stage your only option will be a court based child custody evaluation, which will bring in a number of external factors that could go against you and may not be in your control.

Given the importance of this mediation process, if you’re hoping to come to a favorable agreement during child custody mediation, there are some areas to watch out for. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make during child custody mediation.

Not having your facts straight

During early interactions with the mediator, you will need to share information about your case. This might include an in-depth discussion on things like your relationship, how it began, when the troubles began, how many separations there have been, dates of the most recent separation and family history as well. If you are unclear or unsure on dates and details, you will come across as disinterested and disconnected from your family and the situation, a red flag for most mediators.

Not being completely honest

As part of the process, the child custody mediator will ask you some tough questions. It may not be easy having to own up to cases of drug or alcohol addiction, physical or mental abuse. If domestic abuse has reared its head, you will most definitely be asked about it. As the offending party, listening to all this can be difficult at the very least and it can be tempting to gloss over or try to justify your actions. Whatever your line of defense, always be honest. Clarify but do not justify. Accept and show repentance in your words and actions.

Pinning the blame on your partner

A marriage is a two way street and trying to paint your spouse as the wrong-doer and showing yourself up as the wronged party may not go down well. Accept your fair share of the blame and be mature about the situation. While being dismissive of the past is not good, nor is dwelling on it too much.

Being too rigid about your stance

It is important to know what you want out of the child custody mediation process, but at the same time, it is crucial that you come across as flexible. When you are open to listening to the other side and their needs, it will help you understand the overall situation better and will enable a joint decision that works out better for the kids too. Know that there will always be some things you or your spouse may not know that the other does. This mediation is an opportunity for you to learn and understand so you can build a stronger relationship with your children as they grow up.

Not picking what battles to fight

If you have a certain outcome you want from the process, the worst thing you could do is stand steadfastly by it even when things that don’t matter as much come up for negotiation. Be prepared to give in on some counts so that you can get what you want in other areas.

Stay positive and always remember that ultimately this is about your children, and both you and your estranged spouse want the same thing for them – the best life possible given the circumstances they are faced with.

Divorce When You’re Accused of Adultery: Be Prepared

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediation lawyers; California Divorce MediatorsIf you find yourself faced with divorce proceedings after your your spouse found out about your relationship or fling with someone else, you’re probably wondering how much this can affect your settlement. Handled carefully, you don’t need to be taken to the cleaners for your indiscretion. First off, it helps to understand the ramifications of adultery on a divorce – both financial and legal.

Not all states treat adultery alike

The law varies depending on where you are. Understand the intricacies of divorce law and the impact on your settlement with the help of your divorce attorney. In some states like California, adultery has little or no bearing at all on the divorce. If you live in a no-fault state like California, then you should be able to proceed as normal and no proof of adultery will be demanded.

How adultery impacts Spousal Support or Alimony

If you are the one accused of adultery in a no-fault divorce state like California, there is generally no impact on the ability to seek spousal support. However, if cohabitation with that person occurs, it can affect the amount and/or ability to obtain spousal support.

Division of Financial Assets in a divorce involving Adultery

How the financial assets are divided and the terms of the settlement are in general, not influenced by whether or not one partner or both have committed adultery. The only instance where it could come into play is if the family’s finances and assets were impacted or utilized for supporting the adulterous relationship. In case the family wealth was eroded to support this relationship, the betrayed spouse will make a bid for some form of compensation.

Special circumstances

In case you contracted an STD and passed it on to your spouse, you may find yourself vulnerable to personal injury action lawsuits. It is therefore, best to come to an agreement within the purview of the divorce proceedings and settlement and prevent things from getting out of hand.

Ultimately though, the divorce settlement will be most influenced by your own emotions, guilty and feelings towards your soon to be ex spouse. If you are feeling bad about what you did, you may agree to give in a little more and let your spouse get a better deal.

Tips On Preparing For Child Custody Mediation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

child custody mediation Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsAs an estranged couple going through a divorce, if you have children together, you will be faced with the unpleasant task of working out the matter of child custody. Child custody mediation can pre-empt the need for a messy court battle which often deteriorates into mud slinging and can do more damage to the kids than you would ever imagine. Here are some tips on how to prepare to get the most out of the mediation process.

Do your homework

If you choose to engage the services of a child custody divorce mediation attorney or counselor, you should do your homework. Have in place details on the kids school holidays, exams, major events. Print a copy of your work, business and personal commitments as well.

Meet a counselor before you begin the process

Many divorce attorneys suggest that their clients meet with a counselor well versed with dealing with individuals going through a divorce. A counselor will help you get in touch with your emotions and help you work through the challenges. He or she can also help guide you on how to conduct yourself during child custody mediation as well as in court. This will make the mediation itself a more fruitful exercise. You need to ensure you come across as articulate and reasonable during mediation, but most importantly as someone who is flexible.

Chalk up options for the parenting plan

As part of divorce mediation, you may choose to opt for child custody mediation to work through the details and arrive at a mutually agreeable arrangement. Having a structured parenting plan in place with details on the sharing of time with the children on a day to day basis helps bring perspective. By clarifying how holidays and trips/vacations away will be handled, as well as openly discussing other routine arrangements for the kids, you can come up with a comprehensive solution. This transforms what could be a difficult time into a team effort where you both work to decide what’s best for the kids. At the same time not everything you want will go down well with your soon to be ex. Have a plan B in place and other acceptable solutions which may not be ideal, but are good enough.

Bring an open mind to the discussions

You will want to air your views and ensure your agenda is carried forward, but child custody mediation is as much a time for listening. Listen to what your spouse and the mediator have to say. Understand their perspective and be willing to adjust a little. If you come with preconceived notions and are not open to suggestion, your route to a court battle is all but cast in stone.

Always remember this is about the children and not you

It helps to bring perspective every now and then during a divorce mediation process. And nothing is more sobering than the knowledge that getting into petty squabbles with your husband or wife, and resorting to mudslinging will shatter your children. Remember this and keep your head and humor through the mediation.