Updating Your Will After Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediator; California Divorce MediatorsDuring a divorce, you work through all the intricacies of dividing the marital assets and determining alimony payments if needed. But what if all your best laid plans go awry because you overlooked one document you prepared a decade or more ago, when things were better between you and your spouse? The will.

Why people update their wills after divorce

If you do not want your retirement savings and property which you battled tooth and nail for to pass to the very adversary you wrestled it from, then updating your will becomes critical. It is also important if you do not want property held by you to pass into the hands of the new spouse if your ex remarries. Most important, however, if you wish to give the property or assets to your children, this will pave the way for them. They will be able to inherit without the added hassle of a legal battle with your ex (especially if they are your kids from an earlier marriage, or a new one) or long-winded court procedures to prove their rights to the estate. In some cases, the very executor of your will may have been your spouse – something that calls for needed change.

Updating your will: What you should take care of

To update your will, you need to start by “revoking” the old will by destroying it. Then, put together (with the help of a financial advisor and legal team if need be), a new outline for a will describing who each asset should go to.

You will also need to identify someone to be the executor of this new will. It could be somebody different to the first time around, especially if that was someone you no longer communicate with like your spouse’s friend/colleague. Also suggest an alternate if your first choice isn’t available.

If you have custody of your kids and don’t want your spouse to have them after you are gone, mention this and add supportive documentation. While this is no guarantee, the judge may give it some thought. A guardian should also be named, in the event both you and your spouse pass on.

Also check that all financial documents for items beyond the purview of the will are updated to reflect new beneficiaries.

Revising your will after the divorce

Estate planning after divorce becomes an important activity that is sometimes overlooked, especially if you didn’t hire a financial advisor to work with you during the divorce process.  It is never too soon to update your will and plan for your estate.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.

What Role Can A Financial Advisor Play in Divorce Mediation?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation attorneys in orange countyWhen you are going through a divorce, it may sometimes feel like an army of advisors and experts to get through the process. But do you really need so many people on your side even if you’re taking the mediation route? The short answer – yes. If you need to keep your financial and legal interests protected, plan to retain the services of a financial advisor to ensure you have all your bases covered.

Why you need an expert

The decisions taken during mediation and after the settlement agreement has been signed are binding and you will have to live with them for the rest of your life. It is rare for an alimony payment for instance, to be reconsidered, unless there is a drastic change in the lives of you or your spouse. Simple oversight is not grounds for a redo.

A mediation expert may or may not be a financial expert. While a divorce mediator and your attorney can both help in their own ways, you may still need someone specifically trained in financial planning.

Is the expense worth it?

It might seem like an added expense to hire a financial expert, but it could save you money in the long run. Remember, a divorce isn’t just about this one-time activity of ending the marriage. It is also about planning your finances, alimony, and division of property in a manner that will help you maintain your lifestyle as it was, before the split.

If you head back to the courts many years down the line to fix a problem you didn’t spot during the agreement arrived at in mediation, you are likely to meet with opposition from your ex. This will likely lead to a legal battle and huge expenses. This could be avoided by getting the financial aspects right the first time.

What will your financial advisor do for you?

A financial advisor can help you factor in the tax implications of certain decisions you arrive at during mediation. They will be able to project future income, taxation levels, and give you clarity on what your tax burden as well as disposable income will be. This will help you choose the  option (of the many being discussed with your ex and their advisory team) that is best for your financial security.

If there is a gap in the terms you are planning to agree on, they will help you work out a way to bridge it. For instance, having the primary holder of an insurance policy changed, or taking out an insurance policy with you as the primary beneficiary to secure your future if your alimony payments stop on the passing of the earning spouse.

They can also highlight smaller things that you might miss discussing, but that could have big financial repercussions.

During a divorce mediation sessions child custody and money/assets are most important matters for most couples. The good news is, with the right advisor by your side, you can work towards an outcome for the financial aspects, that is good for you both today, and in future.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.

How Life Insurance Can be A Guarantee In Your Divorce Settlement

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediators; California Divorce MediatorsIf you are going through a contentious divorce process, then be sure to build in all the safeties you can to secure your hard-won settlement. Here’s how life insurance could hold the key to some of your concerns around the divorce settlement and your financial future.

Why you need a fail-safe guarantee

For someone who is a dependent spouse, relying on the alimony payment from a now-estranged spouse can be a nerve racking experience. This is made even more daunting when old age creeps up on you, or if your ex has a host of health problems or lives on the edge. Even without all these risks, the loss of your estranged ex will mean that your alimony payments stop completely with no one to make them. Often, after a divorce, couples will revise their wills to exclude the ex from inheriting their estate – whether it is property or other assets. There is however, one way to ensure you don’t find yourself in a spot when a spouse passes on.

Life insurance and how it can help

If you do not earn an income, and are totally dependent on the money that comes in as alimony, you may find yourself with no money in the bank when your ex dies. Life insurance can help give you a payout on their passing which will see you through.

Term insurance vs. whole life policy

A term policy covers the life of the insured individual – your ex – for a fixed duration of years. If your divorce settlement agreement dictates that payments will be made as child support until the kids are of a certain age, then it makes sense to have a term policy that runs for that duration only so you pay lower premiums. A whole life policy also has an investment component with some returns on the premium paid besides the death benefit.

Who pays?

Many couples have life insurance policies when they are married, but after divorce the earning spouse may choose to stop making these payments. If they were the holder of the policy, they could even change the beneficiary. It is therefore important, as a dependent to be the holder of the policy and to ensure payments are made. You could work out so that premium payments are made by your spouse even if you are the holder, but in many cases the earning partner may not agree, especially if they are to make alimony payments. In such cases, it is well worth cutting the premium out of your own alimony received to keep up a policy or to take out a new life insurance policy on them. Think of it as an investment in your own future and financial security.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.

Is Divorce Mediation Right for Every Couple?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Divorce mediation attorney Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsDivorce mediation is a method or process of ADR. ADR stands for alternate dispute resolution and is a method for couples who are getting divorced to settle the legal implications and legal proceedings of their divorce outside the court of law.

How do you know if divorce mediation is right for you?

Lots of couples who are getting divorced have reached a point in their relationship wherein they cannot even stand to look at each other’s faces. When married couples reach a point where they cannot settle anything amicably or in a reasonable manner be it division of property, money or other financial assets or matters relating to child support and child custody then divorce mediation is definitely not an option for them.

This method of a divorce settlement is apt for couples who have mutually agreed between them that there are certain irreconcilable differences that cannot be worked around and that they would be much happier and content without having each other in their lives. If couples have reached a point of mutual understanding with each other then divorce settlement out of court becomes easier and very doable. Such couples who are willing to work out their issues amicably and reasonably can opt for divorce mediation.

Why is divorce mediation the better route to take in settling divorce cases?

Court proceedings while settling a divorce case can be really expensive especially if the case involves division of assets that are in the form of property, land, houses, buildings, commercial complexes, etc.

Also, getting available court dates with the required judge who is handling your case and fixing dates for personal hearings and oral representation can be very cumbersome especially if both parties are working full-time jobs and find it difficult to coordinate dates and timings. Divorce mediation is not advisable if a criminal investigation is involved or if either party is acting maliciously or negligently.

Why choose a divorce mediator?

A divorce mediator comes with the requisite knowledge and skills required to understand both parties to the divorce and take their thoughts, feelings and wants into consideration to work out a settlement that suits both of them mutually. A divorce mediator will never take sides and will always weigh the pros and cons of any issue or problem before arriving at an informed decision from a legal point of view.

He realizes that in court proceedings and litigation can be very expensive and time-consuming so he will keep his work at a minimum but try to get the best results for the couple getting divorced. He understands that time is money and may even bring in the expertise of bankers, accountants, and financial valuation experts to help with the divorce mediation process.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.

Getting Therapy for Children During Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

child custody attorneys in Orange CountySometimes while getting pulled into the whirlwind of a divorce, the couple or parents only focus on their emotional needs and troubles and completely forget about what their child or children must be going through during this very difficult and painful time in their lives.

Why is it important to get therapy for your child during a divorce?

No child likes to see their parents fighting, let alone getting divorced. Not only is their parents getting divorced extremely difficult for them to comprehend and digest, but having to make the difficult choice or decision of which parent he would prefer to live with is pure torment and torture for the child.

Many children of divorce grow up to lead very unfulfilling and unsatisfying lives. Some of them don’t perform well academically or grow up to be mentally and/or emotionally stunted. Some of them cannot keep normal friendships or have relationships with the opposite sex. They find it very difficult to give or accept love and understand the dynamics of maintaining any sort of relationship and this can affect them drastically at school, in the workplace and practically all walks of life.

Children have so many unanswered questions during a divorce and many times blame themselves for their parents getting divorced which can lead to a lot of anger, hatred and resentment. The child’s feelings and emotions must not be ignored or taken lightly during a divorce.

What happens during counseling?

A child counselor or psychologist will usually be asked the following questions or be put forth the following conditions by the child:

  • Do my parents still love me? I want to feel connected to them and involved in their lives.
  • Why do my parents fight so much? Can they not fight around me or on matters related to me? Because when they fight about me I feel like I am the reason they are getting divorced.
  • I don’t want them to say bad things to each other or call each other names around me. I cannot take sides between my mother and my father. It is unfair.

Courts’ involvement in child counseling

In response to this, the counselor will try to pacify and tell the child that everything will be alright in time and will communicate the child’s demands to the parents separately or together. The same is communicated to the court of law handling the particular divorce case and regular follow-up sessions with the therapist or counselor will be ordered by the judge with or without the parents’ presence or involvement. The child’s progress will be monitored.  Sessions are usually paid for by whichever parent is in a stronger financial position or expenses will be borne equally by both parents.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.

Top 3 Topics to Discuss During Divorce Mediation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediators; California Divorce MediationThere are three important aspects that summarize the terms of a divorce mediation process. They are asset division, future contact and children. Divorce mediation is a process that is handled via mediation. Both spouses can have their respective lawyers present. The aim of this procedure is to ensure that both parties benefit equally from the separation and erase unequal wealth distribution.

  1. Asset division: May seem obvious but it comes as no surprise that most often people overlook this simple task. It is important to be well prepared before you appear for the mediation. Have all the required documents of divorce mediation checklist ready. Apart from the checklist, list out the assets that you are absolutely adamant on possessing and those you can do without. The initial procedure of mediation starts off as a negotiation. Being well prepared will yield better results. There is a difference between walking into an arena with your head held high and well prepared than being forced into it, clueless.
  1. Future contact: You will need some sort of continued contact if there are kids involved. It is extremely harsh to alienate the children from either parent regardless of their actions. You may have a common friends circle and bumping into each other is inevitable. During the mediation process chalk out a code of conduct if you were to meet. Don’t be vindictive and attempt at being cordial, at the very least. If you can’t look into each other’s eye, the least that you can do is acknowledge the other’s presence. You aren’t required to be the best of chums but treat each other with the basic respect that every individual demands. This will ward off any successive conflicts that may arise over time.
  1. The children: Children get dragged in unnecessarily into the adult’s conflicts. Partners who apply for a divorce, sometimes, get so involved in accusations that they often forget about the children. Children are more central in divorce mediation than the adults. It will be useful to come up with a logical plan to make the divorce easier for the children. Try to keep the children out of court, if possible. Make an out of court settlement. Children shouldn’t witness the ugly court-room drama. The lawyer can present alternatives and suitable offers. Discuss child custody and visiting hours.

Put in your best effort to ensure that the divorce is in the best interest of both parties.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.

Divorce Mediation Checklist: Top 4 Important Documents

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediation; California Divorce MediatorsSuccessful divorce mediation requires both spouses to divulge complete and true information of all documents in their financial disclosure forms and the Divorce Mediation Checklist form. The information may be voluminous when both parties have many assets and individual debts. Most people who’ve been through a divorce agree that this phase of cataloging information is the most testing time of the proceeding.

When all the paperwork is in place, the attorney or the mediator will take over the reins and direct the proceedings as smoothly as possible.

The ordeal will seem worth the effort and time invested when the settlement is in the best interest of both parties. When all the documents are in order it is easier to identify the needs of either partner and reach a mutually agreed settlement. With the help of a right mediator, you can iron out your differences and reach a common figure regardless of the ill-feelings held towards each other.

The divorce mediation checklist

All the required documents can be categorized into four categories:

  1. Assets: This includes information of both spouses (name, DOB, marriage date, annual income, employment status, contact number and address); details of the children, bank statements, statement of children’s account (CD’s, 529 plans, college fund etc.); stock investment details, vehicle details, pending lawsuits, if any when either or both spouse are listed as plaintiffs; settlements of loans, pension plans, other cash benefit plans (golden parachute plans), personal property appraisal and business valuation (in case of joint business ventures).
  1. Liabilities: The balance statements of all home equity loans, or credit held against any personal property, vehicle loans statements, student loans if any, statements for private loans (written or verbal when either or both spouse are debtor(s)), all credit card statements, information on civil case when either spouse is a defendant.
  1. Income & Taxes: Statement of income (pay stubs) and W-2 or 1099 employment statement for the last six months. Tax related documents like copies of federal and state tax returns for the last 3 years and supporting W-2 and 1099 forms; copies of corporate tax returns if the couple runs a joint business venture or individually.
  1. Insurance: Declaration sheets of all life insurance policies must be presented along with a written statement of payment towards the same and disability policy if held by a partner.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.

What Are The Common Reasons For Divorce In The U.S.?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Divorce mediators Orange County; California Divorce Mediators50% of all marriages ending in divorce in the United States is, unfortunately, a fact. Differences in income levels, personalities, education and physical appearances are just some of the many reasons why so many couples are getting divorced in the U.S. and experts and therapists say that these reasons are very trivial especially after having spent so many years of their lives together.

Divorce statistics in the United States 

No doubt the rate of divorce has been significantly increasing since the 1990’s especially after divorces could be settled out of court and child support and alimony was introduced by states in the U.S. Couples didn’t feel the need to stay married to each other with all the benefits being offered to them by the state governments.

Now, the average length of a happy marriage in the U.S. is claimed to be only a shocking 11 years. According to a recent and interesting study conducted by the American Law and Economics Review Board, a little more than two-thirds of divorces in the U.S. are filed by women. Even though the rate differs slightly from state to state, by the end of the 20th century, 70% of women in most states were the ones filing for a divorce.

Common reasons for divorce in the United States 

Marriage therapists and counselors in the U.S. say that shockingly enough the main reasons why so many couples are getting divorced so fast is due to the simplest and most futile reasons. The most common ones are –

  1. Society – the number 1 reason for divorce in the United States is either one party getting married for the wrong reasons such as money or because they thought they had to get married before reaching a certain age.
  1. Lack of individuality – ‘couple dumb’ is a syndrome where either the man or the woman are incapable of doing anything interesting without the other person around. Having their own interests and the freedom to express themselves and involve themselves in their own hobbies, likes, interests, etc. is vital in order to maintain a sense of individuality and enjoy their own personalities.
  1. Financial dependency or difference in incomes – when one partner becomes financially dependent on the other is when problems start to arise as the other partner automatically begins to call all the shots when it comes to how and when to spend money. Major differences in incomes earned by husband and wife can also be grounds for calling it quits as whoever is earning more tends to stand on a pedestal in the relationship.

Other common reasons for divorce in the U.S. include either partner “changing” after marriage, unmet expectations, loss of intimacy, and forgetting your role in the relationship.

If parties have grown too far apart for whatever reason that remedying the problems of the marriage or reconciling, then divorce may unfortunately be the final outcome of the marriage.  If that is the situation, then divorce mediation is generally the better way to end your marriage without making the relationship even worse, especially when children are involved.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.

The Difference Between Divorce Attorneys And Divorce Mediators

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation attorneys in Orange CountyMediation is a way of resolving any issues or disputes that may arise between the couple, and is handled by a third party member, who can listen to both the people involved, and come to a conclusive decision. It is an effective way of managing divorce settlements, because everyone present can give their own inputs, talk about the own requirements and come to a negotiation. The husband and wife can take control over the matters themselves, and decide what would be best for them and their family, with the help of the mediator. In divorce litigation, there’s no single person overseeing the discussion. Both the husband and the wife need to hire their own attorneys who argue their cases.

The major difference

While a mediator isn’t representing either parties, and is acting as a neutral third person who has the husband’s and also the wife’s interests in mind, a divorce attorney cannot represent them both. He can be hired by either one of them, while the other hires their own divorce attorney to argue their case.

Legal expertise of a lawyer can be helpful even when the husband and wife are agreeing in most cases and have a fairly good idea of how they want the proceedings to go. This is because sometimes, in cases where the assets that need to be divided are too large, only an expert with proper financial knowledge can help in doing so. A lawyer is usually hired when the parties are conflicting, because in that case, they need someone who can help them in appealing their case and trying to direct the divorce in their favor. Custody battles are one of those issues, where both parents are likely to want to keep their children with them. This is where the lawyer can come in and try to prove why his client is better suited for taking care of the kids.

Amicable divorce

When the divorce is amicable, and the parties involved see eye-to-eye, then hiring a mediator can be the wiser decision. They are good at coming up with solutions for any issues that might come up during planning of the divorce. Also, hiring a mediator is a lot less expensive than hiring a lawyer, and usually the husband and wife share the fee.

The husband and wife can still hire their own individual attorneys, after having consulted a mediator, for additional advice and his expertise.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.

How To Select The Best Divorce Mediator For You

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation attorney in orange county; California Divorce MediationA mediator is a neutral third party, who sits down with the two people who want a divorce, and discusses their arrangement, what works for them and what doesn’t. They have to be really good at resolving any issues that might come up during the discussion, by coming up with solutions that are agreeable to both parties. This is no easy feat, by any means, and hence finding the right person for the job can be very difficult. However, there are a few things that you should particularly look for, when trying to find a good divorce mediator.

Look for a committed mediator

First and foremost, your mediator should be committed to divorce mediation, meaning that he or she truly believes in it and not simply as a secondary option. If the person you have decided on is also a divorce litigation attorney who is also a trained mediator, that’s okay as long as that person can recognize what cases can and should be mediated, and those that should be litigated, without the cost thereof being the determining factor. They have to be compassionate, listening to both the side and keeping both their requirements in mind, in order to come up with something negotiable. In order to ensure that the family remains emotionally stable, they need to be able to genuinely care for what might be the best solution for everyone. They also have to have a thorough understanding of financial matters, when handling settlement for various assets.

Check the mediator’s background

For someone who needs to discuss child custody, you should approach a mediator who has a background in therapy and understands family dynamics. A divorce causes a bigger impact on the lives of children than it does on the parents. Therefore, their welfare has to be kept in mind. They must also showcase a practical approach to handling these situations, instead of getting swayed away by emotions, because that may lead to some unfair judgments.  They should also be well-educated about the law regarding this matter, and be able to explain things concerning the divorce to both parties, thoroughly. He would talk about the option of hiring divorce lawyers, what that would involve, how things might proceed in the court and what the likely result would be.

Lastly, a good mediator is one who offers his services at a reasonable cost. If divorce mediation costs just as high as the whole process of the divorce usually is, then it might be even more difficult for people to go ahead with the proceedings.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation.