February 2011 Archives

February 20, 2011

Will Mandatory Mediation Help Settle New York Divorce Cases?

A mandatory mediation program has been implemented in Supreme Court Nassau County for all couples who seek to have their divorces heard by a judge. How successful will this program be in helping couples settle their cases without additional court involvement? After reading the New York Times City Room Blog it appears there is some skepticism among attorneys. As a divorce mediator, I'm obviously encouraged whenever our court system embraces alternatives to litigation, such as the Office of Court Administration's Collaborative Family Law Center. However, I don't know what kind of impact a single 1½ hour session with a mediator can have on parties who have already made the decision to bring their matters to court and have already retained attorneys to litigate on their behalf. By the time the Judge directs them to mediation, both the parties and their attorneys may be too invested in having "their day in court" to appreciate the powerful results that successful mediation can provide. It is hoped, therefore, that the mediators who are meeting with these parties will use their allotted time to help them comprehend that they have a much better chance of having their most important needs met if they and their spouse can find a way to hear and understand each other. Because if that point isn't understood by the time the parties leave the mediator's office, they will walk right back to their litigation attorneys and pick up where they left off in the courtroom.

February 13, 2011

As The Divorce Rate Increases, Divorce Financial Professionals Are Available To Help Clients Make Decisions Based Upon Economic Realities

NPR reported this week that the divorce rate is on the rebound due to the fact that the economy is improving. Some of the reasons cited for this change are the fact that credit is getting somewhat easier to obtain, investment and retirement accounts are benefiting from the rise in the stock market and housing prices are no longer in free fall. I see all of these factors playing a role in my clients' decisions to divorce. But another reason for the increase in cases is that many people have been waiting 2 or 3 years now for their financial situation to improve and they realize they cannot wait any longer. Regardless of whether the economic circumstances are ideal, they have decided to end their marriages. But these clients are not jumping into divorce blindly regardless of the financial consequences. They are ready to face the economic realities head on and figure out a way to allow them to separate from their spouse.

It is for this reason that I strongly recommend that my clients and their spouses hire a financial professional who is certified in divorce financial planning and/or who is certified in collaborative divorce. These professionals can work with one party or with the couple together to help them determine what asset and debt allocation makes the most sense and what support may need to be paid to assure that both parties are living as well as possible post-divorce. If clients to take the time to examine these issues in the divorce process, they have a better chance of achieving their ultimate goals of having more financial security and less emotional stress after the marriage is over.