Dear Clients, Colleagues, and Friends,

I am pleased to announce an exciting new chapter for our law firm. Effective August 1, 2019, Vacca Law & Mediation has become Vacca Family Law Group.

This change reflects our law firm’s commitment to help our clients put their families first and dissolve their marriages without litigation. We work with couples to create prenuptial agreements that plan for a healthy marriage, and with couples who have decided to end their marriage but are looking for a better way. With discretion, elevated service and a flexible approach, we specialize in finding creative (and sometimes unconventional) solutions that are right for each client’s unique situation.

Divorce in New York can be expensive and this is especially true if there are complicated issues involved regarding finances or your children. But there are things you can do to keep the costs down.

I recently contributed to a Forbes Next Avenue article 8 Ways to Lower the Cost of a Divorce. The article makes it clear that with planning and some DIY homework, you can lower the attorney fees for your divorce.

In addition to the 8 tips in the article, I would add these as well:

In most divorces, both spouses are aware that the marriage is ending and they decide what process they will use to reach an agreement, such as using mediation or the collaborative process. In other divorces, however, there has not been a meeting of the minds. While one spouse has been contemplating ending the marriage for months or even years, the other spouse seems to have no idea how bad things have gotten and your spouse doesn’t want to end the marriage.

I hear about these situations quite often. Let’s say it’s the wife who wants the divorce and she feels she has tried repeatedly to get her husband to work with her to resolve the problems in the marriage. For whatever reason, nothing has changed and the wife is now ready to do whatever she needs to do to get out of her unhappy marriage.

Perhaps she was referred to an attorney who represented a friend in her divorce. And the attorney tells her that she can start a court action, have the husband served with a Summons with Notice in an Action for Divorce and he will then have no choice but to deal with the situation.

Recently, I was interviewed on the WORTHY podcast ‘Divorce – and other things you can handle!’ to address the stigma around prenups and how a pragmatic approach can be the foundation for long-lasting romance. Listen to the podcast, and get my tips on how prenups and conscious coupling can create healthier marriages: https://www.worthy.com/blog/podcast/episodes/season-2/10-conscious-coupling-with-andrea-vacca/

In this podcast and in earlier blogs, I’ve discussed that millennials are waiting longer to get married, that they have typically accumulated substantial financial assets before marriage and have probably been negatively impacted by divorce at some point in their lives. This has resulted in a shift towards what I call “conscious coupling.” More so than earlier generations, millennials are likely to see the value of a prenuptial agreement to help avoid arguments, or even worse, having a judge make financial and business decisions for them. Two qualified attorneys or a single mediator will help the couple discuss all the issues and ask all the questions that they may not have known to ask themselves.  Not only will this type of conversation lead to an agreement that helps both parties feel secure, but it will also help to build the communication skills they will need if they want to develop a long and happy marriage.

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People divorcing after the age of 50, often called grey divorce, recognize that they have some different financial and emotional issues not faced in younger couples who divorce. As I wrote earlier, navigating a grey divorce with dignity is often an essential requirement for later in life divorce. Complicated assets, financial commitments to adult children, and retirement planning may all be in play.  Equally important to divorcing couples who have a long history together, is the need to develop the emotional tools to negotiate a divorce and reach an agreement that allows the couple to maintain a cordial relationship and jointly participate in family events. While all of these issues are not unique to grey divorce, that fact that older couples do not have the time to start over and rebuild their life, and in fact may want to maintain many aspects of their current life in the future, makes a divorce team of specialized professionals essential to help the couple address their short-term and long-term needs.

How Mediation and Collaborative Divorce Meet the Needs for Later In Life Divorce

A divorce team is a key resource in alternative divorce processes such as mediation and collaborative divorce. The divorce team is often made up of neutral specialists who help the couple jointly and independently to get the information, emotional support and resources they need to make decisions about their future. A key benefit of the divorce team is they are trained, experienced divorce specialists in their own field and bring in knowledge and expertise to help couples navigate unknown territory, typically at an hourly rate that is lower than a divorce attorney. Divorce attorneys are a critical part of the divorce team, but they are not therapists or financial experts.

As a collaborative divorce lawyer in New York, headlines announcing the Bezos divorce settlement gave me hope for the future of divorce – and the future of marriages in the US. 

Since the news first made headlines in January that Jeff Bezos and his with MacKenzie were divorcing after 25 years of marriage, the pundits have been obsessing about how this would affect Amazon. As the founder and CEO of Amazon, the most valuable company on Wall Street, and the world’s richest person, this is the ultimate high net worth, high public profile divorce.

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Baby Boomer divorce rates continue to be above the average with one in every four divorces occurring in this age group. When I first wrote about so-called “grey divorce” (also referred to as ‘gray divorce’) in 2012, the overall divorce rate was going down, while the rate of divorce for people born between 1946 and 1964 already had a divorce rate triple that of their parents.

In 2019, those statistics are holding true. Grey divorce is a divorce that occurs after the age of 50. While the divorce rate across all age groups holds steady, the number of 50+ aged grey divorces in the United States has recently dramatically increased and today 1 in 4 people are going through grey divorce.

Grey divorce expert Jocelyn Elise Crowley states,

When same-sex marriage became legal, same-sex divorce also became legal. Divorce among same-sex couples is lower than the average but that is mainly because LGBTQ couples in long-term relationships were the first to marry when same-sex marriage was legalized. As more marriages occur, the statistics on divorce in the LGBTQ community are expected to approach the numbers of divorce in the general population. And many of these couples will have children, which means they will need to make difficult child custody, child support and parenting decisions. That’s not different from most divorces. What is different is that the issues that arise when same-sex parents divorce can be much more complicated.

The US Supreme Court landmark decision on Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 ruled that there is a fundamental right to marry and required all 50 states and the District of Columbia to both license and recognize same-sex marriages under the 14th amendment. However, the courts are not equipped to deal with modern, complicated family relationships – and laws don’t reflect today’s family. When a married LGBTQ couple or unmarried same-sex partners share children, the parents need to be pro-active in protecting their parental rights and the rights of their children. Whether the couple stays married or separates, protecting the legal rights of both parents and the child should be their first priority.

  • Non-biological parents need legal authority to make healthcare decisions, even in an emergency situation.

Divorcing couples who have high-assets – a high net worth divorce – are exposed to considerable risk if they litigate their divorce. Divorce proceedings are part of the public record: that means observers, including the press, are allowed in the courtroom. While you can petition the court to have your divorce filed under the caption of “Anonymous v. Anonymous,” your identity isn’t protected when you actually have to show up in court.

Sadly, news headlines often broadcast the private pains and scandals of many celebrities, high net worth divorcing couples and public figures:

  • Rudy Giuliani and wife Judith Nathan ripped by judge for making divorce trial ‘unpleasant’: NY Daily News

We loiter in winter when it is already spring. 

– Henry David Thoreau

Navigating a divorce is not easy and I’m not going to try and convince you otherwise. But I will tell you that where you choose to place your focus can have a real impact on your well-being during this difficult time.