Divorce Arbitration is the Way to Go! So……

A decision of our Appeals Court, Gravlin v. Gravlin, is helpful for those facing divorce.

For collaborative divorce attorneys and divorce mediators, the decision confirms that arbitration is the viable alternative to court litigation for resolving a single issue or even taking the place of a full court trial.

In Gravlin, the Appeals Court acknowledged “… arbitration has long been recognized as a valid means of resolving disputes between divorcing parties.” This Blog has often praised the value of arbitration as an alternative to divorce litigation; with Gravlin, the Appeals Court stamped an imprimatur of sorts on divorce arbitration.

While arbitration is available to replace a public court trial, it is also available if collaboration or mediation reaches a deadlock (a stalemate on one or two remaining issues); then, it is time for divorce arbitration.

When parties follow a simple process, the Appeals Court promises a “… strict standard of review [that] is high[ly] deferential…” to an arbitration award.

What does the simple process involve? The simple process requires that:

  • Respective counsel advise each party.
  • Parties freely enter an Agreement to Arbitrate.
  • Parties knowingly waive a court trial and submit to arbitration.

If there is any trial court review of an arbitration award, the review will be limited to determining:

  • The arbitrator’s award was confined to what he/she was asked to decide;
  • The award did not give relief that is prohibited by law;
  • The award is not based on fraud, arbitrary conduct, or procedural irregularity in the hearing.

(In my experience, the selection of an experienced, knowledgeable arbitrator will result in a positive review and enforcement of the award.)

For collaborative attorneys and mediators, Gravlin is another reason to recommend arbitration for settlement stalemate.

For parties facing divorce or divorce stalemate, arbitration is an alternative to a costly, lengthy and publicly litigated trial.

*Anthony is a divorce arbitrator, collaborative attorney and divorce mediator. His office is in Salem.

© 2016 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

 

The “New” Child Support Guidelines – Effective September 15, 2017

The new Child Support Guidelines (CSG) go into effect on September 15th. Here, in outline form, is a summary of the primary CSG Factors.

Child Support Guidelines Factors:

Important factors considered in making an order for child support (CS) include the following:

Alimony and unallocated support

An order, if based on relevant tax consequences presented by a party, may designate money for support of a child to be alimony or unallocated support. p8 (This refers to the relevant page in the 2017 CSG.) However, gross income considered for a child support order cannot be considered for an alimony order.p9

The first $250,000.00

The CSG calculations apply to combined incomes of up to $250,000.00. The CSG calculation for the combined $250,000.00 should normally be the presumed minimum order. Support over this amount is discretionary.p9   The court may consider the excess in setting an order for the payment of extra-curricular activities, private school, summer camp, etc.p14 and for post- secondary school costs and orders in excess of the UMass minimum (See below.).

Parenting Time

The CSG calculations are based on the child(ren) having a primary residence with one parent and spending approximately 1/3 of their time with the other parent. There is a rebuttable presumption that the resulting calculation shall be the order.p9

Where parents share equally or approximately equal financial responsibility and parenting time, then a special calculation is done.p10

If the non-residential parent’s parenting time is substantially less than 1/3 of the child’s time, then the court may deviate upwards in the support order.

Child Care and Health Care Costs

In most cases, the Guidelines’ worksheet will automatically adjust for these costs.

Children 18 or over

First, 18 year olds still in high school are considered not yet 18. After leaving high school, child support is discretionary with the court.p10   It is not presumed.

In deciding whether to order child support, the court will consider all relevant factors, including those listed in the Guidelines.p11   One consideration will be whether or not the child is in a post-secondary educational program, if so, the judge will consider the costs involved (see below) and then consider the impact of an order for child support and an order for education costs.

Contribution to post high school costs

 Orders for contribution toward post high school education costs are discretionary – it is not presumed.p11  The judge will consider all relevant factors surrounding college or vocational costs and the impact of both a child support order and an education contribution order.

If an order of contribution is made, it cannot exceed, for each parent, 50% of the undergraduate, in state, costs for a UMass-Amherst student; unless the court makes findings that a parent can afford to pay more.

You can read the Guidelines yourself at The New Child Support Guidelines.

 

New Child Support Guidelines Pay Lower Support With More Parenting Time – No More

By:  Anthony C. Adamopoulos

The current “old” Child Support Guidelines provided a separate child support calculation where, for example, the father shared “financial responsibility and parenting time” of greater than one-third but less than fifty percent of the time.

This usually meant that if, for example, the father was with his children more than one- third of their time he was going to pay less child support than the father who is with his children about a third of the time. This adjustment is dropped under the new Guidelines announced on July 18th and formally effective on September 15, 2017.

While the formal effective date is not until September, experienced divorce attorneys, mediators and arbitrators have started using the new Guidelines.

 

My Advice for Divorce Month

By: Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Arbitrator, Mediator & Collaborative Lawyer

 

Divorce Month is almost here. In 2016, I saw one of the saddest, unnecessary, adversarial divorces ever. The cost in emotions, future harmony and money was enormous and unnecessary.

So again, I urge everyone who is facing divorce to consider seriously staying out of the public adversarial divorce system. It will hurt and it will hurt way into the future.

Staying out of the “system” generally means choosing one of two processes, either confidential mediation or confidential Collaborative Divorce. Take the time to read about these important confidential divorce approaches at The Three Approaches to Divorce.

If the two of you agree on only one thing, let it be that you will use confidential mediation or confidential Collaborative Divorce.

Hand in hand with the right approach is the right lawyer. Not all divorce lawyers are qualified to do divorce mediation or Collaborative Divorce. Mediation requires training and success. Collaborative Attorneys need to be certified. Believe me, this is not the time to go to your third cousin’s friend’s real estate lawyer.

 

For more information about Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce:

The Three Approaches – Graphically

The Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council

The Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation

The Divorce Center

Why Collaborative Divorce? – Answered In One Picture.

 

February is Divorce Month in Massachusetts because there are so many divorces filed that month. So, it is safe to assume that people are right now considering what process to use, that is – Adversarial, Mediation or Collaborative. Elsewhere in DivorcingOptions.com you can read about these three processes in detail.

But, sometimes a picture says it all…

Divorce Approaches Diagram

View PDF version

If your considering divorce, now is the time to talk with someone who knows what he is talking about. And, he is talking about calling a truce to the war and getting a peace settlement. Call Anthony.

 

You may reprint or distribute this chart on your website so long as the copyright and contact information for Anthony C. Adamopoulos’ Divorce Resolution Services remains attached to the bottom of the image.

Copyright ©, 2014 Anthony C. Adamopoulos’ Divorce Resolution Services, DivorcingOptions.com. All rights reserved.