HOW ARE ASSETS DIVIDED IN DIVORCE MEDIATION? HOW TO SAVE TIME & MONEY DOING IT?

   

                              Basic Principles of Dividing Property in Divorce Mediation

                                          By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator

As a mediator, I work hard to get parties to a property division quickly and for less cost. To do this, a properly prepared Financial Statement is essential. Unfortunately, some spouses are their own worst enemy when it comes to completing their Financial Statement; this causes delay and cost.

This article will explain how property is divided and how a properly prepared Financial Statement will efficiently lead to a mediated property division.

In Massachusetts, the general rule for dividing assets is that only material assets are divided. And, they are divided fairly. No Massachusetts law requires a 50/50 split.(See: https://www.divorcingoptions.com/Blog/if-we-go-to-court-will-our-property-be-divided-down-the-middle/ )

Generally, the mediator starts with asking if there is any reason why a fifty/fifty division would not be fair. If any reasons are offered they are considered and the mediator makes suggestions.

If mediating parties do not cooperate and compromise on a property division, then a judge or arbitrator will decide what is fair and a division is ordered as part of litigation.

Usually, substantial property includes: real estate, bank accounts with more money than necessary to pay a month’s worth of routine expenses, retirement accounts, investment accounts and valuable unique items, e.g., art work, a yacht or a private business.

It is not unusual to divide value rather than an actual item. For example, if property includes a house with an equity of $300,000.00 and a personal business in the husband’s name with an equity value of $300,000.00, the property agreement may be that the wife keeps the house and the husband keeps the business.

Generally, immaterial assets stay with whomever owned or primarily used the asset, examples include: an automobile, a wedding ring, engagement rings, a dump trailer used to take trash to the curbside, a lawnmower, tools.

Reasons for not equally dividing an asset, material or not, include, but are certainly not limited to: the marriage lasted less than five years; a spouse’s conduct resulted in unreasonable spending; a spouse’s health requires special needs; a spouse’s lack of any type of contribution toward the acquisition of a piece of property.

Before a division can be made, all material property needs to be properly described and listed in each spouse’s Financial Statement.

A properly prepared Financial Statement allows the judge, arbitrator, or mediator to:

  1. See how each piece of property is “legally held or owned”.
  2. See the value of each separate piece of property.
  3. Obtain the complete name of each property and any account number.

Items 1 and 2 are used to determine, with other information, what a fair division would be.

Item 3 is necessary to comply with the requirement that a Separation Agreement be “clear and unequivocal”. That is why the mediator includes the exact name and account number of material property in the property section of the Separation Agreement.

The first paragraph of this article stated: “… some spouses are their own worst enemy when it comes to properly completing their Financial Statement: …”. Clients who choose to ignore instructions for completing Financial Statements will always cause delay and more cost.

Marital debt must also be divided and can affect a property division; this is a subject for another day.

The 2 takeaways:

– In Massachusetts, property must be divided fairly, not equally.

– The failure to properly prepare the Court’s Financial Statement will delay the   property division and will add to the cost of divorce mediation.

©2020 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

PARENTING TIME DURING THE HOLIDAYS – FROM THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE FAMILY COURT

November 2020

 

Greetings,

As we begin this holiday season, I reach out to encourage parents to continue cooperating with each other to ensure that children have safe, healthy parenting time.  Although I do not know exactly what we will experience in the upcoming weeks, there is no doubt that the holidays will feel different this year.  During this time of uncertainty and stress, it is even more important that parents focus on what is best for their children.  Leaders of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts created the following guide, “Navigating the Holidays with COVID-19: Create a Roadmap for Success”.  It is my hope that these tips will help you prepare for the holidays.  I wish you all the best during this holiday season.

John D. Casey Chief Justice Massachusetts Probate and Family Court

NAVIGATING THE HOLIDAYS WITH COVID-19:  CREATE A ROADMAP FOR SUCCESS

The following are useful tools to help divorced/separated parents sharing custody get through the upcoming holidays in the midst of a continuing pandemic with a minimum of conflict and stress.

  1. PLAN EARLY: If there is one piece of advice you take away from these guidelines, it has to be this one. If there was ever a holiday season that could not be successfully navigated by the seat of your pants at the last minute, it is this season. Consider travel logistics, your holiday traditions, events with family and friends and the parenting time schedule, as usual. Include an accurate assessment of applicable guidelines and possible tracing requirements and quarantine times based on protections needed in each household.

 

  1. FOLLOW THE RULES OF THE ROAD: Stick to your parenting plan or schedule as much as you can, if there is one. If not, start working out a plan. Communicate with your co-parent as soon as possible if you think your customary schedule, family gatherings or travel arrangements will have to change because of the virus.

 

  1. AGREE ON A DESTINATION: Be straightforward with each other about your goals for the holidays. Discuss how to have a holiday that is both happy and safe for everyone. Look carefully at the level of disease at any location where you might plan to go and also where you live. You have to consider if you could be carrying the risk from your home to another part of the country, as well as the infection and positivity rates present in the community you will be visiting. Will you be among people who are carefully observing the recommendations and rules (masks, social distancing, hand washing)?

 

  1. PLAN YOUR ROUTE TOGETHER: Talk about the where, when and how. Agree on how to proceed if you disagree. Find ways to resolve disputes with each other, a trusted advisor, a mediator or a parenting coordinator— always a preferable alternative to going to court. If the dispute continues, consider reaching out to a mediator, with or without an attorney, to resolve the issues before seeking court intervention.

 

  1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO STOP AND ASK FOR DIRECTIONS: Your particular situation may benefit from a consultation with an expert, who might be the family pediatrician (if the point of dispute involves health risks), a family therapist, or your lawyer.

 

  1. YIELD TO HAZARD SIGNS: Be prepared to abide by local, state and national instructions regarding health and safety as they are updated.

 

  1. SLOW DOWN IF THERE IS CONSTRUCTION OR AN ACCIDENT AHEAD: Be willing to take a step back, slow down and communicate about any new concerns that may arise related to health and safety.

 

  1. BE OPEN TO ALTERNATIVE ROUTES: This year is going to be an exception for everyone, not just coparents. Everybody is concerned about doing the right thing, which will lead inevitably to finding new ways to gather and celebrate. For some it will mean get-togethers only on Zoom; for others, there will be gatherings of limited size and limited time, with masks and social distancing. Consider holding any gathering outside, if the weather permits. If you must be indoors, good ventilation with doors and windows open is a must. Social and family connections will have to be balanced by safe behaviors and mitigating risk.

 

 

NEW COURT DECISION: IF A HUSBAND OR WIFE IS NOT WORKING TO CAPACITY, HE OR SHE WILL BE ATTRIBUTED INCOME.

 

The Appeals Court this week affirmed that: if the person   receiving support or the person paying support is not reasonably employed, the divorce court judge may attribute income to that person.

 

Reasonably employed means employment obtained through reasonable diligence and, if necessary, additional training.

 

So, for example and paraphrasing the language of the Decision, if a wife could earn $32,000.00 a year as a bookkeeper, the income from her part time work, doing something else, would be ignored and she would have $32,000.00 attributed to her as income for the purpose of calculating what support the husband would pay.

For more information or to lean more about the benefits of Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Divorce, call Anthony.

RECENT THANK YOU LETTER TO ME

This email came to me this week. Thanks to the writer. I am happy her long journey through the Jungle of Divorce is over.

Dear Anthony,

I wanted to thank you for your empathy and council. Your guidance helped me navigate through a tough situation with processing my divorce. 

Initially I started my divorce case with attorney [name deleted] in January this year. We prepared uncontested divorce paperwork that my husband and I both signed in March 2020 before the court shut down. Attorney [name deleted] informed me that he will submit our case to the court right away to get us started.

I followed up with attorney [name deleted] in April, May, July and August in separate times to ask about my case, he replied that the family court has been closed until future notice. When I followed up with him again on August 16th knowing the court has been open, he told me he has not heard nothing at all and the court was processing cases in a slower than normal speed. When I asked him to give me a call and figure out a way to follow up with my case, I never heard back from him at all for weeks neither through calls nor emails.

In order to move along, I found you on JUSTIA Lawyers with great reviews and gave you a call. You responded right away, patiently listened to my situation and offered a free consultation on how to get my original divorce attorney…to respond. Attorney [name deleted] finally replied back to me on September 9th and said he had just followed up with the court with my paper work no where to be found. Needless to say, I was very frustrated. 

I gave you a call again and this time you offered me some additional free consultation and a referral to another attorney in case I needed more help for filing. 

Thank you so much again for responding right away in two different times. Your helpful advice helped me to get a hearing date with the court now. I would recommend you to whoever in need of your service.

 Sincerely,

  [full name deleted for privacy]

 

What does Collaborative Divorce Mean?

Traditional divorce practice requires each attorney, in all interactions with clients and the opposing lawyer, to always be preparing for a divorce trial and, at the same time, always be attuned to settling the divorce.

Collaborative Divorce turns traditional divorce upside down by obligating each attorney and client to have only one goal – the resolution of the divorce without litigation or adversary proceedings.

To achieve resolution and save on fees, the Collaborative Process uses Neutrals who charge lower hourly fees than attorneys and use their specialized skills to resolve disputes traditionally handled by  attorneys. For example, Financial Neutrals help resolve tax or valuation issues. Neutral Facilitators help parties agree on a Parenting Plan.

Doing away with tractional restraints, the Collaborative Process is more efficient and less costly.

Anthony Adamopoulos is a co-founder of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council and North Shore Collaborative Divorce

Read more about Collaborative Divorce in this website by clicking here. Call Anthony at 978-744-9591 to talk with him.

#collaborativedivorcenearme, #collaborativedivorcelawyernearme.

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC

By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Collaborative Divorce Attorney

 

During this pandemic, Collaborative Divorce Attorneys and Neutrals are providing this wonderful service in a COVID sensitive way.

They provide this service through a Collaborative Team, which achieves resolution quickly, safely and for less. The Team consists of each client, their respective attorneys and the neutrals. What follows is one of several types of a COVID sensitive procedures.

 Client/Attorney Teleconference

First, clients teleconference with their respective attorneys who obtain necessary information from their clients.

Next, the attorneys, keeping in mind what they have learned from their clients, discuss between themselves whether neutrals should be used. If there are personal problems that affect open and direct communication, then a Neutral Facilitator will be used. If there are financial/value issues then a Financial Neutral will be used. When neutrals are used, they make the process more efficient and cost effective. (For this explanation they will be used.)

Client/Neutral Teleconference

Second, names of neutrals are recommended to the clients and each client teleconferences with each neutral.

Neutrals and Attorneys Teleconference and Identify Problem Areas

Third, after the neutrals talk with each client, the neutrals and attorneys teleconference. Relying on what they have learned from each spouse, they identify what problems will prevent the signing of a Divorce Separation Agreement. Then, they develop a resolution for each problem and use one of the following formats to get a settlement.

Attorney Driven Settlement Format

Each attorney takes each recommended resolution to their respective client. If both clients agree on a recommended resolution, that problem is resolved. Following the same procedure, the attorneys then concentrate, one by one, on the remaining problems.

Zoom Collaborative Team Meeting Format

Here there is a Zoom Team Conference. Team conferences are led by a neutral. The Team, starting with a recommended resolution for each problem, works at resolving each problem one at a time. A benefit to Zoom meetings is that each participant can see the face of the other participants.

Collaborative Team Teleconference Format

The procedure and goals are the same as a Zoom meeting – all work together to get resolution of each problem. The advantage to a teleconference is that participants can concentrate on what is being said without any visual distraction.

For more information call Anthony.

 

#COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE, #WAYTODIVORCE, #COLLABORATIVEDIVORCEATTORNEYNEARME, #COLLABARATIVEDIVORCENEARME, #DIVORCESEPARATIONAGREEMENT

 

 

 

 

Expedited Divorce Mediation– Faster for Less® By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Master Divorce Mediator

Expedited Divorce Mediation– Faster for Less®

By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Master Divorce Mediator

 

Expedited Divorce Mediation – Faster for Less® is the new divorce mediation process that can get you through your divorce faster, easier and for less cost. With this innovative process you control your speed, your involvement and the costs for your Mediated Divorce.

Call now and talk with Anthony. Learn more about this creative process.

 

 

Expedited Divorce Mediation/Faster for Less®

What is It?

Expedited Divorce Mediation – Faster for Less® is the new divorce process that makes divorce easier, faster and less costly. With Expedited Divorce you have a say in the speed and cost of your Divorce.

Anthony Adamopoulos, a highly rated experienced divorce mediator, used his years of experience and hundreds of helpful creative client comments to create this method for getting past divorce.

Expedited Divorce Mediation  recognizes divorce is not a right and is not automatically granted. It concentrates on the two most important documents you need to get a divorce, a Financial Statement and a Separation Agreement. Because, the judge assigned to you must be satisfied with both before granting a divorce.

Anthony provides detailed, easy to follow, instructions on preparing each of your “Judge ready to read” Financial Statements. Then, he works closely with you and your spouse to mediate any issues; he then drafts your Separation Agreement.

Once both of you have these two essential documents, your ready, without attorneys if you wish, to follow the instructions, given to you by Anthony, for filing and having your Divorce Petition heard.

 

#divorcemediation, #quickdivorce, #cheapdivorce, #fastdivorce, #divorcemediatornerme, #expediteddivorce, #divorcemediationnearme

WHEN YOU NEED HELP IN DIVORCE MEDIATION

by Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Attorney

You, usually, do not need an attorney or Financial Neutral at all mediation sessions when there are three or less issues and no issue of credibility of income or property reporting.

But, in two situations you need help.

First, you need help when the issues include credibility of income or property disclosure.

Second, you need help when there are too many issues, including honesty about income and/or property but your spouse insists on using mediation.

If either of these situations exist, you need to protect yourself by getting the facts.

One way is to have an experienced divorce attorney ask the important questions that will satisfy your concerns about credibility.

The alternative is to insist on the mediation process involving a Divorce Financial Neutral. Neutrals know the questions to ask and the information to get.

How do you know when you need help?

If any of the following situations exist, you probably need an experienced attorney or a neutral.

  1. If your spouse is a high paid employee and you do not know:
  • The number or kind of perks spouse gets.
  • Any specifics about spouse’s pay, including bonus.
  • Any specifics about how spouse gets company stock.

 

  1. If your spouse is a self-employed high earner and you do not know:
  • How much your spouse earns.
  • If the business is paying for the phones or motor vehicles you and/or spouse use.
  • The first thing about running the business if spouse dies.
  • The names of spouse’s accountant and lawyer.
  • Why spouse carries a roll of cash to pay for things and to give you cash for your expenses.
  • What type of legal entity the business is, for example is it a sole proprietorship? or a corporation? or something else?
  • Whether you can trust your spouse to have the business fairly and competently appraised.

 

  1. If your spouse signs your name to the tax returns or tells you “just sign here” no need to read them.

 

  1. If your spouse does not want “to use lawyers” for the divorce process.

 

  1. Hypothetically, if you were asked to provide information showing:
  • all of the weekly income and weekly expenses of each of you; and
  • all of the property owned by each of you; and
  • all of the debt of each of you,

and you don’t know this information.

Remember, the divorce mediator is a neutral party who has the main responsibility of getting the two of you to agree on a divorce settlement agreement.

Your main responsibility is to be sure the mediator has all the important facts.

Learn more by contacting me, now.

©2020 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

 

Did you know? A Divorce Invalidates the Will Provisions to an Ex.

A former spouse is not entitled to a bequest under an ex spouse’s Will.

Contrary to what a surviving ex-spouse may believe, and despite what a dead former ex may have said or suggested, once parties are divorced, a Will, prepared before the divorce, is revoked as to any bequest to an ex-spouse.

If you believe you are entitled to any part of your spouse’s estate you should tell your attorney, before your divorce starts. If you are planning on not using a divorce lawyer, maybe you should re-plan.