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

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

 

 

 

 

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.

 

COVID-19-The Divorce Rate and Cutting the Cost of Divorce

By Anthony C. Adamopoulos Topsfield Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Divorce attorney.

According to the New York Times, the experience of other countries suggests the ravages of COVID-19 will lead us to more divorces. And, according to the Pew Research Center, divorce itself is contagious. For example, if you divorce, the chances become higher that your friends will divorce.

Here in Massachusetts, there is already anecdotal evidence of the divorce rise.

For some, divorce is “necessary”, regardless of the Crisis. This “necessity” is adversely affected by the financial crisis. Divorce litigation is costly, now the burden is greater. The good news is that you can reduce the costs of divorce.

Here are alternatives to divorce litigation which can dramatically lower divorce costs. (Space limitations make the descriptions short, but sufficient for an internet search.)

Conference-Call-Mediation. Traditional divorce mediation works best for 3 or less issues. Today, experienced divorce mediators will conduct COVID-19 sensitive sessions.

COVID-19 Sensitive Collaborative Divorce serves couples facing complicated issues. Problems are resolved in an efficient, cost-cutting manner with each party’s attorney present and assisting.

Reconciliation Agreement Mediation serves couples seeking a second chance at their marriage. The Agreement reconciles differences, while admitting the possibility of divorce. It sets out rights and obligations for each, if a divorce is eventually filed; then, the Reconciliation Agreement, by law, turns into a Separation Agreement.

Use a neutral divorce financial advisor or neutral divorce facilitator. Click here for my blog article  on why divorce neutrals can cut divorce costs: https://www.divorcingoptions.com/Blog/how-to-save-real-money-in-a-divorce/

Use a Limited Assistance Representation (LAR) Attorney. An LAR attorney offers “a la carte” legal services. Clients select and pay only for specific tasks, such writing a Settlement Agreement.

During these times, experienced divorce attorneys who concentrate in divorce resolution, not litigation, are valuable resources for cutting divorce costs,

#divorcemediation

#divorcelawyernearme

 

Our Clients Say It Best

By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Divorce Attorney

Recently, a couple came to me seeking my help in resolving their divorce. They were in litigation and had been “going at it” for over a year. Fortunately, with their hard work and dedication, we mediated a resolution.

They showed their appreciation by writing kind reviews and notes.

Here is a summary of some of their kind words about my style and my paralegal, Donna’s comforting manner:

My husband and I were in the divorce process for over one year.  Anthony helped us “untangle our knots” within a few short months and settle our case without trial.

Anthony took my urgent phone call right away, this was much appreciated and helped de-escalate the matter. 

He was more than flexible – he rearranged his schedule multiple times to accommodate our needs.  Thank you for helping us to meet our tight deadlines.

Anthony kept a calm, confident yet gentle presence during tense moments.  His role as teacher was helpful when one or both of us needed education on terms or concepts, or legal definitions.

Although I wish that no one would have to go through the divorce process, if you do find yourself in need of a mediator, I would recommend Anthony. His vast experience, warm and caring demeanor, and interest to be efficient in the proceedings will be a welcome respite in the process.

Donna’s warm and professional assistance with a comforting smile made the entire process easier to manage.  She is an empathic and impartial asset to your practice!

Anthony- Thank you for making an impossible resolution possible. 

©2020 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

 

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE MEDIATION &

 DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES   

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

 

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What is the Difference Between Imputed Income and Attributed Income?

By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Divorce Attorney

Imputed and attributed income are distinguished in the Child Support Guidelines, 2018.

Imputed income is income that is not reported on a parent’s Financial Statement but is nevertheless being received by or available to the parent.  One appellate court decision has said: A judge may “reasonably impute income to [a] parent” who receives “[e]xpense reimbursements, in-kind payments or benefits received by a parent, personal use of business property, and payment of personal expenses by a business in the course of employment, self-employment, or operation of a business . . . if such payments are significant and reduce personal living expenses.”

Attributable income is  “[i]ncome …[assigned] to a parent when the Court determines a parent is capable of earning more than is currently being earned and assigns a hypothetical amount of income to the parent.”    If a judge finds that a parent is unreasonably underemployed or unemployed, the judge may assign attributable income to that parent.

©2020

Anthony is available to discuss and explain Collaborative Divorce & Divorce Mediation to private and public groups. Call for more information.

 

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE MEDIATION &

 DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES   

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

 

 

 

#divorcemediation

#collaborativedivorce

#imputedincome

#attributableincome
#divorce

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The Holidays are Over and We Need to Get This Divorce Behind Us

By Anthony C. Adamopoulos, Certified Divorce Mediator and Certified Collaborative Divorce Attorney

Listen folks, the holidays are over and the two of you are still facing the divorce problem.

It is time and it is best, for the two of you and your kids to get this divorce thing behind you.

It is hard to imagine it now, but things will get brighter for each of you when the divorce is behind you.

There are only two real ways to go, Mediation or Collaborative Divorce. Don’t spend big money or expend energy and tears going the old divorce route with lawyers that are not certified to travel the smart, less expensive roads to divorce resolution.

Where there are children under 23, there are three major issues in all divorces– taking care of the children, taking care of support and dividing the property.

Mediation is the way to go if your combined income is around $100,000.00 or less and there is no real disagreement over the children, support and property.

Collaborative Divorce is the sensible route where combined income is over $100,000.00 and there are real issues such as disputes over where the kids will live or how much self-employment income there is?

Call today for a consultation with an experienced and certified divorce resolver.

Anthony is available to discuss and explain Collaborative Divorce & Divorce Mediation to private and public groups. Call for more information.

© 2020 Anthony C. Adamopoulos

ANTHONY C. ADAMOPOULOS’ DIVORCE MEDIATION &

 DIVORCE RESOLUTION SERVICES   

(978) 744-9591

ACABOSTON@AOL.COM

 

#divorcemediation

#collaborativedivorce

#divorce

#collaborativeattorneynearme

#divorcemediationattorneynearme

#divorceattorneynearme