Don Sinkov

Ethnic Diversity in Divorce Mediation

 Ethnic Diversity in Divorce Mediation by Don Sinkov  The recent events regarding the Michael Brown shooting and protests in Missouri prompted me to think about how different cultural groups interact and the lack of ethnic diversity in the mediation profession. It also made me think about:

  • What role does ethnic diversity play in my life?
  • What have my experiences been?

At one point in my life, I was an employee of a large company, whose president was an African American. I saw first hand how non-African American employees were discriminated against and not promoted while less qualified African American employees, with little experience, were promoted.

In retrospect, I believe discrimination has little to do with being Caucasian or African American –  or Asian or Muslim or Hispanic – and more to do with abuse of power. The group in charge supports and promotes their own.

As a mediator, I’m happy to say, that my clients are from all ethnic backgrounds. Just in the past few months, I had a couple originally from the Middle East, a couple from South America, another from Italy, and one from Germany. While their backgrounds were certainly very different, the issues were not. If I closed my eyes and disregarded the accents, they had the same problems and issues as any American couple.

Most of these cultures value mediation. They see mediation as a very important part of settling disputes. Continue reading


It’s Not What You Don’t Know, It’s What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know. – D. Rumsfeld

It's Not What You Don't Know, It's What You Don't Know You Don't Know. - D. Rumsfeld by Don Sinkov  Was Donald Rumsfeld actually right? Maybe . . .

A couple came to my office. The wife is an executive for a Fortune 500 company. She makes a big 6 figure salary with tons of perks. She has the use of villas around the country, internationally; stock options; bonuses; all the goodies.

I said, “We’ll plan a mediation session to discuss your settlement.

They say, “No, we’ve already worked this out.

I said “Really?

Yes, absolutely. As a matter of fact, we don’t want you to change a single thing. We have a spreadsheet, and we have drafted a preliminary agreement. We want you to just write what we’ve decided.

But do you know what the marital interest is?

Do you know family law?

Do you know how you determine the marital interest in a pension?

Do you know any of that?

No but we don’t care.Continue reading


Want to Be a Better Mediator? Here Is How

Don Sinkov of discusses the high burnout rate among professionals.The other night I had a late mediation. It was 9:00 p.m. I was tired and leaving the office. When I passed the adjacent office, I noticed there was a matrimonial lawyer still working.

I said, “Wow! It’s late. This must be really unusual for you.”

He said, “No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I work most nights until past 9:00 just to keep up with the work.”

I asked, “Does it ever get to you? Because those are really long hours.”

He said, “Yeah, but, you know, what are we going to do? It’s the nature of the business.”

Many of my friends who are matrimonial lawyers tell me there is a high burnout rate among professionals working with divorcing couples due to several factors: Continue reading


My Sign Says Don Sinkov, Mediator, Not Merlin the Magician

Don Sinkov of discusses why mediation should be your first choice, not your last.“The lawyers want more money. We’re broke. Let’s try mediation!” News Flash!! Mediation should be your first choice, not your last!

After being in litigation for 1, 2, 3 or more years, the couple is firmly rooted in their bargaining positions, encouraged by the litigation attorneys. And the attorneys have pounded into their heads how important it is to get exactly what they want with no compromise whatsoever, and if they don’t get what they want, they should walk away from the table and go back to court.

When I get these cases, I have to be honest with them.

“This is going to be very difficult. Mediation works beautifully when you first come to a mediator before all the involvement in litigation takes place. The mediator will go over everything with you, discuss the options, and how you both might compromise – – not in everything, but in certain areas, so you can create an agreement you both can live with.”

This doesn’t mean that you have to give up everything. It doesn’t mean you have to give up what’s most important to you. What it does mean is you have to be realistic. Even in a litigation, you’re not going to get everything. Continue reading


Getting Married and Having Kids, Really?

Don Sinkov of discusses getting married and having kidsI recently spoke with a matrimonial lawyer. She is 35 and has been going out with the same guy for what she describes as “forever.” While we were having coffee, she said, “Yeah, and I guess we should get married and have kids.”

I was really taken aback by that remark because the decision to get married is often not an easy one. But then to make the leap to “because I’m 35 years old I should have kids?” Has this really been thought through thoroughly?

Usually, before you get married, you discuss with your spouse your feelings about having children, such as:

  • Yes, I really want to have children.
  • I have a burning desire to continue my blood line and give birth to these little cherubs.
  • I don’t have a burning desire to have children.
  • Nah, not really. I’d rather pursue my career.

Continue reading


Free Divorce Mediation Consultation? Absolutely

Don Sinkov of discusses free mediation consultationWhen I first started as a divorce mediator, I really had no model of how to conduct myself and my practice.  I would interview prospective clients over the phone, try to answer questions and tell them how we were going to cooperate and work this out together at the mediation session.

About 30% of the people that called became mediation clients. Not a very good batting average. Certainly not good enough for the major leagues.

Instead of the “phone” consultation, I started offering a free “in-person” consultation and quickly saw the advantages. This gives the mediator and the potential clients an opportunity to meet each other face-to-face and see if they can make a connection. Even more than that, as the mediator, I gain an insight into their relationship and the dynamics of their family.

The consultation isn’t just a meet and greet; it’s really an opportunity for me to prepare my clients for the mediation, such as answering:

  • Do we have to get values for property or some other asset?

  • If there is a buy out, can one party qualify for a refinance?

  • Do they need to create a budget to see if their decisions for moving forward are economically feasible? Continue reading


Divorcing Couples Are Not Lawyers – Give Them a Break!

Don Sinkov of discusses divorcing couple behaviorOften divorcing couples come to mediation having done some research or gotten advice from friends. Since this is usually their first divorce, they try to get as much information as they can, so they can be informed as they go through the mediation/divorce process. But this is very much like trying to study the night before the test.

Mediators and attorneys have to understand that clients don’t know this stuff, and we have to be patient in stepping them through the information. Leave the decision making up to them, but help them in getting the information they need to make the decisions. We shouldn’t be impatient when:

  • They calculate their own child support after deducting expenses not allowed by the child support worksheet

    Continue reading


International Divorce Mediation: Skype Makes It Easy; Different Systems Make It Challenging

Don Sinkov of discusses international divorce mediation.I just completed another divorce mediation on Skype. One spouse was in New York and the other in Europe. Technology allows you to communicate over long distances, with both video and audio. We were able to speak and see the person as if they were right in the room with us – way better than speakerphone.

What was difficult about the mediation was that in this particular European country, the healthcare and educational systems are very different from systems in the United States.

Continue reading


Is Your Parenting Plan Effective?

Don Sinkov of discusses the value of parenting plans.As the years whirl on and I see more and more clients, I’m becoming acutely aware that mediation training needs to focus more on custody arrangements and parenting plans. This past year, I made a concerted effort to contact the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), to get the research for me and literature for my clients, to help in creating effective parenting plans.

When I started out as a mediator, I didn’t receive a lot of training about raising children and constructing effective parenting plans, based in part on the empirical research.  For example, I didn’t learn about attachment theory, and how that plays into constructing an age appropriate parenting plan for children. If you don’t understand children’s developmental issues, you are really missing important information on how children behave. Understanding this allows you to construct parenting plans for children at different stages of their development. Continue reading


We Got the Kids!

Don Sinkov of discusses who should decide child custody.This is a prime example of what happens when you leave the decision-making about your children’s lives to a stranger who doesn’t know your kids. Whether it’s a lawyer or a judge, it can be a BIG mistake.

In a litigated case, the attorney for the father asked him what he was looking for, “What do you want?”  The father indicated that he thought he would like to have custody of the kids, but admitted that he had never been the caregiver. “My wife has always been the caregiver, and I’m not sure if I can handle that, but I was thinking about it.”

The lawyer asked if there was anything else he wanted, and the husband said:

“No, we’re pretty much in agreement with all the other issues. There isn’t a lot of money to divide, and truthfully, I had an alcohol and gambling problem, so I burned through all the money we had. I’m going to AA, but I have to be honest, I don’t go to all the meetings.” Continue reading


Don Sinkov, Accredited Divorce Mediator, provides Divorce Mediation, and Legal Separation Agreements in the following areas of WESTCHESTER COUNTY New York - Ardsley NY 10502, Armonk NY 10504, Bedford NY 10507, Bedford Corners NY 10507, Bedford Village NY 10506, Briarcliff Manor NY 10510, Bronxville NY 10708, Buchanan NY 10511, Chappaqua NY 10514, Crompond NY 10517, Croton Falls NY 10519, Croton-on-Hudson NY 10520, 10521, Crugers NY 10521, Dobbs Ferry NY 10522, Eastchester NY 10707, 10709, Elmsford NY 10523, Fairview NY, Golden’s Bridge NY 10526, Greenville, Harrison NY 10528, Hartsdale NY 10530, Hastings-on-Hudson NY 10706, Hawthorne NY 10532, Heritage Hills, Irvington NY 10533, Jefferson Valley-Yorktown NY 10535, Lake Mohegan NY 10547, Larchmont NY 10538, Lincolndale NY 10540, Mamaroneck NY 10543, Mount Kisco NY 10549, Mount Vernon NY 10550,10551,10552,10553, New Rochelle NY 10801, 10802, 10803, 10804, 10805, Ossining NY 10562, Peekskill NY 10566, Pelham NY 10803, Pelham Manor NY 10803, Pleasantville NY 10570, 10571, 10572, Port Chester NY 10573, Rye NY 10580, Rye Brook NY 10573, Scarsdale NY 10583, Scotts Corners NY 10576, Shennorock NY 10587, Shrub Oak NY 10588, Sleepy Hollow NY 10591, Tarrytown NY 10591, Thornwood NY 10594, Tuckahoe NY 10707, Valhalla NY 10595, Verplanck NY 10596, White Plains NY 10601, 10602, 10603, 10604, 10606, 10607, 10610, Yonkers NY 10701, 10702, 10703, 10704, 10705, 10706, 10707, 10708, 10709, 10710, Yorktown Heights NY 10598. by Don Sinkov, Accredited Divorce and Family Mediator, Divorce Mediation, Legal Separation, and child custody mediation, proudly serves the following towns in Upstate New York - PUTNAM COUNTY New York - Adams Corners NY 10579, Brewster NY 10509, Carmel NY 10512, Cold Spring NY 10516, Crofts Corners NY 10579, Garrison NY 10524, Kent Lakes NY 10512, Lake Carmel NY 10512, Lake Lincolndale NY 10541, Lake Mahopac NY 10541, Lake Peekskill NY 10537, Lake Secor NY 10541, Mahopac NY 10541, Mahopac Falls NY 10542, Manitou NY 10524, Nelsonville NY 10516, North Highland NY 10516, Oscawana Lake NY 10579, Patterson NY 12563, Philipstown NY 10516, Putnam Valley NY 10579, Sears Corners NY 10509, Southeast NY 10509, Tompkins Corners NY 10579.