Divorce Settlement Agreement

What Lawyers Don’t Know

Don Sinkov of YourDivorceMediator.com shares some comments he's received from lawyers who do not understand the mediation process.This blog is about some attorney responses to my blogs, which have been so bizarre, I had to write about them.

I shouldn’t fault attorneys that don’t understand mediation. When they attended law school, they weren’t taught about mediation or alternative dispute resolution. Attorneys are trained in dispute resolution now, and I have been invited and have spoken at several law schools on the topic of mediation.

Law schools trained lawyers to do what lawyers do: Argue, get evidence that help them argue and then argue some more. Just the opposite of mediation, right? That is why our professions are so different.

As a mediator, I try to help couples resolve their disputes by cooperating and working together.

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How Much Should a Mediator Charge?

Don Sinkov of YourDivorceMediator.com explains how mediators charge their clients and that they're paying for years of experience.As the years go on, I have developed a better understanding of why some mediators ask for retainers, and why others also charge for phone calls and emails.

Usually, I only ask for retainers when there is a lot of work to do by phone. In situations where it is counter-productive for the husband and wife to be in the same room together, speaking to them separately by phone is a necessity, including calls to their attorneys, in order to move things along.

I once had a case where I told the client, “I don’t usually charge for emails and phone calls.” The client started emailing me regularly. By the end of the month, I had received 83 emails, and had a better understanding of why some mediators charge for emails and phone calls.

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The Kid’s Living at College. Why Do I Have to Pay for Housing at Home?

Don Sinkov of yourdivorcemediator.com explains how child support payments get complicated when a child is living at a college dorm.A dollar-for-dollar credit against your child support obligation for room and board at college – we have all heard about it and understand it’s done pretty much all the time. But is it fair?

When addressing basic child support (food, clothing and shelter), mandatory add-ons, and discretionary expenses in the Settlement Agreement, we say, “While there is no statute directing you to pay for your child’s college education, something like a SUNY clause, capping your contribution to education at a State University of New York tuition rate, is an obligation most parents and courts are comfortable with.”

“So if I’m paying for room and board at college, why should I pay for room and board at home? Isn’t that paying twice for the same thing?”

Generally, most attorneys will say, “Double shelter allowance. My client should get a reduction in child support for their share of room and board expense at college. Why should my client have to pay room and board at the home where the child is not living when they are living at college?”

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Got Buyer’s Remorse?

Don Sinkov of YourDivorceMediator.com explains why business valuations are so important.How often have I heard, “I have a business but I don’t want to spend the money to get it valued. It’s way too expensive. I’ve heard it costs $20-30,000.” During the settlement negotiations, when one spouse has a business or the spouses are partners in the business, it is very important to get the business valued. We need this to determine:

  • What each other’s interests are in the business
  • What is the marital interest to the non-titled spouse (the person that is married to the business owner)

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I’m a Mediator, I Have All the Answers!

Don Sinkov of yourdivorcemediator.com explains that even an experienced divorce mediator does not know everything.I recently got a response to one of my blog articles from a mediator who said, “Of course, I know all about this. I’m a mediator. I know about everything in divorce and everything related to people’s feelings. That’s who a mediator is.”

Early in my career, I co-mediated with an experienced attorney. We worked together for several years and thought we were doing a really good job. We had successfully mediated hundreds of divorces.

I still remember one couple that we worked with. The wife was absolutely beautiful; the husband was kind of an average-looking guy. We talked to them for a while and it was clear that they both wanted to get divorced. The wife started talking about how her life was all about the kids and how devoted she was to them. She also mentioned that the husband worked all the time and the reason the marriage was breaking up was all his fault. She was cleaning the house and being a good mom and trying to work with her business partner to build a business.

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We Did Our Divorce Ourselves – What Could Possibly Have Gone Wrong?!

Don Sinkov of yourdivorcemediator.com uses a real life example of why you should not write your own divorce agreement.Recently a prospective client called and asked for some advice. She was wondering if her agreement needed to be modified. And could I help her? She had been divorced for several years and her ex-husband had recently passed away. She was wondering if she was still the beneficiary of his pension and therefore upon his passing, could she receive all of the survivor/spouse pension benefits? She spoke to someone in the HR Department at her ex-husband’s company, who told her that since her divorce she wasn’t the spouse any more and although she was once listed on the designation of beneficiary form as beneficiary, the company didn’t recognize that, because since the divorce, she was no longer a spouse.

I asked her if she had a copy of the divorce decree and what does the separation agreement say.

She said, “We didn’t write a separation agreement. We didn’t want to spend the money on mediating this or hiring an attorney to draft the agreement so we just did it ourselves.”

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Don’t Blame Me, I’m just the Mediator!

Don Sinkov of YourDivorceMediator.com talks about how sometimes, no matter how neutral you are, you may be accused of taking sides during a divorce mediation.About a year ago, I mediated a divorce case with a high conflict couple. What was unusual about this case was they agreed to all financial terms before meeting with me. The difficulty was coordinating the process of getting an annulment, which sometimes we call a “Catholic Divorce.” Getting them to agree to meet with the priest for counseling, and then choosing a day and time to go through the annulment process took a couple of weeks of phone calling and emailing.

In the financial part of the Agreement:

  • We had property transfers.
  • We had businesses to sign off.
  • We had bank accounts to settle.

We had lawyers commenting on their agreement, so I had to go back and forth with the lawyers, modifying the Agreement.

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When Do We Divide the Retirement Fund?

Don Sinkov of YourDivorceMediator.com discusses timing when it comes to splitting retirement assets during divorce.As I’ve said in some of my previous blogs, divorce mediation is turning into more of an art than a science. When I first started mediating divorcing couples, I thought I would just learn how to do it and then pretty much plug the information into a standard agreement and keep doing the same thing over and over again. Eleven years later, I realize that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

An example of this is dividing retirement plans. Way back when the stock market was fairly stable (and I’m assuming that at some point investors did consider it stable), a couple would divide the retirement plan value using the date of the signed Settlement Agreement. The market was not subject to the wild fluctuations that we see today, and we would actually put a fixed amount in the Agreement for the non-titled spouse.

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My Income Has Changed. Does the Child Support Change?

Don Sinkov of YourDivorceMediator.com talks about the modification clause in a Settlement Agreement and how to use it to adjust the amount of child support as time goes by and income levels change.What happens if you already have an Agreement in place, where support levels were based on previous earnings, but those earnings have now changed substantially for the non-custodial parent.

- Can you modify support levels that were previously agreed to in a Settlement Agreement, even after you are divorced?

- Do you have to go to court?

- Can you come to mediation to address these issues?

The answer is, “No, you don’t have to go to court. You can go to mediation to create a modification clause for your original Agreement.”

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I’m Not Earning Any Money. Do I Still Have To Pay Support?

Don Sinkov of www.yourdivorcemediator.com discusses how a divorce agreement can be created in mediation to take into account the fact that the major wage earner is temporarily not making what he/she used to.Couples are often under the impression that when we write their divorce agreement, I just bring out a form, plug in their names and numbers and it’s done. Not true. The way we write agreements is constantly changing and the main reason for that is the current unstable economy.

Many of us are not earning the salaries we were earning in the heyday of the stock market prior to 2007. Things have changed dramatically, and some of my clients who were earning millions of dollars in previous years aren’t earning that amount anymore. In fact, some of them are earning substantially less, and others haven’t worked in 1-2 years or longer, because the high wage earning jobs they used to have are more difficult to come by.

So how do you calculate child and/or spousal support when one spouse is currently unemployed but has had a history of substantial earnings? Continue reading



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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.

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