Is your Parenting Plan back to school ready?

Schools are reopening and are operating with new changes in the classroom and virtually. Parents must adapt and ready to navigate this new and fluid environment. Aside from preparing for the unknown school year, parents going through a divorce should consider how the changing environment and new way of school will effect their parenting time with their child(ren). Even parents who have parenting plans in place already may want to modify these plans to update them to include terms related specifically to their child(ren)’s daily education.

The following thoughts may be helpful to include in any new or updated divorce agreements and parenting plans:

(1) Whether one or both parents will make the decision if the child(ren) attend school in person or virtually and if optional, for how many days per week. And whether the decision is one for a short period of time or will continue for the entire school year.

(2) If virtual learning, will one or both parents be responsible for/ present to assist with the child(ren)’s learning/ education? (i.e. help them log in online; make sure they understand, do and submit the assignments; etc.)

(3) Will one or both parents be responsible for assisting with homework?

(4) Will one or both parents be able to work from home should the child(ren) have to quarantine or if the school closes? Or will one or both parents hire someone to assist with the child(ren)’s schooling at home while the parents are at work? Will that be someone from the family or will it be an additional cost and if paying the person, which parent or both will be responsible for any additional costs.

(5) Will one or both parents make the decision to change the child(ren) from in school learning to virtual learning? And if virtual learning, will that be for the whole school year or a quarter? Or how often will the decision be considered or changed? Does the child(ren) have any input into the decision?

(6) Will the child(ren) be able to see both parents if the child(ren) or parent(s) are sick or have been exposed to the coronavirus?

(7) Will the child(ren) be able to attend college? Rent an apartment? Stay in a dorm? Will the parents agree to pay the same tuition if online learning at a university rather than in person learning at a college?

While there are a multitude of questions and unknowns in the current pandemic, some issues can be mapped out for the parents and the children so that there are a few less levels of mystery and anxiety for the parents and the children.

Click on this link to review other items of consideration in preparing a parenting plan.

Parties willing to discuss and resolve these issues can do so with the help of a mediator. If you seek assistance with preparing or modifying your Parenting Plans, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or sheree@donathlaw.com or by clicking here.

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Virtual Divorce Mediation – How Does It Work And What Should I Expect?

If your divorce mediation will take place virtually, there are a couple of things to consider. While divorce mediation typically occurred in an office setting many are now being conducted virtually.

To make your mediation process effective and successful, consider the following:

(a) The parties must act good faith. Both parties attending the mediation must want the mediation to work and be willing to work together to achieve that goal. If the parties do not act in good faith then the process will not be successful. The result – the parties will have wasted time and money.

(b) It should be clear to all attending the mediation who is on the virtual mediation. At the onset, the parties should disclose if they are alone or if they have counsel or any other person present with them. There should not be any unknown guests attending the mediation session. This sometimes occurs if the parties do not ask this questions in advance or if the party does not put on their video during the session.

(c) The parties should agree in advance, and be clear, as to whether the session is being recorded. It should be clear from the beginning that there will be no surreptitious recording of any of the sessions.

(d) The parties can be physically together or in different physical locations. The parties may be attending the mediation from the same house. If so, they can decide prior to the mediation if they are comfortable sitting in the same room with the mediator in another location or if they prefer to be in different physical locations in the same house or elsewhere.

(e) The parties should ensure they have a clear connection. Wherever the parties choose to log into the virtual mediation session, they should try out their connection prior to the mediation. It is important that the parties can hear and communicate clearly so their position can be known, heard and discussed.

(f) The mediator can do break out sessions with the parties or can create separate times to speak with each party, as needed.

(g) The parties should be prepared for the mediation. To help prepare for the mediation you may want to review the following articles: Divorce Mediation Checklist – Topics to Help You Prepare for Your Mediation and Divorce Mediation Checklist – What Documentation Should I Gather Before My Mediation?

(h) If there are children involved, you will need to come to terms on a parenting plan during your mediation. To help you prepare for a parenting plan discussion, you may want to review the following article: What Should be Included in a Parenting Plan?

Virtual mediation can be as successful as regular mediation. Mediation, however, is only successful if the parties are truly interested in the process, willing to allow the process to work, willing to compromise, willing to work together and willing to come to joint decisions.

For more information on mediation or to set up a mediation session, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or at sheree@donathlaw.com.

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Coronavirus and How to Navigate/Modify Custody Arrangements and Parenting Plans – Creating a Temporary Parenting Plan

In this time of uncertainty, many questions have arisen regarding joint custody and whether parenting plans that are in place should be followed or modified. Many parents are considering putting a Temporary Parenting Plan in place. Some of the issues being addressed in a modified/temporary plan include, among others:

(a) whether the children should stay with one parent for a certain period of time or if they should continue with the custody schedule in place;
(b) what happens if one of the parents gets sick;
(c) whether both parents will continue to have joint decision-making authority over health matters for the children;

If you decide to modify your parenting plan and determine that the children will remain with one parent, think of alternative arrangements so that the children will not miss quality time with the other parent. Try setting up times for the children to spend time reading or playing virtual games with the other parent by facetime or some other app that allows them face to face contact. Consider modifying your summer schedule and vacation schedule to allot for the other parent to have substantial time with the children once things get back to a more normal routine.

If you do modify the parenting plan, it should be done in writing. It should also be clear that there is an end date to this plan and that the original parenting plan would resume at that time. The end date can be a specific calendar date or something like when the children go back to school or the end of the school year. A date can also be set to determine if the modified plan needs to be extended. The children should be informed of the new temporary plan so that there is no confusion or added disruption to their lives.

A Temporary Parenting Plan can be put into place by the parties or with the help of a third party. For those seeking assistance in modifying their parenting plan, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or at sheree@donathlaw to schedule a time to speak.

The current health crisis should not be used as a means to alienate the other parent and ignore the custody arrangements and parenting plan you have in place. It is a time to try to keep your children safe and healthy.




Relocation and Divorce -Items to Consider in Divorce Mediation

One of the many items to consider in a divorce mediation is relocation. This is especially important when you are considering the parenting plan you are creating. Every family’s circumstances are different and what is right for one family may not be right for another family. Because something works for a friend or a family member does not mean that this is the correct way to move forward. Divorce Mediation allows you the flexibility in determining the right path for you and your child(ren).

The parenting plan and the scheduling of drop offs and pick ups changes if one or both of the parents are considering moving out of the neighborhood or even out of state.

When the topic of relocation comes up, it is common to hear people say that the parent(s) can live anywhere in New York. However, most people do not consider what this truly means. Stating that a parent or the child can be moved anywhere in New York may mean a 10 hour commute between the parents if one lives in Long Island and one person lives in Buffalo. This does not seem like a feasible arrangement. In fact, New Jersey or Connecticut could be much closer than a multitude of cities in New York. I generally find that most people when they say “New York”, really mean within Long Island or close to the area that they are currently living in. If that is what is meant then that is what should be subscribed to writing in the agreement the parties are entering.

When coming to terms on your divorce and in particular, the possibility of relocating, below are a few of the items you may want to consider.

(a) Whether you both plan on living in the same town.
(b) If one or both parent(s) are considering moving away then how far apart the parents want to live — are you thinking 20 miles or 20 minutes (depending on where in New York you live minutes and miles makes a difference).
(c) Will both parents be dropping and picking up the child(ren) and/or transporting them to and from school and their extra-curricular activities.
(d) Will the child(ren) be living at one home or two during the week.
(e) Do you both want to be within the same school district.
(f) Will one parent(s) job require them to move out of state.
(g) Is one parent’s relocation wanted or needed to care for the child(ren).
(h) The parenting plan you are seeking; i.e. how time is going to be split between the parents – will the parents split the week and weekends equally? Will one parent have the child(ren) all week or just on the weekends? Will one parent be required to drive the child(ren) to the other parent who lives out of state?

While the above is not an all inclusive list of items to consider, they should not be ignored. They are extremely important factors for consideration and some may be applicable to your situation and others can be discounted as they are not pertinent or specific to you.

If you would like more information about divorce mediation and how the process may benefit you, contact Sheree Donath at sheree@donathlaw or at 516-522-2743. Everyone is unique and divorce mediation can be tailored to your situation so that it works for you both now and in the future.




Divorce Mediation Checklist – Topics to Help You Prepare for Your Mediation

When getting ready for your divorce mediation, you should be prepared to speak about your thoughts and concerns on the following topics. These items, amongst others, will be discussed in detail and if/when the parties come to terms on each, they will be put into a written agreement for the parties to review, sign and follow.

Some of the topics for discussion in mediation include:

  • Legal and Physical Custody (decision-making authority and time spent with the children)
  • Parenting Plans (weekdays, weekends, holidays, school vacations, summers, childcare, birthdays, etc.)
  • Extra-Curricular Activities of the children and Add-On Expenses
  • Child Support
  • Relocation of children and/or parent
  • Communication with and about the children
  • College
  • Maintenance
  • Health insurance for each person and children
  • Life Insurance
  • Pension Plans/ IRAs
  • Distribution of Property (real estate)
  • Distribution of Assets (bank accounts, stocks, investments, household furnishings, jewelry, etc.)
  • Distribution of Expenses (mortgage, utilities, taxes, insurance, etc.)
  • Distribution of Liabilities (credit card debts, school loans, etc.)
  • Inheritances
  • Filing of Taxes (married/single, dependents, refunds, etc.)
  • Bankruptcy

The above is not an all inclusive list. It is a helpful overview of what information you may want to gather when preparing for your mediation session. You may also want to gather documents to bring with you to the mediation session to help you make decisions on the various topics stated above.

For more information on divorce mediation or to schedule a mediation, contact Sheree@Donathlaw.com or at 516-522-2743.




Can a Mediator Help Me with a “No Fault” Divorce?

Many couples in New York choose to get divorced without going to trial. The easiest way for them to do so, is by a “no fault” divorce. A “no fault” divorce means that the couple state that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for at least six months.” The couple is not required to prove a breakdown of the marriage.

Couples filing for a “no fault” divorce will enter into a written agreement that sets forth a settlement of all economic issues, distribution of property, maintenance, custody and support issues, if any.

Previously, a couple had to prove grounds for divorce, such as abandonment, adultery, cruel and inhuman treatment, among others. A “no fault” divorce is quicker and easier than moving forward with divorce on one of the above grounds.

In the mediation arena, a “no fault” divorce is also preferable because it keeps the couple on target of their real goal — the divorce — rather than focusing on the underlying cause that led the couple to seek a divorce. Focusing on the underlying reason for the divorce tends to lead to animosity and possibly retribution nd can derail an amicable settlement.

The mediator can assist the couple with entering into a written agreement. The mediator can facilitate the resolution of the items necessary to accomplish the main goal of divorce. The mediator can assist the couple in raising points the couple may have not ever considered and working with the parties to come to terms on these issues. The mediator can assist with subscribing the terms into a written agreement.

Once an agreement has been reached, the couple can file for an uncontested divorce on this basis.

Contact Sheree Donath to find out if mediation is the best option for you and how the process works.




Can a Mediator Help Me with an Uncontested Divorce? The Answer is Yes.

An Uncontested Divorce
is one in which the parties decide to reach the terms of their divorce without
going to trial. Generally, this means that the parties work to resolve all
issues relating to, among others, child custody, child support, maintenance,
and equitable distribution of property. The parties come to terms that are then
included in a written document to submit to the Court.

So how can a Mediator
help in this process
? A
mediator helps to facilitate the process. The Mediator, acting as a neutral
third party, raises in the
mediation
session
the issues that must
be addressed and works with the parties to come to agreement on these issues.
The terms of the agreements reached are then subscribed to writing.

The Mediator will
discuss with the parties items including without limitation (a)
a
parenting plan
, (b) how much child support will be paid, (c) how add-on
expenses/ extra-curricular activities
for the children will be shared, (d) will
their be any maintenance paid, (e) will the house be sold, (f) what happens
with the parties’ pensions, (f) is there life insurance or should this be
purchased and who will be the beneficiary, (g) how will the parties file their
tax returns, (h) who is responsible for health insurance, (i) how will the
parties’ debts be allocated, (j) can the parties relocate, (k) how will stocks
and bank accounts be split, etc.

The Mediator does not
represent either of the parties. And the parties are encouraged to have their
own attorneys to assist them and guide them with understanding the law and
reviewing any agreement reached. The parties, generally, do not have their
separate attorneys’ attend the mediation sessions. While mediation generally
results in the parties filing for an uncontested divorce, the issues to be
resolved may be very much contested during the mediation sessions.

Once the terms are
agreed upon, if both parties agree, the mediator can prepare the necessary
documents to file for an uncontested divorce.

An uncontested divorce
upon agreement is a much quicker and cost effective means to obtaining a
divorce. The mediation process also offers the parties a more creative approach
to divorce.

Contact Sheree
Donath
to find out if mediation
is the best option for you
and how the process works.




Happy New Year from Donath Law, LLC

Donath Law, LLC Wishes You and Your Family a Very Happy, Healthy
and Prosperous New Year.

A new year offers a chance for new beginnings. Whether you are looking this year to get a new job or leave a job you are not happy with, get a raise or promotion, create a better work or life situation, change the way you are treated at work or just understand your options, Donath Law, LLC can assist you.

Contact Sheree Donath to find the best route to achieve your goals for 2019.




Does Your Custody Arrangement / Parenting Plan Include Trick or Treating with Your Child on Halloween?

In mediating your divorce, one of the holidays that should be considered and specifically addressed in your parenting plan is Halloween. Halloween can be very important in a child’s life. It is a time for dressing up, candy, parties, and spending time with family and friends. While it may be all fun for the child, it can be a nightmare for the parents if it is not dealt with in advance.

Halloween is a holiday that falls on the same date each year but falls on a different day of the week each year. So what does this mean? It means that for divorcing parents, it should be raised and discussed and included in any parenting plan that is established. Why? Because if it is not specifically addressed, then one parent may be excluded from sharing this day with their child. A parenting plan may state that one parent has the child on Monday and Thursday and every other weekend. But what happens if Halloween falls on Tuesday? Can that parent still trick or treat with the child? This will depend on the nature of the arrangement between the parents; whether they can come to agreement, whether they are willing to share the day; etc. If dealt with in advance and written into your parenting plan, this will be a non-issue.

Some of the things that should be considered when negotiating a Halloween schedule, include, among others: 

·     will both parents be able to see the child on Halloween;

·     will the parents trick or treat together or split the day;

·     will you need to alter the drop off / pick up time;

·     will you need to alter the drop off / pick up location;

·     will one parent have the child on Halloween one year and the other parent the following year.

The more detailed the schedule is, the less likely that this day of fun will turn into a scary day of stress for the parents and/or the child.

Mediation is a place where the parties can create a schedule that works for their specific family and situation.

For more information on divorce mediation, what the mediation process entails, how to move forward with mediation or if mediation is the right process for you and your spouse, contact Sheree Donath by Sheree@DonathLaw.com.




Divorce Mediation Checklist – What Documentation Should I Gather Before My Mediation?

In preparing for divorce mediation and the first meeting with the mediator, it would be helpful for the parties to gather some basic information so that they can speak to many of the open issues that need to be resolved during the process. This article does not discuss child custody or parenting plans and therefore does not address the documents specific to the children. Rather, this speaks more to the parties being able to equitably distribute their property.

So what documents and information should the parties gather or prepare prior to meeting with the mediator? The below list are some, not all, of the items that will need to be reviewed during the mediation process.

As a reminder, the parties are entitled to complete transparency regarding their individual and joint assets and should be prepared to disclose all aspects of their finances to the other person.

In moving forward, the parties should be prepared to discuss the following items:

·       their salaries; compensation and any other monies that are paid to them regularly from any source (i.e. unemployment, disability, pension, social security, etc.);

·       any deferred income;

·       any retirement, 401K, 403B, pensions

·       bank accounts, stock accounts, investment accounts (type of account, value of accounts, jointly or individually held);

·       life insurance (term or whole, value and beneficiaries);

·       properties owned – including marital home; vacation homes; timeshares; etc. (plus equity in the home, amount owed on any mortgages, home equity loans)

·       vehicles owned (cars, motorcycles, boats, etc.)

·       debts owed (credit card, mortgage, student loans, etc.)

·       pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements

·       tax returns from prior years

·       personal property information (jewelry, art, antiques)

Once the parties have gathered this information they should be prepared to discuss how they want to distribute the property and be prepared to disclose it to the other person.

For more information on what the mediation process entails, how to move forward with mediation or if mediation is the right process for you and your spouse, contact Sheree Donath at Sheree@DonathLaw.com.