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 or at (516) 804-0274.

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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

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

What Should be Included in a Parenting Plan?

Paper cutout silhouette of a family split apart on a paper heart, divorce concept

During the mediation process the parties must consider and subscribe to writing a “Parenting Plan.” A Parenting Plan sets forth the time that the child/children spend with each parent. It is important to have a clear parenting plan, as this assists the parents in understanding their time with the child, helps resolve future conflicts, and prevents anxiety for the child.

In mediation, we discuss and resolve the following questions and issues, among others, to create a Parenting Plan that works for your family:

(1) Where will the child regularly spend his/her time? Who will have residential custody of the child?

(2) How many days a week will the child see each parent?

(3) Will the child sleep at both households and if so, how often?

(4) How will the parents share special times, like school vacations, birthdays, family events, and holidays? ·

(5) How will vacations be shared?

(6) Where will pick-ups and drop-offs of the child occur? 

(7) What happens if someone is late? 

(8) What happens if someone cancels a visit? 

(9) How will the parents handle conflicts with the parenting schedule? Is there a specific person that will act as a “mediator” or final “decision-maker” if the parents can’t come to agreement? 

(10) When a holiday falls on a scheduled visit, which takes priority?

(11) Will both parents attend all extra-curricular activities?

(12) Will the schedule be the same or different during the summer?

(13) Will both parents be involved in all day-to-day and major decisions?

(14) Can one of the parties relocate without mutual consent of the other?

(15) Can the parents take the child out of school to take them on vacation?

Aside from simply answering these questions, it is important for the parties to take time to consider what will truly work for their particular situation. Each divorce is different and each parenting plan should be tailored to make the transition easy and stress-free, if possible, for the children. The parents should establish a plan that works for their specific lifestyles. What works for one family may not work for another. The parenting plan should also account for flexibility, since many times people’s schedules change.

 Donath Law, LLC can assist you in creating a Parenting Plan that works for your family. For more information, contact Sheree Donath at sheree@donathlaw.

Can I Get a Divorce in New York?

Sign s depicting a choice in your life

Are you considering filing for a divorce? If so, there are guidelines that you must be aware of and many factors that must be considered in doing so.

To file for divorce in New York you must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

(1) You or your spouse have been living in New York state for at least two years before the divorce is commenced;

(2) You or your spouse have been living in New York State for at least one year before the divorce action is commence and (a) you got married in New York State, or (b) you lived in New York State as a married couple, or (c) the grounds for divorce (see below) occurred in New York State;

(3) both you and your spouse are residents of New York State on the date the divorce action is commenced and the grounds for divorce arose in New York State. 

Also to file for divorce, you must allege a “ground” for divorce:

 There are seven (7) grounds for divorce in New York. The most popular ground in divorce mediation is the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for at least six months”. This is generally referred to as a “no fault divorce”. This ground makes it possible for couples to get a divorce without having to provide “proof” of the breakdown of the marriage provided that the parties both affirm that there has been irreconcilable differences between the parties and the marriage has irretrievably broken down for no less than six months. Parties filing for divorce under this ground, will also enter into an agreement setting forth a settlement of all economic issues, distribution of all property, custody and support issues.

Other grounds for divorce in New York are: cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment, imprisonment, adultery, divorce after living under a legal separation agreement for one year, and divorce after judgment of legal separation. Use the following link , to find out more about the specific grounds for divorce.

Determining if you are eligible for divorce in New York is just the first step in the divorce process. Take that first step to the new you by clicking here to schedule a consultation and to learn what other factors must be considered and resolved in order for you to obtain your goal.

Divorce Mediation – What are “Add-on” Expenses and How Are They Allocated?

Allowance alimony getting bonus paid pay raise

Mediation allows the parties to come up with creative alternatives. Some parties will split the add-on expenses equally; some will decide to pay for the expenses in proportion to their income; some may choose to elect one person to pay 100% of all or some of the add-on expenses so that they are not constantly requesting reimbursement for expenses incurred and/or providing proof of payment to the other person. There are many variations for payment that can be considered and agreed upon by the parties during the mediation process.

The following is a list of Add-on Expenses that should be considered in your divorce mediation:

(a) Unreimbursed medical expenses;

(b) Extracurricular activities including, without limitation, any equipment, gear, paraphernalia, etc. for such activity [ex. Sports, music, art];

(c) College, including without limitation, tuition, room and board, and spending money;

(d) Braces;

(e) Glasses/ Contacts;

(f)  Summer Camp [day camp, sleep away camp, travel programs]

(g) Cell Phone and future cell phone bills;

(h) Car and Car Insurance, including cost to obtain license and driver’s education classes;

(i)  Babysitting/ After School Care/ Tutoring/ Private school;

(j)  Birthday Parties/ Communions/ Bar – Bat Mitzvahs/ Sweet Sixteen’s/ Prom/ Weddings

In your mediation, each of the above items, among others, should be discussed in determining how payment for each “Add-on” expense will be allocated and what may work best for the parties. Maybe it is simpler for one person to pay for braces and glasses and the other to pay for childcare. Maybe it works best for the parties to lower the amount of child support one person will pay in exchange for that same person paying 100% of the add-on expenses. One person may want to negotiate keeping 100% of their pension in exchange for paying 100% of the add-on expenses for the children.

During the mediation process, it is helpful to consider all extra expenses that may arise in the future and how they may be apportioned to the parties. Once an agreement is reached in the mediation, it should then be subscribed to writing so that there is clarity for the future.

Mediation offers the parties the benefit of discussing and finding creative solutions that work for their situation, rather than a formulaic approach decided by a Court.

Put Your Child First this Holiday – Create a Proper Parenting Plan that Takes Into Account Your Child’s Best Interests

Keep Holiday Drama to a Minimum This Year

Child-like illustration of two parents tugging a child who is crying into a large pool of tears

For most people, the holidays are a time of happiness and family. But for those who are divorced or separated or contemplating a divorce, the holiday season may present many challenges. It is important to keep the holiday drama to a minimum and put the child’s best interests first this holiday season.For many children of split homes, the holidays may mean (a) splitting their time between their parents; (b) being in the midst of their parent’s arguments regarding scheduling of time with the child; (c) stressing about the interaction between the parents as they meet to drop off/pick up the child; (d) missing time with other family members because it is time to go with the other parent; (e) leaving the fun at one house and possibly missing the fun at the other house; (f) not being involved in traditions; and (g) simply being sad that the child cannot spend the holidays with both parents simultaneously.

Despite the relationship between you and your spouse/former spouse, once you have children, their interests are to come first. The child should not feel anxiety or stress because a holiday is approaching and they should not be aware of the parents anxiety or stress. Parents should consider what would make the child happy, not what will anger the other parent most. Remember, that these are lifelong memories that are being built and your child may not remember all of the details of the holidays, but will remember how he/she felt and whether his/her parent made them feel that way.

While your relationship and divorce may be contentious, try to set that aside and focus on your child. Is it best for the child to alternate years with each parent, spending the time between Christmas and New Year’s with one parent one year and the other parent the following year? Or is it better to split the holidays so that the child spends half the holiday week with one parent and half with the other? Or would it be better for each parent to take certain holidays to share with the child rather than shuffling the child mid-day? Would your child be happier to share the day of the holiday, with one parent having the child in the morning and the other having the child in the evening? Are you able to both be in the same place at the same time with the child on the holiday?

There are many factors to consider in creating a parenting plan. The primary factor being what is best for the child. Schedules must be coordinated and worked out, but creating experiences with the child that the child will remember and look back on happily, is the ultimate goal.

So as the holidays approach, do not let your feelings for your former spouse cloud your judgment. Think of what will make your child(ren) happiest.

Donath Law, LLC can assist you in preparing and modifying your parenting plan to put your child’s interests first. and allow you to be the parent you want to be this holiday and for all future holidays.