Information for the Mediation Process
If you are thinking about separating or getting a divorce, there are several things to consider. If you have children, you will need to create a parenting plan. A parenting plan is the road map on how you and your soon to be ex co-parent your children once you separate or divorced. It can contain very specific information, i.e., the kid’s week-week schedule, etc. Most likely the plan won’t cover every future parenting decision that you may need to make. The parenting plan can address your joint agreed to intentions on a particular issue; i.e., words like ‘neither parent will unilaterally…”. Your parenting plan is a living document; depending on the ages of your children what works today may not work in the future. Adjustments to the plan can be made, even after an Agreement is in place.
As parents, one of the first decisions that you will have to make is regarding custody of your children. This term is usually misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misused. Custody refers to decision making – joint custody is joint decision making; each parent has equal authority with respect to major decisions affecting their children. The decision-making process will be shared on all matters having a significant impact on their children’s lives. Day-day decisions when the children are with each parent will be made independently. Sole custody, the parent having sole custody has the authority to make decisions for the children, only. The non-custodial parent can give their opinion, receive medical or educational information but will not have the right to make decisions.
Residency refers to where are the children going to live? Will they live approximately 50% of the time with each parent or primary residency with one parent? Other items for discussion that you may want addressed in your parenting plan: the introduction of a new significant other, vacation time with or without the children, traveling out of the country, or how you will handle disciplining them and consequences, etc.
Definitive decisions will need to be made regarding other expenses for your children that are not part of child support and are considered add on expenses per the Child Support Standards Act; i.e., health insurance and unreimbursed medical expenses, childcare while you are working, educational expenses and extracurricular activities. Your mediator will guide you as you create a parenting plan that is personal and reflects important decisions regarding the rearing of your children.
Universal for all married spouses seeking a separation or divorce is the disclosure and possible division of property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, assets, and debts acquired during your marriage.
Lastly, the issue of support must be addressed, i.e., child support and spousal maintenance – a.k.a. alimony or spousal support. Your mediator will expand on these two areas in greater detail. No need to panic, child support and or spousal maintenance is not a foregone conclusion; there are factors within the law and the guidelines that allow you to deviate from presumed calculations.
Mediation is about working through all the issues that affect you and your family today, next week and in the years to come. It is about full disclosure and being transparent with one another regarding your finances – regardless of how difficult it may be. When a couple is separating or divorcing in the State of New York, New York State Law requires a full accounting of all the marital assets and liabilities attained during the marriage regardless of how the asset or liability is titled. In other words, even if the asset or debt is in one person’s name only, if it was acquired during the marriage, it is considered a marital asset or liability.
Mediation allows you the opportunity to discuss your private, financial matters in a confidential, non-threatening, non-judgmental environment. Information is knowledge; it is powerful and can help foster stability and protection in a very uncertain time.
You can come to each session prepared; you control the time and money spent as you and your partner strive to reach an agreement that best meets the needs of the entire family.
Collaborative Law Association of The Rochester Area
Mosten-Guthrie Academy of Co-Parenting Specialists Consult Group
Better Apart, by Gabrielle Hartley
Parenting Apart, by Christina McGhee
Putting Children First by Joanne Pedro- Carroll, Ph.D
Co-Parenting Handbook, Raising Well Adjusted & Resilient Kids, by Karen Bonnell
Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, by Mia Kirshenbaum
Two Homes, by Claire Masure
Gray Divorce, by Carol Hughes
The Parent’s Guide to Bird’s Nesting, by Ann Gold
How to Talk to Your Kids About Your Divorce, by Samantha Rodman
When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving, and Other Losses by John W. James
Don’t Alienate the Kids by Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD
Renegotiating Family Relationships by Robert E. Emery
Non-violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD
Crazy Time by Abigail Trafford