Divorce Mediation


Love-By-Contract by Sandy Balick

{4:00 minutes to read} Most of my posts are occupied with divorce-related mediation topics. Divorce mediations are ultimately focused on giving birth to a contract: the settlement or separation agreement. But, on the other end of the spectrum, contracts may be powerful guides to relationship building and preservation, regardless of marital status.

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Addressing the Best Interests of the Child in the Mediation Process

Addressing the Best Interests of the Child in the Mediation Process By Sanford E. Balick, Esq.{5:30 minutes to read} As discussed in my last two blogs, when devising solutions to parenting issues like custody and visitation, courts are guided by a variety of considerations, all under the heading of “best interests of the child.”

The courts approach the best-interests analysis seriously and struggle to do the right thing in a given situation. Yet, in reality, the child is a stranger to the court. A child’s personality must be conveyed through parental testimony and/or through the child’s own attorney. Divorcing spouses may have a limited ability to shape the ultimate parenting plan if the dispute resolution is left to the court’s efforts.

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Best Interests of the Children, Part 2

Best Interests of the Children, Part 2 By Sandy Balick{4:00 minutes to read} This is the 2nd of 3 posts on the “best interests of the child” standard by which courts address child visitation and other parenting issues.

In Part 2, we’ll touch briefly on what’s involved when the courts, in their traditional role as part of the custody determination process, are called upon as arbiters of the children’s “best interests.” These interests comprise a list of considerations evolved by the family and matrimonial courts over the years as reflected in their reported decisions. Continue reading


How Does Family Mediation Work?

How Does Family Mediation Work? by Sandy Balick{4:30 minutes to read} Family mediation is a process used to facilitate the resolution of problems and challenges faced by families. Frequently, but certainly not exclusively, these issues involve care decisions for a parent or other loved one and the financial concerns associated with such decisions. These financial issues may be limited to how to pay for assisted or other living arrangements.

Additional financial concerns may surround what is to be done with a family business or assets for which no firm succession plan is in place. Often, health concerns are tied to the business issues in some way or another. The main point is that there are shared concerns but no consensus on how to proceed.

These seemingly complicated issues and the passionate feelings raised by them are ideal subjects for the mediation process. Mediation enables family stakeholders to share issues and concerns and to consider them in a manner that leads to solutions. It’s not magic, and it requires hard work, but at the same time, the parties enjoy a level of control over the process that is superior to that afforded by the courtroom, at a fraction of the cost and time involved in litigation. Continue reading


Family Mediation for Elder Issues

Family Mediation for Elder Issues by Sandy Balick{2:54 minutes to read} In the minds of many, family mediation is usually associated with the contentious subjects of separation and divorce. But increasingly, family mediation is showing its value as a way to resolve a wide range of challenging family-related issues, particularly those involving aging individuals.

It differs from divorce mediation only in the objective. While divorce revolves around the dissolution of a marriage, the mediation of elder issues is all about the creation of improved family situations and better interpersonal relationships within the family.

This is not family therapy, but a means of tackling such difficult issues as aging adults, family business or investment succession, and other matters that commonly arise in the familial context.

Three areas of issues lend themselves well to family mediation. Continue reading


Major Changes to New York’s Maintenance Law in the Mediation Context – Part 3

{Major Changes to New York’s Maintenance Law in the Mediation Context - Part 3 By Sandy Balick3:36 minutes to read} This is the third installment on the recently passed amendments to New York’s maintenance (alimony) law, addressing some of its implications for couples in mediation.

The prior installment introduced the new formulas for calculating post-divorce maintenance. One applied where child support will be paid and the other for situations where this is not relevant. These formulas will be helpful in providing some objective notion of the role maintenance may play in negotiations over the disposition of assets and liabilities, etc.

Two cautionary notes are important:

  1. Although the maintenance obligation is designed for easy online calculation, it’s still wise to review this law and its implications for your specific situation with your personal lawyer. Continue reading


Considering Major Maintenance Law Changes in the Mediation Context – Part 2

Considering Major Maintenance Law Changes in the Mediation Context - Part 2 By Sanford E. Balick{4:36 minutes to read} As anticipated in my last blog, on September 25, 2015, Governor Cuomo signed the spousal maintenance (née alimony) amendments. Changes to Temporary Maintenance calculations will be effective on October 25, 2015, while the balance of the bill’s provisions will become effective on January 23, 2016.

The legislative goal of promoting fairness through greater consistency in the amounts and duration of maintenance awards prompted these changes. The substantially amended law will continue to classify and calculate maintenance in two categories:

  • Temporary Maintenance (for the period between the filing of an action and final judgment); and

  • Post-Divorce (from the judgment date forward). Continue reading


Changes Ahead for New York’s Maintenance Law

Changes Ahead for New York's Maintenance Law By Sandy Balick{3:06 minutes to read} Maintenance, formerly referred to as alimony, can be an emotional and confusing topic for the uninitiated. The expected signing of a new law amending New York’s maintenance statute offers the prospect of improved clarity and predictability in the law.

It’s anticipated that these changes may become effective in the fall with full application in the course of 2016. Those contemplating separation or divorce will want to be aware of the most significant aspect of these changes.

A legal consult with a matrimonial attorney is the best way for you to learn whether and to what extent maintenance may play a role in a particular divorce. Attorneys are guided by some combination of the statutes and by the significant body of New York case law addressing maintenance claims. This body of law has been criticized as resulting in inconsistent and sometimes unfair maintenance awards. The law’s changes are intended to diminish these concerns. Continue reading


What, Actually, Does the Mediator Do?

 What, Actually, Does the Mediator Do By Sanford E. Balick, Esq.{3:24 minutes to read} If you ever had an opportunity to be involved in the mediation of a business dispute, you were witness to a process where the mediator prods, cajoles, pushes and sometimes extracts an agreement from the combatants, frequently in the course of a single day.

Marital mediation, and the mediator’s role in it, is a vastly different process.

Here, the mediator plays a more restrained role in a weekly process that unfolds in 1 to 2 hour sessions until an overall agreement is achieved. The mediator is not a decider of the issues (that would be the role of an arbitrator) and the mediator doesn’t try to wrestle the parties into submission.  Continue reading


An Educated Mediation Participant Is an Effective Mediation Client

An Educated Mediation Participant Is an Effective Mediation Client By Sanford E. Balick, Esq.{3:06 minutes to read} New Yorkers are familiar with the famous Sy Sims clothing chain’s motto:  “An educated consumer is our best customer.” The wisdom of this phrase outlives the chain, which like so many others, succumbed to economic forces a few years ago.

The phrase comes to my mind frequently, in pre-mediation consults where I describe the mediation process and answer potential clients’ questions in regard to it. I take that opportunity to encourage both spouses to obtain the benefit of an independent legal consult.  Continue reading