Divorce Does Not Have to Leave You in Major Debt

Divorce Does Not Have to Leave You in Major Debt

I read an article recently in Yahoo!money about the increasing interest in divorce loans as the country continues to deal with the unprecedented global pandemic. We all know that 2020 was a very stressful year, and all the craziness that happened last year has certainly taken its toll on many married couples. 

A lot of couples who would like to get a divorce have a hard time paying for it, and a growing number of them are taking out loans to finance the cost. The price of a conventional divorce can easily exceed five figures, and most Americans these days do not have that kind of money lying around. 

Even if you have decided that dissolving the marriage is the right course of action, creating new debt to finance it is not the answer. Divorcing is hard enough on a couple’s finances as it is. 

When spouses split up, they create two households where there used to be one. This means two housing payments, two utility payments, two internet/cable TV payments, etc. all with the same overall income. Under these circumstances, the last thing you want to do is run up a large debt that you will have hanging over your head on top of all the other added expenses. 

How to Get Divorced Without Running Up a Large Debt

The Yahoo! article suggests that instead of getting a divorce loan, spouses who are in an untenable marriage try “communication, reconciliation, kindness, and counseling”, and if all else fails, separate rather than going into debt to get a divorce. They also advise that you “take a look at the options out there and compare the different solutions to find the best and most affordable option for you”.

One affordable solution that is becoming increasingly preferred among divorcing spouses is mediation. Divorce mediation is an approach that does not have to involve attorneys, and it allows couples to work out a final settlement at a fraction of the cost of a conventional divorce. Through mediation, couples can complete their divorce in just a handful of sessions, and these sessions can be conducted in person or remotely, whatever is most convenient for participants. 

How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

Mediation process is facilitated by a neutral, third-party mediator who meets with the participants to work out the terms and conditions of the divorce. Spouses are free to get an attorney, or they may choose not to have any attorney at all. If you are trying to do a divorce on a budget, you would probably want to choose the latter.

For mediation to work, you must enter the process with a willingness to be civil, communicate, and compromise. No settlement can become legally binding unless both participants agree to it, so you have to be ready to work cooperatively with your spouse, recognizing that by taking this approach, you will see the benefits of completing your divorce without going deep into debt and putting your financial future at risk. 

All of that said, you do not have to agree with your spouse on every issue before you start mediation. It is totally fine if you have some disagreements, that is what the mediator is there for. As mediators, we are trained to help couples resolve disputed issues by looking for middle ground and keeping the communication lines open between the spouses. 

The end result of divorce mediation (when successful) is not only a lower cost divorce, but also a final agreement that fully addresses the couple’s unique circumstances rather than a cookie-cutter solution that you would typically get from a court. And because the agreement is created with input from both spouses, they are more likely to take ownership of it and abide by its terms and conditions.

As an aside, if you are thinking about separating (as the Yahoo article talks about) as a trial or to avoid the cost of a divorce, it is still a good idea to go to mediation; especially if you have kids, significant assets, and other complicated issues to resolve. These issues should still be worked out and the terms and conditions of them put into writing, rather than verbal agreements for which there is no legal recourse of one of the parties breaks them.

AMS is Your Low-Cost Divorce Solution 

If you are considering a divorce but you do not want to take out a loan to do it, Advanced Mediation Solutions (AMS) is here to help. Numerous couples have used our services to craft a peaceable and workable divorce settlement without breaking the bank. To learn more about divorce mediation and/or to set up a free consultation, message us online or call our office today at (856) 669-7172. We look forward to serving you!

Using Mediation to Develop a Prenup that Satisfies Both Parties

Using Mediation to Develop a Prenup that Satisfies Both Parties

My last mediation of 2020 was for a prenuptial agreement, and to me it was kind of a sign of hope for the year to come. The couple had given a lot of thought and had many discussions about their prenup prior to contacting me, and we actually finished the entire mediation in less than a month. Although this was a bit unusual, it highlights how mediation was the perfect solution for the couple.

The major key to success with mediation for this couple was that they approached it as “their prenup”. They came to me because they knew they needed help with the delicate intricacies of this type of agreement that they had no knowledge of. They also knew that had they each gone to different attorneys, it would have taken a lot of time and money to get an agreement like this accomplished. And in the end, that agreement may not have reflected their true desires.

During mediation, I spoke with them and discovered what was most important to each spouse. From there, I was able to quickly guide them through the process and finish with a prenuptial agreement that they were both very happy with. Next, I referred them to “mediation friendly” attorneys (since each individual needs to be represented in order to have a legal binding document drafted), and an agreement was finalized based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that I had drafted for them.

Why Mediation Works Well for Prenuptial Agreements

The prenup that I mediated at the end of the year had a very happy ending because the couple had the right mindset going in and the process turned out to be a perfect fit for them. But even when the pieces do not fit perfectly into place, mediation can still be a great way to work out the terms and conditions of a prenuptial agreement.

Think about it. Prenups are already a taboo subject that many soon-to-be spouses are afraid to bring up. But at the same time, this type of agreement can be very helpful for a lot of couples, and many couples need a prenup to provide some future certainty and predictability around the financial issues that are important to them.

Because of the delicate nature of prenuptial agreements, drafting a generic agreement (usually done by the attorney of the more moneyed spouse) can create hard feelings just at the time when a couple is about to start their new life together. Generic prenups often end up being one-sided in favor of the spouse who is more motivated to create it, and it can put the two parties in an adversarial position. This is not the frame of mind you want to be in with your wedding day approaching.

Mediation is an entirely different approach that levels the playing field and allows the spouses to create a prenup in a friendly and cooperative environment. During mediation sessions, the spouses meet face-to-face (or virtually if that is more convenient) with a neutral, third-party mediator to work out the agreement. 

The mediator looks to discover not only what is most important to each participant, but why these things are important to them. Once each participant has explained the motivation for their position, the parties are better able to understand and empathize with each other. This kind of open communication and mutual understanding allows the couple to come together and think more creatively, clearing the way for solutions that both parties will be very satisfied with.

Contact AMS for Assistance with your Prenuptial Agreement 

If you are getting married soon and you need a friendly and non-adversarial way to work out your prenup, Advanced Mediation Solutions (AMS) is here to help. We have successfully assisted countless couples with prenuptial agreements and other types of family legal matters through the mediation process, and we are ready to get started whenever you are.

For a free consultation, message us online or call our office today at (856) 669-7172. We look forward to serving you!

Using Private Mediation for a Happier Divorce

Using Private Mediation for a Happier Divorce

The term “happy divorce” seems like an oxymoron, and maybe it is. After all, the dissolution of a marriage is really not a happy occasion for most people. But that said, some divorces are happier than others, and they are usually the ones that are settled without a long, drawn out court battle.

I have been a divorce mediator for many years now, but one of the main reasons I decided to go into this field is because of what mediation did for me. I was able to use mediation successfully in my own divorce, which allowed me to part ways with my ex-husband on good terms and move forward with my life. Ever since then, I have been passionate about helping other couples who are in the same situation I was in.

The early part of the New Year is always a very popular time to get divorced. Some couples are ready to separate long before the holidays, but they tough it out so their kids can have one last holiday celebration together. If you are in this situation, I urge you to consider using mediation to settle your divorce.

Private Divorce Mediation vs. Traditional Litigation

When we talk about “private mediation”, we are talking about a process that is different from court-ordered mediation. With private mediation, the couple hires their own neutral, third-party mediator to help them work out the terms and conditions of their divorce. This process offers several advantages over traditional divorce litigation:

  • Lower Cost: Private mediation can often be completed at a fraction of the cost of litigating the divorce.
  • Faster Processing: Your divorce can be settled usually within just a handful of sessions, after which the settlement is presented to the court for approval. This process can be completed much faster than going to court.
  • Cooperative Environment: Private mediation is conducted in a cooperative rather than combative environment. The mediator guides the discussion toward win-win resolutions that both participants can be satisfied with.
  • More Control by Participants: When you go in front of a court, the judge has the final say over any disputed matters. With mediation, no settlement can become legally binding unless both participants agree to it. This gives you more control over the process, allowing you and your spouse to think creatively and come up with solutions that better fit your specific needs and concerns.
  • Child-Friendly: The cooperative environment in which mediation is conducted helps you and your spouse maintain a cordial relationship, which is especially important if you have children.
  • Privacy Protected: Unlike divorce litigation, mediation sessions are kept private and will never become part of the public court record. This allows participants to speak more freely without fear that what they say will be used against them later on.

 

Reasons Couples Reject Private Mediation

It is easy to understand the financial benefits of private divorce mediation, but people often have other misconceptions regarding the process that make them apprehensive about choosing this option. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block is that spouses do not believe they will receive the legal advice they need and/or have their legal rights protected during the mediation process. This could not be further from the truth.

Divorce mediation participants are always free to retain legal representation, and they can consult their attorney throughout the process. In addition, any settlement reached through mediation has to be reviewed by the court before it becomes legally binding. As an aside, judges tend to prefer a mediated settlement where all of the important issues are worked out rather than having the spouses fight it out in court.

Speaking of which, some people look forward to their “day in court” as their time to finally settle the grievances that they have with their spouse. This is another reason they might shy away from mediation. 

The truth is that court battles rarely deliver the emotional satisfaction that spouses are looking for. Instead, each side will argue their cases, which means a case will be made against both spouses. This usually leads to more conflict, and the result is often resentment and hard feelings that can last for several years.

Mediation for the Sake of the Children

Court battles rarely solve anything substantial, but even worse, they often leave more relational damage in their wake. Litigation that results in ongoing conflict after the divorce is over can be especially hard on children who are often caught in the middle. This type of situation can cause more depression, anxiety, and anger among children as they tend to emulate the behavior of the parents.

Divorce is difficult for children under any circumstance, but in reality, it’s not so much the separation or divorce that hurts them as much as it is the resulting conflict. Children have a much easier time adjusting to a divorce if their parents are civil to each other and maintain a cordial relationship. Above all else, this may be the best reason for divorcing couples to consider private mediation.

Turn to AMS for Private Divorce Mediation 

If you are facing a divorce in the New Year, private mediation might be a good option for you. To find out more about the process, contact Advanced Mediation Solutions (AMS) for a free, no obligation consultation. We are available for in-person and remote mediation sessions, and we can tailor the sessions around your busy schedule. 

To get started, message us online or call our office today at (856) 669-7172. We look forward to serving you!

Can We Afford to Separate?

Can We Afford to Separate?

In my experience as a divorce mediator, I have come to the conclusion that many couples who go through a physical separation prior to divorce do not give enough thought to whether it is financially feasible, and they do not go through the financial picture and numbers.

I believe separating in this way is an emotional reaction to trying to relieve some of the stress in the short term, but what is not being considered is that it may have long term financial repercussions for not only the couple, but for their children as well.

Splitting one household into two on the same combined overall income is always going to be a costly proposition. You will now have two housing payments, utilities, cable, internet, and other expenses for both residences, etc. And unless there is an increase in income, you are going to have to find ways to tighten your belt in order to make ends meet.

There is nothing worse than when I sit down with clients and work through their living budgets to find that there is not enough income to support the separated living arrangements. This creates an extra added stress that could have been avoided if some financial planning had been done.

Preparing Financially for Your Separation

As you begin preparing for your separation, take a look at your income, expenses, assets, and debts to help determine what you will need to live on. This will give you a good general idea of what your budget might look like when you are living separately, so you can keep these things in mind as you go into mediation.

A standard part of the mediation process here at AMS is to build out budgets during session, so you can make financial plans for your future. We will go through your income and expenses with you and look at ways that you can make your post-separation budget work. 

For example, there might be some items that could be pared back or cut out, such as eliminating cable TV or reducing the amount of money you spend on eating out. You could also look for more affordable alternatives for essential items such as car insurance, your cell phone plan, or your gym membership.

When it comes to household debts, there are a number of ways to attack this. For example, you might be able to refinance the mortgage on the marital home to a lower interest rate, which would produce a lower monthly payment. You will probably want to do this anyway to transfer the title if one of the spouses is keeping the home.

It is strongly advisable to try to pay off as much of your credit card debt as possible before separating. And for whatever you cannot get rid of, look into contacting your credit card providers and try to negotiate a lower rate 0 percent interest for a limited time.

In some cases, making your budget work might require some creativity, and this is where mediation can be especially helpful. We may be able to provide you with some options that you might not be aware of that have worked for other couples, or for some spouses, the mediation sessions might get their own creative juices flowing and allow them to come up with some innovative solutions of their own.

I encourage all separating couples to go through the process of reviewing your finances with us during mediation sessions before committing to any monthly expenses (such as housing). It is very helpful to do some initial prep work ahead of time, but it is best for couples to wait to mediate before they commit themselves to anything.

You may want to reach out to accountants and other experts to help you with some of your financial issues, but unless they specialize in divorce, they may not be aware of all of the options that are available to you. We also work with experts during the mediation process when it is needed and appropriate.

Contact AMS for Experienced Divorce Mediation Services

If you are considering divorce or you are ready to file, mediation is one of the best ways for couples to work out budgeting and financial issues and other terms and conditions of their separation. At Advanced Mediation Solutions (AMS), we have been doing mediation exclusively for several years, and we have helped numerous couples develop peaceable and workable divorce agreements. We provide in person sessions or virtual mediation, and we are ready to get started whenever you are.

To learn more about how we can help you, message us online or call us today at (856) 669-7172 for a free consultation.

What You May Not Know About Getting Divorced

What You May Not Know About Getting Divorced

Recently I had a couple come to me with a separation agreement that they drafted themselves and signed, making it a binding agreement. I believe it was done in an effort to reduce the amount of time they would spend in mediation. Through my normal process I bring up the topics and comment on how they can proceed to agreement after they have understood all of the particulars and how one decision can affect another. But each time I brought up a topic they had in their agreement, I was told they already agreed to it.

As we got further into the mediation, it was becoming apparent that what they had “agreed to” didn’t consider or address many other detailed factors which are very important. That then caused disagreement between them because they were each stuck in their own way of thinking with what they had agreed to. 

In some cases, what spouses think they have agreed to does not correspond with what the agreement says. Other times, the language in the agreement might be vague, unclear, and open to various interpretations. This lack of clarity can cause both spouses to think that they are getting what they want without looking deeper at related factors to find out for sure.

In many instances, DIY separation agreements do not address some of the most important issues at all. These documents are often cookie-cutter templates that might provide a good general framework, but by necessity, they cannot go into great detail about a couple’s specific circumstances. Signing an agreement like this without fully understanding it can lead to critical errors, leaving a mess that will be much more costly to clean up later.

When Should You get Help with a Separation Agreement?

Those general separation agreement templates might work just fine if you don’t have any complicated issues to resolve with your divorce. For example, maybe you have not been married for very long, you have no children, do not own any real estate, and you have no other assets to speak of. In a case like this, it may be fairly easy to just sign the piece of paper, file everything with the court, and go your separate ways.

But the reality is that most divorces are not that simple and straightforward. If you have been married for even a few years, there is a good chance you have at least one child, and you probably own a home together and possess other assets, such as an IRA or 401(k) plan from work. 

Did you know that the assets within an individual retirement account that accumulated during the marriage are generally considered marital property? Did you know that you might be eligible to receive alimony/spousal support at least temporarily?

What about your parenting plan? Did you remember to account for your child’s extracurricular activities or the fact that you have to work weekends twice a month? Did you work out your holiday visitation schedule in a fair and equitable manner?

This is just a sampling of some of the complications that can come up during a divorce. And when we delve deeper, it can lead us to uncover other issues that might not have been discussed.

Divorce Mediation helps Couples Cover all the Angles

It is great if couples can come to general agreements in advance of divorce mediation, but it can be detrimental when they DIY their divorce agreement without first being educated on some of the critical issues that should be addressed. Trying to save time or money with a DIY agreement that you don’t fully understand is likely going to cost you a lot more later on. 

One of the biggest roles that we play when mediating is educating couples on all aspects of divorce and how one decision can affect another. By taking some time on the front-end to delve into these issues and ensure that everyone is on the same page, it will save couples the inevitable headaches and expenses that they may encounter down the road. 

Divorce mediation done thoroughly and correctly still costs a fraction of what it will normally cost to litigate, so it makes good sense all around for couples to get their divorce agreement right the first time.

AMS is Here When You Need Us 

If you are considering divorce, mediation can be a great alternative to going to court. With the guidance of a neutral, third-party mediator, divorcing spouses can come up with a peaceable and workable agreement usually in just a few sessions. At Advanced Mediation Solutions (AMS), we have helped numerous couples over the years to work out the terms and conditions of their divorce. We are available for in person or remote mediation sessions, and we are keeping extended hours as our country continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

To get started, call our office today at (856) 669-7172 or message us online for a free consultation. We look forward to serving you!