Tag: Divorce mediation

Family Law Mediation During the Coronavirus

With most of the country in quarantine, many people are discovering that family law courts are open, but mostly for zoom hearings. Now, family law mediation has gone virtual too. Mediations join such other legal proceedings as depositions, motions, hearings, arbitrations as part of the zoom world.

meeting

Mediation During the Quarantine

Mediation is generally a requirement in divorce and family law cases if you want to ever proceed forward with trial. It is customary for parties, their lawyers and experts to meet in-person at the mediator’s office, or one of the law firms involved.

Meeting together is an advantage in that it gets parties and their counsel together with one objective in mind — settle the case. There is an unspoken “dance” that occurs in that parties engage in substantive discussions for a period of time.

Many times, a mediation does not settle until after dinner is ordered. When the mediator is in the other room spending time with one side, the other side is left to talk about the case (or often whatever else is on their minds). There is a lot of downtime.

With social distancing amid the coronavirus, family law cases and divorces have to do their mediations virtually. They have become successful, and perhaps it will have some lasting impacts afterwards.

Florida Family Law Mediations

I’ve written about mediation before. Under Florida law, the parties to a divorce and most other family law cases must attempt to resolve their difference through mediation before their case can proceed to trial. In many cases, mediation can be used earlier in the process to resolve all outstanding disputes before either party has filed for divorce.

In divorce mediation, the parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral mediator – sometimes together, sometimes separately – to try to negotiate a settlement agreement.

Ideally, both the mediator and the attorneys should have enough experience to anticipate what will happen if the case goes to trial. Drawing on that experience, they can help the parties negotiate an agreement without any need to have a judge decide the issues for them.

At mediation, you will discuss issues that are highly personal and emotional, in a confidential setting. Accordingly, there are many factors to think about when choosing the right family mediator.

Tips for A Virtual Mediation

Before starting the mediation is the best opportunity to perform a test run of the zoom app, webex, gotomeeting, google meet, or other apps you have, to test for connectivity issues for your virtual mediation. The mediator should identify the protocol and policies regarding virtual mediation.

Given the complexities of family law cases, it is common to have separate confidential caucus meetings between the mediator and the parties. In some cases, we have meetings with the mediator and the two lawyers and experts in advance of the mediation.

One of the good things about virtual mediations is the lack of having to travel to mediation, park your car, and find restaurants. Because of that, there can be a substantial cost savings associated with virtual mediations.

It is easy to present exhibits and documents in a mediation on zoom. Each attendee has the ability to share their screen to show documents and walk through any presentation.

Usually, the mediator puts each party into a virtual break-out room where the parties wait for the mediator to come to them to talk about their case. There is usually a lot of downtime for the other side at that point.

If you settle your case, the mediator will want everyone to sign an agreement or some type of term sheet of the conditions of settlement. In very complex cases, the mediator may have asked your counsel to make drafts.

How do you sign electronically? In virtual mediations, electronic signatures may be applied to the document through docusign, adobe e-sign or a similar product.

Despite the coronavirus, courts and law offices are open virtually, and cases are being settled at mediation every day.

The National Law Review article is here.

 

Prenups Can Speed A Divorce

Exhibiting “warp speed”, actor William Shatner’s divorce from his fourth wife, Elizabeth Martin, has been finalized. The “Star Trek” actor filed for divorce last month, and apparently finalized it a month later. His prenuptial agreement likely helped speed his divorce to an early settlement.

Prenups Speed Divorce

Warp Speed

According to many reports, Shatner’s net worth is over $100 Million dollars from over two decades in acting. Distributing the actor’s fortune could have been a tremendous source of litigaton had there not been a prenuptial agreement.

However, court documents show the former couple had a prenuptial agreement in place, which allows the 88-year-old to keep his “Star Trek” royalties, the news outlet said. The actor was married to Martin for 18 years.

When reached by Fox News last month, Martin shared her brother had died around the time Shatner filed for the divorce and that she was with her family “during this time of grief.” “Respect distance from divorce topic while we grieve my brother respectfully,” she added. Representatives for Shatner did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Florida Prenuptial Agreements

I’ve written about prenuptial agreements before. Prenuptial agreements are about more than just exploring the strange new world of marriage. A prenuptial agreement (or “prenup” for short) is a contract between people intending to marry. A prenup determines spousal rights when the marriage ends by death or divorce. This can be especially important for those who boldly go into fourth marriages.

If you divorce without a prenup, your property rights are determined under state law, and a spouse may have a claim to alimony while the suit for divorce is pending and after entry of a judgment. Many couples divorcing would prefer not to to explore the strange new worlds of family court.

That’s where prenups come in. Prospective spouses may limit or expand state laws by an agreement. Prenups are also used to protect the interests of children from a prior marriage, and to avoid a contested divorce.

As shown in Shatner’s case, prenups can also be the fastest way to resolve a future divorce . . . if they’re done right.

There are a galaxy of problems with prenuptial agreements too. If a prenuptial agreement includes any provisions that violate the law or public policy, it may automatically be deemed invalid.

Additionally, a prenuptial agreement cannot waive child support, and can’t set an amount for child support. Courts have plenary power over support issues, so child support amounts are determined by courts based on our child support guidelines.

Also, a premarital agreement may not be enforceable in a family court case, for instance, if it was not signed voluntarily; or if it was the product of fraud, duress, coercion, or overreaching.

Flying Through the Divorce Nebula

In the Shatner divorce, he listed the couple’s separation date as February 1, 2019. He was previously married to Nerine Kidd, Marcy Lafferty and Gloria Rand. He shares two daughters, Lisabeth Shatner, 58, and Leslie Carol, 61, with Rand.

The actor shot to fame in the 1960s for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in the original series run of “Star Trek” and went on to have a lucrative film and TV career afterwards.

Shatner’s third marriage, to Kidd, ended in tragedy in 1999 when she died of accidental drowning in their swimming pool. Although the actor had filed for divorce after two years of marriage shortly before the incident, he explained in his 2018 book “Live Long and…What I Learned Along the Way” that he was nonetheless grief-stricken by the loss.

The Rise of Starfleet

Last week, President Trump unveiled the new logo for the United States Space Force, America’s newest branch of the military. Many are saying the logo looks suspiciously like the logo for the fictional Starfleet Command in the Star Trek entertainment universe.

Fellow Star Trek actor, George Takei, who played the character “Sulu” on the original series with Shatner, mocked the new logo for Space Force. After it was unveiled, Takei quickly tweeted:

‘Ahem. We are expecting some royalties from this..’

In his Washington Post opinion piece, Takei drew parallels between the Trump administration and a Star Trek episode called ‘Mirror, Mirror,’ where the USS Enterprise bridge crew find themselves in a parallel universe where ‘cruelty’ has replaced ‘diplomacy.’

The Fox News article is here.

 

Divorce, Paternity & Mediation

A judge has agreed to halt a contested divorce between former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and his estranged wife, ordering them to try at least four hours of mediation.

As the New York Daily News reports, Thursday’s ruling came after lawyers for both Hunter Biden and Kathleen Buhle Biden filed court papers saying they want to end their marriage without continued litigation.

The Bidens recognize the benefit in finalizing their divorce “amicably and privately.”

Last week’s request to put the case on hold came after Kathleen Biden accused Hunter Biden in court documents of squandering their money on drugs, alcohol and prostitutes. Kathleen Biden filed for divorce in December.

I’ve written about mediation and settlement in the past. In Florida, every case of divorce and paternity must attempt to resolve their difference through mediation before their case can proceed to trial, but you don’t have to wait for a court order.

Pre-Suit Mediation

For many clients, especially for high profile clients such as the Bidens, discretion and privacy is very important. Athletes and celebrities, in addition to politicians, have big stake in keeping their divorces out of the news as the New York Daily News article proves.

Why? Often, people are concerned that their financial disclosure, net worth, and details regarding their income will become available to the public through the court files. For businesses, this could even include having sensitive business information available to business competitors.

Also, many people are often concerned about their private affairs being played out in the news or newspapers or elsewhere in public, which could potentially jeopardize careers and social status.

There is also a big cost saving to mediating before filing a family law or divorce action. If both parties can agree to deadlines to exchange their financial documents, and cooperate with children’s issues, thousands of dollars can be saved in a pre-suit settlement.

What is Mediation

In a mediation, the parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral mediator – sometimes together, sometimes separately – to try to negotiate a settlement agreement.

Ideally, both the mediator and the attorneys should have enough experience to anticipate what will happen if the case goes to trial. Drawing on that experience, they can help the parties negotiate an agreement without any need to have a judge decide the issues for them.

At mediation, you will discuss issues that are highly personal and emotional. Accordingly, there are many factors to think about when choosing the right family mediator. Below are a few to think about:

Choosing a Mediator

Trust is the most important consideration in choosing a family law mediator. Your mediator should be someone you feel comfortable with as a person and as a professional.

Specialization is another important criterion. Ask your attorney if the mediator in your case has a practice area dedicated to divorce and family mediation. Family is not an area to dabble in. To be effective in family mediations requires patience as well as skills. Ideally, you want the percentage to be 100%.

Cost is always an important consideration. While it can be expensive to spend the day in mediation, if you’re successful, you are likely to save thousands on your total legal fees.

When comparing mediation fees, base your decision on selecting a mediator with a high success rate for settlements. $200 per hour sounds better than $400 per hour, but not if your $200 mediator spends 8 hours without a resolution, you have not saved anything.

Final Thoughts

Mediation is a great way to resolve your divorce without paying for a full trial. Choosing a mediator is the first step, and may be the most important decision you can reach in your divorce.

The New York Daily News article is here.