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Test Negative & Stay Positive! Checking in on the Influence a Global Pandemic has on Divorce Mediation and the Mediators Themselves

Photo by Maxime on Unsplash Almost two years has passed since we wrote our first blog post about the havoc COVID-19 was causing in parenting plans ( Co-Parenting in a Crisis: COVID-19 and Beyond ).  Little did we know how long this crisis would persist and all the things that it would change.  We continue to contemplate how long we'll wear masks in public and whether we'll ever shake hands regularly again, and yet life goes on.  People get married and divorced, and they still need help figuring out how to navigate family conflict.   As we continue to help people with these major life decisions, we've noticed some of the potentially long-lasting effects of the pandemic.  Below is a list of what we've seen change about our practice, and we're interested to see the comments and if your experience has been similar or different: Video Killed the In-Person Star I spent my childhood (and 20s and 30s) wondering when we would regularly use video screens to communicate like
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Probate and Family Court Standing Order 1-2022: Virtual Proceedings Highly Recommended amid escalating COVID-19 spread

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court has released Standing Order 1-2022 , temporarily overriding Standing Order 1-2021, regarding Court Operations Under the Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Order, effective 01/05/2022, requires that all cases be held remotely if the case can be changed from in-person to virtual without having to reschedule. The form to request an in-person hearing be changed to remote can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/assented-to-motion-for-all-parties-to-appear-remotely-cjd-424/download Note: If all parties and attorneys do not agree to appear remotely, a Motion (CJD 400) form may need to be filed. According to the order, rescheduling of cases is discouraged and should only happen as a last resort. While the change to virtual proceedings is highly recommended, scheduled in-person hearings shall continue where staffing levels are adequate. In alignment with the shift to virtual proceeding

New Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines (2021): Big Changes, Little Changes, Typos & some Unexpected Results

UPDATE: The court has released a web calculating version of the 2021 MA Child Support Guidelines Worksheet .  It resolves some of the typos referred to below, but the unexpected calculations still apply. Every four years, per federal mandate, the Massachusetts Probate & Family Court revisits the Child Support Guidelines through the work of a Task Force appointed by the Chief Justice.  The 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines were recently posted.  They take effect on October 4, 2021.    If you are interested in a training on all of these changes to the new Child Support Guidelines: DMTA Presents the 2021 MA Child Support Guidelines Update  – Attend this event to learn the key updates you need to know for your mediation clients. Presented by Justin Kelsey of  Divorce Mediation Training Associates  and  Skylark Law & Mediation, PC . For a full comparison of all the  tracked changes between the 2018 and 2021 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines you can download a pdf sho

Imagine there's no Court, It isn't Hard to do

In the last year there have been times due to the COVID-19 pandemic when the court was closed or significantly delayed.  Even now, more than a year after the lockdowns started, we are experiencing long delays in obtaining court dates.   @thatmediator Imagine there’s no weapons, how would we find peace? ##mediation ##mediatorsoftiktok ♬ Imagine (Originally Performed by John Lennon) - Piano Karaoke Version - Sing2Piano Fortunately, we have an answer for what to do if there is no court. You're not simply on your own, and in fact there are lots of ways to resolve conflict outside of court. Learn more about your options from these previous posts: Divorce Options - an Update for 2020 Replace your cancelled Court Hearing with a Mediation A Template for Avoiding Court You're Thinking about Conflict All Wrong: Is there a better way to think about conflict;  a model which can free us from our fear of conflict? How does a Divorce end? 😡, ☹️, or 🙂

The Most Important Thing when Dividing Retirement in Divorce (& 4 Traps if You're not Informed)

In many divorce cases retirement accounts are the biggest, or at least one of the biggest, assets.  Because of that, it is imperative to understand the options for transferring and dividing retirement assets in a way that maximizes the benefits and minimizes taxes.  Informed Consent is the Most Important Thing when Dividing Retirement in Divorce You don't want to make significant financial decisions about your future without understanding the financial consequences.  Retirement accounts are complicated, vary greatly in their requirements & plan details, and can result in significant tax liability.  If you don't feel fully informed when agreeing to how a retirement account or multiple accounts are being divided, then you are taking a financial risk that most likely cannot be undone once your divorce is final.  To avoid making uninformed or bad decisions, consult with retirement division and financial experts for information and advice before making these decisions (see below

Should I Tell my Spouse in a Divorce that I'm Working with a Lawyer?

Photo by  Sam Moqadam on Unsplash Divorce is complicated and one of the challenges is the push and pull between transparency and protecting oneself.  Individuals in a divorce often want to hide information that they are worried will concern their soon-to-be ex-spouse or in some way potentially disadvantage them in court or in a settlement process.  The choice of whether to be transparent about any choice, including the choice to hire a lawyer, has to be weighed against the pros and cons of that decision. As a mediator, I favor erring on the side of transparency.  If you hide something relevant during a negotiation where both spouses are supposed to be able to make informed decisions then you risk the negotiation failing and all future negotiations being conducted without any trust.  In other words, if you want your spouse to be transparent, you have to demonstrate that willingness as well.  This seems more obvious when you're considering keeping relevant information secret, like t

Are divorce lawyers doing harm?

While the Hippocratic Oath is no longer required for doctors, we often hear the principle attributed to that ancient Greek oath for healers to "first, do no harm."  The translation is actually closer to "I will do no harm or injustice to them," but the sentiment is clear.  When trying to help someone, your first obligation is to not make things worse.   Today, I attended the third in a series of public forums held by the Child Support Guidelines Task Force giving people the opportunity to comment on what should change in the 2018 Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines.  What struck me about the testimony is that very few people commented on the guidelines themselves.  Rather they focused on the perceived impact of the guidelines and of the courts on family conflict.  Almost universally, the commenters suggested that changes were needed because the experience in court impoverished families, increased conflict, and hurt children. Whether calling for a lower formula