Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dear Abby - Notice of Divorce

Believe it not I enjoy reading Dear Abby. I read it each morning after Doonesbury. I like the following exchange about divorce:
"Dear Abby: How does one share the news of an impending divorce with friends and family? Due to our financial circumstances and the particularly amicable nature of our breakup, my husband and I still live together and we will probably continue this arrangement for a while, so there aren’t a lot of obvious indicators. I hate the thought of the news being passed through the local grapevine as nasty – and potentially untrue – gossip. How do other folks manage it? – Soon-To-Be Divorcee in Louisiana
Dear Soon-To-Be Divorcee: Here’s how: by presenting a united front. The first people to hear the news should be your parents. Then inform other family members and friends. The message you need to convey is: "The two of us have agreed to end our marriage. While this may come as a surprise to all of you, our decision is mutual. While we care for each other and intend to remain friends, we no longer want to be husband and wife. If you love us as we know you do, please do not ask for further details because we both would rather not discuss it at this time." If anyone should be insensitive enough to question you further, your response should be unanimous: "We’d rather not talk about it."
As always, you can post any comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at WM 7/29/09

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Social Security Payments

The Social Security Administration provides regular statements which estimate the amounts that individuals should receive for Social Security Retirement, Disability, Dependents, etc.

If you need to get a copy of your most recent statement, click here.

Child Support Calculator

Ever wonder how Judges calculate your child support in South Carolina? South Carolina uses "child support guidelines" to calculate child support. These guidelines are based on the gross income of the parties, and provides credits for such things as:

1. work related child care expenses
2. previous court ordered child support payments,and
3. health insurance premiums for children

If you would like to estimate your child support, click here to check out the DSS child support calculator.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rereading Getting to Yes

When I get a new computer or computer program, I read the manual but it is not always meaningful. If I try it out and then come back to the manual, the manual is more meaningful. I found the experience also helpful with improving my mediation skills. Many years ago when I started mediating, I read "Getting to Yes" by Roger Fisher and William Ury. I recently reread the book and I found it very helpful. In particular I liked their following four basis points of principled negotiations.

People: Separate the people from the problem.
Interests: Focus on interests, not positions.
Options: Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.
Criteria: Insist that the result be based on some objective standard.

In particular I find focusing on interests no positions as very important. The book uses a variation on one of my favorite examples.

"Yet all too often negotiators end up like the proverbial children who quarreled over an orange. After they finally agreed to divide the orange in half, the first child took one half, ate the fruit, and threw away the peel, while the other threw away the fruit and used the peel from the second half in baking a cake. All too often negotiators "leave money on the table" - they fail to reach agreement when they might have, or the agreement they do reach could have been better for each side. Too many negotiations end up with half an orange for each side instead of the whole fruit for one and the whole peel for the other. Why?"

If the children had used interest based problem solving, they would have had twice as much of the part of the orange they wanted.

I am going to use more oranges and interest based problem solving in my mediation!

As always, you can post any comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at WM 7/22/09

MerchantCircle: Using Social Networks to Make Money

MerchantCircle: Using Social Networks to Make Money

Happy networking.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to Win Your Disability case?

The most important point to remember when applying for disability is that you have to prove that your injuries or medical conditions meet the definition and guidelines established by the Social Security Administration. The best way to do that is through sufficient medical documentation.

Does anyone out there have any war stories regarding applying for disability? Please share.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Social Security Disability - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is Social Security Disability?

A. Social Security disability benefits are monies paid to you if you have worked for a long enough period and paid Social Security taxes though your employer and become disabled.

Q. How do I qualify for Social Security Disability?

A. You may quality to receive benefits if you have a medical condition or injury that prevents you from working for a minimum of one year.

Q. How does the Social Security Administration determine disability?
The Social Security Administration has a five step process in determining disability.

Step One -The first step involves determining if you are working. The amount of money you make if you are working is limited. If you make more than allowed, you will not be considered disabled.

Step Two - The second step is to consider the severity of your medical condition(s) if you make less than the current guideline amount. This involves determining whether your medical condition(s) significantly affect you ability to perform basic work activities, i.e. sitting, standing, walking, for at least one year.

Step Three - If the condition is severe enough to limit basic work functions, the agency will determine if the medical condition(s) are on a List of Impairments for adults and children developed by the agency. The impairments described are considered so severe by the agency that you can automatically be defined by law as disabled. If your condition is not on
the list, the agency can determine that you are disabled if your condition(s) are as severe as those on the list of impairments.

Step Four - If your medical condition(s) are not on the list of impairments or meet or exceed the severity of an impairment on the list, the agency will then consider whether you medical condition(s) prevent you from doing the type of work you did before.

Step Five - If the agency decides that you can do the type of work you did before, then it will decide you are not disabled. If not, then the agency will evaluate your medical condition(s), age, education, past work experience and skills learned from that work, to determine if you can do any other type of work. If you can, then the agency will decide that you are not disabled.

Q. How long will it take to settle my Social Security Disability case?

A. This is a hard question to answer as there is no definite answer. The current estimated time for disposing of a case from the filing of the initial application to a hearing is approximately 24 months, sometimes longer. This can be a very long and stressful process. Put your case in our hands and let us help you through this process.

Q. How much will the Social Security Administration pay me if approved?

A. The amount of benefits is determined by your average lifetime earnings and whether your benefits will be reduced based on the receipt of other types of compensation for you medical condition(s), such as workers' compensation. The Social Security Administration sends out a yearly statement providing your lifetime earnings and provides an estimate of your disability benefit.

Q. How far back will Social Security pay me if I am approved?

A. If you are approved for social security disability, your first check will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability started.

Q. What can I do to help win my Social Security Disability case?

A. You need sufficient medical documentation to support the severity of your medical condition(s). You should keep up with your medical treatment and doctor appointments. It may also be helpful to keep a diary to help document on a daily basis your disability keeps you from performing your past work; your medications and side effects; your aches and pains; and how disability or medications affect daily activities such as driving, shopping, taking care of family, walking, standing, sitting, memory, concentration, coping with stressful situations, and
dealing with other people etc.

Q. Can I work and still receive Social Security Disability?

A. Yes. However, the agency limits the amount can make.

Q. Do I have to be permanently disabled to receive social security disability?

A. You are entitled to benefits if your medical condition(s) are severe enough to prevent you from working for a period of at least one year. If your condition improves your benefits can be terminated.

Q. Will I receive Medicare?

A. You will get Medicare coverage automatically after you have received social security disability benefits for two years.

Q. How much will an attorney charge?

A. The Social Security Administration will withhold 25% of your past due benefits to compensate legal fees.

Q. Will my family receive anything if I am approved?

A. If you are approved for Social Security Disability benefits, members of your family may qualify for benefits. They include but are not limited to the following:

Your spouse, if he or she is 62 or older;
Your spouse, at any age if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is younger than age 16
or disabled;
Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild.
The child must be under age 18 or under age 19 if in elementary or secondary school full time; and
Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before age 22.
(The child’s disability also must meet the definition of disability for adults.)

What to expect in Court?

When going to Court regarding divorce, your attorney should try to prepare you as much as possible as to what to expect. Besides the basics of dressing appropriately, providing copies of your evidence to the court as well as opposing attorney and your spouse, some of the general things you can expect in a Courtroom (for a final hearing) include:

1. Finality. Judges will make final decisions regarding your divorce, alimony, property division. Once that decsion is made, any choice you had is gone. Consider what is truly important to you and what you may be willing to compromise before getting to that point. Some counties require mandatory mediation and pretrial conferences, so by the time you get to a trial, you should only be dealing with issues that you can't resolve on your own.

2. Evidence. If you are alleging that your spouse makes more than they are saying, be prepared to provide documentation. You have to prove your case. Make a journal if you have to from the time you start considering divorce and obtain copies of financial documents. Keep your attorney informed of anything that might help prove what you are saying and support what you are asking for.

3. Witnesses. If you have a witness to prove a point (whether it be personal or expert), make sure your attorney has spoken with them first and bring them to court. Judges expect parties to make self serving statements to get what they want. Many times, third parties can help because they may be more objective and may prove your case.

4. Testimony. In a trial, you will likely testimy. Prepare your testimony with your attorney to stay on point with the legal issues. Most times you won't be allowed to cover every aspect of your life with your spouse. Try to stick to the issues.


1. Judges don't (or at least shouldn't) know you or your spouse so they can't take your word for it. They can't know who to believe and you can't expect to prove you case by insisting that you are telling the truth.

2. Your attorney can't guarantee a result and sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, you still may not get what you want or feel that you are entitled to.

3. South Carolina family court hearings are determined by a Judge, not a jury. Judges are ordinary eople and you never know what testimony or evidence will be the most convincing or what the final decision will be.

4. If you have questions about your legal situation, a consultation can cost you a lot less than not doing anything until your spouse serves you with papers. Sometimes by that point, you spend the entire divorce playing catch up to your spouse who has been preparing their case before they hired an attorney.

5. Try to manage your expections. Be honest about what you want when talking to your attorney.

Do you need to hire an attorney?

This is an excellent question. For many individuals who have been separated for more than a year and are contemplating an uncontested divorce where there are no children, no property, no debts, no alimony issues there are forms that you can use represent yourself. You are not required to hire an attorney. If you consider this route, make sure to look for forms with specific instructions that you feel comfortable following. Additionally, legal services offers free classes to help individuals represent themselves in a divorce.

If there are contested issues, consult with an attorney. You don't have to hire the attorney if you are not satisfied with a consultation. Start early, ask questions, and keep a journal of what is going on in your life.

How Can you help your Attorney help you with your Divorce?

One of the most important things that I like for clients to do is to write down what they would like to accomplish in this divorce and their disagreements with their spouse. It helps to focus the client on what is important to them because sometimes the attorney might have have a completely different focus on what you want. It also helps to determine your expections with the court system.

As much as letting a client know their legal options, I like to help clients transition through this painful process to hopefully get their life back to a normal place or better. Being able to give a client some peace of mind helps determine if the attorney and client are a good fit.

Going through a divorce can be like jumping out of a plane. Your attorney is similar to a parachute to help with the landing. If both you your attorney know what you want and expect, it will help to determine your legal rights and whether all of your complaints can be addressed through court.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mediation is hot, hot, hot

It’s summer and hot and mediation has suddenly become hot! Just in the month of July, we’ve all heard about President Arias of Costa Rica mediating the dispute between the old and new Presidents of Honduras,
( we’ve heard Tom Friedman, the New York Times op-ed columnist call for the various ethnic groups in Iraq meet immediately with a mediator to reach decisions on allocating oil wealth, ( and even the editorial board of the newspaper in our home town, little ole Tucson, AZ, has encouraged the City Council and a developer with whom a downtown development deal had been reached and then not reached, to sit down immediately with a mediator. (See editorial on page 16 of the July 7, 2009, issue of the Arizona Dailey Star.
Wow! Mediation has become the buzz word of this summer. Finally, the media is telling the public what mediators have been saying for years-mediation is quick, confidential, and inexpensive when performed by an experienced mediation professional. Mediators know that parties need to tell their stories, not just state their positions. Experienced mediators know how to move the mediation forward from telling stories to cooperative problem-solving.
So, Jon and Kate of Jon & Kate Plus 8 fame, be cool this summer and find a mediator who can mediate your divorce. There are lots of great mediators in Pennsylvania where you live, who can get you and your kids through this difficult time with sensitivity, confidentiality, and knowledge of the legal, financial, and psychological issues associated with divorce. That the cost of mediation is so much lower than litigation is added value.

As always, you can post any comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson , Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website. Learn more about mediation at MGM 7/15/09

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Honeydew or Honeydo?

At a recent Red Cross Bloodmobile, I was chatting with another donor. (I finally got my four gallon pin after being differed for visiting Mexico! It was her first time.) We were kidding that I would not be able to do any chores at home the rest of the day. She asked me what chores I had. When I told her, she said they were on my honeydo list. I thought she was talking about honeydew melons but she explained to me what a honeydo list was. As usual, I googled honeydo and found the following at :

"Almost any man (and some women) who has been married or involved in some type of long-term cohabitating relationship has had experience with one of these. A honeydo list is that list of things that your significant other (usually wife/girlfriend) has put together for you to do. The name obviously comes from "honey, do this...honey, do that..." etc. Oftentimes the author of the list will make one of these when said author is going to be out and about and leaving the significant other at home. "Do this while I'm gone, please."
Things that might potentially appear on a honeydo list:
Take out the garbage
Fix that loose doorknob (could potentially be any doorknob in and around the house)
Do some laundry
Fix that broken drawer
Rake the leaves
Shovel the snow off the driveway
Feed the pet dog/cat/fish/bird/hampster/python/tarantula/Richard Simmons
Mow the lawn
Tape that soap opera I watch, pause through commercials if you can
Do some dishes
Clean out all the ashtrays
Get rid of rancid leftovers in the fridge
Water the flowers
Return those DVDs/Videos (they're lying about that whole end of late fees thing!)
Fix the loose board on the floor in the den
Unclog the garbage disposal
Go get some milk, we're out
Pick up some bread, too, the low carb stuff please
Pick your dirty clothes off of the bedroom floor
Pick up the dry cleaning
Bury that body, it's starting to smell
Clean out and organize the junk drawer"

So what does this have to do with divorce or mediation? Think about the following: Do you appreciate tasks your significant other does on the honeydo list? Who will do these tasks if you are divorced?
As always, you can post a comment about this blog, Divorce Mediation, or Tucson Arizona by following the directions at the right in the green column or at the bottom of this website or participate in our Presidential poll located below the directions. WM 7/2/09