Busy week!

It’s been a busy week – I was on a panel at CUNY School of Law about Contemplative Lawyering and alternatives to litigating on Monday. On Wednesday I was a panel at Cardozo Law School about mediating with non-traditional families. And today I published an article on FamilyAffaires.com about why second parent adoptions are still needed even when the same-sex parents are married.  They say that if  you love what you do, it never feels like work.  So true.

I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to share what I know and do what I love!

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Dividing Up the Property

One of the biggest decisions that needs to be made in a divorce is how you will divide up your assets.  Here is a link to an article I wrote recently about this topic, entitled “Equitable Distribution 101.”  This might be helpful whether you are using mediation, collaborative process, or using traditional lawyers.

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Divorce Envy ~ Who knew?

I’m honored and excited that I was quoted in Amy Sohn’s Harper’s Bazaar’s article about Divorce Envy. It really is an honor.  And an interesting topic.  We feel the need to keep up with the Joneses to get the latest handbag, to do hot yoga and eat kale, why not to get divorced in the most healing way possible?  As I said, if it leads to a trend of collaborative process and divorce mediation, maybe peer pressure is a very good tbing!  Thank you, Gwyneth Paltrow, for raising our consciousness to conscious uncoupling!

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All Children Included!

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s will was filed in court yesterday, and has already gotten a lot of press. He did some unusual things – most poignantly, he did not create trust funds for his children.  But he also did not update his will after his younger two kids were born, nor did he make provisions for the possibility that he might have more kids.  So they are in a bit of legal limbo, as this article shows.

How can you avoid this problem? Make sure you update your will – and your beneficiary designations – every 5 years or so, or at least whenever there is an important life event, like the birth of a child!

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Pete Seeger’s Legacy – And Pete Seeger’s Will

I just read an article in the NY Daily News about Pete Seeger’s will.  While I am dismayed that they talk about the dollar value of his estate, I love that his instruments have names, and that the kids each got an instrument

But Pete’s impact is not in his will.  It is in his legacy.  How he taught millions of people that they can feel community by singing together.  How music brings us together, rich and poor, young and old, whatever our background.  How one person with a banjo and a song can gather friends together to change the world.  And that we have all inherited.

We should each have a will – no question.  We should decide who we want to get our physical possessions.  But the real question is not who gets our stuff, it is ‘what do we leave as our legacy?’  What footprint do you want to leave on the world?  How will you be remembered?

To everything there is a season.

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Second Parent Adoptions are Still Necessary!

The NY Times’ Motherlode blog ran an article today about 2nd parent adoptions, and Judge Lopez Torres’ recent decision to deny a petition for such when the adoptive parents were married. Here is my comment (which they also published):

I am an attorney who does second parent adoptions. I have completed and filed several such adoptions in New York State since Judge Lopez Torres’ decision was published – parallel courts recognize them as still being necessary.

While Judge Lopez Torres’ decision was idealistic and well intentioned, it failed to address the reality that people travel, that families move, that married couples sometimes break apart. What happens to a family that moves to a state where same sex marriage is not recognized?

In addition, it did not adequately address a family like yours, with a known donor. While she is right that there is a presumption of parentage when parents are married to each other, we all know that it is still impossible for both mothers to be the biological parent. What will happen when a known donor claims parentage several years from now and asks for a DNA test?

Marriage secures the rights between adult partners, not between non-biological parents and children. Step-parents also have to adopt their spouse’s children. Second parent adoptions remain a vital part of securing the rights in many families.

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Is Halle Berry’s child support too much?

According to People Magazine (and now on the AP), Halle Berry was recently ordered to pay $16,000 per month in child support.  Too much?  Perhaps.  It seems hard to fathom how a child could need $16,000 per month – especially when she and her ex- have shared custody.  But there are so many factors involved – one of which, in New York at least, is Nahia’s standard of living before her parents split up.

A lot of people have a lot to say about this – at this writing, there are over 1,400 comments and the article has been online for less than 24 hours!  So my real question is this — did Halle Berry want privacy?  One of the advantages of mediation and collaborative is that if you come to an agreement yourselves, the public will know nothing.  And wouldn’t THAT be in the best interest of their child?

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Suddenly wealthy?

Once I lived the life of a millionaire,
spending my money, I didn’t care
I carried my friends out for a good time,
buying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine …

by Ida Cox & B Feldman, sung by Bessie Smith

According to the NY Times, thanks to the thriftiness of depression-era parents, baby boomers are more likely to inherit great sums of money than previous generations. Some know to expect it, others do not.  What would you do if you suddenly found yourself to be wealthy?

Some boomers donate the funds to a cause their parents would have liked. (And some donate to a cause their parents would have hated!)  Others save their portfolios to make sure they can provide for their own children. Or provide for relatives who have helped them in the past. Some just squander it.

It is important to realize that gaining sudden wealth is a stressful event.  Although it may be pleasant, it involves a life change.  Suddenly there are new possibilities.  And yet, what may seem like a lot of money when it is given as a lump sum, once you stretch it out over time, it is actually not so much.  There are important choices to make – do you live off of the interest or spend the principal?  Do you invest it the way your parents did?   What are your priorities?

There is an emotional component – this money is not earned, so some people may think they don’t deserve it.  Some may be elated that a windfall finally fell their way.  Some feel entitled.

And then there is a social component, because, while we may not want to admit it, we live in a stratified society, and tend to feel most comfortable with people in the same economic bracket.  Are we now catapulted into some other social circle?  Are old acquaintances now coming out of the woodwork to be your best friend?

While coming into sudden wealth is the stuff dreams are made of, be careful!  Be thoughtful. Be quiet!  Get advice.  Be smart. Remember, this is a life transition, as significant as grieving or divorce.   So this is the time to be good to yourself ~~ whatever that means!

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1 Step forward, 2 Steps back??

The Kings County (Brooklyn) Surrogate’s Court issued a strange decision today – it denied a second parent adoption where the lesbian couple was married and the non-bio mom’s name is on the birth certificate, saying adoption is “neither necessary nor available.” It seems to me that this denies the reality that same sex marriage is still banned in most states and in many countries, and refuses to protect the legal relationship between the child and the non-bio mother. Is this a step in the wrong direction?

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Does Divorce Mediation Work?

here’s a link to a lovely pictograph that shows why it does!


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