Thursday, December 22, 2016

Regaining Balance in Marin; Mindfulness Skills for Parents in Transition

Liz Salin, MFT and Ruth Jaeger, LCSW, have just completed a very successful first series of Regaining Balance, a six week course for parents who are experiencing a separation or divorce. The class focuses on teaching participants to use mindfulness meditation skills to regulate the inevitable stress and dysregulation of this transitional phase. Their program is inspired by Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes which have demonstrated that these skills can be learned in a short term format. Outcome studies have shown mindfulness skills to be effective in reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

As documented in research studying outcomes of children of divorce, sensitive caregiving is the cornerstone of a secure attachment and secure attachment correlates with positive outcomes and resilience in children. Parents will learn and practice skills which will facilitate their ability to regain a sense of emotional stability. This emotional regulation is essential both for a sense of personal well-being as well as increasing parents’ availability to their children during this upsetting time.

Here is a link to their website to find our more and register for this class The next series will begin January 26, 2017 in San Rafael.

Regaining Balance does not substitute for psychotherapy, but is a wonderful skill-building class to manage the stresses of this life phase.

“I referred a newly-separated and highly anxious client to this class. She has found
the group support and the new skills to be of great value. “ (Ann Buscho Phd)

"A perfect class for parents going through a divorce. Liz Salin and Ruth Jaeger are skillful,
compassionate guides teaching medically proven mindfulness techniques in a format that
can be learned and incorporated in a truly stressful life change." (participant)

"This class came at a perfect time in my family transition. I did not realize until I started
the class how much support I needed. This has been a very supportive stepping stone to
better self-care in this difficult time. Thank you to you both." (participant)

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Retirement Transfers with IRAs Upon Divorce

In a divorce, spouses can transfer retirement funds from one spouse's account to the other spouse as part of the property settlement in the divorce mediation. In this post, San Francisco Divorce Mediator Shelley Kennedy describes the steps involved in transferring IRA funds between spouses.

Distributions (withdrawals) from a retirement account are subject to taxes (other than qualified Roth distributions and any amounts already taxed) and there is also typically a 10% penalty associated with early withdrawals if the funds are withdrawn before age 59 1/2. Depending on what type of retirement accounts you have (i.e., pension, 401(k), 403(b), IRA, etc.), there are options available to make these transfers without incurring taxes and penalties. As neutral mediators, we work with both of you to discuss the options available to complete these transfers in a way that meets your goals.

One option in a divorce is to roll retirement funds over from one IRA account to another retirement account, or even one in your spouse's name, which allows you to avoid paying tax on the transfer until the funds are withdrawn from the new plan at the time of retirement and also avoids incurring penalties. Transferring retirement funds in this way is referred to as a "trustee-to-trustee transfer" (or more informally known as an “IRA to IRA transfer”). This involves having your IRA financial institution make a transfer directly from your IRA to another IRA or retirement plan without actually producing cash from the retirement account at the time of transfer.  If you have a 401(k) from a previous employer, you may be able to roll that over into an IRA in order to use it to transfer funds as described here. Once you have agreed to an IRA-to-IRA transfer of retirement funds in your case, the following steps should be taken to carry out the transfer:

Step One: The spouse whose name is on the account contacts the IRA institution/bank to discuss the bank’s specific procedures for a trustee-to-trustee transfer of IRA funds (using this specific language is important to get the right information from your bank):
  • What documentation is needed to initiate the transfer? Requirements vary by institution, but your bank will either require a signed agreement (this is usually the signed settlement agreement), a filed court order, or even a certified copy of a filed order. Some banks also have an internal form that can be signed/notarized to initiate the transfer.
  • How should the documentation be provided to the bank (email, fax, or in-person)?
  • What is the processing time once the required items are received?
Step Two: Contact the legal professional handling your case to ensure that your formal agreements are prepared with your bank’s specific procedures and that all requirements are met. For example, if a certified copy of a filed court order is required, the attorney will need to ensure that the court order contains the information required by the bank and request a certified copy of that order.

Step Three: Provide the required documentation to the bank to initiate the IRA to IRA transfer If the bank will accept a signed but unfiled agreement, this can happen as soon as your agreements with your spouse are signed without needing to wait for the court-approved judgment or order, (which often takes months). Otherwise, you will need to wait until the court has approved the judgment or order and then send the filed documents (or certified copy, if required) to the bank along with any other forms/documents required. Once the bank has the documents it requires, the bank will transfer the IRA funds from one spouse to the other as directed and you’re done!

Author: Shelley M. Kennedy

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mediation in San Francisco, Marin & our newest location in Contra Costa!

We are pleased to announce a third office location for Lawhon Law & Mediation, P.C.! Our main office (and mailing address) remains in San Francisco at Market and Powell. Our second office is in Marin County just off the 101 freeway in downtown San Rafael. Our third office is now in Contra Costa County in Lafayette and just a short walk from BART.

We are excited to be able to serve our East Bay mediation clients as well as our Marin and San Francisco clients and since our three mediators live in Marin, San Francisco and the East Bay, this works well for us too!

We schedule appointments for any of our three mediators for divorce mediation, premarital agreement mediation, postmarital agreement mediation, and consulting appointments for individual clients in all three of our offices so please be sure to let us know which office would be most convenient for you!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

What in the World Do You Do When Your Parents Divorce?

I picked up this book, among others, at the AFCC Conference this week (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts where I was speaking on the topic of co-mediation) and am writing here to recommend this to children whose parents are going through a divorce, to parents who are concerned about their children as they go through a divorce, or to divorce mediators or other family law attorneys or therapists who would like to provide a helpful resource to their clients and their families.

"What in the World Do You Do When Your Parents Divorce?" by Kent Winchester & Roberta Beyer is a little over 100 pages in an easily handled 6"x6" book well-designed for children of reading age through at least early teenage years if not later and falls in the "Self-Help for Kids" category. 100 pages may sound like a lot but there is a lot of white space on the small pages and illustrations so it's a quick read for parents. The topics are simple and straightforward and the advice is direct and practical without being patronizing about the feelings that can arise for both kids and parents going through a divorce. Two of my favorite aspects of the book are the recommended books and other resources for kids at the end of every section and the suggestions for "words you might say" for addressing specific issues with parents or other adults as suggested throughout the book.

I wanted to read this book before recommending it (here on this blog and to our clients directly) so I naturally would also suggest that parents read it before recommending or giving it to their own children but hopefully parents will find lessons for themselves and also see how helpful this type of book can be for their children who are experiencing something so much differently than the parents during this time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Client Checklist for Divorce Mediation

It can be nerve-wracking to walk into a mediator's office to start your divorce mediation and not know what's going to happen. We like to remind our clients that nothing happens in mediation without both parties agreeing to it. In your case, your mediator will likely provide you with some kind of overview of what to expect in your case - sometimes that's a broad overview of the divorce case and other times it's a very specific agenda of what will be discussed in the first mediation. The following is a basic client checklist that may help get you thinking about the issues that will come up and need to be discussed with your spouse as you work together to reach agreements on all of the issues related to your divorce.
  1. Court Case: File/serve Petition and start 6 month waiting period; discuss what it means to have a pending divorce or legal separation case.
  2. Create plan for living arrangements with transition plan if needed.
  3. Custody/Parenting: Issues include physical custody; legal custody; weekly schedule; holidays and special days; co-parenting issues such as communication, childcare issues, new partners, travel/moving, etc.
  4. Child Support (monthly and bonus/commission true-ups) and additional expenses for children outside of base child support (health insurance, medical expenses, travel expenses, extra-curricular activities, life insurance, college expenses, etc.).
  5. Spousal Support (temporary support; long-term support; tax issues).
  6. Spousal health insurance.
  7. Assets and debts: Identify (via formal financial disclosure requirements to be discussed) and divide/allocate between spouses including logistics and related issues (house sale issues, household items, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, retirement transfer issues, stock and option vesting issues, business issues, etc.).
  8. Tax issues regarding settlement, support, future tax filing related to dependents.
  9. How to share/allocate mediation fees, separate attorneys’ fees and fees of other professionals.
  10. Estate planning issues (existing plans; new plans; issues regarding children).
  11. Resolution of future disputes including options for co-parenting, mediation, private judge.