Category: Mediation

The Marriage Story

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The Marriage Story

Over the weekend I saw the movie “The Marriage Story”. The movie begins with a couple attending mediation where they tell each other everything they loved about the other person. For anyone who has attended mediation, this is not the usual way to begin. Mediation is usually about looking forward. Yet, looking back at the things that brought you and your spouse together is a good building block. Mediation is about solutions – solutions that work for your entire family. In any family, each person brings something to the table whether it be a strength or a weakness. It’s those strengths and weaknesses that should be considered when mediating an agreement.

Shortly into the movie the parties flounder through their first Halloween separated. Henry, their son, basically has two Halloweens due to the tension between the parties. As the movie progresses, it is clear each person has his or her own agenda. Husband wants to stay in New York and continue working at his theatre company. Wife wants to move to Los Angeles, where she is from originally, and act on a television show. Henry, the child in the movie, just wants to live in one place, with one set of friends. Yet, it is clear as the movie continues, no one is going to get everything he or she wants and everyone will have to make compromises they can live with.

In the movie, both parties hire cut throat divorce attorneys who fight vigorously for their clients. Eventually though, the parties settle, with Wife’s attorney sneaking in a provision regarding custody and saying “Take the win.” In real life, there are no winners or losers when it comes to divorce, just compromise. At the end of the movie, a year later, the parties are able to go trick or treating together with their son, having come to an arrangement they can both live with. Both parties now live and work in LA and have settled into a parenting time routine. During the last scene in the movie, the wife allows Henry to spend the night with his father, even though it is really her night according to the schedule.

If there is anything this movie shows, it is that divorce is a process. It is a series of decisions and compromises the parties can live with. It is not standing in a courtroom one day with your attorney and the judge banging the gavel, telling you “You are divorced!”. Judges don’t want to make your life decisions. They want you to decide what works for your family. Divorce can be expensive and stressful and that’s where Lyons and Associates can be helpful. Whether you need an attorney that will fight for you or a mediator that can help you reach a peaceful resolution, Lyons and Associates can give you that personal attention. Chris Ann Wright is a court certified economic mediator, a certified domestic violence economic mediator and a certified matrimonial attorney. Here, at Lyons & Associates, P.C., we place a premium on personalized attention for your personal matters. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Couples With A Final Restraining Order Will Soon Be Able To Mediate Across The State

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Couples With A Final Restraining Order Will Soon Be Able To Mediate Across The State


Recently, the New Jersey Judiciary issued a directive implementing an economic mediation program for those litigants who have a restraining order. The mediation would take place at the courthouse with litigants remaining in separate rooms throughout the mediation. The mediator, specially trained, would shuttle back and forth between the two rooms to try and settle the economic aspects of the divorce. Each room used for mediation would have a panic button and a Sheriff’s Officer would be nearby during the session to ensure everyone involved is protected. Depending upon the facilities, videoconferencing may also be used. And finally, each party would arrive and depart separately so the litigants would not have to see each other.

Since mediation may not be viable in every domestic violence situation, the victim of domestic violence would have to consent to participating in mediation. During the session, only economic issues pertaining to divorce would be discussed. Issues such as custody of your children and removing the Final Restraining Order would not be discussed. There are already other appropriate forums in place to deal with those issues. It is also important to note that in instances where only a temporary restraining order is in place, there is a contempt charge pending or there is a conviction of a violation of a final restraining order, mediation would not be allowed. In addition, if the parties are not married, in other words, the case has an “FD” docket number, then the Court would also not allow mediation. As of now, this program is only for litigants with an “FM” docket number, attempting to obtain a divorce.

This program is already in place in 6 counties and is to be implemented across the state by April 15, 2020. The mediators require specialized training to ensure they are familiar with all aspects of domestic violence. Mediation can be a useful tool in resolving economic disputes, however, keep in mind, if at any point you, as the victim, do not feel comfortable with mediation, then mediation stops and all issues will be resolved through the Court. The Court and the mediators are committed to protecting victims of domestic violence.

At Lyons & Associates, we can help you reach a fair and equitable agreement with your spouse even if there even if there is a Final Restraining Order in place.

Chris Ann Wright is a court certified economic mediator and a certified domestic violence economic mediator. Here, at Lyons & Associates, P.C., we place a premium on personalized attention for your personal matters. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Can I Gain Custody If I Owe Child Support?

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Can I Gain Custody If I Owe Child Support?

Somerville child custody lawyers can help clients gain custody even if support is owed.Parents have a duty to provide financial support for their children. Those who are not together ensure this happens through child support. Payments are negotiated through mediation or determined by the courts and recorded in a child support order. What if a parent falls behind on their child support but still wants to play a vital role in his or her child’s life? Can a parent who owes child support receive custody of their child? While it is certainly beneficial to get caught up on support payments, being behind will not prevent you from possibly receiving custody of your child.

Custody and Child Support

Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child lives. Children can live primarily with one parent or split time equally between both households. In this country, child support and child custody are separate issues under the law. A parent who owes child support is not legally prevented from seeking custody of his or her child. If the parent who is behind in support is otherwise a fit, loving, and willing parental figure, then it is in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with him or her. In some circumstances, it in in their best interests for them to live with that parent primarily.

Missed support should not preclude a good parent from being an active part of his or her child’s life. Just as missed support should not interfere with a person’s right to custody, it is also not a reason for one parent to retaliate against the other or withhold visitation. Similarly, the supporting parent cannot withhold support from the custodial parent if the other parent refuses visitation.

Implications of Non-Payment of Child Support

Not paying child support can still have an impact on your credibility if you are planning to go for custody in the future or somehow modify your parenting plan. It is one piece of the larger puzzle that represents your fitness as a parent. If you lose your job or fall on hard times, it makes sense to get back on your feet and catch up on child support before taking action to pursue custody. Missed support also has legal ramifications. Your county can garnish your wages, seize your property, and even put you in jail for back child support.

Somerville Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients with All Types of Child Support Matters

If you are having trouble making child support payments, it may not impact your current custody arrangement. Yet, it can cast a shadow over any custody modifications you hope to make in your future. The Somerville child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. help clients modify child support to make payments more manageable going forward. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. With offices in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

What Happens If My Husband Changes His Mind?

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Bridgewater divorce lawyers will strive to be sure your mediated agreements is enforceable.Written by: Chris Ann Wright

As an attorney, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “My husband changed his mind. He will not sign the Property Settlement Agreement.” When two people are getting divorced, the courts in New Jersey require that the parties attend economic mediation if they cannot agree at the Early Settlement Panel. The Early Settlement Panel is a group of two or three experienced attorneys who volunteer their time with the court to help you settle your case. If the parties are not able to settle, they are required to attend at least two free hours of mediation with a court certified economic mediator of their choosing. Often, mediation sessions can be very productive and the parties are able to agree on some of the issues, if not all of them. Once mediation is completed, one of the two attorneys involved drafts a Property Settlement Agreement to memorialize the items agreed upon.

All too often, after mediation is complete and the parties are in the process of negotiating the specific wording of the Property Settlement Agreement, one of parties states he or she does not like the agreement and refuses to sign. When this happens the other party will usually request a Harrington hearing. The name Harrington hearing comes from the case Harrington v. Harrington, 281 N.J. Super. 39 (1995), 656 A.2d 456. In that case the judge stated:

Moreover, to be enforceable, matrimonial agreements, as any other agreements, need not necessarily be reduced to writing or placed on the record. And we recognize that “[w]here the parties agree upon the essential terms of a settlement, so that the mechanics can be `fleshed out’ in a writing to be thereafter executed, the settlement will be enforced notwithstanding the fact that the writing does not materialize because a party later reneges.” Lahue, supra, 263 N.J. Super. at 596, 623 A.2d 775. Harrington v. Harrington 281 N.J.Super. at 46.

Based on the above, it is possible to enforce an oral agreement between the parties.

The best way I have found to preserve an agreement made during mediation is to ask the mediator to draft a short and simple document entitled “Settlement Terms”. Within this document are the basic terms the parties have agreed to during mediation. There are no legal terms within the document and it is written in plain English so the litigants, themselves, can understand the writing. Once that is complete, the parties and the attorneys review and sign the document. Later, if one party or the other wants to change or renege on the agreement, the terms are in writing for the judge to review. Keep in mind, this may not solve all the problems encountered regarding the practicality of following the agreement but it does fulfill the aspect of “essential terms” mentioned above so the parties can be divorced.

At Lyons & Associates, we can help you reach a fair and equitable agreement with your spouse. Chris Ann Wright is a court certified economic mediator and strives to make sure mediated agreements are enforceable. Here, at Lyons, we place a premium on personalized attention for your personal matters. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Your First Meeting With Your Lawyer

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Your First Meeting With Your Lawyer

Morristown divorce lawyers provide compassionate and skilled counsel during divorce proceedings.The end of a marriage is a momentous step to take in one’s life. Even with clear-cut reasons and mutual consent, it can be a stressful time filled with emotional turmoil. In the worst-case scenario – a high conflict divorce – you may be enduring constant strife at home and losing sleep over how the children will deal with the divorce. You may not be in the best place in your life and so who you choose as a lawyer to represent you will be crucial.

Before Your Meeting

Before your first meeting with a divorce attorney, do your homework and research the firm. How much experience does the attorney have in family law and are they known for their work in this area? If you have substantial financial assets that need to be divided, then your attorney should have substantial experience representing high net worth clients. If you know your divorce will involve a bitter custody battle, then make sure your attorney has many years of experience with complex custody cases. Reviews may be available to read, and the state bar association website will have records of any cases of professional misconduct that have been filed against attorneys.

The First Meeting

At the first meeting, a good lawyer will do two things: explain the different options available to you and ask as many questions as possible. You should be informed of the different divorce processes – collaborative law, mediation and litigation – so that you can decide what is right for you. The lawyer needs to learn as much as possible about you and your family so as to be able to have a good understanding of your situation and any special needs that may be required. For instance, referrals may be needed for estate attorneys, financial planners, psychotherapists and/or divorce coaches.

External Advice

Your divorce may require the advice of these kinds of expert professionals because your lawyer cannot also act as your tax advisor or psychologist. However, a good attorney will make sure to refer you to qualified specialists to make sure you have answers to any questions you might have. Keep your attorney apprised of any new information or developments from your advisors.

Important Issues in a Divorce

Your attorney will need to review with you all the major aspects of divorce so that you will be prepared for what is ahead. Some or all of these may apply to your situation.

The more financial information you can bring with you to the first meeting the better. Your lawyer will need a complete picture of both spouse’s incomes, assets and debts as well as ongoing expenses.

Assessing Your First Meeting

This is an important relationship that may involve a number of months working together so you should leave the first meeting feeling comfortable with whomever you choose as your attorney. Was your lawyer compassionate and was everything explained to you in a clear and careful way that you could easily understand? A good lawyer should be available to you throughout the process to provide guidance and support and inspire confidence through their experience and competency.

Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Provide Compassionate and Skilled Counsel in a Divorce

If you are seeking a divorce, contact the experienced Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Our Certified Matrimonial Attorneys can represent you for all your family law needs. Contact us online or call 908-575-9777 for a free, confidential consultation in our Somerville offices, where we assist clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Bridgewater, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and throughout New Jersey.

Understanding Divorce Mediation

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Understanding Divorce Mediation

Morristown divorce lawyers help clients understand the divorce mediation process.Filing for a divorce can be achieved by using a divorce lawyer. Alternatively, the parties can negotiate terms of a settlement using mediation; a non-adversarial method of alternative dispute resolution. A mediator is a neutral third-party who has specialized training and experience in resolving conflicts between parties.

Using mediation requires a certain amount of trust. Fundamentally, parties in mediation must be able to negotiate in good faith. Those with situations involving physical or emotional abuse, stealing or hiding money, and gambling or addiction problems tend to put mediation out of reach.

The Mediation Process

The mediation process usually begins with a meeting with the couple. Background information about the marriage, finances, and the family are discussed, and areas of non-agreement are identified. Discussions during mediation are confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent divorce proceeding. The parties must agree to this requirement up front.

During the process, the mediator may meet with the parties individually or together. The aim is to facilitate finding out what will work best for all involved. Mediation is a creative and collaborative process. Using mediation allows for personalized outcomes that may not be available from court settlements.

Gather Appropriate Documents

A divorce brings legitimate concerns about how it will affect personal lives and finances. It is an emotional time and feelings of anger and regret are common. However, such feelings can get in the way of making good decisions. Gathering necessary personal and financial information is the best approach to take when facing divorce. You must have a clear understanding of your personal and financial situation, which includes:

  • Assets: Home(s), investment, and retirement accounts
  • Debts: Mortgages, loans, and credit card balances
  • Employment history: Past and present employers and salary history
  • Work schedule: Full or part-time status and provided hours

It is recommended to gather paperwork that supports the above list, and to compile all relevant legal agreements, such as prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, restraining orders, or powers of attorney.

Set Clear Goals

Regardless of how divorce is negotiated, the parties will ultimately set terms for disposition of property, funds, and debt. If there are children involved, child support and custody arrangements will also be decided. Write down what you hope to achieve and keep this clear in your mind throughout the process. This is a pragmatic exercise to keep you focused on how you would like your life to look after divorce.

Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Through the Divorce Process

If you are contemplating divorce, the Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can help. To set up a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or complete an online form today. Located in Somerville, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

Parenting a Blended Family

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Parenting a Blended Family

Somerville family law firm helps blended families thrive with smart mediation. Considering that around three-quarters of divorced Americans go on to remarry and have more children, blended families are becoming the new normal. But is it really possible to blend families peacefully and happily?

The answer is yes. Blending a family can actually be quite wonderful. A bigger family means more opportunities for joy, laughter, and meaningful new connections. But it takes time, patience, consistency and compassion.

The following are some helpful suggestions for navigating the unique challenges that come with forming a blended family.

Be Patient

Experts say it takes anywhere between two to five years to truly establish a blended family. The roles you assumed when you were dating your partner change after marriage. Whereas you may have been the fun girlfriend your stepchildren saw just a few times a month, you now have become one of the parental figures in charge.

It takes time for everyone to adjust to the new roles everyone plays in each other’s lives. Allow everyone involved plenty of time and space to process their feelings during this time of transition.

Be Consistent

As a stepparent, you will inevitably have to discipline your spouse’s children and your spouse will have to discipline yours. This is a tough pill for many stepparents to swallow, in particular when all they really want is to be liked.

The easiest way to manage house rules and routines is with regularity. You and your spouse can start by establishing the values you want to promote in the home and the discipline techniques both agree on. Make sure that any disciplinary actions are applied the same for all the children.

From there, settle on basic house rules to foster structure and respect in the home. Staying on the same page prevents kids from trying to pit one parent against another. That said, experts recommend the primary parent issue consequences for their own children – at least in the early stages of life as a stepfamily.

Be Compassionate

Creating a blended family is an enormous adjustment, not only for the children – but also for you, your spouse, and your exes. Understand that everyone is going to need time to adjust and grow to trust each other.

The best way to encourage this is with compassion, kindness, and lots of reassurance. Your children need to know that they will not be overlooked. Your step-children need to know they are important to you. Further, you and your spouse need time to nurture your marriage during the honeymoon phase and with every passing year.

Feelings of jealousy, resentment, and even fear of the unknown are normal for blended families. With unconditional love, kindness, compassion and support, parents can help children open up and embrace this new family structure.

The Somerville Family Law Firm of Lyons & Associates, P.C. Helps Blended Families Thrive with Smart Mediation

In an effort to model healthy and peaceful dispute resolution, many divorcing couples choose to work through family law matters through mediation with the Somerville family law firm of Lyons & Associates, P.C. Decisions regarding child custody, parenting time, alimony, and property can all be made outside of the court room with mediation.

To get started, call 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville, the firm serves clients throughout New Jersey including but not limited to Somerville, Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

Can My Mediator Also Serve as My Arbitrator?

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Can My Mediator Also Serve as My Arbitrator?

Bridgewater divorce lawyers answer the question as to whether a mediator can also serve as an arbitrator.Mediation is defined as a process in which a mediator facilitates communication and negotiation between parties to assist them in reaching a voluntary agreement regarding their dispute, as opposed to arbitration, where the parties give the power to decide the issues in dispute to the arbitrator. But what if the parties desire or require both?

Plenty of times parties to a matter are told, both by the courts and their respective counsel, to do everything in their power to settle instead of taking part in a lengthy and costly trial. This leads many people down the path of mediation or arbitration. Often time mediation will begin, and despite best efforts, the parties will simply be unable to resolve any or all of their outstanding issues. At that time, as mediation has been exhausted without success, parties may desire arbitration. Liking the job the mediator has done up through that point, the parties then want to hire this mediator as arbitrator, seeing as he/she is deeply familiar with their issues from the mediation process. Is this allowed?

Pursuant to the case of Minkowitz v. Israeli, which was decided by the Appellate Division on September 25, 2013, the answer is no. That case states that once the arbitrator has functioned as a mediator, he/she may not then conduct an arbitration hearing. However, this does not necessarily preclude your mediator from serving as arbitrator. If you want your arbitrator to assist in settlement, then the parties must reduce to writing that he/she can serve as both mediator and arbitrator.

If you or someone you know has any questions about the mediation or arbitration process, contact one of the skilled attorneys at Lyons & Associates, P.C. at 908-575-9777. You can also fill out our online intake form.

Written By: William Lemega, Esq.