Divorce Options: Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

Divorce options include mediation and collaborative divorce. You may be aware that there are different options for obtaining a divorce, but have questions about what they are and what each process entails. Mediation is a familiar alternative to litigating a divorce, but many clients are not sure what to expect in a mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution.  A divorcing couple meets with one attorney-mediator to work through all of the issues arising out of their marital separation, including custody, support and the division of property. The mediator will guide the parties through each issue and facilitate the discussion. However, this is very much a client driven process. Mediators do not provide individual legal advice. Occasionally, a mediator will help the parties evaluate their options when needed to keep the process moving forward past any obstacles. For the most part, though, the parties should be going into mediation with a willingness to compromise with their spouse. Once agreements are reached, the mediator will draft an agreement. Once that contract is signed, the divorce process itself becomes uncontested. There are many benefits to mediation, but it is not right for everyone. Mediation allows couples to save the costs of paying for multiple attorneys and litigation. Each party should obtain independent legal advice, though, which entails additional costs. Mediation allows parties to maintain civility, which is particularly beneficial for parents who will have to continue to raise children together. In addition, mediation involves the open sharing of financial and other information. Therefore, there must be a certain level of trust that your spouse will be forthcoming with a full disclosure. Finally, the most significant obstacle to mediation is when...

Estate Planning: New Year, New Law

The Virginia legislature has passed new laws which impact estate planning for married people. The “elective share” statute provides a spouse with a share of the other spouse’s estate upon his death; it is a right descended from common law, which has existed for hundreds of years to protect a spouse from disinheritance. So, even if a wife executes a will leaving her entire estate to an adult child, the husband can still claim a percentage of her estate. For a spouse who dies before January 1, 2017, that percentage equals 1/3 of the estate if the decedent left surviving children or ½ of the estate if there are no children. For a spouse who dies after January 1, 2017, the percentage his or her spouse could claim equals up to 50% regardless of whether or not the decedent has any surviving children. See Virginia Code Ann. §64.2-308.2 (1950 as amended). The new law considers marriage as more of a financial partnership, as opposed to a union where one spouse may need to be protected. One key aspect of the law is the sliding scale for determining the elective share, based on the length of the parties’ marriage: Less than 1 year 3% 1 year but less than 2 years 6% 2 years but less than 3 years 12% 3 years but less than 4 years 18% 4 years but less than 5 years 24% 5 years but less than 6 years 30% 6 years but less than 7 years 36% 7 years but less than 8 years 42% 8 years but less than 9 years 48% 9 years but...