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The Divorce Forum™ Collaborative Mediation

A Division of
The Marriage Forum, Inc.
A 501 c 3 Corporation

What does it cost?

The Divorce Forum SM Collaborative Model has proven to be among the most cost-effective and successful mediation processes due to peaceful nature of the Nonviolent Communication background of key mediator, Susan Allan. In addition as the firm is a 501 c 3 non-profit, this component of the firm provides tax deductions for the clients. The mediation costs are based on an hourly fee that can be shared by both parties in a way that you agree is fair. Although this process may involve the services of a mediator, consulting attorneys, and an attorney or paralegal to file the documents in Family Court as well as filing fees, the costs of a mediated divorce are typically a small percentage of the expense of a conventional divorce. If you have complicated aspects to your financial picture the most affordable way to translate complicated person funds, portfolios etc is with the additional hourly services of a CPA or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst who can be referred by Susan Allan. This provides one or two fair and equitable options that can then be peacefully mediated.

Why is this form of mediation so affordable? That's because you, and not your attorneys, are doing the talking. When both parties agree to work together toward a common goal and to share expenses, costs - including time, money, and emotional costs – the process is less expensive than those of a contested and therefore litigated, court-directed divorce. While you may decide to divide the payment in other ways the most common is a 50%/50% division. In a state such as California where the average cost of a divorce is $30,000, The Divorce Forum™ Collaborative Model saves you money and can save your family from pain and suffering through the stress of a litigated or normal collaborative divorce.

Cost of Mediation and Payment Options 

Step 1 is Mediation via telephone or in-person sessions. (See below)

Once we have reached your agreement you will each sign off on this "Mediated Agreement" that is transcribed based on our conversations.

Step 2 has the Paralegal creating your "Marital Settlement Agreement"   The paralegal that we recommend takes the "Mediated Agreement" and transforms it into the court-required "Marital Settlement Agreement" and you each sign this formal document. The current fee for this service  in Los Angeles as of June 2013 was $600 and the paralegal reserves the right for a minor fee adjust by the time your agreement has been completed based on any updated Family Court requirements. The services of an attorney or paralegal are required to create and file the mediated agreement, your "Marital Settlement Agreement" that is created by your work with Susan Allan and all mediators.  

Step 3 is the Court Filing of your "Marital Settlement Agreement" that is the official divorce filing. Currently the filing fees are $435 in California and are subject to change based on the Family Court System in your state. 

Please select the form of mediation that is best for you:

  • Telephone Mediations are the most affordable and stress-less option.
    • Telephone mediation sessions are also available at 12 prepaid hours for $1500 or 6 prepaid hours for $800. All mediation is billed and payable before the beginning of Mediation through www.paypal.comutilizing their online secure payment service so that you may use a debit or credit card for payment. Ms. Allan will process your debit or credit card before the first session begins.
  • In–person Mediations: Susan Allan's hourly in-person mediation fee is $350 and you will be charged at the full hourly rate for any portion of an hour greater than a half hour

For mediations in Southern California, there is a 1 hour ($350) total fee for total travel time within 3 hours of Santa Barbara CA. For mediations in other areas of California and worldwide please provide the information for details of fees.

If you have parenting or real-estate or stock portfolio issues etc. it may become necessary for your Mediator to ask for and receive permission to consult with additional experts, always upon prior approval by the mediating couple, and these hourly fees will also be charged at the Mediation rate and you will be billed for these services each week.


“As an attorney and a mediator, I’m delighted with the results of Susan Allan’s Divorce Forum Collaborative Model. Her recommended use of a dissolution financial expert or CFDA whose financial expertise exceeds any divorce lawyer I’ve met, clarifies all the monetary issues so that much of the work necessary to reach an agreement during mediation is already clarified and completed. Her use of Compassionate Communication SM in all her mediations is unique to any practitioner in the country. Her inclusion of additional experts, including parenting, and real estate specialists as part of the collaborative process should they be necessary, has proven effective time and time again. The results have been peaceful, time-efficient, cost-effective dissolution work that has benefited me and my clients in the highest possible way. I believe there is no better approach to divorce anywhere in the world today.  Arnold S. Jaffe, Esq. Santa Barbara attorney

“As a member of the Association of Conflict Resolution (ACR) and the Associate Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Dispute Resolution Services Inc., I highly recommend Susan Allan. Susan Allan brings an innovative approach to “Collaborative Divorce Mediation”. Ms. Allan is refreshing in her consumer-friendly approach.  She is a new voice in the collaborative mediation arena and definitely needs to be heard by our membership. Ms. Allan is one of the top leading experts and practitioners in Southern California utilizing collaboration in divorce mediation.  This is a new and growing field. I highly recommend Susan Allan to present at our annual conference.” Deborah A. Thomas, Associate Executive Director, Los Angeles County Bar association, Dispute resolution Service Inc. February 22, 2006

“Susan eliminates barriers, traveling the way of spirit and heart. She allows people to enter that area, and say ‘Yes’ instead of “No”. Susan Allan is the wings people glide on as she brings them through these difficult times seeing through the clear eye of the eagle. She respects their path and their history so that they go forward without their burdens.” Charles R. Quintero, Peacemaker to the Navajo Nations, California certified mediator and arbitrator
  “Susan Allan’s unique mediation model adds two new components to traditional mediation. The first is the immediate utilization of a certified divorce financial analyst or CPA specializing in dissolution or CPA in non-divorce issues. With this strategy, mediation time is cut in half as appropriate financial and legal guidelines are offered to both parties. The second is her use of Nonviolent Communication SM which has the mediator “translate” critical and judgmental words into the unmet needs of each party. As I have observed when working with Susan, this allows real compassion to grow in the most challenging of environments.  She has assisted many of my clients to resolve their issues in a sane, economical and timely way.” Deanie Kramer, Certified Mediator and Mediator for Divorce Court Television; President Dispute Resolution Specialists, Inc.
and Divorce Resource, Inc. 

The Divorce Forum SM Mediation offers an effective alternative to conventional divorce and its high risk of unnecessary emotional and financial damage. Our mission is to provide skills and support so that people can work together to resolve their disputes while protecting the assets and well-being of the entire family. We offer pragmatic solutions and strategies proven to help minimize the pain, and the wasted time and the money spent on divorce. For many, The Divorce Forum Collaborative Model of mediation can become a part of the healing process which helps families to fulfill their individual and joint needs before moving forward to more peaceful and productive lives. Divorce is one of the most difficult times in life, but is also an opportunity to set the foundation for the future and to learn from the past. We are here to help you. This unique collaborative divorce model, pioneered by certified mediator Susan Allan, includes the following components described below:
To find out if mediation is appropriate for you, call us at 805-695-8405 to discuss all your options and concerns.

What is divorce mediation?

Divorce Mediation is a process available to help divorcing couples voluntarily work through disagreements in order to fulfill their responsibilities to each other and to their family. They are assisted in working out a mutual agreement on the issues which must be resolved in divorce: parenting, support, and the division of property.

Who is Mediation for?

Mediation is for:

  • Couples who have made a decision to divorce.
  • Couples who may not have decided to divorce, but who want a legal separation.
  • Couples with post-divorce decree issues or disputes.

Mediation is not only for couples who agree; it is a process designed to help any couple regardless of existing differences. The unique opportunity of experiencing The Divorce Forum Collaborative Model is that once a couple experiences the peaceful results of Compassionate Communication mediation, future issues of child or spousal support may be resolved easily through mediation or by the divorce couples without further mediation. 

How does it work?

You will meet together with the mediator or speak with her via telephone to work out the major issues raised by the decision to divorce. Your mediator will help identify the issues you need to resolve, and help guide you through the decision-making process toward the most successful agreement that will work for both of you (and for your children).

A memorandum of agreement will be drafted by the mediator for your review, after which it is given to you and you are free to confer with legal advisors for implementation if there are issues for which you desire legal information and support. You may opt to have our referral attorneys in each state of the union draft the agreement for review by both parties or may use your own attorney. This agreement becomes the basis for an uncontested divorce.
Unlike traditional mediation, the family’s needs as a whole are considered before individual concerns and solutions are considered. This single distinction is responsible for more peacefully resolved divorces than all other components of The Divorce Forum Mediation.

What are the benefits of mediated divorce?

  • Enables individuals to emerge from a divorce with respect for the partner and with self-respect intact.
  • Protects family relationships
  • Establishes a foundation for continued co-parenting
  • Benefits children, by reducing conflict
  • Focuses on the present and future -- not the past.
  • Strengthens commitment to an agreement
  • Is time-limited and convenient
  • Offers an Informal context
  • Avoids public disclosure of personal matters, because it is confidential
  • Parties retain control over process
  • Controls costs, financially and emotionally
  • Is empowering
  • Respects self-determination

What are the steps involved?

1. The mediation process is explained to each party during an individual telephone intake conversation.

2. Each party gathers the data needed for the unique decisions inherent in each divorce. In addition to those areas that determine the welfare of minor children, you will both identify the matters you need to decide.

3. Experts may be consulted. We have established working relations with area attorneys, financial planners, and other specialists who are often needed during the divorce process:

A. Financial experts are consulted for the following:

1. A Divorce Financial Planner or accountant specializing in dissolution will create the spread sheet and total figures required by each state’s legal system if child support and/or spousal support are issues included in your divorce. Once you have your first meeting with the mediator and your spouse, you will have clarified the issues to be considered. You may opt to use the same financial expert of two different experts so that a compromise may be reached.

2. Independent real estate, household goods and vehicle appraisal will be sought by each spouse where applicable.

B. For families experiencing challenging issues of parenting, a child psychologist may be helpful to support decisions of joint custody.

4. During mediation, you will receive support from your mediator as you consider available options to resolve all your issues.

5. When you have reached an agreement, the memorandum is drafted which incorporates the agreements you have both reached. The agreement is binding when and if you decide that you agree on the contents of the mediated agreement. At this time you may also choose to seek legal advice before signing the agreement. This allows you to have the benefits of mediation in saving time and money while also benefiting from legal expertise.  

What issues are dealt with?

Clients can choose to discuss a wide range of concerns including:

  • Parenting
  • Child Support
  • Property
  • Spousal support

How long does it take?

Mediation is time-limited and, unlike the court process, does not drag on indefinitely. Mediation varies in length depending on the complexity of the issues involved and the readiness of the couple. Most couples complete the actual mediation within hours. However, the time from the telephone intake session to the telephone mediation itself will allow you to generate the data required for an agreement. Most couples finalize the entire process, from intake to settlement, within a few weeks or months, depending on the issues under consideration.

If you have already consulted an attorney

People frequently want to consult an attorney when a separation or divorce seems in the cards. Mediation is not a substitute for the services of an attorney. You are free to consult with your attorney - except you will be using that attorney in a different way, as advisor rather than adversary. When you opt for mediation, you now make the decisions that will affect your life; and you may decide to include legal support.

Do we need an attorney?

Choosing mediation does not mean that you will not have the services of an attorney. While the decisions in mediation are made by you, they should be informed decisions. If you do not have an attorney, you may select your own attorney or request a referral from our local Recommended Referral Membership.

Who are the mediators?

We are professionally trained mediators who offer an alternative to the adversarial system that litigation provides for people to end their marriage. The Divorce Forum Collaborative Model was invented by certified mediator Susan Allan and her services are in great demand, therefore it is suggested that you schedule her services as soon as you have decided to mediate if she is your preferred mediator.

What does it cost?

Mediators charge an hourly fee that can be shared by both parties in a way that you agree is fair. Although this process may involve the services of mediators, attorneys, and other specialists the costs of a mediated divorce are typically far less costly than conventional divorce. That's because you, and not your attorneys, are doing the talking. When both parties agree to work together toward a common goal and to share expenses, costs - including time, money, and emotional costs – the process is less expensive than those of a contested and therefore litigated, court-directed divorce.

Mediators;

Susan Allan: For the year 2007. The services of Susan Allan are billed at $90 per hour for telephone mediations. If your mediation will be primarily conducted via the telephone, you may purchase a Mediation Package of 6 hour-long sessions for $450. Telephone mediation sessions are billed and payable through www.paypal.com utilizing their online secure payment service so that you may use a check or credit card for payment.

For in-person mediations Ms. Allan’s service are billed at $180 per hour. For mediations requiring travel by car; Ms. Allan charges one hour as a travel surcharge within the Los Angeles/ Southern California area; the time that is required for her to reach the mediation and to return to Santa Barbara is not billed to you.

The services of an attorney or paralegal are required to file the mediated agreement that is created by your work with Susan Allan and all mediators. Normally attorneys require less than 3 hours completing the documents for filing and filing of mediated divorce agreements.

The Divorce Forum can offer you referrals of family attorneys in most major cities and states and the information about their hourly rates. Please send an email to info@thedivorceforum.com requesting information about mediations requiring air travel. 

In California: Arnold S. Jaffe, Esq.: The services of mediator/attorney Arnold S. Jaffe, Esq. are billed at $275 per hour. Mr. Jaffe is bilingual in English/Spanish and has been fully trained in The Divorce Forum Collaborative Model. Please send an email for information about Mr. Jaffe’s fees when local or long-distance travel is required. 

Mr. Jaffe’s services may be used as the attorney of record to complete your Divorce Decree paperwork and to file it with the California Family court System. Mr. Jaffe’s fees are billed at $275 per hour.

Why choose mediation?

Choosing mediation is choosing to take charge of your life at a point where many things seem to be spinning out of control. Mediation avoids much of the damaging consequences of adversarial divorces. Most complex divorces go on for years. Prolonged divorces deplete assets, interrupt the personal lives and careers of both spouses, and interfere with both parties' opportunities for personal growth and their desire for peace. During some litigated divorces, assets are frozen, forcing spouses to deal with extremely challenging financial scenarios.

Are there cases that shouldn't be in mediation?

Mediation works in many more situations than you might imagine. However, in situations where parties are unable to assert their needs or do not feel free to speak their mind without fear of consequences, mediation may not be appropriate. In these cases divorce coaching combined with mediation has proven to be extremely successful. Susan Allan, founder of The Divorce Forum Mediation is America’s leading divorce coach. By expanding the “caucus”, a normal component of mediation, coaching may occur during the mediations with only one spouse present or may take place for days, weeks or even months prior to mediation so that the couple’s issues may be discussed in a calm and reasonable manner by both partners.

I'm very angry now! (We can't even talk to each other!)

It would be unusual if you weren't angry! For many, divorce may be a highly disruptive experience. Mediation is not just for people who are already cooperating. Mediation is often most helpful when you and your partner are having trouble talking on your own. The question is not how you feel now, but where you want to go. Do you want to end up in a no-holds-barred battle, or do you want to reach a peaceful resolution? Would you like to move on to the rest of your life, without bitterness or regrets? If so, we can help you get there. Susan Allan’s skills with Compassionate Communication SM allow couples to hear one another, and to consider all the options to meet the needs of the family.

“Motivate to Mediate Training”

Often a couple may need to mediate for financial reasons, yet they may have difficulty communicating or even sharing the same room together. In such a case, Susan Allan has invented her “Motivate to Mediate Training” which allows one partner to learn Compassionate Communication SM before mediation begins so that new ways of thinking, listening, speaking and acting arise from this spouse until the decision to motivate is mutual. In such cases, couples who have been arguing for years, and have not been able to discuss simple issues like meals, vacations or entertainment options, often find that they can now engage in a mediated discussion about the most crucial issues of their lives and of their family and children’s needs. In some cases, couples torn apart by retraining orders have found that their mutual financial benefits were best served by letting go of the past, learning new language skills and mediating to resolve their conflict. Compassionate Communication SM used in 40 countries around the world including war-torn areas of Africa is one of the key skill-sets used in Allan’s   “Motivate to Mediate Training”. Another skill taught in this training is Herrmann Brain Dominance™ taught at Wharton Business School for which Allan has been certified.

How do I get started?

To find out if mediation is appropriate for you, call us at 805-695-8405 to discuss your concerns. If it seems appropriate, we will set up a telephone intake session for each of you so that you may learn more about mediation and to decide whether this process is the way you and your partner wish to work out your separation or divorce.

How will this affect our children? What can we do to help them?

The latest research on divorce suggests that it is not so much that you are getting divorced that will affect your children as much as how you go about this divorce.  Ongoing conflict between you and your spouse is considered most problematic for your children, according to The Divorce Forum SM consulting psychotherapist, Frank Zizzo, Ph.D. Long-term research on divorce suggests that while divorce may cause distress in children, it need not cause disorder. 

What is Accelerated Mediation?

Accelerated Mediation is an intensive mediation process designed to bring parties in conflict to mutually agreeable results in a concentrated time period, usually completed in two days. While some mediators offer accelerated mediation some of the time, The Divorce Forum Mediation model IS accelerated mediation.  

How does Accelerated Mediation work?

Advance preparation is an important part of the “A.M.” process.  We assist the parties in identifying and gathering the information that may be needed to inform their decisions during the mediation process.  In addition, legal counsel may, at the discretion of the parties, participate in the mediation.
Attention is focused on identifying the needs and interests of each party, developing options for mutual gain and identifying objective criteria for completing the agreement.  Parties may wish to confer with during the process to clarify and resolve any issues that may arise during the mediation.  The mediation concludes when the parties have reached agreement. A draft document is prepared which the parties and/or the parties’ attorneys finalize. The final document is filed by an attorney upon whom both spouses have agreed. 

“Is there anything better than the rule of law?  Is there a realistic alternative to the legal system? I believe there is. It is one in which results are obtained voluntarily, and decisions are made by consensus; where parties design the form and content of their negotiations, where there is informality and infinite capacity for creative results…. It is one where emotions are expressed, acknowledged, and respected; where greater concern is shown for the future than the past; where third parties facilitate without deciding, and are empathetic rather than neutral. It is one in which people are encouraged to act honestly, empathetically, collaboratively, humbly, and creatively; where forgiveness and reconciliation are encouraged; where people are allowed to be human, direct, and open; where anyone can understand what is happening and participate fully without professional jargon. It is one without coercion that encourages collaboration and permits both sides to win. It is mediation.” Ken Cloke

Susan Allan
The Marriage Forum, Inc.

Susan Allan is America’s leading Marriage and Divorce Coach, and one of only 15 certified mediators with the Los Angeles Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Services.  Allan is the founder of The Marriage Forum Inc. SM, a non-profit corporation and The Divorce Forum SM Mediation in Santa Barbara, CA. Each month millions of readers view her “Ask The Divorce Coach” advice at www.thedivorceforum.com , in The Tolucan Times, The Santa Monica Observer, Casa Magazine of Santa Barbaraand in the national media. Allan also writes the “Ask The Love and Relationship Coach” column in papers such as Family Life Magazine of Santa BarbaraMs. Allan is a featured author ofThe Los Angeles Daily News’ Booktalk.

Popular media personality, motivational speaker and life coach,Allan has discovered “The 7 Stages of Divorce” and offers “How to Avoid Divorce”, “The 7 Stages of Overcoming Trauma including Divorce” and “Increasing Profitability and Personal Success” trainings. Ms. Allan is the author of the E-book 101 DIVORCE SECRETS; A SURVIVAL GUIDE and DIVORCE: THE MARRY-GO-ROUND or How to Save Your Money, Your Sanity and Your Life. Allan has appeared on FOX NEWS debating with celebrity divorce attorney, Raul Felder, and as an expert on marriage and divorce on hundreds of television and radio news programs.

Allan’s additional training is in Nonviolent Communication SM and in The Herrmann Brain Dominance™ thinking styles taught at The Wharton School and at numerous Fortune 100 companies and is initiated as a Deeksha-giver committed to world peace by The Oneness University in Chennai, India. Since 1999 more than 5,000 individuals have had their questions about marriage and divorce answered for free in addition to Allan’s private clientele. Allan has offered mediation training to The Pasadena Police Department’s Youth Leadership Program, The National Association of Conflict Resolution, to Passages, the drug rehabilitation facility in Malibu, CA and to other private groups.

The Marriage Forum, Inc. a 501 C 3 corporation
1187 Coast Village Road Ste 315 Santa Barbara, CA  93108
Ph: 805-695-8405 susanallan@themarriageforum.com

For ONE HOUR of FREE TELEPHONE SESSION TO DISCUSS MARITAL, FAMILY, DIVORCE MEDIATION or COACHING, with SUSAN ALLAN, certified mediator and faculty member of The Los Angeles Bar Associations's Dispute Resolution Services, please email susanallan@thedivorceforum.com

ZEN DIVORCE IS A STATE OF MIND

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BY Dan Brecher, ESQ.

"Even a good thing is not as good as nothing." (Zen saying)

One alternative to the costly legal and emotional journey of
divorce is the "Zen Divorce". You don't have to move or get a new phone;
but you do need a new attitude.

The "Zen" divorce merely requires that you decide to be yourself
by yourself, to yourself. If you can honestly say that you and your spouse
have been communing openly but unsuccessfully, and there is no chance that
a better attitude will help, then ignore the "Zen" divorce solution.

But, if you have been trying to be someone you are not, and your spouse can
still hear and relate to you, consider this, "Ask for nothing. Be someone
not something."

"Delight in your life - it is all you have."

The grass will grow by itself; it needs no help from you. If it
is wrong for the two of you to be together, you will not be together. But
be who you are... and, be content. The aim of life is to live, and to be
aware of your good fortune in being alive. That is what makes for joy.

"If you and your partner cannot revel in the fact that you are alive, forget the "Zen" and just remember the "Divorce"!

DAN BRECHER is a widely published author and lecturer both to the Bar and to the public, and he has appeared on national and local radio and television programs. His article on equitable distribution, "The Marital Property Revolution", was published in Bottom Line, and his work has also been published in such publications as Boardroom Reports, The New York State CPA Journal, Barron's, The American Law Institute -American Bar Association's The Practical Lawyer, The New York Practice Guide: Business and Commercial, and in New York Forms of Jury Instruction.

He is the author and co-author of training material for arbitrators and of
continuing legal education articles for lawyers. Mr. Brecher has
frequently served as an arbitrator and mediator, and is a Court-appointed
mediator in matters in the United States District Court for the Southern
District of New York. He received his B.A. degree from City College of New York, and his Juris Doctorate degree from The Fordham University School of Law.

Dan Brecher, Esq., has provided wise counsel and support to The Divorce Forum™ and others for thirty years. He has received the honorary title, "Advice Lawyer". Most people seeking advice from Dan have asked to discuss their options in humanistic terms. Dan often suggests accepting several realistic teachings that have helped others achieve goals that once appeared out of reach.

Dan advises, "Be aware. Be thoughtful. Do what is possible. The past is not the future. Live life and see."

Dan can be reached at advicelawyer@thedivorceforum.com

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THE MARITAL-PROPERTY REVOLUTION

BY Dan Brecher, ESQ.

Over the last two decades, divorce law in the U.S. has been revolutionized. Most people are familiar with the no-fault statutes, which eliminate the need for spouses to cast each other as villains to establish grounds for divorce. But equitable distribution has made even more sweeping changes in the way property is split up when a marriage ends. Aside from the eight community property states, equitable distribution is now the law of the land.

HOW IT WORKS

Under equitable distribution, virtually all the property a couple has acquired during their marriage is thrown into the pot to be divided between husband and wife. However, equitable distribution doesn't necessarily mean a 50-50 split. The division could be 2/3-1/3 or even 0-100, depending on such factors as:

  • Duration of marriage.
  • Contributions of a nonworking spouse, such as raising children, running a home, entertaining business guests.
  • Each spouse's ability to be self-supporting.
  • Spouses' age and health.
  • Couple's living standard.
  • Special needs or circumstances.

Also, the court may look into who was at fault in the marital split up and why (even in a so-called no-fault state). There is no hard and fast rule for dividing the property. If a great deal of money is involved, and one spouse made a unique contribution to accumulating the wealth, an even split is not considered equitable. The court will consider unique contributions or special needs for property such as the need for a custodial parent for the marital residence and household effects.

Key point: It makes no difference which spouse is listed as the owner on deeds to property, bank and brokerage accounts or other title documents. Exceptions: Property that either spouse received in his or her own name as a gift or inheritance is considered separate property that does not have to be divided up. So is property that either spouse owned before the marriage.

If separate property generates income during the marriage, that income is also separate property in most cases. But there are exceptions. If separate property is mixed in with marital property (as in a joint stock-brokerage account), it may be impossible for the spouse who contributed the property to establish a separate right to any of the income. Similarly, if the value of separate property goes up during the marriage, part of the increase in value may be due to joint efforts. Then that increase in value is considered marital property.

The property is usually divided by arriving at a total net worth figure, then apportioning the property in accordance with the parties' needs and best uses. Adjustments for property which cannot be divided are made by current or future payments from one spouse to the other, or, by credits against the value of other property.

PREMARITAL AGREEEMENTS

If the couple made a premarital agreement, the courts usually follow it in dividing up the property unless the agreement is shockingly unfair.

Many people find it difficult to talk about a premarital agreement. But If one partner has substantial assets, its' a good idea for that person to get at least a complete inventory and valuation. Reason: It's up to the party making a claim to prove that property is separate. The better the documentation, the stronger the claim.

ALIMONY

Courts rarely order permanent alimony any more. The trend now is to make rehabilitative maintenance payments; that is, to provide support for a nonworking spouse until he or she is self-supporting. In deciding whether to award maintenance and how much, the courts look at some of the same factors that they consider in dividing up the property. In the case of a lengthy marriage, a court might award permanent maintenance after reviewing a spouse's age, health and employability. Again, there are no hard and fast rules.

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