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Common Types of Conflicts that Mediation Can Help Resolve

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Throughout the past few decades, mediation has grown from a new and novel way to settle a dispute to a preferred approach to certain types of cases. As legal costs continue to rise and lead to lengthy litigation that can last for years on end, more people are opting to forgo the legal system in favor of mediation.

While it may not be ideal to mediate all types of legal cases, such as extremely complex ones or cases that involve harm or bodily injury, there are several scenarios in which mediation is an ideal solution to help the parties agree to a resolution on their own terms. Here are some of the most common:

Contract Disputes

Mediation is effective because it allows the parties to work together to form a solution. So, if the issue about a sum of money owed as a result of a contract dispute, mediation gives the parties each an opportunity to explain where they felt the breaches occurred, and to discuss the elements of the contract that were properly fulfilled. Where litigation in the case of a contract dispute might result in a long, expensive lawsuit with no guarantee as to which party will win the suit, mediation can end the dispute in hours. The result of a successful mediation is typically a compromise, and the terms of the agreement are confidential.

Divorce

Not all divorcing couples are good candidates for mediation, but many find they are able to come to agreeable terms without the hassle of litigation. In addition to confidentiality of divorce matters, another reason mediation often works for divorcing couples is because the parties are encouraged to come to resolutions based on their own perceptions of fairness in the situation. Contrast this with the courts, which are often simply forced to apply the law regardless of what may actually be in the best interests of the divorcing parties.

IRS Tax Disputes

In recent years, backlogged government agencies have sought to streamline dispute settlements. One such agency is the IRS, which introduced a mediation program for certain types of tax disputes. In these cases, mediation not only helps the government get through tax cases more quickly, but it also helps individuals avoid the hassle of long, lengthy appeals and substantial legal fees. Click here to learn more abut IRS mediation programs.

If you’re interested in learning whether your dispute might be a strong candidate for mediation, please contact the team at Reese-Beisbier and Association to learn how we can help you. Drawing upon our years of experience with both litigation and mediation, we can help you determine which course of action is right for you.

Litigated Divorce vs. Divorce Mediation: How are They Different?

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For many decades, litigation was the primary way for parties to resolve complex legal disputes, including complicated divorce proceedings. But, in recent decades, the costs associated with attorney fees skyrocketed and courtroom caseloads got larger and larger, problems that continue to afflict the legal system to this day. It was evident to many practicing attorneys that there needed to be some alternative to litigation that could help parties resolve their issues without court interference.

This thinking was the genesis of mediation. With mediation, a trained mediator can drive parties to their own outcomes, effectively putting the power back in the hands of the parties. It can also provide an affordable alternative to litigation, particularly in cases of divorce where there are just a few sticky issues for the parties to work out.

For those who are just now learning about the benefits of mediation in their divorce proceedings, here are a few key differences in the processes:

Costs

The average cost of divorce litigation can be in excess of $30,000 per party. Each party must pay costs associated with attorney fees, court fees, discovery processes and much more, costs that can accumulate very quickly. On the other hand, an entire mediation process can run under $5,000.

Privacy

When it comes to court documents, all of these are available as public records. The media or anyone else can dig these up with just a little bit of time and money. On the other hand, mediation is completely confidential and is not susceptible to being shared publicly on the Internet or elsewhere.

Fair

The legal system is designed to be fair, but often times, things fall through the cracks as Judges rely on standard procedures instead of addressing individual parties’ needs. For instance, a single missed deadline can cost someone an entire case. On the other hand, mediation acts in deference to the law, but at the end of the day focuses on fairness between the parties, even where those decisions don’t conform with the demands of the legal system.

There may be some cases where litigation is preferable, such as when parties can’t come to agreeable terms through mediation or the stakes of the outcome are extremely high. Still, most divorces can be more easily and amicably resolved through mediation sessions with a trained mediator.

If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of mediation, contact the Reese-Beisbier team at 678-947-2988. With years of practice in family law and divorce mediation, we can help you.

How to Properly Prepare for Mediation

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If you’ve opted for mediation, it is most likely because other forms of dispute resolution haven’t worked for you. This isn’t to say that you’ve tried them all (after all, most people try mediation as an alternative to costly litigation), but it does mean that trying to come to a resolution between the two parties alone hasn’t proven successful.

However, mediation only works when the parties are able to work together. And, in order for them to effectively do so, it’s important for them follow normal protocols to ensure they are mediating in a fair and efficient manner.

If you are about to enter mediation for the first time, here are some things that can help you prepare to have a fruitful mediation session and come to the best resolutions for the parties.

Gather Information

Without proper supporting information, parties often do not have adequate information upon which to make rational assessments and decisions. This is why it is essential to prepare for mediation by submitting Discovery Requests, Requests for the Production of Documents to a non-party, depositions and more.

Set Goals

With mediation, it isn’t quite enough to walk into the session saying “We want this resolved.” While that’s a great first step, it does little to prepare you for the things you really want or need. Prepare yourself for the mediation by discussing with your lawyer your main goals and the best strategies to achieve them. For example, if you are mediating for custody of your children, think about the things you might be willing to sacrifice to make your full custody option seem like an ideal solution.

Regardless, it is important to keep an open mind throughout the process, as the other party may offer a settlement that meets your priorities in spite of not being exactly what you’d expected.

Research Possible Mediators

Mediators aren’t all the same, so it’s important to make sure to find one that has the right education and experience to be able to help you through the nuances of your case. Try to find someone who has expertise in the field in which you are hoping to come to a resolution, and who has strong referrals.

Allow Enough Time

Most mediation sessions can take between four and eight hours. Leaving only two hours for a full mediation risks that the outcome will be sloppy and not discussed, as thoroughly as needed to come to a settlement that will satisfy both parties. Allow enough time to properly settle the dispute.

Prepare to Settle

The goal of the mediation is typically about settling a dispute without interference from the court. Court costs can be costly, and the judicial process can cause a significant amount of mental and emotional anguish. Sometimes, particularly difficult and high stakes mediations, parties are surprised when a case does settle and they find themselves scrambling to consult with spouses, supervisors, attorneys or others. Make sure those people are available throughout the mediation in order to keep from holding up the process. It is always best practice to have an attorney attend mediation with you.

If you are considering mediation to help resolve a dispute, the team at Reese-Beisber and Associates wants to help. Contact us at 678-947-2988 to learn more about our mediation services and programs.

Costly Divorce-Related Financial Mistakes to Avoid

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There’s a lot to think about when going through a divorce, and sometimes it’s easy to let things fall through the cracks. Unfortunately, some neglected items can cause severe consequences, consequences that you just can’t afford when you’re trying to rebuild your life.

If you’re going through a divorce, be sure to cover your financial bases by avoiding these all-too-common financial pitfalls that can affect people throughout the process.

Your Home is Now Too Expensive

It’s hard to think objectively when you’re in the emotional throes of a complicated divorce. You may feel desperate to hold on to what you can, such as the beautiful home in which you’ve raised your children. However, the reality is that often, for many people undergoing a divorce, the sudden switch to a single-family income renders the home unaffordable.

If you’re unsure whether you can afford to continue making mortgage payments, talk to an accountant to figure out how to best allocate your income. If you must sell it, talk to an attorney about whether you’ll be responsible for a hefty capital gains tax upon the sale.

You Put Revenge First

In the heat of a difficult divorce, it’s easy to think about all the ways your former spouse has wronged you. In such heated moments, you may be compelled to fight for things not worth fighting for in the long run.

The problem with this is that this approach can rack up serious attorney’s fees, costing you both a lot of money. A dispute that takes all day to resolve can easily end up causing both you and your spouse thousands of dollars, and often times you’ll regret the amount of money you spent trying to fight for your cause. If you and your former significant other aren’t able to agree on anything, try mediating your disputes to see save time and energy and prevent unnecessary legal fees.

You Haven’t Thought About the Long Term

Sometimes, people are so adamant to get out of a marriage that they give their former spouse everything they ask for without questioning it. Years later, these people think back to what happened and wonder how they ever agreed to give up their million dollar homes and expensive assets without thinking twice about how that might affect their financial futures.

Even if you’re in a tumultuous divorce, the long term still deserves your attention. If you’re unable to resolve your issues amicably, talk to a good lawyer who will fight for your rights.

Reward for Our Lost Dog in Mountain Brook, Alabama

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We need your help finding Mocha!

Over spring break, the Reese-Beisbier family lost their beloved family dog–Mocha–while they were away on vacation. Mocha has been missing from Rock Bridge Circle in Crestline (Mountain Brook, Alabama near Birmingham) since April 4, 2015. She went missing while visiting Alabama with a friend.

Mocha is a two-year old chocolate shih-tzu, spayed and weighs approximately 13 pounds. When she has a shorter cut, her back looks gray or silver with a brown tint. She was last seen wearing a lime green and light blue “girlie” collar. Mocha is a sweet and loving dog that needs medicine and a special diet to avoid illness.

A LARGE REWARD WILL BE GIVEN TO ANYONE WHO CAN REUNITE US.

We live in Cumming, Georgia (just outside of Atlanta), and are trying everything we can to get the word out to help bring our Mocha home. We are in great pain over her missing.

If you have any information or sitings of Mocha, please call 678-947-2988 or 1-888-466-3242.

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Tech Tools to Help You Through Your Divorce

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Recently, Oregon Live reported on a new startup company called Wevorce, which is designed to help divorcing couples walk through the tricky divorce process. Using a mix of collaboration and mediation and driven with a technology focus, the tool is designed to provide a family focused path through divorce. It’s being championed as a needed tool in helping to simplify the divorce process, and has even received $1.7 million in funding last year.

While we don’t believe that an app or technology tool should replace the act of hiring a professional attorney or mediator to help prevent complex divorce issues, we see the value in using technology as a tool to make things easier when couples decide to split. As the use of digital technology continues to rise, so too will the number of ways we can improve on the divorce process to help create effective plans that take into consideration each partner’s needs. We’re seeing more and more tools covering all aspects of divorce, including child support and custody issues.

For instance, Our Family Wizard is a tech tool that was created to supplement to traditional child custody arrangements. The wizard is a one-stop shop for custody schedules, expenses and all other things associated with sharing joint custody of a child. The tool even allows parents to transfer money from their accounts to split the costs of family expenses as they see fit, so there’s no confusion about the fairness of the amounts the parents are spending on the growth and development of their children.

And, when it comes to child support, people are looking to Support Pay to help them understand how to best manage and share child expenses. Because budgeting and managing these expenses can be difficult and time consuming, a tool like this can take some of the difficulty and confusion out of calculating shared expenses to ensure the parties are paying the right amounts for the care of their children.

Even an app like Divorce Coping Tip of the Day can add a daily dose of advice to your divorce and can inspire you to keep your head up when you’re feeling down. Once a day, it’ll ping you with messages that remind you that you’re not alone in the divorce process.

These types of tools can become an integral part of helping families learn how to work with one another in support of the best interests of the child. They can be fantastic supplements to working with a lawyer or trained mediator, and we hope to see even more tools like this in the future.

Should Your Child Testify in Your Custody Battle?

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Bringing a child into a custody dispute can be a difficult choice. After all, the child is already going through the turbulent experience of watching his/her parents separate, and this alone can psychologically impact the child if not handled with the best of care.

However, there may be some instances, particularly in difficult divorces, where the child’s testimony is critical in ensuring the custody arrangement is designed to meet the child’s best interests. However, these situations should be handled with care, as it is a painful experience to have to subject a child to the intensity of the litigation process when it is not absolutely necessary. That’s why we’re sharing three important questions that you should consider when determining whether your child should testify in a custody dispute.

Is it necessary?

Sometimes, in the emotional turmoil of a divorce situation, a person will want a child to testify out of mere spite for the other party. Of course, the parent who wants the child to testify will find as many ways as he or she can to justify this, but it takes some inner reflection to determine why, exactly, the child needs to testify.

Could it have a long-term effect on your child?

Legal cases can be complex, and they provide enough emotional anguish for everyone involved. Asking a child to testify in a divorce case can be like asking the child to pick sides, which can lead to serious repercussions down the road. The child is at the risk of damaging his or her relationship with either party, and anything that arises in this testimony could dampen relationships between the parents. This can prove extremely problematic when both parents must co-parent post-divorce.

Will the Judge hear what the child is saying or blame the parent for putting him or her in a bad situation?

If the Court finds subjecting the child to Court was not necessary, the Court may use this to prove the parent is selfish and has poor boundaries with his or her children. Using your child as a witness could actually backfire and hurt your custody case, so you must think long and hard before doing it.

If you’re thinking of asking your child to testify in your custody dispute, think carefully about the factors above and weigh the benefits against the potential long-term harm to the child. If it is absolutely necessary, it may benefit you to seek out a child psychologist who can help your child through this difficult process.

Thinking about a Prenup? Things to Consider

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These days, many couples considering marriage agree on prenups for protection against assets in the case of divorce. For some, prenups are simply protections against worst case scenarios. After all, in an era where an estimated one half of marriages end in divorce, why wouldn’t someone want to take precautions when things get ugly?

On the other hand, some couples disapprove of prenups because of the feeling that even the mere existence of one sets the couple up for failure. They might see a prenup as an easy way out of a marriage, designed to help dissolve the exact bonds that marriage is intended to solidify.

A decision to get a prenup isn’t always an easy choice. What follows are some important items to think about if you’re considering getting a prenup.

You May Not Actually Need a Prenup

Prenups exist to help protect assets that individuals bring into a marriage. This is why it makes sense for the person who comes from a wealthy family to have a prenup, or for the self-made millionaire who wants to protect her assets to ask her future husband to sign one. But if neither individual coming into the marriage have any significant assets, a prenup may not be necessary. If you are considering one but aren’t sure how much having one will help you, then speak to an attorney who can advise you on this matter.

Asking for a Prenup Could Damage Your Relationship

Some people have strong feelings about prenups, and it is important to truly understand your future spouse’s opinion on the subject before asking for one. Because people don’t always have strong education on the benefits of prenups, some people believe that a prenup is a contract to walk away from a marriage, leaving the other out in the cold. While it’s possible to create a prenup like this, this is a rarity, as a good prenup is fair in its understanding of each party’s contribution to the family structure. In any case, the prenup is subject to negotiations between the parties in the contract, and should be reviewed for fairness throughout the drafting process.

There May be a Silent Party Controlling the Prenup

One thing to keep in mind throughout the prenup party is who, really, is asking for it. When you ask for a prenup, are you asking because you want one or is there a larger family dynamic at play?

Where your request for a prenup is predicated upon your family’s requests, ask yourself if this is what you really want. If they are trying to protect their own assets from your future spouse, then there may be different trust structures that lead to the same results that won’t impact your marriage and can allow you to share resources as you please. Take these factors into consideration when deciding whether requesting a prenup is right for you.

A Prenup Doesn’t Automatically Prevent a Court Battle

A prenup is often designed to be an alternative to a difficult, drawn-out divorce in the courtroom. However, if a spouse signs a prenup but then, at the time of the divorce, deems it unfair, a court battle may ensure regardless.

If you have any questions about a potential prenup, Reese-Beisbier and associates can help.

Lessons for a Stronger Marriage from a Lawyer

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As a family lawyer, I often wear many hats beyond that of an attorney. When couples are experiencing high emotions and extremely difficult situations, I often have to sit in as a voice of sanity in a challenging setting.

From my many years as a family law attorney dealing with marriage and divorce, I’ve learned more than a few lessons about what it takes to make a happy marriage from a legal perspective. The three items below are those that I’ve identified as the most important things to help strengthen your marriage, from the point of view of a family lawyer.

1. Your Marriage Will Be Happier When You Can See Eye-to-Eye on Moral Issues

A good partner will share the same values as you. This doesn’t necessarily mean a shared religion, as people from different backgrounds can live together blissfully as long as they are open minded and accepting of one another’s religious practices. Rather, this is about understanding and accepting one another’s values.

Couples should do regular reality checks to ensure they are living in line with the things that they value most. For some couples, this may mean trust, and for others it might mean the drive and ambition to work hard. Other values might include kindness, respect, empathy and compassion. It’s important to continually take inventory of what’s more important to you in order to maintain a happy and healthy marriage.

2. Be Able to Openly Discuss Money

Money is often a primary issue that ultimately causes couples to divorce. One spouse may be secretly hiding thousands of dollars in debt from the other, and the two are unable to openly discuss the challenges they are enduring and how best to address them.

Almost all of these financial problems would be resolvable if the couple could openly discuss their finances and work together to make decisions about big purchases such as cars, homes, vacations and retirement savings. If you are unable to openly discuss money with your significant other, it may require counseling for you to surpass this major obstacle that often puts an ending to marriages.

3. Discuss End-of-Life Planning Early, and Often

We never know what the next day holds. That’s why it’s never too early for families to agree on end-of-life planning, including any wills, trusts and directives this planning might entail. Particularly in the cases of blended families or other family structures, including civil unions or common law marriages, the law may not always be in line with your wishes. Therefore, it is incredibly important to ensure this planning is complete before it’s too late, and that you make time to refine these plans as families grow and income levels change.

In doing this, you and your spouse will ensure that your money and assets are secure in where you want them to go, and it will give your significant other one less thing to worry about should anything devastating ever happen to either of you.

If you need advice on managing your finances or any other legal advice to help protect yourself and your assets through your marriage or divorce, contact the team at Reese-Beisbier and Associates at 678-947-2988 to learn how we can help you.

Angela Johnson Celebrates 10th Year with Reese-Beisbier & Associates

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The Reese-Beisbier team congratulates Paralegal, Angela Johnson, on her tenth anniversary with the firm. Way to go Angela!

An incredible force in the firm, Angela continues to provide a vital role as a go-to source of information in the company. As the firm’s longstanding paralegal, other employees know they can come to her for case assistance and for honest feedback.

Angela’s relationship with Tera Reese-Beisbier began while she was in the American Bar Association’s paralegal training program. While enrolled in school, Angela was in need of legal counsel with a family law attorney for a potential contempt action against her ex-husband. Angela reached out to an instructor and attorney named Tom Bishop about recommending a family law attorney. The instructor was quick to mention a new attorney (then in 2001) in Forsyth County named Tera and that she was the talk of the town. Angela reached out to Tera, and the two hit it off. Angela retained Tera as her attorney throughout the proceedings.

Three years after Angela’s legal proceedings ended and Angela was wrapping up her paralegal studies, Tera reached out to Angela to find out whether she would be interested in joining the Reese-Beisbier team. Angela jumped at the opportunity and has remained a vital team member ever since.

Let’s hear from Angela:

“We work very well together,” Angela says. “We’re both very compassionate people, and we have a lot of empathy.”

Empathy is a necessary skill in the family law practice, as the field requires a deep understanding of how to best handle high stakes and emotion-driven situations. These often include divorce cases, but can also include difficult custody disputes and heart wrenching situations of abuse and neglect.
Still, the unique challenges in family law are also the things that keep Angela returning day after day. “I love my job. I wouldn’t want to do any other type of work. I wouldn’t want to work in any other legal field,” Angela says.

So, what’s in store for the next ten years for Angela and the firm? “I hope to see our office growing,” she says. “I’m loyal to Tera and keeping her name well respected in the community; she is held in high regard. Her reputation is important to me. My name is behind hers, I think Socrates said it best, ‘your name is the richest jewel you can possibly possess, once you have kindled it you may easily preserve it, but if you once extinguish it, you will find it an arduous task to rekindle it again. The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.’ Tera is a tenacious advocate for her clients, and I take great pride in contributing to her advocacy.”

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