We had an information-packed meeting last Saturday with Bruce Smith, Divorce Strategist. Here’s a recap of the Custody and Parenting Time Strategies meeting to give you a taste of our meeting value.
Bruce has been discussing and coaching men impacted by divorce for eight years. Over those years he’s researched Minnesota divorce law and has heard hundreds of cases. And his professional background includes:
- Persuasion – packaging information to motivate others to act
- Collaboration – working with a variety of people to come to agreement
- Presentations and Presentation evaluation – 10 years of Toastmasters’ speech competition participant and award-winning Toastmasters presentation evaluator
He puts all the strategy, knowledge, and professional skills together to help men better prepare for negotiations and divorce-related mediations.
During the meeting Bruce discussed several strategies for men going through divorce. Here are some highlights.
Question: What to do if your spouse is working for a lower income than she has historically made?
Answer: First, all is not lost. You can impute income to her (basically it is additional income she could be making). You have to prove that she was or can make that amount. You can use old income tax records or old pay stubs.
Also, if she is underemployed you can present that she could be making more in a few ways. A good but inexpensive way to do this is to use a salary website like Salary.com. Plug in her education or experience and print out the current salary for that job. The best way, but more expensive – about $2,000 – is to hire an occupational consultant who will review her education and skills, and have her complete a few assessments. If she does not agree to have this done, then you can get a court order for her to do this.
What to do if your spouse is not agreeing to your proposed parenting time?
Answer: Parenting time is one of the most contentious negotiations in divorce. To become a better negotiator, here are a few tips:
- Treat the negotiations like a business transaction, remove emotion and stay calm. You what to choose your emotion don’t let someone else influence you.
- Do your homework before you negotiate. Create a few parenting time schedules. Write down your best case and what you would minimally accept. This lets you think before your emotions get the best of you.
- You lose as soon as you have a stake in the outcome. Meaning, the other person can use your emotional attachment against you to get what she wants or get you to pay more in child support or spousal maintenance. If you have no stake, the other person has no leverage.
- Don’t give in until she is showing signs of compromising. If you start to give in first, the middle becomes closer to her position than yours.
- Stay on the high road and try to keep a friendly conversation. I know this is tough, but frustration and irritation creates stubbornness on both sides.
What to expect for spousal maintenance?
Answer: First there is no specific formula in the state of Minnesota (such as half the length of marriage). Minnesota lawyers and mediators have told me that spousal maintenance is “transitional”, meaning it helps the other party transition into a new life style. It is meant to be a short-term assistance, not a long-term income stream. Here are a few tips:
- It is a fallacy that spousal maintenance is permanent or half the length of the marriage – the amount and length is purely a game of emotions.
- Like child support, you can also impute income on your spouse.
- Review your financial situation before negotiations – what is the most you can afford and the amount you are willing to pay?
- Typically I have not seen spousal maintenance if both incomes are similar (within $5,000 to $10,000).
Who should get the home and why?
Answer: This is another hotly negotiated topic. Again, treat this as a business transaction. Who can afford the house payment? If both your names are on the mortgage, have the other person refinance by a specific date. If he or she cannot, then have a condition to sell the property. If it’s only your name on the mortgage and she wants to stay, treat it like a rental agreement to protect yourself.
We dig so much deeper into each of these topics and provide a lot more detail to consider. As you can see, these meetings have a lot of valuable information and will help you better
- control your emotions
- prepare for negotiations
- and achieve a successful result.