Services

sastow law and mediation

Divorce is one of the most difficult and gut-wrenching experiences one can have. If you’re planning to divorce, or already involved in divorce proceedings, you already know that.

You’re unhappy. You’re worried. You’re under a great deal of stress. You’ve got a million decisions to make. And you want to end all of the conflict, and divorce peacefully.

One of the best decisions you can make is to call us at (516) 314-6116 for a free consultation.

Why should I call you?

The first reason is that I can help you—with any and all services that relate to your family conflicts, including divorce or separation--via divorce—mediation, collaborative divorce, and if necessary, litigation. My goal is helping you move toward a peaceful divorce.

The second reason to call me is that not only am I a highly trained and experienced attorney and mediator, but I also know exactly what you’re going through. As a result of my own experiences, I have chosen to work helping couples avoid the enormous amount of time, expense and emotional turmoil that litigation brings—and that I, myself, endured.

If mediation is your best option, I can help you and your spouse begin the process of working to reach a win-win Agreement that addresses both of your needs, and the needs of your children, cost-effectively. You don’t have to worry about having to spend a great deal of time and money, only to have a judge, who doesn’t even know you, dictate a win-lose decision that does nothing to help you move forward peacefully.

If collaborative divorce is right for you, I can represent you and help you and work with your spouse's attorney to reach a win-win agreement that addresses both of your needs, and the needs of your children far more cost effectively than litigation. You don't have to worry about having to waste years and very significant amounts of money, only to have a judge, who doesn't even know you, dictate a win-lose decision that does nothing to help you move forward peacefully.

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Here are answers to some of the key questions you’re likely to ask, should mediation represent the choice that’s best for you:

How can we go to mediation or collaborative divorce if we're not even speaking?

That’s probably the first question I hear most often. Or one of the spouses often says, “Mediation or the collaborative process wouldn't work for us. We don’t speak.”

The reality is, couples are getting divorced because they aren’t getting along. It’s the rare couple that comes in when at least one of them isn’t angry or resentful. The reason to undertake mediation or collaborative divorce is simple: There’s no gain for either of them to go into litigation.

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What do I do if my spouse doesn’t want to enter either mediation or collaborative divorce?

Sometimes, we find that one of the spouses may be suspicious of the mediation or the collaborative process because he/she may believe it’s too touchy-feely and that it might be like a therapy session. Or one of the spouses may be afraid to speak his/her mind without the “protection” of an attorney.

It will be easier for both of you if you understand that neither mediation nor the collaborative process are therapy. Their purpose is to help the couple resolve the issues that divorce presents—in a way that’s best for them and for their children.

Mediation and collaborative divorce are both completely voluntary. And at any point, either spouse can decide not to continue. If that occurs, both would need to hire their own attorneys.

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Can I have an attorney present during mediation?

In mediation, attorneys are always welcome to attend our mediation sessions. In fact, we can provide the names of attorneys specifically trained in mediation. Attorneys can attend the sessions. However, they more often serve as outside consultants. Actually, we encourage each spouse to have an attorney review the agreement.

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If we already started litigation, can we stop and try mediation?

Yes. Even if you’ve already retained separate attorneys, you can ask the court for an extension of time to try to reach a settlement. Then, if you and your spouse wish to pursue mediation, you can each have your attorneys review any agreement that you reach, to make sure your individual legal rights have been protected.

How long does mediation take?

Typically, with the help of a mediator to guide communication and keep the couple focused on the goals they wish to achieve, a couple can reach a legally binding Agreement in about 4 to 10 sessions, depending on the complexity of the issues..

Litigation very often goes on for years due to the court procedures, the availability of attorneys, financial experts and other experts, and other factors that can cause delays.

How long does the collaborative process take?

The two collaborative attorneys will protect their clients while simultaneously guiding the couple's communication to be positive and focused on the goals they wish to achieve. A couple can reach a legally binding agreement in as little as about 4 to 10 sessions, depending on the complexity of the issues..

Litigation very often goes on for years due to the court procedures, the availability of attorneys, financial experts and other experts, and other factors that can cause delays.

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What is the cost of mediation? Of collaborative divorce? Of litigation?

The cost of mediation and collaborative divorce depends on two factors: 1) the amount of time needed to come to an agreement, and 2) the complexity of the issues that need to be settled.

Keeping those factors in mind, the total cost of mediation for both spouses typically ranges from roughly $3,000 to $10,000. (That’s often less than the initial retainers paid by the couple when they begin the litigation process.)

The cost of the collaborative process is likely $6,000 to $20,000 for both spouses. (That is often spent just at the start of the litigation process!)

The cost of litigation can easily run $30,000 to $70,000 for each spouse, and frequently, much more. That’s money that would be better spent on college tuition, household expenses, or almost anything else.

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What will we decide?

You and your spouse can reach agreements on every issue involved in your lives. While each couple’s situation may be slightly different, the issues they address tend to be similar.

Here are the subjects most couples work out in mediation:

  • Parenting—e.g., when, where, how, and how much time each parent will spend with your child(ren)
  • Child support
  • Spousal maintenance, if any
  • Distribution of assets

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Where does mediation take place?

Usually, my mediation clients come to one of my offices. I always want both people to feel comfortable. So my principal office is more like a small living room or den. I have a velvet loveseat and several soft chairs, plus a cocktail table in the middle. I make it a point to keep candy, pretzels or other snacks—as well as water, coffee, and tea—available at all times. There’s also a table and chairs available for signing documents.

We try to be flexible, to serve everyone’s needs. During Superstorm Sandy, for example, my office had no light or heat. However, one couple still decided to come. They brought flashlights. We set up candles on all of the tables, and had a very successful mediation session. During the same storm we also conducted a mediation session in the couple’s living room. We all wore our coats and were covered with blankets.

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What will we need to bring?

Full financial disclosure is required during mediation, as it is in any type of divorce proceeding.

To start, you’ll need to bring copies of all personal, corporate, and other income tax returns and related forms for the past 3 years.

In addition, you’ll both need to provide details about:

  • Gross annual income from all sources since you last filed a tax return
  • Appraised value of any businesses
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Monthly expenses
  • Assets and liabilities, such as personal, business, and home equity loans
  • Net worth
  • Insurance
  • Real estate owned and valued
  • Vehicles, boats, planes, and other assets
  • Personal and home assets, including appraised value of art and other collectibles
  • Credit card debt
  • Unpaid taxes and liens
  • General debts payable
  • Stocks, bonds, and retirement funds in IRAs, Roth IRAs, annuities, etc.

Note:There are many free, printable personal financial statement forms available online.

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How will child custody and visitation be determined?

In mediation and collaborative practice, we tend to use the term “parenting arrangements” instead of “custody” and “visitation,” which tend to make the kids seem like possessions, or pawns in a nasty game of chess.

The NewYork Council on Divorce Mediation offers a nice explanation of how parents arrange the time each spends with children: “In mediation, parents work to create a parenting arrangement which is responsive to the work demands of each parent and the needs and activities of the children. Often in mediation, through the good will which is generated, parents do not even set a strict schedule; instead, they agree each week to compare their schedules and the obligations of the children and decide which parent will pick the children up after school, who will get them to lessons or sports, who will provide dinner and who will help them with homework.”

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Is the Agreement we reach legally binding?

Absolutely. Once the Agreement has been signed by both individuals, properly notarized and acknowledged, it is legally binding.

Even better, research has shown that when both parties have participated in reaching a mediation agreement, they’re much more likely to adhere to the terms of that negotiated settlement.

And the benefits continue. When both parties believe their needs have been fairly addressed, they tend to communicate better and have a much better relationship in the future. Both ex-spouses realize that they were able to come to an agreement in the worst of times. So as life changes occur, they may be better able to adapt to new situations and compromise as needed.

For example, some couples have come back to me years later for help resolving issues that hadn’t originally been anticipated. One of the parents may be moving, or remarrying. Therefore, the entire issue of parenting time may need to be addressed again. Since their initial mediation was successful, we’re often able to negotiate changes quickly, easily, and with little or no conflict.

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