Johnny Goes to College

In Laurie Linden ‘s NY Times editorial, she writes about how she and her ex-husband together drove with their son from Minneapolis to Fort Collins to take him to college. Read this.

“We  are not the winners of our neighborhood’s competition for the best divorce, but we’re on the same page when it comes to parenting,” writes Ms. Linden.  The article describes with sensitivity and humor how she handles the long drive to campus, the hectic move into the dorm, and the emotional separation from her son.

This editorial is a reminder that parenting is life-long and that over time, even people who may have had adversarial divorces, are able to overcome that trauma and work together to do what’s best for their children.



Posted in Baltimore Mediation Services, Children, Co-parents, Divorce, Family, New York Times, parents, Sheila Russian | Leave a comment

Loan Interest and Divorce Mediation

Mortgage interest.  Credit card interest.  Loan interest.  Student loan interest. These 4 types of interest are part and parcel of loans and finances.  People need to understand different kinds of interest in order to create realistic budgets.  Interest rates are an important piece of the  financial puzzle that clients piece together in divorce mediation.

Clients need to understand the interest rate on each account.  Annual interest may be as low as 0% or as high as 30%.  The interest may be fixed, meaning that it remains constant for a long period of time, or it may periodically change.  Interest may be simple interest or compounded daily.  Even if the interest rate is low, it is important to know if there are any additional fees. For example, if a payment is late, there may be a late fee; if a customer receives cash from an ATM, a different interest rate might apply.

Credit card companies frequently offer consumers very low interest rates and/or bonus points to entice people to acquire a card and to transfer balances from another credit card.  However, these offers are for a limited time; once the prescribed time is over, the interest may skyrocket.

Interest may  have tax implications.  For example, the interest rate on a home mortgage or a home equity loan is often tax deductible.  The tax deduction may substantially decrease a person’s income taxes.  When people are trying to figure out if one person can afford to remain in a home, it is important to understand how the mortgage interest will affect their taxes.

Loans may have special features.  Loans come in all shapes and sizes.  For instance, student loan payments may be correlated with a percentage of a person’s income; some student loan balances may be reduced or eliminated if the payments are promptly made for a certain period of time or if the person has a particular kind of employment.  Some loans can be prepaid or assumed.  It is important to understand these special features, in order to make the best financial decisions.

A financial planner, an individual attorney, or an accountant can help people understand  complicated financial decisions.

Mediation provides a place for people to share financial information and to create a list of options.  Sheila Russian makes sure that each person has time to express his/her ideas, and that there is ample time to ask and answer questions.  Only then can people make informed decisions.

For more information:  Sheila C. Russian, Attorney-Mediator

                                            Member:  Academy of Professional Family Mediators







Posted in Divorce Mediation, finances, financial literacy, loans, Sheila Russian, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Solving Family Money Fights

This Consumer Reports article shares a lot of helpful information about how families can solve financial problems.  The ideas certainly can be helpful for people who are separated and divorced who are trying to figure out how to handle debts, the sale of a house, tuition, and retirement accounts.

Tobie Stranger recommends that people meet in a neutral place and hire a neutral person.  Mediators are particularly well trained neutrals who can effectively guide conversations.  During mediation, people share information (e.g. recent credit card  and retirement account statements).  The mediator helps people think about realistic ways to handle each issue.  Mediators make sure that people fully discuss options and are well informed before making decisions.

The article emphasizes the need to be respectful during these difficult conversations. Mediators make sure that each person has ample times to share his/her ideas. Mediators also monitor the conversation, so that one person does not dominate the discussion.

Solving money disputes is crucial.  Mediation helps people make informed financial decisions; then people can move on with less disruption to family relationships



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Staycation or Vacation?

Summer planning is not typically the first issue separated or divorced parents want to resolve. More often the most pressing topic is where the children are going to be living during the year when the parents are working and the children are in school.

However, after decisions about the “typical” week are made, it is important to discuss vacations.  Mediation is an effective way to discuss vacations.

Vacations raise a variety of questions:

  1. How will the parents share information about summer activities?
  2. When do the applications need to be completed?
  3. Are there scholarships available, and if there are, what information do the parents need to provide?
  4. What will the costs be? Who will be responsible for these costs?
  5. How will the parents coordinate their vacations? When will each parent notify the other one about vacation plans?
  6. Are there any special travel arrangements that need to be made? (e.g. if the child will be flying alone)
  7. How much information does each parent want about the other parent’s vacation? Location?  Contact information?  Names of other people who will be on the vacation?

During mediation parents discuss and answer these questions.  Then plans for annual vacations, whether they take place locally or faraway, involve only the child or include his/her parent, can be made more easily and with less stress.


Sheila Russian



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mediation and Insurance Coverage

Sheila Russian recently attended Mediator Training sponsored by the Baltimore City Circuit Court. Sheila is certified by the Baltimore City Circuit Court to mediate civil cases.

The speakers were John Bickerman and Rachel Ehrlich who focused on issues related to mediating cases that involve insurance companies.  Insurance coverage is typically an issue in motor tort, workers’ compensation, and personal injury cases.

The four hour session included extensive discussions and a role play.  Mr. Bickerman and Ms. Ehrlich shared theoretical as well as practical information about topics such as how to handle joint sessions and caucuses, confidentiality, the role of insurance adjusters, and overcoming impasses.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Secret to Sibling Success

This NY Times Article (Sunday 2/5/17  Style Pg 5)  describe how the author’s relationships with her siblings  were strengthened  after their parent’s divorce.

“Years ago my  younger brother and I attended the wedding of a childhood friend…We were ..joking with each other, when the sister of the groom approached.’

‘You guys are so close with each other…it must be nice.  Tell me, what  can I do to make my daughters are close as you are.?’

‘You want to know,’ Eric said. ‘I’ll tell you: You and your husband should separate, then go through an ugly divorce.  That’ll bring the children together.”

Ellen Umansky’s article describes how she and her brothers supported and comforted each other as they experienced their parents’ divorce.  She describes how they handled living in more than one house, parental anger and tension, and their  own intense feelings. “… brothers were my one constant and comfort…..we created a family within a family..”

Divorce is an intense experience for children as well as adults.  Divorce mediation includes discussions about how to communicate with children, create parenting plans, and arrange finances  in ways that address the needs of children.  Divorce mediation  focuses on  fostering strong relationships among siblings, as well as between each parent and child,  and eliminating the extreme stress of ugly divorce.

Posted in Baltimore Mediation Services, Children, Communication, Divorce, Divorce Mediation, Family, New York Times, parents | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Retirement Planning

Retirement is an important issue to address in divorce mediation.  Frequently people have several kinds of retirement accounts–traditional IRA’s, SEP IRA’s, 403B’s, or pensions.  Some people are employed by small businesses or large corporations; others work for state or federal government.  It is important for people to gather statements and to share account information.

Social Security is another source of retirement income.  “If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record.”

During mediation people share information about retirement savings.  Clients  also find out what paperwork is required to divide accounts, as well as fees or penalties that will need to be paid.  Each kind of account may have different requirements.  Clients also decide when the best time is to divide or liquidate particular accounts.

It is extremely important for people to understand the tax implications of decisions related to retirement accounts. For instance, the tax implications of using funds in an IRA as a down payment on a house may be different from rolling over the same funds into another retirement account. Clients frequently consult with accountants, financial planners, and attorneys.  Then they are able to make decisions that make financial sense.


Posted in Divorce Mediation, finances, financial literacy, gray divorce | Tagged , | Leave a comment