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Mediation in the Hamptons

Mediation in the Hamptons
January 8, 2020 Rachel Alexander, Esq.
View of Historic Long Island NY gold coast mansion Hempstead House at Sands Point, Mediation in the Hamptons

{6 minutes to read}

Mediation is for everyone, from the most sophisticated families with the most complex finances to the simplest of situations. Couples with high net worth might consider their situation too complex or their assets too great for mediation. They may imagine that only costly, litigious attorneys from big firms can properly defend them and theirs. Perhaps our collective consciousness dictates that some situations just be litigated, must be defended by big guns or be at risk of mishandling or sacrifice. And certainly, concern about protecting what you have created is legitimate.

Even for those New Yorkers with considerable assets, mediation remains the best option. The higher the stakes, the more important the process by which they are managed.

Here are some of the benefits of mediation for couples with high net worth and intricate assets in the Hamptons, including East Hampton, Sag Harbor, and the surrounding areas:

Privacy & Confidentiality

Mediation is confidential. Unlike matters brought before a court, everything discussed in mediation is held in the strictest confidence. Once an issue comes before a court, privacy can be compromised. Privacy competes with other values, such as formal discovery, involvement of more and more experts and their staff, adversarial attorneys who can even weaponize the exposure of private, embarrassing information as a negotiating strategy. In fact, the most personal and intimate details of the relationship and portfolio are automatically disclosed to attorneys, the court, and staff, and can become a matter of public record. The more formal and public the process, the less the individuals can hold their own histories close to their vests. The more court resources are involved, the more any individual case becomes an important matter of legal precedent — the individual interest often is subjected to the collective, legal good.

While policy and legal issues are to be revered, divorcing New Yorkers are concerned, as they should be, with their children, themselves and their own current life-changing circumstances. When privacy is compromised, the parties lose control of the narrative, the pacing of disclosure to others, including their own children, and may become subject to unwanted, undreamt of, consequences.

For example, tax issues may be newly subjected to scrutiny. Tax irregularities or indiscretions can be freshly reviewed and potentially draw unwanted attention. Consider the small businesses with creative ‘pass through’ expenses and write-offs such as health or auto insurance coverage for a spouse — a spouse who is not employed per se by the company. Consider the cash businesses and cash income, perquisites, bonuses. Once a court is involved, so might be the IRS. Our sister state, New Jersey, follows a rule derived from a case, Sheridan v. Sheridan, which stands for the presiding judge’s obligation to immediately contact the IRS should any spurious tax matter, however incidental, come to light before the court. Few among us would willingly and knowingly agree to reopen our books for the IRS to have another go!

Mediation, by contrast, is governed by different rules than the courts. Privacy is regarded as sacrosanct; confidentiality is an essential tenet of the process. Candor and transparency are possible because the mediation meetings are closed — there is no mandate on the mediator to contact the tax authorities regardless of what is revealed. Though a legal process, navigated by a mediation lawyer, the parties themselves maintain control.

Mediation calls upon our higher selves

Situations that have given rise to the divorce are kept private. In a litigated, “at fault” divorce, grounds must be proven. For example, if the grounds are infidelity, third parties can be brought in to testify. This introduces a myriad of repercussions, potentially devastating people’s lives.

Mediation, on the other hand, always proceeds utilizing the grounds of no-fault divorce, called “irreconcilable differences,” in NJ and “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage,” in NY.

Hamptons mediation focuses on problem solving, not fault finding. The mediator’s destination is fair resolution, not destruction of everything along the way. Mediation addresses details but stays out of the weeds. Mediation refuses to weaponize settlement terms as punishments for either party’s transgressions or failures in the marriage. Mediation always bears in mind that only two divorcing adults, invariably with family between them, are the two who will be clearing up whatever mess they make and whatever harm they do.

Divorce can be detrimental but does not have to be. Mediation calls upon our higher selves; litigation incites our base, aggressive nature.

Mediation is the ideal option for individuals who have enjoyed success, been privileged with higher education, and had the opportunity to explore therapeutic modalities such as individual or couples therapy. Ideal mediation clients have the mature ability to introspect, the creativity to problem solve, the self confidence to insist that their values shape their outcome.

Mediation forfeits no other paths — neither litigation, nor arbitration, nor retention of separate counsel. Contrarily, once a court action has been filed, choices become limited, a shot has been fired, bridges are ignited to burn.

When individuals are committed to moving conservatively and with care, mediation is the thoughtful starting place. Mediation clients appreciate that conflict resolution has developed from brutal force, intimidation, win/lose, into a collaborative and child-centered process. Candidates for mediation are informed, aware, and innovative.

Mediation in the Hamptons offers a progressive way to divorce. A way that is nuanced and customized to the needs of individual clients. For those with the acumen to divorce wisely, Sag Harbor and East Hampton Mediation is the discriminating choice.

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