Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Below is a message from the Bergen County Division of Mental Health. Please sign up to see the free screening of Scattering CJ. We should all educate ourselves on suicide prevention so we can assist our loved ones when necessary.

Divorce is a particularly stressful time in the life of a family. Hopefully this film and discussion with keep your family safe during this stressful period.


We strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of our open screening of Scattering CJ, scheduled for September 10th – 15th  concluding in a community discussion on September 15th from 7-8:30 pm. ” Register to stream this movie at HCONTINO@CO.BERGEN.NJ.US.

“This documentary not only gives the viewer insight into the loss of a loved one, but how that loss connected people all over the world and initiated conversations among families and communities around suicide prevention, depression and general mental health.

If the pain and the struggle stay silently in the shadows losses will continue to occur that could have been prevented.  Even 6 feet apart we can still illustrate the outstretched arms that exist. 

Be Well!

The Bergen County Division of Mental Health

**** Due to the strong emotional nature of the content we do not recommend anyone under the age of 18 view the film without an adult present.****

Divorce Mediation: Confidentiality in Mediation “What’s said in mediation, stays in mediation.”

One of the reasons for choosing mediation for your divorce instead of litigation is the confidentiality of the mediation process. In litigation, everything is open to the public. Court appearances are open to the public and pleadings and documents filed with the court, are for the most part, accessible to the public.

Mediation is favored by the Courts and that public policy has resulted in rules, laws and case law holding the mediation process confidential. The mediator cannot be compelled to testify on behalf of either party in court, nor to submit to depositions. The confidentiality of the process is to assure the parties that full disclosure will be made during the mediation process and the parties don’t have to worry that what they say in mediation will be used against them later in court.

Confidentiality is important to high profile clients, as well as clients who do not want their dirty laundry aired in public or to have their clients, associates or friends know that they are in the process of getting divorced.

When you come to me to mediate your divorce, you sign a confidentiality agreement before proceeding with the mediation. Such an agreement adds an additional layer of protection to insure the confidentiality of the disclosures made during mediation.

I look forward to assisting you with your divorce and to working together with you in a confidential environment to reach a fair and equitable resolution of your marital dissolution issues.

Divorce Mediation: Mediating Alimony under the New Federal Tax Law

For divorces finalized beginning January 1, 2019 and going forward, alimony payments will no longer be deductible to the payor nor will alimony be considered income to the payee under the provisions of the new federal tax law. This change has caused a run on the courthouse for those wanting to get divorced in 2018 and still have the old alimony tax rules apply.

For those of you who are just beginning to consider divorce, or are the midst of your divorce, what does this change mean to you and your negotiations regarding alimony?

The change in the tax law simplifies the alimony calculations. The parties can concentrate on the 14 factors set forth by the alimony statute which must be taken into account in determining alimony. Those factors include the actual need and ability of the parties to pay, the duration of the marriage and the parties marital lifestyle.

As your divorce mediator I will review all the factors with you to help you to reach a fair and equitable alimony amount.

Human Trafficking Awareness Day 2018

Be aware of what your children are doing. Know who their friends are. Human traffickers make friends with their victims at shopping malls. Human traffickers prey on vulnerable children. Children of parents who are going through a divorce are especially vulnerable.

Don’t shrug this warning off saying it can’t happen to my daughter or my son. Unfortunately it does happen and you may not even know it.

For more information click here.

Children and Divorce: Who Makes the Medical Decisions?

Parents anticipating a divorce or in the midst of a divorce focus on issues of child support, custody, parenting time and education of their children. Emancipation is looked at in terms of whether or not child support will be continuing and if parents will be paying college tuition and expenses.

It is rare that attention is also focused on the fact that once a child turns 18 the parent is no longer able to make healthcare decisions for the child without the child’s written authorization. What does this mean?

As each child celebrates his/her 18th birthday, the child should include in the planning of the celebration the execution of a healthcare Power of Attorney known as a healthcare Proxy. If a child is 18 or older and is injured in a car accident after a prom or a graduation celebration, parents may encounter problems in the medical community making decisions for their child since their child is now considered an adult. Without HIPAA authorization (the medical privacy act), which should be part of the Healthcare Proxy, medical personnel are not allowed to share medical information with anyone other than the patient. The parent appointed by the child as the child’s Proxy for Healthcare will be able to make the medical decisions necessary for that child without having to contend with legal barriers.

I suggest you discuss this issue with your mediator and then with your child. The discussion with your child may be uncomfortable because parents do not want to contemplate that their child will be in a critical medical situation which requires the parents to make life and death decisions for their child and the child thinks he/she is invulnerable and doesn’t have to think about being injured or sick.

Please take this issue to heart and call me if I can be of assistance to you.

National Healthcare Decisions Week (April 16-22)

One of the important decisions that people getting divorced have to make, and often overlook, is deciding who will be their healthcare proxy after the divorce.  If you already have a health care proxy, you probably named your spouse.  Do you still want your spouse to make your health care decisions for you once you are divorced, or even while you are going through a divorce?  If you do not have a health care proxy, now is the time to name someone to fill that very important role.

“Did you know:

  • Health care agents make medical decisions for about half of the adults over 65 who are hospitalized.
  • In more than half of the instances where an agent must act, the agent is making decisions about life-sustaining treatments.
  • In about a quarter of cases, the health care agent is making all medical decisions for the patient.”


This is an issue you can discuss with your mediator or with an estate planning attorney.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need assistance in this area.

Human Trafficking Awareness Day, January 11, 2017. Be Aware – Protect Your Children.

Human traffickers prey on the vulnerable. Children whose parents are going through a divorce are vulnerable.

What is human trafficking? It is when someone knowingly holds, entices, harbors, transports, provides or obtains by any means another person to engage in sexual activity or to provide labor or services.

• It is estimated that 1 million children are exploited by the global commercial sex trade every year. (U.S. Department of State, The Facts About Child Sex Tourism: 2005)

• 244,000 American children and youth were estimated to be at risk of child sexual exploitation, including commercial sex exploitation, in 2000. (Estes, Richard J. and Neil A. Weiner. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work: 2001. Study funded by the Department of Justice. )

• 12 – 14 years is the average age of entry into prostitution. (Estes, Richard J. and Neil A. Weiner. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work: 2001.)

• It is estimated that there will be 25,000 human trafficking crimes during the months surrounding the Super Bowl (from Valerie Huttle, NJ Assemblywoman 6/14/13 conference).

This is so important it bears repeating – children that are susceptible to human trafficking are children who are vulnerable. Children whose parents are going through a divorce are especially vulnerable. Traffickers entice their victims with promises of family and love. Children who perceive that their family life is coming apart at the seams, who believe that their parents’ divorce is their fault or believe that one parent no longer loves them, can be prime targets.

The traffickers recruit the children through a number of means including social media chat rooms, hanging out at malls and even through other family members and friends. If your child suddenly has an older “new best friend” or “boyfriend”, check it out. You can log on to for additional information on the signs someone is a victim of human trafficking or call the New Jersey Human Trafficking Hotline if you believe your child or anyone else you know is a victim. The toll free telephone number is 1-855-363-6548.


Divorce and the new NJ Gas Tax

Last week the NJ Legislature passed a bill which will replenish the transportation trust fund by increasing the New Jersey gas tax by 23 cents per gallon. Governor Christie is expected to sign it this week.  What does this have to do with your divorce?

As I have discussed in a previous blog, Family Mediation: Planning for the Future 2-18-2014, persons getting divorced or those recently divorced should redo their financial planning documents, including their Last  Will and Testament.  Couples usually have named their spouses in their Wills, Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives for Healthcare.  The same couples usually do not want to have their former spouses as beneficiaries of their estate, as their attorney-in-fact or their proxy for healthcare decisions, hence the documents should be revisited and revised.  This is even more important now since the bill also includes the raising of the the estate tax exemption for the NJ Estate Tax in 2017 to $2,000,000 and the elimination of the NJ Estate Tax by January, 2018.   Any financial planning documents your attorney prepared included your decisions in regard to tax planning based on the existence of the NJ Estate Tax as well as the NJ Inheritance Tax.  These documents may now be outdated.

The changes to these documents might be part of your divorce settlement agreement.  As a mediator I can help you with these decisions and include them in your agreement.  If you are already divorced, I can advise you individually as to the changes in the law and review your documents so you can make informed decisions in regard to updating these documents.

Social Media, Your Divorce, Your Children and Privacy

You and your spouse have very different notions of privacy.  This may be one of the underlying causes of your divorce.  You believe your life should be kept private and don’t believe in broadcasting your every move on social media.  Your spouse believes in sharing, increasing contacts and broadening networks.

You are both the proud parents of three children under the age of 9.  You want to share your children’s photographs, artwork and other visible signs of their achievements with those you love.  So does your spouse.  You are concerned that your children may be the target of online and social media predators if you are not careful about what is shared and how it is shared.  Your spouse says you are overprotective.

How do you resolve these very real differences?

You work together with your Mediator to arrive at a solution that is acceptable to both of you.  You both love your children and want what is best for them, so working towards a goal that will allow  you to protect your children as well as enable you to share your joy in your children with family and friends is certainly an achievable outcome.

Yesterday, August 25, 2016, The Record newspaper, on page BL-5, addressed a similar issue in the “Ask Amy” column.  In discussing protecting a child’s privacy, Amy Dickinson stated “I never tag anyone in photos and am deliberately vague about relationships. . .  Anyone who makes a choice to post a photo of a child including identifying details for all the world to see is taking a risk about how that photo and identifiers might be shared and used outside of their social media friendship circles, now and for all time . . .”

This is a real issue for many couples and should be addressed and included in your divorce settlement agreement.  I am available to help you with this and other issues.