Mediate This!

Matthew Barach Esq. On How The Pandemic Changed Family Law

July 30, 2021 Matthew Brickman, Sydney Mitchell Season 1 Episode 34
Mediate This!
Matthew Barach Esq. On How The Pandemic Changed Family Law
Show Notes Transcript

Esteemed family law, trial and appellate attorney Matthew P. Barach returned to speak with Matthew Brickman and Sydney Mitchell on how the Covid-19 Pandemic changed Family Law.

Mr. Barach's prestigious career includes winning two landmark family law cases in the Commonwealth pertaining to the New Alimony Reform Act and child custody - removal of a minor child from the Commonwealth (George v George and Miller v Miller).

Mr. Barach has been ranked as a Top 10 Family Law Attorney in Massachusetts by the American Jurist Institute, and as a Top 100 Lawyer in America by the American Society of Legal Advocates. He is also regularly granted the highest distinction on Avvo.com. His articles have appeared in the Massachusetts Family Law Journal.

Website: https://www.barachfamilylaw.com

If you have a matter, disagreement, or dispute you need professional help with then visit iMediate.com - Email mbrickman@ichatmediation or Call (877) 822-1479

Matthew Brickman is a Florida Supreme Court certified family and appellate mediator who has worked in the 15th and 19th Judicial Circuit Courts since 2009 and 2006 respectively. But what makes him qualified to speak on the subject of conflict resolution is his own personal experience with divorce.

Download Matthew's book on iTunes for FREE:
You're Not the Only One - The Agony of Divorce: The Joy of Peaceful Resolution

Matthew Brickman
President iMediate Inc.
Mediator 20836CFA
iMediateInc.com

Mediate This!:

Hi, my name is Sydney Mitchell. Hi, I'm Matthew Brickman, Florida Supreme court mediator. Welcome to the Mediate This! Podcast where we discuss everything mediation and conflict resolution.

Sydney Mitchell:

We are happy to have back on the show today, Matthew Baraq, for those of you who missed the last time he was on the show, I encourage you to go back and listen to our previous episode with Matthew. And for those of you who are new for the first time, Matthew is considered by many as the fixer in Massachusetts family law. He has over 20 years of family law experience. His prestigious career includes winning two landmark family law cases in the Commonwealth pertaining to the new alimony reform act and child custody. Matt has been ranked as a top 10 family law attorney in Massachusetts by the American jurist Institute and as a top 100 lawyer in America by the American society of legal advocates. Welcome back, Matthew. We are excited to have you back with us again today.

Matthew Brickman/Matthew Baraq Esq.:

Awesome. So, all right, so, so I want to switch gears now, because now, now that you're talking about mobile society and time sharing , we've had a pandemic ability to be more way out . I didn't get the memo, you're still traveling. So what , what , what have you run into with like issues regarding the time sharing and custody and a parent being fearful of a child being exposed like during this pandemic, how gosh you run into, you know, if I had a dollar for everybody that calls me about, can I travel, like get it , or if I do this, you know, I want, you know, particularly when the pandemic, like things are starting to change, right? And so things have gotten better with the vaccine and stuff, but you know, the earlier days of this , you know, it was , it was, it was tough , uh , in terms of people having, you know, do I bring my kid to that house, even do that. So that it started with that. And I thought, you know, our chief judge hear me to the very beginning of it , his message to the family law bar was that essentially that the rule of law prevails and , um, you know, the cost of new orders have to be maintained and what order they're a new court order. Yeah. That's exactly, you know what he said, and that didn't stop some people from not bringing people varying time and stuff, but I think that's really, what is the message now that we're starting to come out of it? I, I kind of believe I had done for the , our family law bar down here, a sort of symposium and a , and a and a panel. And then we, we wrote a white paper and this was , this is back in August. It's sort of right when we're sort of still in the thick of things and what really came out of that was that just because we were in a panic because it changed our laws, you know, the laws remained the same. Um, our courts are going to return and the rule of law needs to prevail. So we're not going to have not really supposed to have special rules for the, for the paramount . And the certainly people can try to change orders or modify or original or alter orders. And certainly people had to make some decisions, you know, various times, you know, do I let, during the middle of this, do I let my child go to Disney world? You know, with in when they, after the quarantine come back for two week vacation, when I have sole legal custody, you know, there, there were things that came up that were, were temporal or , or parenting time that they need to be made up. But I think really the theme and the message to me , uh , has been that we were not adjusting our walls and that, and that goes to everything that they get in divorce. Um, you know, I have some folks that own restaurants, you know, how do you value those? Uh, and you know, and when we've been certainly interesting issues that come up, but I think thematic, I think what's been important is to remember that we don't make special rules or special laws for the longterm . There might've been some short-term stuff, right? But the longterm , this same marital division of assets and the same laws going to be applied, the same best interest of the child standard is ultimately going to be applied. And so I think that is getting through the rough areas and from certain events that come up , uh, you know, like shuffling kids back and forth between households, which came up all the time, you know, well, they're not, they're not social distancing or having people over in dad's house and I'm not sending my , my child, you know, mom and them got away with it. And some of them didn't and some of that time will be needed to be made up, but ultimately orders should be orders and having continuity and consistency in orders related to children are important and maybe even more sobering and Panda , but that's sort of what, that was the message that came out of it. I thought .

Sydney Mitchell:

Yeah. So you don't particularly see there being any long-term effects, you know, as the laws are staying the same , um, you know, for parties down the road with their negotiations, you don't see there being any significant long-term effects of the pandemic on what those negotiations might be .

Matthew Brickman/Matthew Baraq Esq.:

No, because here's why , when I'm starting to think, I might've said something different six months ago, but I think that things seem to be coming back , um, at this point. Uh, and so if things continue on this, you know , trajectory where, you know, we're back in court full-time and in three or four months, and, you know, people aren't wearing masks, I heard today on the radio, they're thinking of Massachusetts is not going have the mass mandate. The CDC announced this week that they're getting rid of it too. So certainly people are, have the ability now readily to get that saying all those things. So I think we're kind of pushed through knock wood, right? So it seemed like that was a temporal period of 12 months, 14 months when things are a little haywire, but you're not going to change your whole body of law and upend things as we move forward. Right. So we're kinda like back to where we all, and I think, you know, I think that's going to be the prevalent wisdom. So my message to folks has been, you know, it was a temporal event and, you know, a lot of the courts were closed for awhile . They were slow. I mean, that's really, one of the doctors were like, oh, it's terrible. Yeah . And I'm sure that's true across the country. I mean, you know, there's thousands of cases that we're not getting decisions , you know, that the family law bar, the whole state isn't getting decisions on , um, you know, people, the staff hasn't is well behind on, on cases from what I understand. And, you know, it's a total, total bottleneck. That's really the fact that we're not getting our days in court, but the effect or the practicality of which would change in the law from the pandemic. I don't think so. I think that's, I mean, I might have felt differently six months ago, but I just, I don't , I don't see it. I think, I think that as we move past it, it was a temporal event, you know, maybe parenting we made up or things like that. But I don't see how, I don't think it's going to actually impact ultimately , um, how you get folks divorced or who the law. I mean, quadrant say that how the laws apply. I think it does impact on people get divorced because everything is bottled back. So it's taking a lot longer. And I think that, I think we, as practitioners need to be more creative in our approaches. We need to look not to the courts. Now I asked like six drugs in the panel that I ran. I did a follow-up the panel a couple months ago. And I asked, you know, because one of the couple of judges I said, do we really need the courts? I mean, as practitioners, should we be settling cases out of court? Should we be privately arbitration cases should be mediating cases, conciliate in cases like, do we have a duty because of the bottleneck , so to speak of not going to court. And I think in some ways that's really the effect, because if you can't get an order in a timely manner and you can't get a decision in a timely manner as court, really the way to go, and I'll , I'll tell you, the maca has as a mediator. Um, and , and, and, and in Florida, I'll give you an interesting statistic . So in , I think it was 20 17, 20 18 on two years, there were just 4 million cases filed in the state of Florida. And everything's got to go to mediation by statute. So, so, so 82% of the cases filed, got settled in their very first mediation. And 18% said, no , we're going to trial. We'll 15 of the 18 settled either in a second mediation between counsel , between parties, after some more discovery, depositions, whatnot. And only 3% actually went to trial, which really, you know, in, in, in Florida, the judges , um, and , and, and in Palm beach county where I am, it's interesting because the judges, especially in Palm beach county, say, before you can Eve , before we will even give you a hearing date, you first have to go to mediation, produce a conference report that says, you've at least tried to settle it yourself. And if you don't then find , we'll give you a date, but 10 days prior to seeing us, you have to go back to mediation and try to settle it yourself. We don't want to settle it. It's really interesting. We have, our percentage is 97% of Kate . We don't have, we don't have the rigorous mediation statute. We focus on our percentage has historically been 97%, two cases settle , which is awesome. And so what, and especially, you know, going back to like hit issues, a lot of judges don't want to deal with kid issues. Like, you know, you know, I mean, and I, I could imagine, you know , as a judge, I wouldn't want to start dictating to a family how blood on my hands, if something goes wrong. Right? And so, and so a lot of times with kid related issues, you know, equitable distributions, apple distribution, we've got a data, marriage, data filing it's marital, let's get values, split it down the middle. Okay, fine. You know, if there's marital dissipation in ways, fine, we'll, we'll, we'll figure that out. But other than that, like kid issues, I've actually had it where the parties could not figure out kid issues. They, they, they came to me for mediation. They did not set up, they got their date 10 days prior, they came back to mediation. Still couldn't figure it out, went in front of the judge. The judge refused to figure it out, but sent it back to mediation with explicit instruction to figure out the kid issues. And so then they came back to mediation to then figure out the kid issues. But the judge was like, I look, I'll give you explicit instructions . You know , they were arguing over the , you know, the percentage of timeshare , you know? Um, and the judge said, look, it's 50 50, go back to mediation, figure it out. I don't care which 50 50 schedule you do, but you're doing equal go and take control of your life, which I think is good. Um, then it does not create that bottleneck. One of the things that we saw here in Florida, too , um , with the pandemic was in the very big, I've always said that , um, the, the, the legal field has been one of the most technologically challenged industries. I think an excellent point. There's no doubt when the pandemic happened . So what's interesting. I actually, so I've been mediating for 14 years and in 2009, I had this idea of, well, why can't I imidiate virtually. So back in oh, nine long before zoom and everything, I'm like, okay, how do you do this? So I contacted Microsoft, I contacted Cisco WebEx. I contacted this other little company and nobody had any platforms other than, okay . We could Skype two ways. I'd say you couldn't do multiple, you know , multiple parties couldn't do virtual rooms. Couldn't do everything that we're doing now. Right. Well, so I found this young kid at Cisco and he was fascinated by mediation. He was like, wow, that sounds like a great job. So I told him , I said, I , you know, can you, but he said, look, we don't have anything. I said, well, can you build it for me ? So, so I worked with this kid for about three months and they built me my online platform and I've been doing virtual mediation. Um, in-state out-of-state and around the world, since 2009, I have been Matthew I've spent thousands of dollars advertising. All I needed was a pandemic. That's all I did . You were just waiting for that. We were just waiting for that. As soon as it hits, I sent out an email to all the attorneys, 600 attorneys I've worked with in 14 years going, Hey, remember I have, cause everyone's scrambling around, like, how do we get it ? Right . And they're like, oh my gosh. Yeah. You've had this system and it's Cisco WebEx. Like it's one of the largest communication companies. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. You could have invented zoo . Speaking of zoom, from what I hear is, is one of the engineers or whatnot left Cisco WebEx and went and created zoom . So whatever, but in any case, so I've been doing virtual, but one of the things that happened here in Florida was the judges, as soon as a pandemic happened. And then it was like, okay, we've got to start over. The judge was like, we're not, I'm not sitting on a computer screen and looking all day long. And so they refuse to do cases. Well that created a backlog. Finally. They were like, okay, how do we figure this out? They went to zoom and trying to figure out all the technology, how do we do this? And finally they've embraced it. And at least here in Florida, they have now said, wow, you know, so much, so many of the different hearings, we don't ever need to probably have those in , in , in person anymore. Like, you know, a unified motion calendar, which is a five minute hearing in the morning. Like we don't need to leave the office, go park, go through security, go to court, sit there with all the other people for five minute hearing, we can just log on and be done. And the efficiency they're starting to see, there's an efficiency to moving certain cases, even mediations. They're like, I don't know if we ever need to go in person again, like we can do. It's totally true that we have the same thing. Same thing here you have about the same thing up here. I think it's probably universal all across the country. The judges at first were a little bit paid about stepping in and doing the zoom and all those kinds of things. And then they realized that, you know, like you said, the legal profession is always so far behind technology technologically , and then we've got to do the zoom. We've got to move. The cases are just going to be more of a disaster than it already was becoming. And then they started doing it. And then I think a lot of us have concluded, concluded that there are so many in court events that can be handled by WebEx or whatever platforms . Not everything. No, not everything. I think some , one of the judges said that like pretrials , it's kind of a seminal event year for all . A lot of times when we send all our cases at the pretrial , it's kind of commonplace before you get that trial date. And there is something about when you're in person at that pretrial , you know, you're writing the agreement off, you're scribbling it up and it gets done before you get that trial date. So that immediacy is lost . But other events like arguing motions, I've all your three appellate case in the last 12 months, including the Hague removal international case for the us court of appeals on zoom, I lose sleep on it. So I think, you know, there are events that are more efficient by the use of technology and lawyers need to embrace technology like you did in 2009, the efficiency, like, I mean, and , and , and it's interesting, like even with a mediation, like I'm working like a mediation yesterday for five hours, I'm working the entire five hours, but we may, you know, I've got the attorneys and the parties in separate range . And when I go into another room, the attorney's able to still be on their computer and be efficient and get work done, and maybe pull a client off the clock and save them some money, but then go and work on somebody else's case. And that driving time, oh my gosh, all the driving traffic there , there's just so much more efficiency by embracing the technology. But it also then helps the parties not get backlogged and bottleneck, and then their levels of frustration while they're waiting and waiting and waiting, waiting helps. Uh , the other thing that I've noticed too, is, is with the bottleneck that has helped settle cases because it's like, well, you have your opportunity today to settle your case or, sorry, you're not going to be in front of the judge for nine more months. And they're like nine months. You can't go through this for nine more months. Okay. And all of a sudden they, they then realize maybe I should compromise and create an agreement that I can live with. Well, I had a hearing yesterday, I was continuing a matter, the judge jumped on, it was a nine o'clock exam. She jumped out like literally nine o'clock, which never happens. And they would take the bench on time. And I was done by 9 0 5. So because we got the continuance, if we were back pre pandemic, I would have had to drive an hour. I would have had to sit there for 45 minutes. Finally get her and drive back an hour. So we've been three hours plus for five minutes is all that. That's probably that's true for everyone. So that that's the efficiency. And I just hope because my , my concern is this, as we get back to normal and because lawyers are so slow in developing and embracing technology that they just , they just don't say, because the bottleneck, you know what, let's just bring everybody back to court. It'll be easier. And then all the efficiencies that utilize from this pandemic to make us better practitioners, better lawyers, better judges go by the wayside. That's my biggest fear because they're so used to that system that I'm worried that when things come back to normal, they're going to forget, oh, you can use zoom for that hearing. We don't have to have 300 people sit and wait for six hours. And I just, I guess, folk that we , we learn the lessons of the value of technology and how that got us through so much of this pandemic for legal services. We were able to do the zooms. We're able to argue in front of appeals courts, we're able to do hearings with one party. We're able to argue motions. We're able to , to mediate and conciliate and get things done and without leaving the office. And we kept things moving. If we forget those lessons, we're never going to embrace the technology. Yeah. I think, I think, I think it's a huge disservice to the industry. It's a huge disservice to us as individuals and especially to the, to , to , to the parties that we're helping are representing as well. Um, because it's, it's , it's just , uh , a cost for everybody. So. Okay. So one more thing I wanted , I want to ask you before we switch gears again. Um, so , um, one of the things that I've noticed as a mediator and I hear from attorneys all the time, dealing with the pandemic was, you know, when the pandemic hit things shut down, jobs shut down, income was reduced or eliminated temporarily. So many people were running the court filing modifications of child support or alimony. And at least from what I kept hearing here in Florida with the, with , with the , uh, from the attorneys was so many of those were denied. Um , because, because they didn't reach in Florida that , you know, the bar for, for a modification is a substantial material, permanent unanticipated change in circumstance . Well, the judges were like, yeah, it's substantial. Yes. It's material. Yes, it's unanticipated, but it's not permanent. And so they were denied their modifications. Well then a couple of attorneys of course realized, wait a second, maybe we're filing the Wong thing. Maybe it's not a modification. Maybe it's an abatement. And all of a sudden things were getting granted, you know, just, just, just, just a simple shift from, we're not changing. We just need a temporary pause. Um, have you experienced any of that noticed any of that seen any hurt, any events I would answer this way? I think what, what I noticed is that judges have not wanted to not want to make decisions during the pandemic . I think that they didn't know what was going on and they didn't know where it was going and they didn't know if it was temporal. And I think that, you know, I have , I always tell all my friends are judges and I always tell judges, I think really the one, the number one rule is the same rule in the medical community. You should always follow as a judge and that's do no harm. And I think that they were concerned that because it was unclear when this would have a beginning, middle and an end , uh, it made it difficult to make substantial long-term changes like you're referring to, whereas a temporary order type stage where it was a temporal type thing , uh , like an abatement would , would make more, more sense to lower supporters , some lost their job. Um, but I I've found that a lot of our cases I've had, we've had difficulty getting judges to actually make rulings and decisions, or they've been very slow , um , in Fort and forthcoming. So, and I think some of that might be by lack of staff and other times I think some of them I really do believe is that judges wanting to wait out and see how things played out because to change somebody's alimony, like permanently on the middle of this, when, you know, things could change back and six months to a year for three months or four months might , might be unfair my create the case reappearing multiple times to change it back. Whereas temporary type orders, I think reasonably 10 , I just found that across the board, I found it with, with, with going to court in the last year. Um, if anything, judges were very generally under temporary orders in church in Florida kind of implement the status quo. And I felt judges were much more inclined to not make decisions to keep the status quo pending, pending this , that , that , that , that was kind of my , my take on it. I think permanent permanent changes during the , the pandemic I think were more difficult for a judge to make. Yeah. Yeah. Um, all right . So, so now I want to talk to you about , um, just, you know, the agreements themselves and , um, um, basically like what has changed with even drafting agreements , uh, the execution of grievance , how you guys are doing that , um, have you, in, in your agreements, you know, since the pandemic , um, had , have you had to add special language, special things , um, to your agreements or, or how, how does the, the drafting of the agreements go well? Yeah, I think, I think here in there, depending on the arrangement or the business relationship or what was going to happen, if it was affected by industries, such as the pandemic, we've looked to sort of put it in language to encompass, you know, taking a look back or doing a true up , so true up on support or true up or a business if it reaches certain parameters. So that that's kind of how I'm sort of approach some of the drafting. Uh, and then, you know, certainly everything has been, you know, by PDF, by electronic signature and stuff. We haven't had people really come to the office yet. Uh, that very few folks, everything has been by by zoom. Uh , so going over agreements is , has been by zoom, things like that , but on the language issue, I think we , we tried to encompass that by , uh , putting in specific language or parameters and agreements that deal with benchmarks or look backs or , or true-ups , but you do that anyway sometimes, but I think depending on what , what it was, but a lot of people waited to , to get divorced or kind of pushed it, pushed it off to see how things come . I think we've definitely gotten some folks divorced , uh, in the last year, certainly. Uh, but the ones that seem to have worked have been the ones that were less affected by the, that the worst is that are, you know, like a restaurant business or, you know, catering business or something like that, that those kinds of cases have been trickier because you can put in pre COVID numbers, but what in post COVID numbers you can put in , uh , you know, some form of , uh , okay, the restaurant gross is X and that's more similar to the pre pandemic. There's a bonus. There's been different ways to do it. But now I think things, things change we're living in an ever-changing rapidly changing world, but things change in my diet. You know, things are getting better now. So now there's that, you know, what do you do? I mean , we back to where we are. I mean, you know, people are vaccinated. I got my , my second shot the other day, people, the court just on reopen, I have a trial next month. So it seems like things are coming back. And because of that, it makes us on the drafting lane. Well, maybe something that I would have drafted six months ago is no longer relevant. And so maybe we need , we need to either not put it in or, or wait, I kind of see that returns as sort of quote, unquote normal, whatever that is. Yeah. I had , um, I did , speaking of just the evaluations , I had one recently where the , um , the husband sold credit card machines to businesses. Well , when the businesses are closed, he's not exactly into the business to sell. So how trying to even just to figure out his income for child support purposes, it's like, okay, so then, you know, pre, and so then, you know, the courts , you know, or his, his attorneys were like, well, you know, let's, let's do a look back, let's look back at the last three years of tax returns. Well, you know, there was a good year. There was a okay year now of course, 2020 was a bad year. And so of course, you know, his attorney wants his worst year. Her attorney wants his best year. And of course, as a mediator, what am I doing? Why don't we average the three, which is all the kind of stuff you have to do to get it done. Yeah . See , but when the question will , you know, is that how fair is that right? Because for both parties, right? I mean, because for the recipient, well, you're getting that worst year , but what happens next year? So I think you have to be creative to look forward, you know, what happens next year? You might have to do something, you know , maybe not do normally where you take a look at that. And that maybe it's a rolling average. You gotta, you gotta think outside the box a little bit to get things done right now. But then right now everything changes so quickly. It's like, do you really want to do it right now? Right. I mean, when people want to get divorced, because it does it make sense to wait another quarter to , to see if things are the business is able to go and sell the credit card machines again. So he's making the money and if they want to get divorced, you know, maybe that needs to be factored in , uh , because that might be more of a true reflection of income. And he knows , I mean, it's just, it's, it's tough, but I, I think that it's changed so rapidly. Exactly. And I think that that's, I think that's a lesson too , to present because you can't pan it . Right. You have to kind of, you know, that was part of it is you kind of have to do no harm, sort of figure it out as you go and make sure that it's not an equitable, a pre to post COVID , um, financial valuation or , or whatnot, or income stream it skews . It's so much that temporal then that if it, you know , but then there's people that maybe it's not going to come that right beyond some restaurants, maybe they aren't going to come back and that's that you have to look at too . I think those are the ones that have more of an impact, ultimately, in terms of how you do things as if somebody has been so impacted. It's not such a facade, a temporal event , it's a , it's a lasting closing of the business where you're not going to be in the same situation as you were pre COVID. And then that becomes, that particular guy was arguing that because since COVID everybody has switched now to like a square or pay pal , like they're not buying machines, like everything's just plug it into your phone. So really is anyone going to be buying his equipment anymore? Like , so one of the things that we were talking about, the other thing was just, just like you said, like, okay, well, is it fair to determine a number now? And then he's got that, you know , substantial material and anticipated permanent change to modify later. So what we did to help both of them out was we built in there that for the next two years on April 20th, they'll look strange tax returns. So it wasn't this indefinite, like there , they have to always exchange tax returns , but you know what, to help them get through this, to see if there's going to be a change. And then we said, and then we looked at the statute , said , okay, well, the courts allow for 5% deviation. So we're like, okay, well, what would that look like? We, then they negotiated on a little bit more, you know, by agreement, just help them think outside the box, get creative. So that at least breathe, feel like it's not, you know, it's not fair, unfair, but it's an agreement that they can live with. Exactly. That's what it's about ultimately, right. When you're doing that , it's about fairness and getting people to closure. That's you have to be creative to do that, particularly in light of what's going on in the world in the last year. Yeah. And some of the, some, some of the stuff that I've had to add to my agreements , um, just to help with the parties , um, as, as you know, they come to mediation and then they're arguing over things. Well , well, when, you know, when I get more than two or three people arguing over the same thing, I'm like, okay, we're going to add this to the agreement to help everybody, because you guys are not the anomaly. Right. So, you know , so, so for example, you know, like when, when, when they're choosing, like, you know, who's going to get the dependency exemption for the child. Well, what kept coming up was, well, they took my Corona virus cares app to pain . Oh yes . That was a good thing. Right . So actually built that into my agreement now that says, okay, look, you know, if they're each, you know , claiming a child, of course that's factored into the child support. So guess what, each, you know, whatever credits they get. And it says a coronavirus cares act payment or 80 future additional federal or state payment, because, you know, as, as we switched the administration , so we went from a coronavirus cares act, and now we've got, you know, other stimulus, we don't want to say, okay, it's only this. And then someone sees a loophole and says, but they didn't the biding credit or whatever. Right. So yeah, it was a Trump credit. Now it's a heightened credit. And so, you know, I've, I've had language to help guide them through this crisis, as well as any other potential , uh, thing, same thing with like day-to-day decision-making. Um, and I think you had brought it up , um, uh, previously where, you know, like make-up time, if a parent is not feeling comfortable with allowing the time sharing or whatnot . And so I've built into the agreement that, you know, the parents, as well as the children will adhere to all state and or federal government , uh, orders , um , Lima , not limited tubes. And I listened social distancing, exercising, personal hygiene, facial covering shelter in place, you know, all of it go to the CDC website. Right. And, you know, and I put all that in order to create a safe environment for the child, that's all best interest of the child, which is the standup . But then I got it in there. Then I put in there that in the event that like, there's a shelter in place, order stay at home order here . Like in Florida, we have hurricane evacuations. Um, then the parent who was entitled to the timeshare will get makeup time within 30 days of the ending of the shelter in place, stay at home order, hurricane evac that way. There's a little bit of guidance for them. So they're not arguing filing motions for contempt enforcement. Um, I build these into my parenting plan, same thing with like travel, even just like out of state, out of country travel. I just kept getting that a lot going well, they think it's fine to get on a plane. I'm scared to walk out of my house. Right, right, right. So, you know, I put in there, you know, that they can travel so long as there's no travel restrictions recommended or imposed by state or federal government. Cause like, you know, for a while there even they were setting up different borders, wouldn't allow travelers from other states to come in and, you know, just trying to add these things. One of the other things I kept ending up with, I don't know if you've had was, you know, when the school shut down oh yeah. Pick up, drop off was at school and now there's no more school now it's at their homes and there's a big deal that they'd come up in . So I've built that in to , okay. It's, you know, that it's at their , it's typically at their school, but if the home is the school, then they'll have the child at the home. Um, so you know, enough time to where the child can log in and be, you know, ready for class. So these are the, you know, just due to the pandemic, we've had to adjust the plans to address the different issues that keep coming up that affect the timesharing or, you know, cause I don't, I want to be as preventative, as maintenance, as possible as a mediator and be proactive so that the parties aren't constantly having to go to court and doing damage control. We ended up problems with snow days . You know , you don't have that problem in Florida. We have snow in April that can't get, you know, do I bring my child was born of a snow storm to the other parent , so that sometimes gets built the door agreements. And that time is that made up in 30 days somewhere ?

Sydney Mitchell:

Well, it seems like some of these inclusions are well not snow and weather and things like that. But some of the inclusions that Matthew, like you mentioned, that you've now made post COVID, some will, you know, might remain relevant, but there are a lot of them that may not , um, you know, what, what inclusions to your agreements are you foreseeing being maybe permanent or maybe some that are just temporary, you know, five years down the line, we may not be debating about, you know, the stimulus or, you know what I mean? So like which ones do you foresee being, you know, being present down the line and which ones do you foresee kind of losing their traction?

Matthew Brickman/Matthew Baraq Esq.:

Well, hopefully we won't have another pandemic, but it it's certainly possible that there's going to be sort of an event that, you know, that happens, you know, again. And so I think that kind of language, the pandemic type language and a planning plan or a state emergency type language or whatever they follow state and federal guidance and rules relative to the pairing pairing time. I think, I think that's a , that's a , that's a keeper, right? We don't , we haven't had a pandemic in a hundred years, so there's probably the intervening hundred years. Nobody put that. Nobody thought about Amanda. And I thought about that, we're going to have to wear masks . We're going to have to not go to school and be virtual, you know, how does that affect parenting? So I think, I think that's a keeper . I think that kind of language is great. I think that that stays in , um, you know, the financial language probably too , like might stay in , you know, if there's a third type of events. So those are, those are good things because you're constantly looking for is Matthew points out things. So that folks aren't fighting about, you know, so they try and you try , we can't anticipate every , I don't think there's anybody who probably apparently plan as you can, but you want to be as preventative as you can. I think that's the lesson here is that there are major type events that may negatively affect the parenting. And there's a lot of people that were fighting about those issues and not bringing kids, you know, same as snow days or hurricane and state emergencies. And that type of stuff is good language that should go into your agreements and is probably , uh, might be relevant, you know, in the future and kind of build your , build your agreements based on the lessons of the past to make your agreements more relevant in the future. And so I think those are, those are good things. Um, you know, things that might go away. I, I think that , that, I think we're just going to see kind of a general statement of groundswell return to normalcy. I just, I think that, that, yeah, I think we're going to go back and I think, you know, I just hope we continue to use technology and zoom and all those things as best we can. I worry that we're not going to learn enough lessons from fairly dynamic and, you know, we're doomed to repeat , uh, we don't learn from the past or make the same mistakes to future. And I just, I just hope that we become more effective or advocates by taking some of the lessons that we've learned by making our agreements better and applying, you know, looking for those pitfalls or future events that might cause contentious relationships so that children aren't exposed to , to the parenting because of a thing like a global pandemic. Yeah.

Sydney Mitchell:

It seems like these agreements are just getting longer and longer.

Matthew Brickman/Matthew Baraq Esq.:

Well that's yeah, they are there . They all are , but hopefully they're getting better and better too . Well in my goal, you know, as, as, as a mediator, as I said, you know, my goal is to be as preventative as possible because in the long run , um, as, as Matthew, as you have stated, you know, that preserves the family unit, even though it's been restructured and it , and it looks different, but it still preserves. The family unit protects the child, keeps the parties out of court, you know, on, you know, doesn't clog the system, doesn't unnecessarily waste tax payer dollars to fund a system. I mean, it creates a win-win, which is why, you know, when I was adding this type of language, I wanted it to address in a general format that could apply to, you know, COVID or could apply to a different pandemic or by to martial law, or like whoever may be there that life may happen. We now have preventative maintenance so that when, because one of the things that we saw was as soon as COVID happened, common sense, went out the window and crazy became the rule of law. It's if we have these guidelines already there, I think it creates peace and comfort for people to know, okay, these are the parameters I can live within when the world looks crazy. I have an agreement that actually gives me calm and gives me a sense of being, and, you know, can also give hope. I mean, that's the whole point of, you know , the podcast . That's not a whole point of, you know, even what I do as a mediator is to try to transition people to a place of, Hey, you've got hope. This is not the end. It's just a new beginning. Totally true . That's what , you know , divorce lawyers , family law lawyers are really doing right. There you go . That's a good way to put it. You're helping people move on. So that there's hope

Matthew Brickman:

Occasionally Sydney and I will be releasing Q & A bonus episodes where we will answer questions and give you a personal shout out.

Sydney Mitchell:

If you have a comment or question regarding anything that we discuss, email us at info@ichatmediation.com that's info@ichatmediation.com and stay tuned to hear your shout out and have your question answered here on the show.

Matthew Brickman:

For more information about my services or to schedule your mediation with me, either in person or using my iChatMediation Virtual Platform built by Cisco Communications. Visit me online at www.iMediateInc.com. Call me at 561-262-9121, Toll-Free at 877-822-1479 or email me at MBrickman@iChatMediation.com.