Author Archives: Andrea Vacca

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About Andrea Vacca

Andrea Vacca is a family mediator & attorney at The Law and Mediation Office of Andrea Vacca in New York, New York.
EMAIL: avacca@vaccalaw.com
BIO: About Andrea
PHONE: 212-768-1115

“Throuple”: A Case of Polyamorous Custody
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

An interesting decision out of Suffolk County recently established custodial rights of a non-biological parent who was part of a polyamorous relationship. In Dawn M. v. Michael M., the court essentially affirmed the validity of a non-traditional family composed of two women and one man. Though their names have been revealed in the media, for our purposes we will call the family members Mom 1, Mom 2, Dad, and Child. Mom 1 and Dad were a married couple who had attempted to conceive with great difficulty. They utilized in vitro fertilization, but unfortunately Mom 1 miscarried.

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Another Reason to Keep Your Custody Dispute Out of Court: It’s a Black Hole
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

Kafkaesque: of, relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings; especially: having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality, as in Kafkaesque bureaucratic delays. (Miriam-Webster online dictionary) As ProPublica recently revealed in detail, Kafka’s dystopian vision is a terrifying reality for many New Yorkers who have had judges appoint forensic psychologists in their custody dispute cases. In Joaquin Sapien’s thorough (and thoroughly disturbing) article, For New York Families in Custody Fights, a ‘Black Hole’ of Oversight, he reports on the story of a mother separated from her son as a result of an error-filled and incomplete analysis made by a court-appointed forensic psychologist.

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From Sex in the City to Divorce in the Suburbs: Sarah Jessica Parker Shows Us What NOT to Strive For
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, MEDIATION, on .

Sarah Jessica Parker has another critically acclaimed half-hour show on HBO, but this time she is exploring the end of relationships rather than the beginning. Divorce finished its first season on December 11, but is currently available to stream. Though fictional, I found many aspects of the series to be strikingly real. For example, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Frances expresses the desire to have as peaceful a divorce as possible, opting to go through mediation instead of litigation. Frances’ husband Robert (played by Thomas Haden Church) initially agrees, but is soon swayed by a friend to skip mediation and hires a litigator instead, leaving Frances at the mediator’s office by herself for the first session.

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Non-Adversarial Divorces Can Inspire Us to Rise Above These Difficult Political Times
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

Politics and divorce have a lot in common when you think about it. There are two different sides, an array of commentators, and the parties exhibit entrenched thinking from which they find it nearly impossible to budge. Luckily, there are some moments of cooperation in both politics and divorce—and there’s no reason why there can’t be more.

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Curated: 5 Blogs and Podcasts That Help Me Be a Better Lawyer and Mediator
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Authored by , re: LAW RELATED ARTICLES, Wellness, on .

{3:56 minute to read} As a family law attorney and a mediator who is committed to helping my clients stay out of court and resolve their issues with as little animosity as possible, I’m very interested in studying positivity, resilience, and ways to build on people’s strengths. In addition to always having a book or two going on one of these topics, I subscribe to a number of podcasts and blogs that I can rely on to provide me with new ideas, inspiration, and tools to achieve the right mindset to be the best mediator and lawyer I can be.

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The Importance of Time If Your Goal is a Non-Adversarial Divorce
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

{3 minutes to read} Recently, I was the mediator for a couple that was experiencing significant obstacles in reaching their divorce agreement. One of the parties was furious at the other for wanting the divorce, and he was finding it very difficult to move past his anger. Luckily there was a very powerful force working in favor of finding a resolution: Time.

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More Reasons To Keep Your Divorce Out of Court: It’s All About the Future and Long Term Satisfaction
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“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”Maria Robinson If you get into an argument with someone, does it do you any good to dwell on it for the rest of the day or the week or the year? Most people would agree that revisiting the argument over and over again serves no purpose other than to compromise their productivity and the quality of their life. It’s common sense. Focusing instead on the present and the future, on the rest of the day, enables you to go back to being your best self. Eventually, you will forget about the argument—and perhaps even try to mend fences with the other party.

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Being the Lawyer Clients Need—But Think They Do Not Want
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

As a mediator and collaborative lawyer, I attract clients whose main priority is to come to an amicable agreement. What I want them to understand is that an amicable agreement does equal a vague agreement. We need to balance the desire for an amicable divorce negotiation with the need to create an agreement that will allow the couple to live amicably long after the divorce is finalized. Divorce agreements are living documents; my clients are going to keep it alive by turning to it for answers, well into the foreseeable future. A good agreement is therefore a durable agreement.

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Conscious Lawyering: Being A Part of the Solution, Not Adding to the Problem
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

I have written before about the benefits of mindfulness and conscious coupling. In this blog I focus on the mindfulness of the attorney or mediator who is working with the couple. Let’s call it “conscious lawyering.” For a couple considering divorce, the process is going to involve uncomfortable feelings and situations. As a collaborative lawyer or mediator, I am part of that process, too. So the first step to conscious lawyering is taking care of myself; by being mindful of my own emotions and reactions at the negotiating table, and by being able to look at a situation objectively with a wider lens.

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Prenuptial Agreements Part 2: 4 More Things Not to Worry About if You Have a Prenup
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

This is a continuation of my previous post that explored what a “simple” prenuptial agreement looks like and when a more complex agreement may be needed. In this post we move beyond the basics of separate property and marital property to explore four more specific areas that a prenup can help clarify and solidify: distribution of marital property, real estate, spousal support, and estate rights. Distribution of Marital Property In New York State an asset earned during the marriage is considered marital property to be divided equitably. Keep in mind that “equitable” does not necessarily mean “equal.” Much litigation has ensued over how assets are to be divided. Prenups can be helpful because it allows a couple to make this determination at the beginning of the marriage. Many couples simply agree in their prenup that all marital assets will be divided equally. Others agree that those assets will be divided according to another set percentage. While still others agree that the division of the marital assets will change according to the length of marriage or other conditions.

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Prenuptial Agreements Part 1: What’s Mine is Yours? What’s Yours Is Mine? Wait, What’s Going On?
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

It’s wedding season, and in addition to checking the typical wedding-related tasks off the to-do list, many soon-to-be newlyweds are reaching out to lawyers like me to draft prenuptial agreements. And one of the most common things they tell me is: “We just need a simple prenup.” For the people who truly want a “simple” prenup, I have good news: You may not actually need one. A simple prenup may simply mean that you will be signing up to do exactly what the law dictates for divorcing spouses. So what does the law mandate?

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Divorcing? Do You Want Your Attorney to be a Problem-Solver or a Troublemaker?
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser—in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough. –  Abraham Lincoln As a collaborative attorney and mediator, I’m trained to be a peacemaker and problem-solver. I am always on the lookout for ways to help clients come to an agreement that is safe and secure for both of them. My goal is to help them focus on the future, as opposed to traditional divorce attorneys or litigators who are sometimes more focused on the past and who did what to whom. I keep the focus on solutions instead of blame. I try to make peace instead of more trouble. If you and your spouse seek out peace-making and problem-solving attorneys instead of trouble-making attorneys, you can have a better divorce. Consider the differences between problem-solvers and troublemakers.

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Divorce Shouldn’t Feel like a Sprint or a Marathon. What Is the Right Pace?
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

When divorcing couples choose to negotiate the terms of their divorces outside of the court system—whether through mediation or collaborative law—they typically have the best intentions going into the process. They want to be fair to each other; they want to conserve time and money by staying out of court; they want to keep their kids out of their disagreements. But as the process moves forward, some realizations quickly set in: Negotiating financial and child-related issues that affect an entire family is hard work and probably won’t happen as quickly as everyone wants. Emotions flare, and not everyone is able to be their best selves at all times.

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Looking for a Mediation Consulting Attorney? Here are 3 questions to ask
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

The primary function of a consulting attorney is to provide advice and counsel during the mediation process and provide the support you need to advocate for yourself. This is different from a “review attorney” whose primary job is to review the agreement that has been drafted after the mediation process is over. These are 2 very different roles. If you took my previous advice and are interviewing consulting attorneys, these are 3 important questions to ask. What experience do you have mediating family disputes?

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Trickle Down Divorce
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

I heard someone suggest that when thinking about New Year’s Resolutions you should think about what you can do that will have an impact in 200-400 years.  And that got me thinking about the work I do and how much of an impact it can have on families. Personally, I want my work to live on through successive generations of families who communicate well and have healthy relationships with others. This goal may seem audacious, lofty, perhaps quixotic for a divorce lawyer…but the fact of the matter is that the kind of work that I do (keeping couples out of court and facilitating peaceful resolutions as they end their marriage) does trickle down generations. That means my clients’ children will be happier and better equipped emotionally to deal with their own relationships.

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Mediation or Collaborative Divorce: Which process is right for you?
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

When it comes to choosing an alternative to divorcing in court, both divorce mediation and collaborative divorce have their own unique advantages. Divorce Mediation Divorce mediation is a private and confidential method of non-adversarial divorce in which the participants advocate for their own needs and concerns without a lawyer present in the room. The mediator will help the parties reach a consensus through a series of 3-way meetings. Although the negotiations are taking place between the spouses, it is highly recommended that each party has a consulting attorney during the process. The mediator is able to provide the couple with legal information, but a consulting attorney can provide a party with individual legal advice. Additionally, the parties may wish to consult other professionals such as appraisers, financial professionals, accountants, and divorce coaches.

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The Role of Consulting Attorneys in Mediation
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

Mediation is a great process for maintaining limited involvement with attorneys, but they shouldn’t be shut out completely. Recently I’ve spoken to a number of potential clients who are about to enter into the divorce process and want to use mediation. These clients come from different backgrounds and have different preconceived notions about mediation, but they all share the desire for an attorney-free divorce. And that is when I have the unenviable task of breaking the news to them: even in mediation, you need an attorney. Here’s why:

  • A mediator works for both spouses in a neutral capacity and does not offer legal advice, whereas a consulting attorney works only for you.
  • Consulting with an attorney during the mediation process leads to the participant feeling more empowered to deal with important or complicated issues that arise.

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A Common Sense Guide To Prenuptial Agreements
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Authored by , re: Miscellaneous, on .

Over the past few years, my law and mediation practices have seen a significant increase in requests for prenuptial agreements.   My clients, whether they come from extensive family wealth, are self-made entrepreneurs, or young professionals just starting out in their careers, come to me with the best of intentions. They love their fiance and look forward to a long and happy marriage.  But sometimes their approach to the prenuptial agreement gets in their own way. The first thing to realize is that a prenuptial agreement, and the negotiations leading up to it, are often harbingers of what the future marriage will bring. Acrimonious prenup negotiations have a tendency to lead to acrimonious marriages, with long-term resentment and unhappiness. If you want to start your marriage out right, these are the best practices I suggest my clients follow to make the prenuptial negotiation process move forward with as much ease and as little acrimony as possible.

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Violation of Dignity: The Reason Why Many Divorces End Up in Court
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

This fall, I attended a meeting of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, where one of the keynote speakers was Donna Hicks, PhD. Throughout Donna’s academic and professional career she has written books about the power of dignity and, specifically, its importance in negotiations of all kinds. Her past clients have included the United States Navy, several large healthcare systems and corporations, and various governments around the world. When interviewing parties in high-conflict disputes, Donna found that if a person’s dignity is violated, they can become violent, full of hatred, and seek vengeance. But when people treat one another with respect they become more connected, are able to overcome their differences, and achieve resolution.

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Asking “WHY” – The Secret to Successful Divorce Negotiations
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

One of the weaknesses of litigated divorce is that it encourages rigid thinking that stands in the way of compromise. Choosing your battles wisely is an important strategy in all areas of life, including if you are in the process of divorce. Unfortunately, traditional divorce attorneys often neglect to give their clients this advice, encouraging them to fight for everything they say they want, regardless of how impractical, impossible or destructive it may be.  And when the other spouse inevitably takes opposite positions on those same issues, there’s nowhere to go but to the courthouse where both parties will be subjected to the slow-moving and very public litigation process.

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Divorce Equality: LGBT Families Face Custody Challenges in Traditional Legal System
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

Before marriage was made available to every American, same-sex couples struggled with issues that married couples could take for granted – like hospital visitation rights, after-death services and inheritance rights. In order to achieve that same peace of mind that married couples enjoy, gays and lesbians came up with some brilliant solutions to bridge the dire straits in which they found themselves. In New York City, the government began a Domestic Partnership registry which granted hospital visitation, health insurance coverage and the inheritance of rent-controlled apartments, among other things. But because those provisions only applied to government-run agencies, lesbians and gays took matters into their own hands to protect themselves and their partners in the private sector through the use of wills, healthcare proxies and burial instructions.

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“Nesting”: A Creative Living Option for Divorced Spouses with Children
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

On top of the financial and emotional aspects of dissolving a marriage, divorcing couples with children must also consider the very important question of where they will live, and where parenting time will take place. The growing recognition of the family as a sanctified entity even within divorce has inspired new and creative living arrangements, uniquely tailored to the psychological and financial needs of the large number of divorced families with children.

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Attention Friends And Family: This Is Not Your Divorce!
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

People going through divorce often feel angry, confused, and alone. They turn to their friends and family when they are contemplating divorce, in the middle of a divorce and all throughout the process.  In fact, I often get calls from family members or friends inquiring about the legal services that I can provide to their loved one. Supportive friends or family members instinctively seek to protect a person they  love by saying negative things about his or her spouse.

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Celebrity Couples are Becoming Role Models for Amicable Divorces
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

What looks like just another celebrity breakup might actually be instructive for any divorcing couple. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are going the way of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin in choosing a non-adversarial way to divorce while living in the public eye. During her divorce, Paltrow made headlines for describing the process as “conscious uncoupling.” Many attorneys, including myself, appreciated the spotlight she had shone on non-adversarial divorce. Various magazines, including Us Weekly, have reported that Ben and Jen’s settlement features a creative custody agreement for their 3 children which will include each parent living in separate residences on the family’s estate. The goal being to provide as little disruption to the children’s lives as possible and help them feel secure and loved.

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Having a High Net Worth Doesn’t Have to Lead to a High Conflict Divorce
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Authored by , re: Family & Divorce, LAW RELATED ARTICLES, on .

A high-net-worth couple going through a divorce can benefit greatly by staying out of court. Couples with considerable assets (which I will define here as more than $5 million) are often lead to believe that their divorce will be a “no holds barred,” brutal, lengthy process with astronomical legal bills and complicated offers and counter-offers. Because of this belief, many high-net-worth couples assume that mediation or the collaborative law process will not work for them. They couldn’t be more mistaken. In my experience, the opposite is true; high-net-worth families have more to gain by keeping things civil and private. Unfortunately, many attorneys who practice litigation harbor a killer instinct that grows along with their clients’ assets, and they see a litigated divorce as the only way to satisfy that instinct.

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Putting Compassion At The Center Of Divorce
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Even when spouses are trying to have a non-adversarial divorce, the emotions that arise can hijack innocent intentions and get in the way of achieving the bigger goals such as the children's well being, future financial security for one another and children, and an outcome that feels fair. Resentment, regret, anger and sadness about the past are just a few of the difficult emotions that divorcing clients need to deal with while simultaneously trying to make very difficult financial and parenting decisions that will have long term consequences in the future.

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Will Your Divorce Be a War Story or a Peace Story?
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Will Your Divorce Be a War Story or a Peace Story | Andrea Vacca

As I picked up The New York State Bar Association Journal earlier in the month, the cover story intrigued me. It was called "More War Stories from the New York Courts." It was about civil litigation cases that go on for years. The article didn't discuss divorce, but that's certainly what was on my mind as I read it. I can't imagine any parents would want to subject their children or themselves to the perils and terror of an actual war such as those raging in the Middle East,

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Sometimes the Solution Is Right in Front of You
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Sometimes the Solution Is Right in Front of You | Andrea Vacca

I recently decided it was time to give my website a makeover. My website designer and I decided that blue would be a primary color in the design and she asked me to send her shades of blue that appealed to me. I typed "blue" into my browser and went to work looking through Google images. Every shade of blue imaginable popped up. As I scrolled through, I found a few shades that appealed to me and there was one shade that I particularly liked, but I could only find it as the background to a word cloud. I spent quite a while looking for that same exact shade of blue that was clean and free of words.

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The Choice Is Yours
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The Choice Is Yours | Andrea Vacca

Sometimes people in the middle of divorce litigation realize that the court system just isn't working for them. Time is going by, the costs are piling up, and they seem further from resolution than ever. At this point, it may be time for them to look at an alternative process, such as mediation, but where do they start? For divorcing couples in New York City for whom finances are tight, I highly recommend looking into FamilyKind, which has been a great resource for many who have found themselves caught in expensive litigation with few results to show for all the money and efforts they've expended.

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Nobody Is Perfect, Especially in the Middle of Divorce
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Nobody Is Perfect, Especially in the Middle of Divorce | Andrea Vacca

Divorce is one of the most difficult life experiences that anyone can go through. And while the clients who I work with are all committed to having the least adversarial divorce possible, it's not always easy for them to find it in themselves to forgive their spouse for mistakes, treat them with compassion and respect and trust that promises will be kept. And that's what was on my mind when I read a blog post from Jeri Quinn in which she described an African tribe that believes that each human being comes into the world as a good person who desires safety, love, peace and happiness.

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