Author Archives: Don Sinkov

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About Don Sinkov

Don Sinkov is a Divorce and Separation Mediator in Putnam Valley, New York.
EMAIL: donsinkov@gmail.com
BIO: About Don
PHONE: 914-588-6258

Is Child Support Just 25% for 2 Kids?
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Is Child Support Just 25% for 2 Kids? | Don Sinkov

{2:03 minutes to read} have 2 kids, so all I have to pay is 25% for child support, right? OK, so you have researched the amount of child support on the internet and calculated the amount you have to pay and that’s it. Right? No! Child support has several moving parts. They are: The Formulaic Calculation The formulaic calculation according to the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) says:

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Don Said Our Plan Was Unworkable – – We Should Have Listened!
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Don Said Our Plan Was Unworkable – – We Should Have Listened! | Don Sinkov

{3:36 minutes to read}  “Don said our plan was unworkable, because we had a history of domestic violence, but we insisted that he should follow our decision to remain living together.  We should have listened to his advice, but we didn’t. Here it is 2 months later, my spouse is in jail.  Don said, people who have a tendency towards violence and are getting divorced are really like a ticking time bomb. They should not be living  together with their soon to be ex-spouse.” Couples often have an idea of what their living situation is going to be after separation or divorce and when one of them is going to move out of the marital residence. Most of the time, it is a reasonable arrangement, but some of the time it’s not.

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Are You Already a Victim of Domestic Violence or About to Be?
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Are You Already a Victim of Domestic Violence or About to Be? | Don Sinkov

{1:48 minutes to read} More and more, I am receiving phone calls from people who are either living with domestic violence or suspect that they are about to experience it. So what are the signs of abuse?

  • They hurt you by criticizing, embarrassing, or putting you down
  • They try to control what you do, say, or wear
  • They try to control where you go
  • They call, email, or text you frequently
  • They become jealous or accuse you of cheating
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Should a Newbie Mediator Apprentice with an Experienced Mediator?
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Should a Newbie Mediator Apprentice with an Experienced Mediator? | Don Sinkov

{1:50 minutes to read} If you want to learn how to be a divorce mediator, should you first apprentice with another mediator? Well, maybe. Can you learn some skills from them? Yes, and you could see how they apply the basic training, although what you’ll find out is that they probably throw out 90% of what they learned. The basic training is really a broad set of guidelines and techniques, while divorce mediation is often subject-specific.

  • How do you calculate a marital interest in retirement plans, bank accounts, real property, cash values of life insurance, etc.?

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There are No Experts Only Opinions
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There are No Experts Only Opinions | Don Sinkov

{3:18 minutes to read} I watched a YouTube video recently where a Norwegian scientist talked about global warming. He had all the charts and graphs showing the hard scientific evidence that said there is no global warming. The last 15 years of satellite images show there is no significant change. Carbon dioxide is good for plants, and the earth’s temperature really has not changed. So here is a scientific expertwho is saying the opposite of what 97% of the other scientific experts have said. Who should we believe? I read a 20-year study on child development and was very impressed by a lot of the research. Then I read another study that said the 20-year study was completely wrong. So one expert discredits the other expert. Who is right?

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Take the Deal!
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Take the Deal! | Don Sinkov

{2:54 minutes to read} After a few months of negotiation (a few months longer than it usually takes a couple to come up with a divorce settlement) the husband announced, “I cannot accept the deal.” There was very little money and property to divide. It should have been a relatively simple divorce mediation, but the husband was just dragging his feet. Every time I spoke to him, he said “Let’s go over this deal one more time.” I explained that there were only 5 items to discuss. I put them in writing and I sent it to him. A week or two later, he called back and said, “I can’t accept the deal.” Really???

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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up! No. 2
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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up! No. 2 | Don Sinkov

It’s Monday morning, and I am meeting with my first couple of the day. The husband is a successful businessman and is making a lot of money. The wife is a stay-at-home mom, very sweet, very attractive. We begin to discuss financing and the usual information and documents they will need to produce before we can start negotiating their Settlement Agreement. While discussing budgeting, I remind them that it is very important that, in addition to all the costs we usually discuss, we talk about spending money. I wanted to make sure that we included spending money in their budget. Often, couples forget to do that. The budget covers living expenses such as utilities, groceries, etc. but does not include spending money. So I asked the wife what she thought she would need for spending money, and she said it was not a problem. I asked her to explain. She said: ” I have two cards. One is the ATM machine card from one bank. If I need money, I go to the bank and that’s how I get spending money. I take it out of the ATM.”

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I Thought He Was Going to Change!
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I Thought He Was Going to Change! | Don Sinkov

{2:42 minutes to read} Imagine a couple married for over 20 years. They have been unhappy for a really long time. They have 2 children. They both acknowledge that the husband:

  • has had numerous affairs;
  • is a philanderer;
  • has a gambling problem;
  • occasionally goes on drinking binges; and
  • totally ignores the wife, and for the most part, the children.

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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up! No. 1
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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up! No. 1 | By Don Sinkov

{2:42 minutes to read} The husband and wife showed up for mediation dressed to the nines. They told me that they were executives in Manhattan-based companies, and make a ton of money. I did notice that they were just loaded with bling:

  • Rolex watches
  • Fancy diamond rings
  • Driving a very expensive car
I discussed my hourly fee for mediation with them and told them there is no additional charge if couples have more assets. It might, however, take more time to discuss and understand the nature of complicated assets and/or if there are numerous assets in different forms. Click here to read Don Sinkov's full article...

Does Divorce Mediation Have a Place in Domestic Violence Cases?
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Does Divorce Mediation Have a Place in Domestic Violence Cases? | Don Sinkov

{2:54 minutes to read} Divorce mediation in domestic violence cases? The judges and the court say, “Never!” But are they right? Over the years, I’ve heard judges, courts, and attorneys say time and time again, when there’s domestic violence, there is no mediation. It’s totally inappropriate and they will not participate. In the past, I respected their opinions and said, “I can understand. I can’t guarantee the safety of a victim of domestic violence at a mediation session, and I don’t want to put them at risk.”

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We Are Looking for the Mediator with the Cheapest Hourly Rate
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We Are Looking for the Mediator with the Cheapest Hourly Rate | Don Sinkov

When the police arrest you for having drugs that you insist aren’t yours, do you look for the cheapest lawyer you can find? Or do you hire the most experienced lawyer you can find that wins all of his or her cases? Seems like the answer is obvious, right? However, each week, I receive 1 or 2 calls and the conversation goes something like this: “Hi, we are calling for prices for mediation. We are just shopping around at this point. What is your hourly rate?”

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If You Want the Job, Just Write What We Say!
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If You Want the Job, Just Write What We Say! | Don Sinkov

{2:36 minutes to read} Couples often get the idea that they can save a lot of money during the mediation process if they write their own agreement, bring in the spreadsheet, and say, “Here, write this.” Experience has taught me that it usually takes longer to create the agreement this way than starting from scratch. Couples haven’t gone through a divorce before, so they don’t understand about:

  • Property rights;
  • The timing and how to transfer property;
  • What kind and who is going to pay expenses until the property is transferred; and
  • Numerous other parts of equitable distribution.

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Wow, Mediation, What a Concept!
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Wow, Mediation, What a Concept! | Don Sinkov

{2:36 minutes to read} The couple had been divorced for 5 years. They spent over $250,000 in litigation. They signed off on an agreement that they both acknowledged was some kind of deal by the attorneys, hand-written on the courthouse steps when the clients ran out of money. And so here they are. They have lots of post-divorce issues that should have been resolved in their settlement agreement but weren’t, and NOW they are coming to mediation.

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Dividing Net Equity Using the “Magic of Math”
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Dividing Net Equity Using the “Magic of Math” | Don Sinkov

{2:36 minutes to read} A while ago, I wrote a blog article about “The Magic of Math,” which had to do with dividing equity in the home. Somehow there was a lot of confusion, so I decided to clarify and perhaps do a better job of explaining this concept. When a couple jointly contributes to the down payment on their house, and there is a sale, they will usually divide the net equity in half. However, if one spouse paid the down payment through separate funds before the marriage, they are usually allowed to deduct that, and then divide the net equity.

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I’m Going to Mediation To “Get Over” on My Spouse!
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I’m Going to Mediation To “Get Over” on My Spouse! | Don Sinkov

{2:54 minutes to read} Couples with many assets can present challenges above and beyond in a divorce settlement. I met with a couple recently who had a lot of assets. When I started explaining to them which ones were marital and separate, they announced “We don’t need to hear that.  We’ve already worked everything out.”

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If I Ignore You, Will You Change Your Mind about Getting Divorced?
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If I Ignore You, Will You Change Your Mind about Getting Divorced | Don Sinkov

{2:48 minutes to read} One spouse is often the initiator when getting divorced or separated. The other’s attitude is, “Let’s just keep things the way they are. I know we’re totally miserable, the kids are in therapy, and life is horrible, but you know what? I’ve done it this way for so many years, why change it now?” It sounds preposterous, but I have heard this more times than I can count. People resist change. I get that. They would rather have the devil they know, than the devil they don’t know. Many couples tend to stay in their current relationships.

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Why Must I Read My Divorce Agreement?
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Why Must I Read My Divorce Agreement | Don Sinkov

{2:24 minutes to read} How often have I received a phone call from divorced spouses asking questions about their settlement agreement? I offer a review session to go over the agreement before they sign it, but to my amazement, almost nobody wants to pay for the hour to ask questions and get a good understanding of what they are agreeing to. I know that money is tight, but how important is it for you to read and understand the details of the divorce agreement? Answer:  VERY IMPORTANT!

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Binding Arbitration: Is It a Process Whose Time Has Come?
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Binding Arbitration: Is It a Process Whose Time Has Come | Don Sinkov

{3:12 minutes to read} For many years there has been a discussion in the mediation/arbitration community about when to choose different forms of dispute resolution. And additionally, when, if any time, is appropriate for binding arbitration. Credit card companies usually contain arbitration clauses, but since the arbitrators often are supplied large volumes of work by that same company, are they under pressure to decide their cases in favor of the credit card company? Are they truly unbiased?

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Do Mediators Need Specific Subject Knowledge?
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Do Mediators Need Specific Subject Knowledge | Don Sinkov

{4:36 minutes to read} Back in the 80s when I first started in mediation, I took the initial mediation training and then went out and tried to mediate every case I could possibly get to gain experience. After a while, you feel empowered, like you can do anything. I’m sure a lot of new mediators feel that way. No problem is too great for us to solve. The Middle East?? No problem. World Hunger?? No problem.

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Oh, No! My Clients Have Turned into Jailhouse Lawyers!
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Oh, No! My Clients Have Turned into Jailhouse Lawyers | Don Sinkov

{2:42 minutes to read} Because:

  • The economy is still recovering;
  • People always like to save money;
  • Divorce cases have a reputation for taking way too much time and costing way too much money;
Clients are attempting to decide and write the terms of their agreement, thinking that this will help lower the cost and take less time. Although they have never done this before, they come into a mediation session with their spreadsheets and a financial plan that they have already worked out.

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Virtual Office Space – Is It for You?
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Virtual Office Space Is It for You | Don Sinkov

{2:30 minutes to read} Most of my attorney/mediator colleagues maintain one or two offices, with a:

  • Staff;
  • Secretary;
  • Legal assistant;
  • Possibly several attorneys with whom they work.
This high overhead creates pressure to constantly seek new clients and earn enough to pay the high expenses and still show a profit. Some of them have upscale office space in Westchester County or Greenwich, CT. Sometimes, they may have to take less desirable cases, or charge the clients for every email or phone conversation.

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The King of Mediation, Really?
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The King of Mediation, Really | Don Sinkov

{3:48 minutes to read} After a difficult couple of weeks mediating with high conflict couples, divorce lawyers calling me and arguing with me on behalf of their clients, even though that is not how mediation works, I received a call from a well known divorce attorney. She was laughing hysterically, uncontrollably, A LOT. So I said, “What’s so funny?” She said from now on I’m going to address you as “King of the Mediators.” I asked, “What do you mean king?” and she said,

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Mediation Companies: Good for Business, or Bad for Mediation?
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Mediation Companies Good for Business or Bad for Mediation | Don Sinkov

{2:54 to read} Recently, I was approached by two companies that call themselves nationwide mediation companies. They market themselves to large businesses and corporations, usually through Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). They claim to provide qualified mediators to these employers at a discounted rate, as an alternative to hiring a private mediator and paying their full fee. Who Are These People? They appear to be business people that are trying to insert themselves between the client and the mediator.

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Mediation: Last Resort, or First Choice?
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Mediation: Last Resort, or First Choice | Don Sinkov

{3:12 minutes to read} A couple had been in litigation for a little over 6 months and were running out of money. The 6 months were spent by the lawyers in discovery, producing endless bank account, credit card and loan statements, household bills, insurance premiums, etc. from the past 5 years. The lawyers felt that was a reasonable amount of time to go back and get a thorough understanding of the monthly outflow of funds and what the money was used for.

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Is Your Mediation Practice Narrow Focused or Big Picture?
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Is Your Mediation Practice Narrow Focused or Big Picture? | Don Sinkov

{3:45 minutes to read} I recently had lunch with an attorney, and she asked me what my mediation practice was like.  I explained that I use a holistic approach. I’m very concerned with how well the decisions the couple makes in mediation will work in the end. For example, will they have enough money to support themselves, have a reasonable lifestyle and be able to live up to the terms in their agreement.

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Self-Determination by the Parties? Well Almost!
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Self-Determination by the Parties? Well Almost! | Don Sinkov

[Time to Read: 2.1 mins] The Mediator’s battle cry is usually,”Let the parties self-determine their outcome. Our job is not to interfere with what the husband and wife think is fair.” We are just supposed to sit back and let them come to agreement on their issues. Right? I had this told to me by non-attorney and attorney mediators since I first started in mediation.

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Oh, No! I’ve Turned into My Parents!
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Oh, No! I’ve Turned into My Parents! | Don Sinkov

[Time to Read: 2.9 mins] I’m sure you've heard or maybe even spoken the expression, “We’ve turned into our parents,” or “I married somebody just like my father.” Initially we are surprised, but we quickly realize that we all tend to model our parents’ behavior. Parents sometimes don’t realize that kids are watching and paying attention to what they do and say.

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Should Mediators Draft Legal Agreements?
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Should Mediators Draft Legal Agreements? | Don Sinkov

[Time to Read: 2 mins] For years, I've heard that some non-attorney mediators write their own settlement agreements. When I first started a mediation practice, my partner was an attorney, and we’d mediate together. Although I would write certain parts of the settlement agreement, she often modified the language and always reviewed the agreement before it was sent to the clients. As the years went on I became a sole practitioner, writing memorandums.

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Ethnic Diversity in Divorce Mediation
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Ethnic Diversity in Divorce Mediation | Don Sinkov

The recent events regarding the Michael Brown shooting and protests in Missouri prompted me to think about how different cultural groups interact and the lack of ethnic diversity in the mediation profession. It also made me think about:

  • What role does ethnic diversity play in my life?
  • What have my experiences been?
At one point in my life, I was an employee of a large company, whose president was an African American.

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It’s Not What You Don’t Know, It’s What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know. – D. Rumsfeld
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It’s Not What You Don’t Know, It’s What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know. – D. Rumsfeld | Don Sinkov

Was Donald Rumsfeld actually right? Maybe . . . A couple came to my office. The wife is an executive for a Fortune 500 company. She makes a big 6 figure salary with tons of perks. She has the use of villas around the country, internationally; stock options; bonuses; all the goodies. I said, “We’ll plan a mediation session to discuss your settlement.” They say, “No, we've already worked this out.” I said “Really?

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