Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - A Nationally Certified Professional Mediator and Business Advisor - www.lodge-co.com
Many children grow up in two homes, parents that separate and divorce or parents that never marry and separate create a new need - a parenting plan. The children end up with two parents with two homes, and sometimes no set rules between the parents on how to be parents to the children.
The first thing that needs to happen when people separate with children involved, they should immediately sit down with a Mediator and put together a parenting agreement to set the rules in dealing with the children's care and addressing issues when raising children after a broken home.
What does a parenting plan do? Let's go over the plan and the items that need to be addressed and put into a written parenting plan.
Custody and Decision Making - This is a decision making process, who will have legal custody, will it be joint or one individual. The primary physical custody, day to day decisions, major decisions. Who will be responsible? It answers what will happen when the child is with a parent and something happens, emergency decisions, etc.
Parenting time / Visitation Schedules - This is where you decide on when the parents will have the children, where the children will be at, picking up the children and dropping them off, what days, weekends the children will be with the parents. If certain visitation rules need to be set because of abuse or other issues that need to be addressed. But the rules are set and followed by each parent, it makes it a lot easier.
Major Holidays and Vacation Periods - The parents discuss the holidays when the children are to spend time each parent. Most holidays are given every other year, they try to break up the holidays so that each parent get about the same number of holidays to make it fair to both parents. It also looks at birthdays, mothers, and Father’s Day. Again, setting fair rules for each parent to abide by and feel they have the children fairly for the holidays. There is usually some negotiations on certain holidays, it is part of the process.
Transportation Arrangements - Here is where you set rules on transporting the children, who can transport and pick up, and when traveling internationally and getting approvals from the other parent before a child can leave the country.
Schedule Conflicts - There will always be changes in schedules due to many different reasons. There needs to be some rules set in notifying the other parent of a conflict in the schedule, an emergency, and how to communicate a conflict to be fair to the other parent.
Communication and Access - When I am mediating a parenting plan I pay very special attention to how the parents will communicate with each other as they are parenting. Methods of communication, frequency, having access to the child when away, even setting up special parenting apps for the parents to communicate with. I address the issue of parents talking about the other parent in front of the children, good and negative communication. I write a whole section on the communication process. Communication with the children and between parents must continue and have rules. You are still parents and the communication has to continue nicely.
Child Support - Both parents, with the help of the mediator, will devise a child support financial plan to help the other parent with the financial care of the children. Insurance costs will be decided, co-pays and the splitting of the costs between parents, special events such as summer camps etc. costs are discussed and agreed to.
There are other issues that the mediator will address as he works with each parent to build a solid parenting plan that will focus on the children's needs and the parents ability to deliver as separated parents. If there is an issue of sexual or physical abuse that is brought up it may be the responsibility of the mediator to report the abuse.
In some of my agreements I ask that the parents go to counseling or parenting classes because there is a need to resolve issues. Remember, the parenting plan is designed for the care of these children you have brought into this world, their care, mental stress, and love from both parents. And yes, there are rules that make the process of caring for the children and their stability.
Mediation is the best way to get to a good parenting plan, an agreement that both parents think is fair to both parents. Parenting takes a lot of plan, so sit down with a mediation and put a plan in place. It will make the separation easier when there are rules.
If you need a parenting plan, let me know by sending me an email to email@example.com
Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - Nationally Certified Professional Mediator - www.lodge-co.com
Every business at some point has a dispute or conflict with a customer, employee, vendor, contract, partner or some other business-related issue. Business disputes have a story to tell and an agreement to get to. You can either go into court and fight it before a Judge or you can go into mediation and resolve the issue through in impartial mediator for far less money and time. It is important to understand how business mediation works.
Mediation is basically broken down into six steps. Which are as follows:
Preparation - This is where you will have a consult meeting with the mediator and the mediator will decide whether it is a case that should be done through mediation. Not all cases are suitable for mediation and need to find a different venue to resolve the issue. If your case is appropriate for mediation the Mediator will have you and the other party to 1) agree to mediation, 2) have you fill out an "Intake Form" that allows you to present your side of the issue, with any documents you want to present in the mediation session. Once the mediator has the agreement to mediate, the intake form and documents, he will then schedule a mediation session with the parties. A time is set, a notice is set, and the calendar is booked and the method of meeting. Mostly virtual mediation is done today.
Mediator Opens A Joint Session - The time is set, all parties are in their places and the mediator begins the session with a "Opening Statement", this sets the rules of mediation for all parties to follow.
Disputants Give Their Opening Statements - This is where all the parties are able to outline their positions. In my mediation session I allow each party to have a 15-minute opening statement. At the end of each parties opening statement I will take notes of what has been said and reframe what was said to refresh in easier terms on what was said, I will even ask questions. I have to apologies at times because I have been in business for so long and worked with so many clients in different industries, I tend to ask a lot of question to get to the point
Private Sessions - If a party wishes to talk with me in private I will move them into another private room and talk with them alone. There may be things they want to talk between themselves, or discuss an offer, or something the other side should not hear that may involve the session. Generally, I try and keep everything in a joint session because the conversations are more frank and we are able to get to resolution faster.
Negotiations - This process is the process that offers are put on the table, discussed, negotiated. I always encourage the parties to come to the mediation session with offers. Think the process through. Listen very well to what is being presented. This negotiation process can be done in private or in a joint session. But come to the session prepared.
Agreement and Closure - After all the opening statements, taking positions, negotiating at the table, throwing offers on the table, we finally get to the agreement to close the session and bring the parties together is a signed agreement. Normally the mediator will write a Memorandum of Understanding and the attorney will put it a formal agreement. All parties will sign the Memorandum of Understanding.
One thing that most people do not understand is that a Mediator is not able to give legal advice or legal opinion. They can point you in the right direction, like your attorney, to get the legal help you want. Nor is a mediator representing any one side, they an independent and guide you through the process of mediation. At some mediation session people bring their attorneys to guide them along the way and some just represent themselves. But, at any time during the mediation session and one party says he or she needs to talk to their attorney, I will give them 10 minutes to make the call and the rest of us will get a cup of coffee. Even if the mediator is an attorney, they are not allowed to practice law in mediation. There are all kinds of mediators - attorneys, accountants, therapists, former judges, businesspeople. They all go through the same process of getting certified, sit in mediation sessions and gain continuing education to make their profession solid in knowledge.
If you have any questions about mediation for personal disputes, family issues, and business mediation, send me a text to 818.252.5682 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - Mediator and Business Advisor - www.lodge-co.com
Just one more month to go and it will be tax time where you sit down with your tax person and do your tax return. Now if you are a business you should be sitting down with your tax accountant way before the end of the year. Have you even made a call to your tax person about your 2020 tax reporting? You should have. But that is not what this blog is about, it was just my lecture I give business owners every single year. What we are going to talk about is if you have the right individual preparing and advising you on taxation.
PROTECTING YOUR TAX DATA: One of my concerns is tax preparers and are they staying up with the laws that surround them a tax practitioners. One issue that should be a big concern is if your tax practitioner is protecting your tax data? There are specific rules for tax preparers on protecting your tax information. The Internal Revenue Service has specific rules on how your tax data is to be protected to safeguard the issue of fraud, people stealing your information. Not only are tax practitioners given rules by the IRS but tax preparers are also under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) because they are under the classification of banks. Same rules and regulation apply to tax preparers and banks. Think of all the data that tax preparers collect on you, almost your whole financial life is collected by your tax preparer. So, the IRS and FTC have said that there is to be a written Client Data Security process to be published for each client to read. Is your tax practitioner protecting you tax data? If not - time to find another tax practitioner that does protect your information. Look on their website where it is supposed to be published and make sure they are following what they have published. Protect your financial and tax data and make sure your tax practitioner is doing the same.
PUBLISHED FEES: A good reputable firm will publish their firms tax preparation fees. This is a transparent provision for you as a client to understand what you will be charged for. If a firm is unwilling to provide you with an estimate or do not publish their fees, expect your tax preparation fees to be questionable and you should find a firm that will discuss their fees openly and be consistent with their fees. When I was doing thousands of tax returns, we always published our fees, even to this day I keep that fee structure posted. Check your state, some states have very strict laws on tax preparers who are licensed under a state tax preparation program. In the state of California they have CTEC or the California Tax Education Counsel that requires tax preparers to fulfill many requirements in order to prepare taxes in California, in fact the IRS recognizes CTEC and treats them differently when getting approved to prepare taxes under the IRS program. Make sure that your tax practitioner is in compliance and can prepare tax returns and that he is transparent on the fees for preparing tax returns.
KNOWLEDGE: Make sure you tax preparer has the experience and knowledge of taxation - Federal and State. Ask them how many years they have been preparing taxes. If they are in a state like California you can review their status with CTEC online, if there are any complaints or complaints where his tax preparers bond had been used to settle an issue. Do you due diligence on the tax preparer, remember he or she has your whole financial life in their hands. Make sure they know what they are doing. Also, if you are with a tax preparer are, they keeping you informed on the new tax changes each year. When you ask them a question, do they have an answer for you - a legal answer.
A PRO-ACTIVE TAX ACCOUNTANT: Make sure you have a tax accountant who is calling you from time to time throughout the year or sending you an e-mail to check about your financial or business status. Remember, any change in your tax status will change your tax return. Changes like getting married, having a baby, divorce, etc. They all change your tax return, and you should be aware, through your tax preparer, how it will affect your tax return. By the way, you as a tax filer should be pro-active and asking questions constantly.
As the laws change for tax preparers, so should the tax preparer be changing how he practices as a tax practitioner. If you have questions or concerns about your tax preparer start doing due diligence on interviewing another tax preparer. Remember, do what is right for you. If they are talking to you about something you feel is questionable, walk away, it is time to find a new tax preparer.
If you have any questions, just send me a text at 818.252.5682 or send me an email at www.lodge-co.com Happy tax season my friends.
Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - Nationally Certified Professional Mediator - www.lodge-co.com - PH 305.824.2963
We have gone through a nasty political season, really for the last four years. We just went through an election that was probably the most corrupt political scene we have seen from all sides of the political parties. And maybe some politics that crept into the office and created an even more stressful workplace environment. The question is how did and are companies managing politics from not disturbing the workplace?
In March of 2020 I received an email requesting mediation in a company located in Oakland California for employee workplace conflict, all geared to politics. The story - the manager of the company had one employee that was politically right leaning and expressed his views on politics. The other two employees, who were left leaning, wanted the other employee fired. They did not agree with his political views and want him gone. There were a lot of hostile threats against the one employee, so bad that the manager requested mediation to resolve he political hate in the office. Is this harassment?
Now in the office and in places like business social media like Linkedin some people want to make their political point. I think of Linkedin as a place to conduct business and build relationships. Just like an office. But people post political pictures and remarks that offend other people and then the words begin to fly in the thread of the post. I would say that if you are using Linkedin or other apps for work, at your work, you should probably adhere to your company policies and procedures on politics in the office. If you have one.
A recent trend survey on politics in the workplace was put out in July 2020 by ComplyRight. Let us point out that companies have a responsibility of protecting its employees against discrimination/harassment against any protected class covered by federal, state and local laws, it should not be tolerated. So, we as business owner have a responsibility in our companies stop employees from harassing or discriminating on the basis of political views. So, what policies do companies have in place? Let's look at the study in brief.
SURVEY - DOES YOUR COMPANY HAVE WIRTTEN POLICIES ON TIME OFF FOR VOTING OR POLITCAL DISCUSSION AT WORK
49.2% surveyed said they had no written policies on politics or voting.
36.1% surveyed said they have policies for time off for voting
6.7% surveyed said they were not sure if they had a written policy on politics
6.1% surveyed said that yes, they have policies on political discussion at work and time off for voting
1.9% surveyed said yes they have policies for political discussions at work
Then Comply right asked the question -What are your current company policies on political discussions at work?
60% surveyed said we have a written anti-harassment policy that states any discrimination/harassment against any protected class covered by federal, state and local law will not be tolerated.
40% surveyed said, we prohibit political discussions during working hours
40% surveyed said, we have a formal complaint procedure for employees to follow when they feel harassed or discriminated against
20% surveyed said, we have clear guidelines for discussing politics at work
Policies and procedures are so very important to businesses, big or small. Harassment is a common theme when it comes to employee work related issues. We now have come to the age of political harassment which creates even more serious situations in companies. People may think they can say and do whatever they like on social media and they will shout it is freedom of speech. Many names and accusations are flung in the evilest way towards people on social media. However, the workplace is a totally different ballgame where harassment is taken very seriously.
Does your company have a policy on politics in the workplace? Perhaps, it is time to develop one because politics will get worse and more emotionally charged between people in the United States. Be proactive before politics becomes a problem of harassment.
If you have workplace conflict, provide mediation to resolve the issue. Workplace conflict can affect the productivity of your employees, it spreads. Contact my office for mediation at: 305.824.2963
Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - www.lodge-co.com
Nationally Certified Professional Mediator and Business Advisor
First let me state that as I write this, Biden has not been certified by the States as a winner in those states, and there are ongoing lawsuits on voter fraud in several states. So at this moment we don't have a clear winner. But if he does win, what are the tax issues out there that we could be facing. I like how Money magazine explains their view.
Money - "As a candidate, President-Elect Biden advocated a different set of tax priorities, promising to raise corporate taxes and income taxes on households making more than $400,000, raising upwards of $2 trillion over the next decade. At the same time, Biden would also temporarily expand the Child Tax Credit to a maximum $3,000 from $2,000 for children under 18, and provide a $600 credit for children under 6. Biden also proposed tweaking the tax treatment of 401(k) retirement accounts, in an effort to make the system’s benefits skew less toward the wealthy.
Given Republicans’ deep aversion to tax hikes, it seems unlikely that key parts of Biden’s plan would advance if Democrats fail to retake the Senate. One important wrinkle: Many provisions of the 2017 Trump tax cuts aren’t permanent, and are set to expire during the upcoming Biden Administration, which could force the parties to negotiate on at least some issues. However, the key provisions affecting individual’s income taxes are not slated to expire until December 2025."
Now there are some if's. If the Republicans continue to control the Senate, anything regarding taxes or 401K bills has to go through the US Senate. None of them will get through and may never get to the floor. Money magazine is correct on the natural ending, but the tax cuts bill, they end in certain years. So those tax cuts will naturally disappear. The other thing to remember, Biden talks about taxing the higher end earners at a higher tax rates. Now what Democrats view a rich person never ends up correctly in the law. When Obama said that his healthcare and economic plan was only going to touch millionaires and above it hit every American at lower wages. So be very concerned as to what level a Democrat thinks someone is rich. It is never what they say it is. Biden wants to change the 401K tax deduction for the "rich" so they get lower tax benefits, but I will promise you this - the Democratic rich will be you.
Now my suggestion to you is this. Watch what is going on in Congress and out of the White House. Challenge your members of Congress and the Senate. Be aggressive in fighting for your financial and tax issues. During a four year Biden administration challenge everything that goes through Congress and headed to the President's desk. Protect your freedoms, and use your speech to make a difference. Taxes play a big part in our personal lives and it should be part of your financial planning and expressing your voice to protect your finances.
Let's see what happens after the court battles are exhausted or won. Remember - NO ONE HAS WON OFFICIALLY. Stay calm, respect the results, but keep fighting for your financial lives and freedom.
Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - Nationally Certified Professional Mediator - www.lodge-co.com
As I am writing this, next to my desk is a code of ethics for the accounting profession that is hanging on my wall. In my website, for mediation, I have posted a code of ethics that mediation professional follows. We all follow this codes and live by them. There is also a cod of ethics for journalists. Do they follow their code, no not really. However , the Society of Journalist there is a very good code that the media, even bloggers and vloggers should really be following.
The Society of Journalists website has a full copy of their code of ethics. You can get a PDF copy of it or read it on the website.
www.spj.org/ethicscode.aspp Their code of ethics goes as follows:
Seek Truth and Report It
Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
– Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
– Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
– Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
– Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
– Be cautious when making promises, but keep the promises they make.
– Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.
– Consider sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Reserve anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm, and have information that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Explain why anonymity was granted.
– Diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.
– Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
– Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.
– Support the open and civil exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
– Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.
– Provide access to source material when it is relevant and appropriate.
– Boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.
– Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.
– Label advocacy and commentary.
– Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments.
– Never plagiarize. Always attribute.
Ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect.
– Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.
– Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent. Consider cultural differences in approach and treatment.
– Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast.
– Realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than public figures and others who seek power, influence or attention. Weigh the consequences of publishing or broadcasting personal information.
– Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
– Balance a suspect’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know. Consider the implications of identifying criminal suspects before they face legal charges.
– Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.
The highest and primary obligation of ethical journalism is to serve the public.
– Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
– Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
– Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
– Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
– Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.
Be Accountable and Transparent
Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public.
– Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.
– Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
– Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly.
– Expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.
– Abide by the same high standards they expect of others.
Now as you read this code of conduct, think about the journalist, media reporters and commentators, who are reporting the news or discussing the news. Have they lived up to this code? My opinion is no, they have not even come close. And that is the problem because journalism, tabloid new, blogger and vloggers have all become mixed in together. And no one is following any code of ethics. Bloggers, who become news commentators, can say and do anything, no one is checking their stories for accuracy, in fact most bloggers can just make stuff up. And then they go onto mainstream media outlets and do the same, and just because they have a well read blog they are taken as fact when there is no fact whatsoever. The other problem is that people hired to be journalists then start doing the same thing. Unidentified Source when no one can examine who that is, as we saw who Anonymous was in the newspaper reports, and then we find out he wasn't even where he said he was. And if you read the Journalists code you saw how it frowned on Unidentified Sources.
What has to happen? The media industry has to clean itself up - become ethical. If not, then the American people have to clean them up by challenging he journalist and the sponsors to support the journalists place they work at. If we don't start demanding the industry to clean themselves up, stop them from promoting their own political agendas, then the media becomes a political promotor and not a journalist entity. At this time, journalists and the media are not operating independently, they are scheming with political parties. Their agenda is to do harm and destroy. No reporting or code of ethics.
If I as an accountant and a business mediator have to live by two code of ethics in my profession, then the media needs to be held accountable to their code of ethics. Challenge these journalists, become aggressive in getting to the truth. The key work is challenge the story and their ethics in gathering the story. Tabloid news on a daily basis, 24 hours and 7 days a week - isn't happening anymore. Journalists - act like real journalists, because Americans are going to hold you accountable for every word, commas and period to your stories in print, radio, internet, and television. We are watching you from this point forward.
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Michael Lodge is a Nationally Certified Professional Mediator specializing in business disputes, as well as family conflicts. He has written three books and hosts an international podcast on IHeartRadio and other podcast media stations.