Putting Post-Divorce Mediation to Good Use

Putting Post-Divorce Mediation to Good Use by Susan Ingram

{3:12 minutes to read}

Once my couples have made their various decisions during our mediation sessions, I proceed to draft their settlement agreement. This is the document that memorializes everything they’re agreed upon.

It’s important for the agreement to be as detailed as possible, to avoid problems in the future. Yet, especially when a couple will be living under the agreement for many years (such as when they have young children), it also needs to provide some flexibility for future changes.

Often, there are “triggering events,” which can be identified in the agreement as times when a couple may need to review or renegotiate what they’ve agreed upon. Ideally, they will be able to work it out on their own, but if not, the agreement provides that they return to mediation. Here are two examples:

 1. Brian and Carol* recently returned to address a specific issue in post-divorce mediation. Their son, Jason*, will be entering college in the fall of 2016. Their agreement, which they signed four years ago, provided for them to equally share the costs of Jason’s college. Yet Carol’s financial circumstances had changed significantly in the interim, and they both agreed they needed to come up with a different arrangement for sharing the costs.

 2. Brenda and John* came back to mediation to discuss the disposition of their home. Their agreement had addressed this subject in quite a bit of detail – permitting Brenda to live in the home for three years; then giving Brenda the first option to purchase, John the second option; and finally providing for the sale of the home if neither chose to purchase it. But in light of some new information (John was planning to move out of state shortly and hoped to purchase a home there), it was clear they needed to re-address this issue.

Some other circumstances in which it can be helpful for couples to return for post-divorce mediation include:

  • A couple wants to adjust the child support payments articulated in the agreement.
  • One of the parents will be moving from his/her current address and, as a result, needs to adjust the parenting schedule.
  • A couple who owns and operates a business together needs to change the details of the sale arrangements that were agreed upon in their agreement.

Couples who go through divorce mediation learn the value of cooperating with each other, so they are much more likely to continue to work together post-divorce to address any bumps they may encounter down the road.

*Not real names

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