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Range of Divorce Mediation Results

The following examples of mediation results are intended to demonstrate one point: Cooperation is the number one prerequisite for successful mediation.

William saw me because his wife Brenda "wasn’t following the temporary mediation agreement." Mediation had started three months earlier, without attorneys. William had moved out and was paying the amount agreed upon in mediation. Brenda was using their joint charge accounts and borrowing money. She kept asking for, and getting, more money from William for household expenses not listed in mediation. William went along because he wanted to avoid a courtroom battle.

William’s immediate concern, however, was that he needed Brenda to release funds in both their names to pay their taxes. She refused to sign on their joint, two-signature account voluntarily. We got a court order releasing the funds, and I didn’t see William for another two months.

It was now six months since separation. William had used all his money from business and existing bank accounts to pay the bills according to their agreement. Brenda had run up massive charges on their joint accounts. She failed to use money William gave her each month to pay the mortgage, electricity, water, trash, cable and gas bills for their home. Brenda now said there wasn’t any agreement because she never signed anything and hadn’t had an attorney to represent her. William kept trying to make mediation work until Brenda invited her new boyfriend to live in the family residence for which William had to pay all the bills.

William was mad. Brenda thought this was great. William had been giving her fun money, and she expected him to pay all the bills because she didn’t work. As a result of Brenda’s unrealistic expectations and William’s anger, their court case was particularly bitter and expensive. They couldn’t agree on a thing; literally, not one thing.

Court orders had to be obtained and served to solve the most minor of problems. Even the removal of personal items from the house had to be supervised. Litigation expenses were probably twice what they would have been if they had gone to attorneys first, assuming they would have had a hard time agreeing on anything. It cost William a lot more than it should have, even though many of the dollars he paid under the agreement were reimbursed to him out of the community pot.

Now, let’s look at the other extreme. Christine had separate property from her inheritance worth many millions of dollars. She and Vaughan, much younger, had been married about three years. Christine’s New York attorney had prepared a premarital agreement spelling out what Vaughan would get if there were a divorce. Christine hired a local attorney, Vaughan agreed to mediation and a proposed settlement agreement was drawn up. Vaughan was referred to me to review the agreement.

The spousal support provision in the premarital agreement was enforceable under New York law. Vaughan accepted his support settlement, a new Mercedes, and drove off with a smile on his face. Christine saved incalculable legal expenses using both a premarital agreement and mediation.